No patience for loose cannons

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Another week, another reminder that just because you can play sports, doesn't mean you're playing with a full deck.

In football, you've got New York Giants ace receiver Plaxico Burress, one of the heroes of last year's Super Bowl but the butt of jokes today, after accidentally firing a gun that had been tucked into his pants and shooting himself in the leg, an incident that begs the reworking of an old line: "Is that a gun going off in your pants, or are you just unhappy to see me?"

Long known as a high-maintenance, problem athlete -- he's been fined repeatedly for being late for practices and team meetings -- Burress could find his career on the discard pile, this time. Suspended for the rest of the season, the weapons charges he faces could also lead to serious jail time.

In the game of life for dummies, Burress has clearly dealt himself in.

Sitting at the same card table, one hand in a bowl of stupid pills, the other holding a mirror in which to admire himself, hockey's Sean Avery, a joker if there ever was one.

Avery's latest attempt to promote himself, and that's all it is, included a crass slur at his ex-girlfriends and the players currently dating them.

Instead of dishing it out on the ice, where these personal attacks generally stay, Avery made sure the TV cameras were rolling before spitting up his latest mouthful of bile.

Suspended in record time by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (why doesn't he crack down similarly on attempts to injure?), Avery isn't getting any love from anywhere, not even his own team, the Dallas Stars.

Stars owner Tom Hicks says if the NHL hadn't sidelined Avery, he would have.

And to think, Hicks has $15.5 million invested in the guy. Likewise, the Giants signed Burress to a five-year, $35-million deal in the fall.

More money than brains, as my father-in-law likes to say.

And you thought your stocks were falling fast.

Hopefully the kids aren't paying attention. We could find better role models in our local prison.

Here at home, we doubt we'll ever see a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers put a bullet into his own leg while sipping a drink at the Palomino. And we sincerely hope we never cross paths with an athlete like Avery.

But that doesn't mean there haven't been some off-field issues with the local CFL squad over the years.

And one of the more interesting things we heard at the coronation of new Bomber boss Mike Kelly the other day was how he planned to deal with them.

Without being specific, Kelly said he'd heard of a few things going on here that he "didn't particularly approve of," a comment that may have left you wondering.

He may have been referring to the conduct of running back Charles Roberts over the years, who was kind of a poor man's version of Burress: he was often late and often fined, but never shot himself.

We also know the Bombers talked to Roberts about rumours of his being seen in a bar, late the night before last year's Grey Cup, a rumour Roberts denied.

There was an incident in Montreal this season, too, where coach Doug Berry made a veiled reference to players possibly being out too late before a game.

"Make their paycheque lighter real fast, and they'll get the message," is how Kelly said he addresses infractions, at least initially. "I want to get to know 'em, and I'll have fun with 'em. But when it's time to work and behave in a certain way, that's how it's going to be. There's no grey area."

Kelly's bottom line is simple, regardless of the talent level of the player.

"Get rid of a--holes," he said. "Sometimes you just have to move on."

The New York Giants and Dallas Stars can relate.


Photos