THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Good form? Applying Plato to Plaxico
Like all philosophy majors, my introduction to the discipline came via Plato's Theory of Forms, the idea that the material world is merely a shadow of a higher form of reality. Though mankind should seek to achieve a form's essence, at best we can only produce a facsimile of perfection. God bless Aristotle for giving Plato an epistemological beating.
But evidently some people didn't get the memo.
Athletes believe, like Lexus, in the relentless pursuit of perfection, means be damned. The road to "essence" is littered with the bodies of these publicly humiliated Platonic disciples: Floyd Landis, Marion Jones, Bill Belichick, Roger Clemens, and Lyle Alzado chief among them. Sure, Plato's theory seems to unravel with each additional Congressional hearing, but the old Greek isn't done yet.
On the night of November 28, Platonic Theory was the last thing on Plaxico Burress' mind. Rather than getting a good night's sleep or studying his playbook, Burress was out at a Manhattan nightclub, an apt venue for the "perfect" bartender, but hardly appropriate for a "perfect" receiver. How could Burress know that by shooting himself in the leg, he'd become the latest NFL philosopher?
It seems unlikely, doesn't it?
Hidden among Plato's talk of perfection is his acknowledgement of physically opposite forms– tall vs. short, fast vs. slow– but also a denial of metaphysical opposites. There's no Evil, no Bad, no Ugly, no Unjust. That may seem a little screwball to you, me, and Idi Amin, but there must be something to it.
Adam "Pacman" Jones should be a metaphysical nightmare. If ever there were an opposite of "good," "just," "virtuous," or "pious," Adam Jones should fit the bill. Since becoming a professional football player, Jones has been arrested for vandalism, marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, and numerous assaults. He has violated his probation, been involved in shootings, skipped team meetings, and who knows what else.
An uppercut to the chin of Plato's theory if I ever saw one.
Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones must be a more competent philosopher than I am because somehow he managed to convince not only himself but also his team and Commissioner Roger Goodell of Plato's infallibility. Only an NFL that refuses to acknowledge "Bad" or "Unjust" could allow someone like Adam Jones to suit up again.
Jerry Jones has been to this rodeo before. While Congress, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, and U.S. Track and Field were being forced to admit that Plato's a hack, Jerry Jones was working to polish the philosopher's tarnished reputation. And boy, did Jones put some spit-shine on it.
In 2007, Jerry Jones sharpened his Platonic teeth on Tank Johnson– or "Pacman-Lite." In June, the Chicago Bears released Johnson, who had served two months in jail for one gun charge and violated his parole with an earlier charge. The Cowboys signed Johnson, despite his having served only two games of an eight-game suspension and not having been reinstated by the NFL.
According to the Associated Press, Jerry Jones saw Tank Johnson as a "low-risk, high-reward gamble" like Alonzo Spellman and Dimitrius Underwood before him.
No Bad, only Good.
Rather than hire Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' attorney, Plaxico Burress should have run to the nearest Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of the Phaedo. Being a Giant and not a Cowboy, Burress doesn't have Jerry Jones to spew Plato in Roger Goodell's direction. He's going to have some heavy cramming to do.
Still, even without the Phaedo or Jerry Jones, all hope is not lost for Burress. Despite Aristotle, 2,500 years of philosophical thought, and Plato's apparent lunacy, aspects of the Theory of Forms still ring true. There really is a form of reality beyond the material world, a reality most of us can never inhabit.
How lucky for Plaxico Burress that form of reality is the NFL.