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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Looking Back on the Signing of Vick

Now that the “experimental” phase of the Eagles bringing Michael Vick to their team is over, it seems like a good time to look back at the controversy over signing the quarterback.

Vick is just another football player now, wondering what free agency and the off-season of labor negotiations will bring. Surely the story of why he missed time in his career will always be attached to his name. Tuesday’s Inquirer provided a surprising reminder that some have no intention of allowing society to forget that Vick went to jail for his involvement in a dogfighting operation.


But the protests outside Eagles games aimed at Vick never amounted to anything. In fact, only a handful of people ever protested enough to garner media attention (precisely because they were such small groups) and they were a non-factor even from the very beginning of Vick’s career with the Eagles. I don’t recall reading or hearing about a single protest this season.

If anyone actually gave up their season tickets, they were scooped up by the next person on the Eagles waiting list. If anyone turned off their television sets and didn’t watch football, no one noticed as the NFL enjoyed record-breaking ratings this season.

At least one report had Vick’s jersey as the 6th top seller on NFLShop.com. The report ran on Monday.

Even Facebook, the land of supporting a cause by clicking a mouse – once – and maybe posting a comment, can’t muster much outrage. The biggest anti-Vick group I found in an admittedly quick search was “Michael Vick Boycott” with 8,909 members – which doesn’t seem like a huge amount for Facebook. More importantly, let’s look at the logic used by the group. Here’s part of the group description:

Now that this idiot is out of jail, let's send a clear message to any NFL team owner: Sign him at the risk of alienating your fans.

We all respect a man's right to "earn a livin'" as they say, let him go earn a living working 9-5 and not making 8 figures a year.

This was not a bad decision or lack of judgement [sic], this was a business that systematically abused, tortured, and executed defenseless animals over a period of years.

He is only sorry because he got caught!

I hate to use this argument, because to me it’s sort of like telling someone they’re in denial – it’s an in-your-face suggestion that merely ratchets up the emotion of the moment and makes defending yourself difficult based on the accusation instead sound reasoning. But to me this description suggests jealously on the part of the group’s creator (along with a lack of spell check).

A guy coming out of jail either has a right to return to a law abiding life or he doesn’t. In our country, he does. Just because he’s in the NFL doesn’t change that fact, at least not in a logical debate. Why would the creator of this group apparently feel better if Vick, for example, flipped burgers for a living? Because in all likelihood that job pays less than his job.

It’s also telling that comments in the group were essentially dormant between September and December. The Eagles were a “hot” story in December mostly due to Vick’s play.

In December someone actually posted, “ok he is limping in the game right now, if that were one of his dogs it would have been tied up and killed...too bad the NFL does not follow his same rules.”

The level of irony is the only thing that rivals the level of stupidity in this statement. The person is outraged over the killing of dogs to the point of advocating the killing of a human being.

By the way, the largest anti-Ray Lewis group I found had a little more than 100 people in it. (Again, I admit I didn’t spend hours searching.) Lewis was suspected of being involved in a murder – of a human being – some years ago.

The largest anti-Ben Roethlisberger group I found having to do with the rape allegations he recently faced – an incident he was suspended for just this season – had 145 members and one post since October.

The Steelers and the Ravens meet in the playoffs this weekend.

Donte Stallworth is also on the Ravens, and his transgressions are all but forgotten. He served 30 days – that’s days – for driving drunk while he accidentally killed another person.

I’m not defending Vick’s actions, but I do question those who continue to protest his right to essentially live his life. What exactly is the end result they are looking for? Morons like Tucker Carlson and the Facebook commenter mentioned earlier aside, what do rational people who still have vile stored up for Vick think would be an appropriate punishment for him?

He’s already gone to jail and served, by all accounts, real time. Now what?

In a similar way, I wonder what happens to his supporters now that the phone calls from the president, the comeback story, and all the rest that comes with the “hot story,” are over?

Are people going to protest when he signs as a free agent, either in Philadelphia or elsewhere? A few, just like two summers ago, but likely not many. If he continues to play well, will there be more “redemption” stories? Absolutely.

I said from the beginning that Vick deserved the chance to move on. In case Carlson is reading, yes, I like dogs too. But there needs to be some balance at some point in the public discussion instead of just a lot of rhetoric about the story of the day.

Quite frankly, I didn’t want Vick in Philadelphia simply because I didn’t want to deal with the drama that I thought would come with him. I also didn’t like the absolute fact that Andy Reid and Jeff Lurie brought him here to do something noble as opposed to making a football decision. Just listen to either one of them discuss Vick, and his off-field rehabilitation is clearly part of their interest in the quarterback.

Those may be my shortcomings, but I prefer football to be about football.

There was some luck in Vick turning out to be a good football decision. And even the quarterback admits that it wasn’t until the shooting after his birthday party that he realized he truly needed to stay away from certain individuals.

But that’s part of his life now, and as long as he lives within the law, he gets to live it. As a fan, I think Eagles football will be more exciting if he is the quarterback than it would with Kevin Kolb as quarterback. Though I’m not sure they’ll ever win a Super Bowl regardless of who the quarterback is as long as Reid is the head coach. Actually, I’m convinced of that.

Hopefully, those types of football debates will be the only ones people are having about Vick and/or the Eagles soon. I’m far less convinced of that happening.

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