So, Michael Vick - all-world athlete, former poster boy for the NFL, repentant dog killer - signed with the Philadelphia Eagles today. Slightly confusing, given that the Iggles have an okay quarterback situation, but I definitely think he makes the team better.
Before I get into what will include some apologism-by-comparison for and defense of Vick, let me say that I love dogs. Love 'em. Will have one in my fantasy nuclear family. And what Vick did was reprehensible.
And I think that sports are a force of good in millions of lives, and I sincerely hope that we can retool our value system regarding athletics and academics and produce more Myron Rolles and less athlete-scholars who are ill-prepared to handle the fame and wealth they probably won't achieve.
I remember reading an article about Outlier Raven and certified great guy Todd Heap, where he mentioned some advice his dad gave him about how on his 40-man roster, 5 of his teammates would be great guys, 5 would be bad guys, and the rest would fall somewhere in the middle, just like in all of life. I'm a bit more optimistic than that about humanity math, but not when it comes to the NFL.
To make it to the NFL, you 1) work your behind off and 2) get a ton of attention and favors that would maladjust most folks. It's commendable that there are Warrick Dunns and Jason Taylors when athletes are assaulted if not surrounded by yes-men, yes-ladies, and leeches from middle school on. But this is not a formula for role models, and athletes should not be required to be role models, word to Josh Hamilton.
Now, if you want to boycott/picket/pout/align yourself with PETA over Vick's reinstatement and signing, fine. Depending on how much you know about sports or humans, it can even be admirable.
I came home today and turned on ESPNEWS, and it was filled with sports radio rants from Philly fans and others, some of whom didn't think he should be in the league. Flipping through Facebook on my phone, I saw some self-professed diehards swearing off the league.
If you consider yourself an NFL fan, and you're getting huffy about Vick's return, and you don't have a laundry list of other cats who you're taking issue with...your options are pretty much being hypocritical or willfully ignorant.
If you weren't aware that some of the players in the league you watch are NOT GOOD PEOPLE in deserved ALLCAPS, then seriously, take a day to reassess. Jerramy Stevens has got to be one of the worst people in America not in prison, and while he was busy helping choke away the Seahawks' Super Bowl appearance, of course I was rooting for him. I was rooting for someone who possibly drugged and raped a freshman and definitely stomped an unconscious kid in the jaw. I didn't know it at the time. But I knew Sean Locklear, starting right tackle, had been arrested on accusations of choking his girlfriend in public. One day after a playoff game.
I'm not proud of this. I find domestic abuse to be even more reprehensible than animal abuse.
I have no actor disconnect. It doesn't matter to me if Morgan Freeman is sleeping with his step-granddaughter or if Mel Gibson is a drunk-driving conspiracy theorist, I can still enjoy their movies. Likewise, I have zero athlete disconnect - I'd root for Vick if he was a Seahawk. I'm happy Stevens isn't one, but if he was, I'd root for him, too.
Sports are one of the last true storehouses of rage in this country. People will pay money to boo Mike Vick. Some will boo him because they think he's a bad person. Some will because he's an Eagle. Some will because they resent the way he squandered fortune and fame and what many will consider luck. Some probably will because Andy Reid's put him in the slot and he's wreaking havoc on their secondary.
If the Eagles came to Qwest Field, I'd boo the heck out of Vick, too. But if you think he shouldn't be on a field, then stop watching the NFL. Hell, stop watching sports. Demand Ty Cobb be kicked out of the Baseball Hall of Fame [pistol-whipped a man to death, beat the snot out of a Black groundskeeper].
I'm all for addressing the problems - athlete/celebrity entitlement, the occasional insane salary, America's stupid casting of sports stars as idols - but Vick is not one of those problems, he's a symptom.
If the Seahawks can't win it, I hope the Eagles win the Super Bowl. I'll be watching. I bet most people calling for Vick to be thrown out will too.
After the jump, links to posts in Newsvine tete-a-tetes regarding Vick, including lots more names of toolbags and thugs the NFL gladly employed and promoted [Pacman! Romanowski!]
So did you watch football when Bill Romanowski and Kevin Gogan and Rae Carruth and Mark Gastineau and Alonzo Spellman were playing? [...] The NFL is full of people who you wouldn't invite over for dinner. It's probably related to why they're good at their jobs.
If you don't do anything else regarding this, read the Times piece on Stevens and others. Fire Rick Neuheisel, UCLA.