Two Guys Hanging and Watching the G-Men at Saratoga Stadium
(Note: This exclusive interview is being published for the FIRST TIME ANYWHERE here on Saratoga.com – Perfect timing, since we are all getting geared up for Sunday!)
SARATOGA SPRINGS – I was actually surprised that he wanted to talk to the local media.
Or any media at all – frankly.
When Super Bowl XLII (2007) champion and game-winning reception hero Plaxico Burress came for a meet and greet with his fans, on Sunday, September 18 at The Saratoga Stadium (389 Broadway, Saratoga Springs), I even double-checked with my host – Executive Chef Zach Cutler – “Are you sure?”
Plaxico had arrived late to the party on a Sunday afternoon – not his fault – due to flight delays. Scheduled to arrive for the M+G and NY Giant game watching party that kicked off at 1 pm, Plaxico arrived sometime after the second quarter had begun.
I insisted that all his fans, particularly the plethora of ladies, go first – although I managed to loft a verbal bomb at the Virginia native that this was just a “part of being a Southern Gentleman – as you well know…” good-natured sparring. But as the game started to wind down towards halftime, I was seated at his table.
I urged him to eat his plate of nachos, if he wished, while we chatted. And while he dug in, so did I.
Most football fans, indeed – most tabloid readers and TMZ viewers know Mr. Burress’ roller-coaster history.
Being Super Bowl Champion for the New York Giants in 2007 (where he caught the winning pass to beat the New England Patriots) to 20 months at Oneida Correctional Facility in 2009 – tends to get one noticed.
In my ‘are you sure?’ conversation with Chef Zach, I had told him that I wasn’t looking to be a jerk, but that ‘…some questions might need to be asked…’ and I was told everyone understood.
Having cleared that up, I decided to take it out a different door.
Plaxico was serious, not unfriendly, but business-like. Reinforced by a 6’5”/ 232 lbs. persona when he last played in 2013, at age 39 he is still a fierce force when he’s across the line from you, or in this case, a high-top. Shades on inside, all through our short convo – and at all his fans’ photo-ops.
This could go either way – and quickly. I reached deep into my playbook, and went one-on-one:
A: Welcome to Saratoga Springs. So how are the Spartans going to do this year? (Burress was All-Big Ten and second team All-American for Michigan State).
PB: “Oh, now you’re talking!” (Brightening) “Let me tell you, they are going to be better than last year (a BCS final four appearance. Michigan State was ranked #3, losing to eventual National Champion Alabama). This year, the final four is just the beginning.
“We hadn’t played Notre Dame in awhile (the Spartans had vanquished the Fighting Irish, 36-28, the night before). I’m personally attending the games against Michigan (10/29) and Ohio State (11/19).”
A: Where are those games played?
PB: “This year, everything goes through East Lansing!” (Smiles).
A: At 39, a few years from the gridiron, what are you doing these days?
PB: “Home is still in New Jersey. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, son and daughter. Professionally, I’m a studio analyst for the FOX Sports Network platform. And there’s always time for fishing and golf.”
A: As an NFL Alum, you probably involve yourself with some charities and causes….
PB: “Absolutely. In my home state of Virginia I’ve had a golf tournament for a few years now, and this benefits programs for Autism in that state. And I’m very happy with a new one that we did in New Jersey last May 22nd… proceeds went to Abused and Neglected Children’s foundations. We already have a date for next year – the turnout was terrific. One of the biggest reasons is that we had about 20 athletes – NFL alumni and from other sports – participate.”
A: Let’s talk this year’s Giants. Bet that’s all I need to say…
PB: “I see them as NFC East champs. The revamped D will be why. Protecting Eli, as always, is the key on offense. I like rookie WR Starling Shepard – he’s off to a great start. You can never have too many pass options, but you got to give Eli time to find the best one.”
A: As a ex-Giant, your reaction to their opening victory, which turned on a Cowboy’s miscue, given what happened last year…
PB: “Loved it! Of course, whatever the reason, a Dallas loss is always a good day. That was true even when I came up with the Steelers too… a Dallas loss is almost as good as when we win – sometimes better.
“I remember beating them in the old Texas Stadium. Sweet.”
A: I imagine the New England Patriots fall into that ‘good day loss’ group…
PB: “Oh yes!”
A: You beat them as a Giant in the Super Bowl; then played with the Jets in the Pats’ division. How do the cards stack up for the Jets and the AFC East in your mind?
PB: “Much tougher road for the Jets, but they have stuff to build on. Their D-line is the NFL’s best, in my opinion. Matt Forte is a solid back. But it’s a wait-and-see in a tighter division, with the Patriots clearly at the top. Even with Brady out.
A: You grew up in Virginia. Who do you remember as an inspiration as you learned about the game?
PB: “Virginia has no pro teams, and this was Redskins Country back then. For me, it was Art Monk. I think I was about age 7 when I first saw him. Now (Washington) – they are just another rival.”
It was just two guys, talking football. No uniforms, except for the 50 Stadium servers, nearly all named Odell. Now it was halftime, so I gave him one more.
A: This was fun. I thank you, and hereby appoint you NFL Commissioner – for one rule change. Anything is fair game. What would you like?
PB: “Good one… (Thinks a bit…) I go with the celebration rule. Loosen up! C’mon, a celebration, at home in front of your fans, or their fans. That’s the idea!
“There’s so much in life worth celebrating, and no reason for it not to be celebrated at every opportunity.”
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