Two NFL seasons prior, I took advantage of an opportunity to see the Falcons play in a preseason game at the Georgia Dome. For the life of me, I cannot remember who they were playing. I can’t remember who was playing quarterback for the Falcons, either. One thing is for sure – it wasn’t Michael Vick. Vick was busy “sleeping in the bed that he had made for himself”. Vick was convicted of many things, all surrounding the dog fighting ring that he was involved in. Vick pleaded guilty, was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, and was eventually put in prison.
Back to the preseason game… Interestingly enough, there was a major polarization in the Dome that day, all caused by Vick. I saw several fans wearing Michael Vick jerseys, with signs defending and supporting him as an athlete and person. I saw other fans with large signs, picking their favorite four letter word along with Vick’s name attached. There were animal rights activists outside discouraging fans from going to the game (I’m putting it politely). You could almost cut the tension in the Dome with a knife. Fast forward 2 years later, and Michael Vick has been released from prison. Beyond that, the headlines on all the major sports websites today showed that Vick has just signed a new deal to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. And this is where the volcano explodes! Time to bring out a cheesy cliche…
Right now, in the palm of my hand, I am holding a shiny quarter. As I’m in the mood to use a cliche, I’d like to bust out the “two sides to every coin” line that people love to use (or hate to use, depending on who you ask). I’d like to try this cliche on Vick, and the latest publicity spike that comes with him. The question at hand is….are you ready??? Do you feel that Vicks reinstatement in the NFL is redemptive, or do you feel it is repulsive? Time to flip the coin – Heads is redemption, tails is repulsion.
Heads it is!… Vick busted on to the national football scene back in 1999, when as a quarterback, he scored 3 rushing touchdowns in one quarter. Then came the 2000 season when he led the Virginia Tech Hokies to an 11-0 record and a berth in the title game at the Nokia Sugar Bowl. Then came the 2001 NFL draft, where he was drafted first overall. With the Falcons, some of his achievements were: most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season, 100-yard career rushing games as a quarterback, rushing yards in a single game by a quarterback, highest average per carry in a single season…. The list goes on and on. Some of you may remember when Michael Vick got injured, and had to be pushed around on a wheel chair. Vick was such a superstar, that even Falcons owner Arthur Blank was willing to push him around on it. I’m sure that many of you who just read the last paragraph are thinking “I could care less about his football accomplishments”, or “this guy is a creep”, or “Is he part of that family who created the vapor rub?”. Whatever it is you’re thinking, no doubt many of you have one association in your mind of Michael Vick – the abuse of probably 100’s if not 1,000’s of animals. But after serving 2 years in prison, has Michael Vick atoned for his mistakes? Does he deserve to get another chance? The first individual who, by example, has tried to show redemption to Michael Vick is Tony Dungy, former Super Bowl winning coach of the Colts. Dungy has spend time talking with Vick, and mentoring him. This is what he had to say today: “I really got the sense that he wanted to do great things…he wanted to be a positive role model for young people. he wanted to get back to his family. ” The Atlanta Falcons released a statement that “Michael has been given a good opportunity to restart his career in the NFL, and we wish him well.” Some would say that Vick deserves a second chance. I would guess, Manny Ramirez, Ron Artest, Josh Hamilton, and John Daly would all say that. America is the country of second chances, right? And after that, I now need to flip the coin again.
Now its tails. Vick has surrounded himself with problems all his life. This persistence would make one wonder if Vick can ever learn from his mistakes. A truck registered in Vicks name driven by two other men was pulled over and busted for marijuana distribution. The stolen watch incident in Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport. The civil lawsuit filed by a woman who claims Vick gave him genital herpes. Flicking off fans after a loss. The “secret compartment” in his water bottle. And of course, the dog fighting mess. The persistent abuse, torture, murder, electrocution, etc etc etc of hundreds of pit bulls, among other dogs. As a dog owner, I can’t even go into the gruesome details without wanting to run to the bathroom and hurl. Some people would say that for a person to torture an animal is almost worse than torturing a human, because animals love unconditionally (unlike humans, which is sad). I can see why people would say that. There are definitely days when I’d rather interact with my dogs than with people. Especially if the people are White Sox fans. But seriously, with Vick being an athletic superstar, and a champion that children were supposed to look up to, it angers many people to see Vick back into the spotlight. Bill Smith, who is the founder of Main Line Animal Rescue said the following today: “I’m really shocked that he’s coming to Philadelphia. He kept talking about second chances. His dogs didn’t get a second chance. There are alot of people out there who deserve second chances more than Michael Vick.” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said of Vick that, “I needed to see alot of self hatred in order to approve this”. A member of the governor’s Dog Law Advisory Board said the following: “Over the last three years, Pennsylvania has made historic strides in bringing attention to the abuse and neglect that so many dogs suffer in this state and throughout the country…For the Philadelphia Eagles, knowing the heinous crimes committed by this man, to sign him is unconscionable.” There are many, many angry fans who would love to give Vick a cheap shot.
So we’ve seen both sides of the coin, and I think its fair to say that each individual will have varying opinions on the matter. Should we feel like Vick’s comeback is a story of redemption? Should we feel like Vick even crawling his way back to the NFL is repulsive? In my opinion, only time will tell. But the hurdles will far outweigh the straight-aways.