Michael Vick, who at one point was the highest paid athlete in the National Football League has, to date, not completely lived up to his potential. Ironically, I think he may be too talented for the league. He reminds me of the extraordinarily gifted child who does poorly in school because the class is not well suited to meet their needs. Michael Vick’s talents on the gridiron do not necessarily correspond to a traditional style of football play. If an offense is ever created to fully complement his attributes, Vick has the potential to transform 21st century football much the way Johnny Unitas helped to transform the game more than 50 years ago. And sometimes, like that extraordinarily talented kid, they channel that unharnessed talent in the wrong direction.
It’s been about a week since Vick, the former quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, was released from federal prison to serve out the remaining two months, under house arrest, of a 23 month sentence as punishment for his participation in a dogfighting ring. Not only did Vick assist in financing the activity, his property served as a training facility where it was discovered a number of the dogs suffered under cruel conditions even in death.
It was a despicable environment, to be sure, but especially so for a supposed high profile, college educated young man to be involved. While the activity itself is deplorable, you would think a man of Vick’s notoriety would eschew such disgusting behavior. As we now know, that was far from the truth. Vick was deeply involved.
Now that Vick’s freedom is imminent, talk has begun to surface whether or not he should be allowed back into the league. Naturally, there is a vocal contingent that does not want to see him play ever again. Though I fervently disagree, I do understand their anger, to a degree. Some of the images I saw were absolutely horrific. It should come as no surprise, much of the conversation surrounds which team will be willing to risk a chance on him. Whichever team decides to take that chance will also be met with extraordinary attention and even disapproval.
Professional sports organizations invest a great deal of resources into creating an image of not only good competition and fair play, but also good will. No organization strives harder to cultivate this image more than the National Football League. Watch any NFL telecast and you will see messages showing NFL players doing their part as upstanding members of their communities. When an incident such as Vick’s arises, it comes as a blow to the image they (the league) are trying so hard to present to the public.
However, as far as I am concerned the NFL is crazy if they don’t reinstate him. Vick is a remarkable talent and the NFL, as an entertainment organization has a responsibility to put premiere players on the field. Vick has paid his debt to society and deserves the opportunity to earn his living doing what he does best.
I like dogs, but I could never be mistaken for a passionate animal lover. However, I am not about to excuse Vick's behavior either. Neither am I saying he shouldn’t have to endure additional scrutiny because of his transgressions. The activities he involved himself were deplorable and cruel, but that does not mean he should be denied the chance to resurrect a career.
While I do not necessarily subscribe to the notion high profile athletes are role models, I will concede they can play a role in influencing behavior. Michael Vick, who brought never before seen awareness to dogfighting, could possibly be a catalyst to dissuade some young people from participating in dogfighting. It was a pernicious practice outside of the view of the general public. To the dismay of some, Vick has actually found an ally in Humane Society president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle. Pacelle told the New York Times’ William Rhoden recently, “I understand that there are people who don’t want to work with Michael Vick. I want to end dogfighting. And he may be a very important role player in that process.”
Some may see Vick’s apparent desire to be involved as disingenuous. And even Pacelle showed a healthy dose of skepticism when he said, “If he’s sincere, and if he’s committed in the long run to this goal for whatever reasons, he can be an agent of change.” But it would be difficult to disagree there are few others out there who have greater opportunity to convince those involved in dogfighting to do otherwise.
Michael Vick still deserves a place in the NFL. How brightly he will shine should be left up to him and his will, not only to win, but to overcome the scourge of humanity called dogfighting. Forcing Vick into oblivion will do nothing to help the cause.
Well, I gotta scoot…