Tuesday, August 18

Is Vick Worthy of Redemption?

Sometimes we here at ASD feel that the most covered topics of the moment by the media as well as the blogosphere so inundate the landscape of sports that we refrain from offering coverage or opinions on the subject. I certainly felt this way about the Michael Vick situation. From the time Vick stole away in the night from Fort Levinworth in Kansas in the middle of the night the coverage has been nonstop with only Brett Favre discussions topping it in volume. I remember watching Sportscenter the day Vick was released from prison and driving from Kansas back to Virginia. They had a map of the treck and pointed out which NFL cities he would pass through onthe drive. It was the most idiotic thing I have ever seen in my 28 years of watching sports. Yet as the stories, press conferences, and now interviews have mounted, I do feel compelled to share my thoughts on this situation and how it reflects on our society in relation to sports and beyond.

This is video from Vick's 60 Minutes interview with James Brown on Sunday. Brown did an adequate job of asking Vick the questions he either addressed in his press conference with the Eagles or the public had already made up in their minds. The piece on Vick gave a rundown of the complete story behind what took him from NFL superstar to public enemy. Where I thought the interview succeeded was when Brown asked Vick about how it felt letting Falcons' owner Arthur Blank down, a man who had stood up for Vick and was a close personal friend. Vick also acknowledging that he was lazy and did not put in the extra work off the field to better himself as a player was interesting to hear from his perspective.

The interview put all the pieces together but still one question remains that the public is decidedly split on: Does Vick deserve this second chance? My opinion begins when Vick was first in August of 2007 when Vick first plead guilty. I was driving on a North Carolina highway trying wrap my head around how a man who had a $100 million dollar contract would even think of doing this sort of thing. My thoughts were pretty much on par with the rest of the country I suppose and as I listened to the topic being debated on sports radio I was certain right then and there that Vick would never play another down in the NFL. It was not the first time I was wrong.

The important thing to remember when it comes to Vick is that there are people on both sides that have made up their mind about him and there is no changing it. All the animal lovers and people who cannot stand Vick are adamant about him never playing football again and no one will change their thinking. At the same time some people are staunch in their belief that he paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance to prove himself. It is very much like a presidential election where the population has entrenched themselves behind party lines and there remains a segment of the people who have the swing vote. For a long time I sat in the middle on this, but now after some thought I do think Vick deserves this chance and honestly typing that was not an easy thing to do.

Michael did a horrible thing, an almost unspeakable act of cruelty but I believe he has seen the mistakes he made and realized what he needs to do to try and redeem himself. This was included in the interview; he has a PR team leading him every step of the way, he has teamed up with the Humane Society to champion animal causes, he has apologized profusely, and he has had the support of Tony Dungy. If the NFL could appoint an archbishop it would be Dungy. I admit Tony is not my favorite person in the world for certain reasons that have nothing to do with this article but it cannot be denied how much his work with Vick and prison inmates all over the country does to improve society as a whole. With his PR team and Humane Society in his corner Vick's image is being improved as best it can but with Dungy it gave Vick the opportunity to get back into the NFL.

Here is where most people are getting it wrong. They are expecting Vick to completely metamorphose as a person. They want to see Vick wearing jeans that are not baggy, no fancy watch or earrings, and they do not want to see him with rappers or other athletes with bad reputations. In other words, they want to take his freedom away. This may be oversimplifying it but Michael Vick is Michael Vick. He can be contrite and make up for his past sins but the man is still who he is. He will certainly continue listening to rap music, he will have a few drinks now and then but unless he breaks the law we should not be condemning him for it. I do not care if Vick still engages in activity white most people think is uncouth, as long as he is performing his community service, not saying anything too outlandish, and most importantly staying out of legal trouble let the man live. This is not to say making a joke or protesting his involvement in the NFL cannot occur, but it works both ways. He has the right to live his life as much as you have the right to criticize it. This is America people.

Vick spent around 18 months in prison for a horrific act, yet other athletes and well-known persons commit terrible acts against people and do not see that much jail time. The names have been thrown out there and require no explanation; Stallworth, Leonard Little, Pacman Jones, etc.

There was much scoffing at the contract that Vick signed with the Eagles and it left many people shaking their heads and saying that it is not fair that a man convicted of a felony deserves this kind of money. Is it fair to stop this man from doing the one thing on Earth he is most suited to do? We cannot blame others or ourselves when someone wins the genetic lottery and is lucky enough to be a professional athlete.

In the end Vick deserves this second chance because he has spent his time in federal prison, apologized repeatedly, committed himself to working in the community, and vowed he will not stray again. I know Vick is still at his core, the same guy in many respects he was before this incident took place and I do not seek for him to become something he is not. If he can salvage some years at the end of his career through being a positive example on and off the field and show that it actually helped him develop a better work ethic and respect for animals I will be content.

The Eagles have handled this very well I think. Andy Reid is no stranger to having those close to him in trouble. Owner Jeffrey Lurie presented his case magnificently at the press conference. Vick's Eagle teammates have not only defended the move but embraced him. Donovan McNabb is no stranger to media scrutiny so he can sympathize with Vick's situation and I feel he will be a mentor to him. The protests will surely come and have already. I chuckled as I read a sign that said, "Hide your Beagle, Vick is an Eagle!" and PETA released a statement almost moments after the signing. He deserves every bit of this as I said. It is part of his life from now until he is gone and being reminded of a mistake like this is not too harsh a punishment for the crime he committed. So make your jokes, photoshop your pictures, stand out in the sun for the cameras holding your signs, and since this is Philly boo him until your voice is hoarse, but let the man play football.

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