Surprisingly little has been said about Marvin Harrison’s latest legal problems, showing again the near-religious deference football receives in this country, from fans and media members alike.

Here’s what we know for sure about Harrison: there was a shooting that left three people injured in a North Philadelphia neighborhood — a rough area where Harrison grew up and still lives during the offseason. He also owns several businesses in the vicinity as well, including a car wash and garage where Harrison’s custom made Belgian handgun was found sitting in a bucket. Six of the casings found in the shooting incident were from Harrison’s gun.

Sources have said Harrison was involved in a fistfight on April 29, and that one of the shooting victims (who suffered a hand injury) got into an argument with Harrison at a bar Harrison also owns, about a half mile away from the aforementioned car wash. The source who told 610 WIP radio about this argument reported that Harrison followed the victim out of the bar, and soon afterwards the gunfight ensued. Not surprisingly, Harrison’s representatives deny their client was involved in the shooting in anyway.

Who knows who these so-called sources are or the validity of their stories, but what we do know is enough to at least assume that Harrison isn’t the squeaky clean guy the NFL has promoted over the past decade. To be fair, Harrison hasn’t been doing the promoting, but the NFL has only been too happy to put the Colts receiver on the podium next to Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, almost to say, “Hey, not all our receivers are jackasses!”

Roger Goodell has made a lot of noise doling out gigantic punishments to players who run afoul of the law (while softly slapping the wrist of Bill Belichick, whose only crime was knowingly breaking NFL rules that could have had a hand in at least one Super Bowl victory). But what happens when a future Hall of Famer gets into trouble not just for owning a gun involved in a crime, but possibly either shooting or ordering someone to shoot the weapon in question? Pacman Jones and Chris Henry and the like are guys who can easily be labeled as thugs by the average NFL fan, forgotten as soon as their playing days are over. But how many people have you heard nearly deify Harrison due to his believed stoicism, wishing aloud that T.O. or Moss could be more like Peyton Manning’s favorite target?

The two sports gunning for the NFL’s top spot on the American sporting landscape suffer image hits from far worse than the NFL. When was the last violent crime perpetrated by a Major League or NBA player? Professional baseball and basketball players bring their leagues more scrutiny by hurting themselves taking drugs — performance-enhancing or otherwise — than the NFL does when its players harass law enforcement, shoot people or even murder them (Hi O.J.!).

As the process of building the elite thoroughbred racehorse gets more scrutiny as the popularity of horse racing wanes, conversely the NFL’s popularity causes us to look the other way when it’s becoming more and more obvious that the process of creating its modern-day gladiators also lends to a violent subculture that no other sport possesses.

Maybe it’s the facelessness of the league that allows the United States to gloss over the league’s off-field violence. There was a lot of hand-wringing over Carmelo Anthony’s DUI, because as Denver’s top scorer he had a huge hand in how his team performs and his DUI clearly affected his play against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. When Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed hours after the 2006 NFL season, the coverage moved from “poor Darrent Williams and his family” to “this might change Denver’s draft strategy” in about three days.

The NFL is legalized violence every Sunday and Monday during the winter, committed by the best athletes under 6-6 this country has to offer. The fact that it takes a special (read: aggressively violent and possibly insane) breed of person to fill out an NFL roster is ignored by most. Hey, none of us want to go strap pads on, risk death and get smashed repeatedly by other aggressively violent and possibly insane people who are juiced up like Barry Bonds in 2002. Most of us don’t wish we were on the field on Sundays (especially when our couches are so comfy), so why persecute these guys who are essentially interchangeable anyway?

But when you list the number of NFL players just in the past few years who’ve been involved someway in gun violence, it’s staggering. But until now, none of the players had the credentials of Marvin Harrison (except possibly Sean Taylor, but he had a so many off-field issues before getting killed that many people looked at his death with kind of a “live by the sword” mentality). If in the next weeks and months it comes out that Harrison actually risked his career and shot at someone, it will be interesting to see if the perception of the NFL as an almost militaristic league full of discipline and devotion to team suffers any hit whatsoever.

Last Weekend Good for Giants Fans, Bad for Ronny Turiaf

-Ronny Turiaf deserved a flagrant foul, yes, but an ejection? Hardly. Overall, the officiating in yesterday’s Jazz/Lakers game was far less conspicuous than what was seen in Game 3, even though Derek Fisher again picked up two ticky-tack fouls in the first few minutes (leading to more dreadful play from Jordan Farmar, currently 1-for-16 in the series while playing the kind of defense that would make even Steve Nash blush).

But the refs tossing Turiaf was something that would never have happened at Staples. Turiaf and Ronnie Price were both flying through the air and collided, then Turiaf went for the ball before Price slammed to the floor and hit his head. This wasn’t like when Marvin Williams tried to look like Patrick Willis in his tackling of Rajon Rondo. Price’s rough landing and his resulting head injury (a bloody cut over his right eye) were a result of both players being out of control, not malice on Turiaf’s part. Turiaf is by no means a star for the Lakers, but he had been defending Carlos Boozer better than anybody else up to that point.

-Many are attacking Kobe Bryant for shooting so often (13-for-32) with a back injury that was clearly bothering him. While Kobe was healthy enough to play, he was injured enough to no longer demand double-teams from the Jazz. With nobody else open, Kobe had to shoot more often than he probably would have wanted.

-Pau Gasol has to lead the league in this category: complaints to refs after made shots.

-Carlos Boozer can put up some monster stats, but Deron Williams is Utah’s best player by far. Am I wrong, or did the Jazz score 80% of the time he touched the ball? When his wrist wasn’t broken in his Game 3 fall, it might have been the most important moment of the series.

-Is there a better player in the first three minutes of a game than Andrei Kirilenko?

-Fighting with Don Nelson, playing all 82 games and not making the playoffs, complaining publicly about his contract status … I say Baron ends up somewhere else next year.

-Wait, the Warriors can sign Baron for more money than any other NBA team? OK, scratch that last prediction unless there’s a sign-and-trade (Elton Brand?).

-I wasn’t able to watch either Giants win this past weekend due to work and Mother’s Day concerns, but I noticed one thing: this team isn’t that bad … at home, where they’re 10-9. On the road, they’re 6-13.

-Barry Zito’s on the hill tonight, on the same day rumors are spreading that Giants Managing General Partner Peter Magowan is thinking about stepping down. These two things are not mutually exclusive.

-Former Danville star Sam Keller is busy trying to make the Raiders as a free agent quarterback after being undrafted and failing to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an earlier tryout. The former San Ramon Valley High Grad, whose career has gone from the highs of being a top-rated recruit with Arizona State to the lows of losing his starting job with the Sun Devils and transferring to Nebraska where he went 5-7, has a (slim) chance to hang on with the Raiders, who are incredibly thin at quarterback after JaMarcus Russell.