Monday, September 5, 2011

Who Let the Dog Out?

While some observers, including President Obama, are delighted at the new deal that football quarterback and convicted felon Michael Vick just signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for $100M, which includes a guarantee of $40M (not taking any chances this time), I for one am bemused.

Vick signed a remarkably similar deal in 2003 with the Atlanta Falcons (1), but it was nullified by his criminal conviction in 2007 for engaging in dog fighting.(2) He was released from his contract by Atlanta at the end of his two year sentence. The Philadelphia Eagles signed him in 2009. Last December, the president took time out of his Hawaiian vacation to telephone the Eagles's owner and personally thank him for giving Vick a "second chance".

The latest contract is further proof of Vick's worth, if not exactly his worthiness. But is it, as so many are calling it, really Michael Vick's second chance? Or should we be calling it his one thousand and second? Vick's athletic career followed a predictable pattern: as soon as it was ascertained that he had what is called "athletic ability", Vick was given a free pass through high school and college (even though he revoked his athletic scgholarship to Virginia Tech after his sophomore year).(3) Evidently, the only thing his talent couldn't get him was a get out of jail free card.

Our culture is so enamored of people who can routinely throw and hit baseballs hard, toss basketballs through hoops and throw and catch footballs that it is now prepared to pay them millions of dollars to do it. George Plimpton famously tried to explain our strange fixation on athletes by saying it's because they can accomplish certain tasks with apparent ease that are exceptionally difficult for the rest of us. The trouble with this explanation, like so many of Plimpton's remarks, is that it is insupportable. Anyone who can juggle four balls or balance spinning plates on sticks with their noses belongs in a circus. The talents of many athletes are not much different.

Now 31, with another year of probation to serve, Michael Vick had his many chances long before he squandered every one of them by taking part in the barbaric hobby that landed him in jail. But really, how else should he have behaved since our culture made it unnecessary for him to waste his time learning how to become a decent human being? If athletes sometimes misbehave, who can blame them? They have been mollycoddled all their lives because of their silly athletic skills and as professional players are being paid ridiculously disproportionate sums of money. How can they not be deluded enough to think they're above the law and common morality?

(I am amazed when Americans complain that our education suystem is a shambles when our culture pays a teacher an average salary of $55,693 and a football player $770,000 [4].)

Will Vick keep his nose clean this time? Or will the easy money he's once again getting and the forgiveness of the president continue to twist his underfed mind? If Vick deserved a second chance, he should've used it to get as far from football as possible.

(1) $62M for six years.
(2) His activities included betting on dogs fighting to the death and the destruction of dogs who wouldn't fight by strangulation, drowning, and electrocution.
(3) A warning on the "welcome" page of his official website reveals something of what Vick relinquished when he dropped out of college: "Any person who comes to this site and make abusive comments or statements to Mr.Vick and or his fans and supporters, the comments will be deleted and the person responsible for making such comments and statements will be immediately banned and all comments will be deleted. There will be no acceptions or reinstatements." (His name should be Michael [Sic].)
(4) 2009 statistics.

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