Jan 20, 2009

Some stories are better than others

by Mitchell Malchelf, Contributing Reporter

Plaxico Burress’ December stupidity hit front pages and the top of newscasts like a whirlwind. Everyone, not just sports fans, had heard the story within a day or two. For those living under a rock for the past month, Burress managed to shoot himself in the leg with an unlicensed handgun. Big mistake, especially in New York, where a guilty conviction could land Burress in jail for a minimum of three and a half years.

Meanwhile, as rumors and controversy continued to swirl over Burress’ fate, Warrick Dunn was quietly doing his thing. By “thing,” I don’t mean posting Hall of Fame-caliber numbers on the field. By “thing,” I don’t mean nearly leading the Tampa Bay Bucs into the playoffs. And by “thing,” I don’t mean winning a Super Bowl ring with those same Bucs in 2002.

By “thing,” I mean that shortly after a December game against the Panthers, Dunn flew back to Tampa in the early morning and gave two single mothers keys to their new homes. Giving is what Dunn does. In fact, Dunn has given out 83 of those keys since 1997 through his Homes for the Holidays Foundation, which partners with Habitat for Humanity.

Burress and other knuckleheads like Pacman Jones have their supporters, to be sure. “They grew up with no guidance, no support,” they say. “They never had role models,” they will squawk. “Warrick Dunn probably was born with a silver football in his mouth,” they will proclaim.

In 1993, Dunn’s mother Betty, a police officer, was ambushed and killed by five armed robbers. The 18-year-old Dunn had no father, and the young, scared teenager did what he had to do. He raised his brothers and sisters alone, graduated from Florida State with a bachelor’s degree in information studies, and was selected 12th overall by the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Dunn grew up and became a man. A man who understands what single moms go through. A man who knows how painful it is to lose a parent. A man who knows not to waste the incredible gift he has been given.
But that 83rd key and the keychain of hope it came attached to never led the news on SportsCenter or found its way onto the front page of USA Today. Instead, we learned that Pacman Jones is still a bad guy and T.O. is still whining in Dallas.

And that is how it will remain, as long as the national sports media are content to continue to report on thugs like Pacman and Burress. Never mind that there are hundreds of other professionals using the platform that their talent has afforded them to change lives. As long as Pacman keeps inhabiting strip clubs and T.O. gives good sound bites, then ESPN and the rest will keep reporting on them.

If you’re looking for a good story, look up Dunn and his teammate Derrick Brooks. Heck, even read about Tony Romo changing tires for old women on the side of the road. The good stories are still out there. The tragedy is that no one is telling them.

Contact Mitchell Malchelf at

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