My personal comment tonight once again takes us back to our old nemesis Michael Vick. As you well know, Michael Vick was arrested in July 2007 and later convicted of participating in, funding, and providing the venue for the raising of dogs for the blood sport of dog fighting. At the time it happened, the Atlanta Falcons fans were appalled by this man, felt betrayed to their core, and could not run him out of town fast enough. Back then I wondered to myself, do these people revile Vick more for his crimes, or for what his arrest did to their beloved football franchise. After all, the Falcons had recently signed a new coach who later left the team mid-season because of the turmoil left behind in the wake of Vick’s departure, and they had traded Vick’s talented back up Matt Schaub to the Houston Texans – this franchise was in trouble. Then it occurred to me that whatever the people’s motivation was really irrelevant, since Vick would for life remain a pariah, one that no NFL franchise would risk tarnishing their image to sign. I mean, O.J got acquitted and we never saw him make another Naked Gun Movie! Boy was I wrong.
Still, when Vick served his time as mandated by our animal cruelty inept criminal justice system, when Philadelphia actually showed interest in signing Vick, I actually supported Roger Goodell’s decision to allow him back into the NFL. For one, having grown up in northeast NJ on the other end of the turnpike supporting NY teams, I favored anything that would make the Philadelphia Eagles look bad. But also, I figured he served his time, and as much as I despised him, he earned the right to make a living the only way he has ever known how. And if the creep is going to be free, might as well let him work so that the country can at least benefit from his income tax revenue.
That was my thinking until this past week, when the Philadelphia Eagles visited the Falcons to play in a year that has been marred for Atlanta by a disappointing season in large part because of the play of second year quarterback, Matt Ryan, who left high expectations following his breakout, amazing rookie season performance last year. I did not see the game for myself, but watched ESPN Sportcenter report later on that Philadelphia pretty much manhandled Atlanta, in a game that featured Vick make a few impressive plays which included a touchdown pass. I then felt my hair stand up as ESPN reported that, frustrated with their own team’s performance, Atlanta fans started chanting, “We want Mike, we want Mike!”, every time Vick took the field or Atlanta did not play well in later quarters.
That crowd showed me a lot that day. They proved that the people of Atlanta did not reject Vick for what he did to those 60 and likely hundreds of other dogs. They rejected him only because of the state that his actions left their football team in, without an identity, without a leader, without a coach, and unable to win. Few really ever gave a dam about those canine victims, they were just upset that their ability to win football games was compromised.
For the record, I completely and unequivocally rescind any support I had for allowing Michael Vick back in the NFL, because my past position was begotten from an overestimation of the notion that my fellow citizens would never embrace this man again, and certainly not elevate him to the status of hero, after knowing what really is in his heart. He does not belong back in the NFL because America clearly values having a winning football team over compassion for animals that were sadistically brutalized for entertainment! And as long as our citizens have such little regard for the suffering of other living beings, the best message we can send in a case like Vick’s is that someone like him will simply not be allowed return to the NFL, a place where all is forgiven as long as you play well for our team. The best message we can send, is to render him insignificant.
I will leave you with one last thought. Before you consider jumping on the Vick bandwagon and cheering for him, consider this. By all accounts Michael Vick had participated in and loved the cruel sport of dog fighting since he was a teenager. He had the world at his finger tips, a lucrative playing contract, the status of being the name and face of a franchise, all kinds of endorsement revenue, and still, he was willing to risk it all for the rush, for the pleasure of having his very own dog fighting ring and houses of torture to cultivate the most tormented and mean dogs to inflict the most violence on their opponents. He loved it all so much that he would risk all that!
You think that 16 months of jail time takes that level of cruelty out of someone’s heart? Think again. When you cheer for that man, you cheer for the very worst in humanity.