Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vick Saga Begins Anew, Pressure Abounds; What is Your Personal Reaction?

So now the Michael Vick debate will begin all over again.

This is one of those sports stories—sort of like Brett Favre—that just won’t go away although the circumstances are entirely different. Favre hasn’t done anything criminal, he’s just like a lot of great athletes who can’t bring himself to say goodbye.

Vick’s story, as we all know, is a lot uglier than that. He was heavily involved (including providing the financing) in a dogfighting ring and, when first confronted with the issue by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, looked him in the eye and lied about it. My sense is that any remorse he feels is for getting caught and being forced to spend time in jail, not for the crime he committed.

The whole question about whether he should be allowed to play again in the NFL is one that I have wrestled with for two years now. There’s no doubt that everyone deserves a second chance in our society. He’s served his jail time and he may be suspended for a while by Goodell before he can even contemplate a comeback. Once he’s done all that, it makes sense that he should be allowed to try to play football again.

If you make that argument to me, I can buy it. But there’s also a part of me that says this: there are certain crimes you commit which disqualify you from returning to certain jobs once your time is served. A child molester isn’t likely to be given a job as a teacher; a murderer probably isn’t going to be hired as a police officer and someone with a felony drug conviction on his record isn’t likely to become an airline pilot.

There are other examples. Vick committed a crime of true cruelty. He wasn’t desperate for money or hooked on drugs, he simply chose to participate in an activity in which dogs were killed and tortured for sport. The question then is whether he should be allowed to return to a job in which he will again be a hero.

That’s what successful professional athletes are after all. They are cheered by thousands in the stadium and treated as heroes everywhere they go if their team is doing well. If Vick signed with a team and began leading them to victories there would be almost no fan of that team who wouldn’t forget everything that he has done. There would be a run on Vick jerseys in sporting goods stores and there would probably be a book and a movie: “Redemption—The Michael Vick Story,” not far behind.

I’m not sure Vick deserves that chance, I’m really not. Should he be allowed to come back and coach someplace, work with young quarterbacks? Sure. Play for millions in front of millions in the NFL? I just don’t know.

Of course what I think is moot. Vick will get another chance to play. Goodell might suspend him for four games eight at most, more likely four—but someone’s going to sign him. He’s only 29 and that’s just approaching middle age for a quarterback. While it may take him a full season to get back into playing shape again, the fact that his body hasn’t taken a football pounding the last two years makes him a younger 29 than he would be if he had played the last two seasons.

Whether he succeeds will depend on a lot of things. He will face a kind of pressure unlike any he has faced in the past. If he doesn’t play well, there will be cries right away to get rid of him because the baggage he will carry will appear even heavier if he isn’t the Michael Vick who seemed to be on his way to the Hall of Fame just a few years ago. He can talk all he wants about not wanting to discuss the past and you can bet at some point his agents will negotiate one of those softball interviews with ESPN that the network has made famous. Maybe he can study under Alex Rodriguez: “I was young and stupid.”

You might want to throw in, “unbelievably cruel and insensitive,” while you’re at it, Mike.

So, if we know Vick is going to play somewhere, sometime, the question then becomes, how do you respond to him when he trots onto the field? My personal reaction will be this: I don’t wish him any harm, but I don’t wish him any success either. I know he’s served his time and if the NFL chooses—as it will—to allow him to play I can’t argue, as I said, with the logic of that.

But I’d really rather not see Vick become a hero again. He deserves the chance to move on with his life. But after what he’s done, especially given that I don’t think he’s sorry about anything other than being caught, I really don’t want to see him succeed in the NFL again.


BPatrickT said...

John, love your blog and always look forward to your radio appearances.

I'm moved to weigh in. Part of your argument makes the comparison between Vick's actions and those of a child molester, murderer, etc. However, the actions of those crimes are directly related to the professions you site as ones those convicts would not be allowed to perform. Managing pets or animals has no direct correlation to the NFL (aside from the mascots) in the way that you wouldn't want a child molester teaching young students.

I understand your point though about his not deserving to be in a position to be a hero. Unfortunately, however, there is not a precedent of this being a factor of whether athletes are allowed to play or continue to play in the NFL. Arguably, there are many current and former NFL players that deserve being a "hero" less than even Vick.

I am on the side of the argument you first explored - he has served his time, might even face further suspension, and then he should be cleared to play.

TImB said...

I certainly don't mind morality coming in to play when it comes to whether someone has a right to a job. And while the NFL players don't necessarily need it for their play, the fact that they are under a microscope by so many, including kids, makes it necessary to have a 'morals clause' of sorts. But where is the cutoff?

Kev P said...

I think Vick should be allowed to play, he has served his time.

A different problem that plays into this is the view that sports figures can be heros or that their compensation be tied to moral code. A few sports figures that are heros to me are those that risked their careers to serve in the military. kids may idolize an athletes ability, but do they really consider them heros? The distinction is not really the kids to make; it is the parent or society that defines these terms to the child. As to the moral code, kids are again taught the difference by us. I think that maybe it is lazy of us to remove the star athlete (by imposing a code) rather than to distinguish what merits our admiration.

bisonaudit said...

Why does no one mention illegal gambling as it relates to this story?

For what other purpose would you fight dogs?

The animal crulety is reprehensible and creates a PR problem for Vick the League and any team who might otherwise desire his services.

The illegal gambling ring that Vick was involved in creates an integrity problem for the sport.

The NFLs stance on gambling is a total joke. They fight tooth and nail to preserve the integrity of the injury report for no other purpose than to facilitate gambling. Then they sue Delaware to prevent the expansion of legal, regulated, monitored gambling on their games. Meanwhile, they completely ignore the Vicks intimate association with an illegal gambling ring. It's laughable.

Vick deserves the NFL death penalty, not for torturing dogs, but for participating in illegal gambling.

Rushfan69 said...

Not that I don't take the gravity of this entire line of discussion seriously (I DO), I was just wondering when Topps or the other collector card companies put out the 2009-2010 series, do they include a picture of Vick in a prison uniform? The thought of Vick holding up the numbers made me chuckle...or remember the old "two player cards" where a head shot of two different stars would appear on the same card...you could have a front and side view of Vick.

Reprehensible that our society will cheer for him ever again. A liar, a cheat, a cruel - ruthless individual. Sickens my stomach to think of it.