Friday, August 14, 2009
MICHAEL VICK: Anyone interested can hear the reaction in Philly live here. And here's the sports section at Philly.com.
UPDATE. I'd give this a pass, given that we've already spent a fair amount of time on the subject here recently, but since I'm in the Delaware Valley where all this is playing out, I feel an obligation to report, however impressionistically, about what has been happening today for the benefit of those who are elsewhere.
I listened to much of the morning show at WIP SportsTalk Radio, where according to the hosts the call-in sentiment was running 65 to 35 percent against the Vick acquisition. The morning hosts were opposed. All the current and former players they spoke with on the phone were in favor of the Vick deal. All of them. And they all used the same words, "mistake" and "second chances," until I never want to hear those words again. Fans called in with anecdotes of their horror at hearing the news. One woman was at the preseason game last night, heard the news when it broke during the game, and left immediately vowing never to return. Another announced that he'd been a season ticket holder for all his adult life and would root for every team the Eagles played except the Dallas Cowboys (honesty!). Ray Didinger, the unrivalled dean of Philadelphia sportswriters, called in to say that when he got home last night, his wife was at the computer staring at photos of the Vick dogs. "How could they do this?" she asked him. And Ray Didinger said he couldn't tell her why and couldn't believe it himself.
In the next show, co-host Ike Reese, a former Eagle and former teammate of Vick's in Atlanta, tried to explain the monolithic response of the players and coaches. He used the words "mistake" and "second chances," of course, and then described what is essentially a counterpart of the police officer's "thin blue line." They support each other to the nth degree because of the unique pressures and fishbowl lives they experience, and they would hope that the "NFL community" would also be there for them when they need it. Still, there is a sense among all these Vick defenders that they just don't get what's so bad about what he did, and they definitely don't want to talk about it in detail. They immediately head off any attempt to refer to the specific acts Vick "has paid his debt to society for," and they grow immediately angry at any suggestion that there might be something racial behind the clear fact that call-in responses seem to break down much along the lines of the O.J. Simpson circus.
Then came the Eagles news conference at which the speakers were Andy Reid, Tony Dungy, Michael Vick, and Jeffrie Lurie. Philadelphia coach Andy Reid made at least indirect reference to the fact that both his sons are in prison for drug and related offenses, talked about "mistakes" and "second chances" and reaffirmed that his first priority has always been procuring the talent that would lead to an Eagles Super Bowl championship. Tony Dungy talked about the Lord, forgiveness, and visiting a remorseful Vick in Leavenworth prison. He expressed his conviction that the Philadelphia Eagles were the best possible home for a man who needed to rebuild his life, overcome his "mistakes," and prove his worthiness for a "second chance."
Then came Vick. He spoke at some length, haltingly, in a monotone that sounded humble. He admitted to having done wrong. He said what he did was unacceptable. He spoke too much and not enough. He talked about the stupid risks he took at "the pinnacle of his career" and of his reaction as "shame and embarrassment" when he got caught and "hurt" when he realized what he had lost. He talked about having to tell his children that Daddy's bad actions were sending him to prison. He used words like "unethical" and "inhumane." He did not use the words "guilt," "brutality," "crime," "vicious," "evil," or, notably, "mistake." (Oops. Yes he did. About half a dozen times.) He figures if he can help more animals than he hurt, then he'll have paid his debt.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie used all the words Vick didn't. He was eloquent about what a dog person he was, cited the two dogs he'd lost recently, and then ripped Vick a new one, including words like "disgusting" and "sickening." He spoke of how incredibly difficult it was to give a malefactor like Vick a contract. But then he spoke of the tremendous opportunity he foresaw for Michael Vick to become, well, a sort of New Age Francis of Assisi, carrying the message of animal love and care to the world. How Vick's going to do this as an NFL quarterback he didn't describe. Nor did he explain why the Philadelphia Eagles should regard this as part of their charter, or why Vick (if saving his soul is the objective) wouldn't be better served by earning his second chance working full time for peanuts rescuing dogs in the real world than by making occasional appearances on behalf of dogs on his $1.6 million salary.
Bottom line? Michael Vick is a millionaire again. Is this what we mean by "second chances?" Do we all deserve a second chance to be a millionaire? Or do we all deserve a second chance to become a decent human being? One of the early show callers suggested that maybe Vick's second chance should be to go back to Virginia Tech and earn the college degree he blew off the first time, then use that degree to build a life and a career like other people have.
For anyone who found this post simply searching for Michael Vick references, here's full disclosure. Three previous posts on the Michael Vick situation:
What I Want to See
Monday Night Vickball
And another on dog consciousness: Dog Love
If circumstances require it, I'll update again.
UPDATE 2. The beginning of the Howard Eskin show (I've trashed him before but he's grilling both Isaac Reese and Tony Dungy.) Now I'm finally getting the real player take on the Vick situation. It's depressing. Even for an estimable former player like Ike Reese, the most important thing is the money. Vick is sorry and to be trusted in future because he has lost so much money. Ike keeps going back to the money. (Show me the money!) It's the price he paid for what he did. Millions. That's what morality is to the professional athletes who rise from poverty to celebrity. You are remorseful when you lose enough millions. You are rehabilitated when you recognize just how many millions you don't have anymore. Which means that fulfilling your trust consists of doing and saying and acting all the ways you're expected to do and say and act in order to get back on the gravy train. Right and wrong have absolutely nothing to do with it. It's all about putting on the necessary performance. That's why you can be trusted, even if you're Michael Vick, sociopath. When you think about this in the context of all the players who profess devout Christianity -- and are defending and promoting Michael Vick as we speak -- the feeling that begins to rise in your gut is nausea. America's original sin will do us in, just as our president has repeatedly intimated.
My next question: Is Tony Dungy a fool? And if he isn't a fool (and how could a successful NFL coach be one?), then what the hell is he? I don't even want to think about it. It causes the whole American earth to tremble.
Eskin says he thinks "The Eagles have gone crazy." He's right. My final question is, has the whole country gone crazy? That's why this pitiful story is important. Are the politically correct really willing to put a knife to their own throats -- say, by slaying one of the most lucrative NFL franchises in the nation -- to feel like they're doing the correct thing?
I think so. God help us.