Vick In The Thick Of It (Again)

Michael Vick

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Love and hate.

Two powerful words that are as used and abused as much as any in the English language.

For example, you don’t’ really love the food at a certain restaurant, and you don’t really hate when people act rude in public.

Love and hate has to be more personal.

I hate Neo-Nazis, for example.

I love my family, my friends, and the music that has been the soundtrack of my life.

I love dogs (cats, too, but particularly dogs).

And I love the Philadelphia sports teams, but the Eagles top the list.

This brings me to the great quandary, and controversy, still swirling around one Michael Vick, the former NFL quarterback.

While Vick made his name with his game with the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback became a lightning rod when his role in a dog-fighting ring was exposed.

He went to jail for 21 months, and his name – as it should have been at the time — was mud.

Vick served his time, and was signed by the hometown Eagles.

That’s when things got pretty interesting.

Some fans turned in their green gear. Their love for dogs was so powerful that they could no longer root for a team that could employ such a person.

Others, figuring he wasn’t going to play much anyway, tried to shrug it off.

Myself, a lifelong Eagles fan? To say I wasn’t happy about it at the time would be an understatement.

For one, just from a football perspective, they needed a fourth quarterback on the roster like I needed a fourth hole in my head.

Plus, well, look what he did those poor dogs.

After one year here of saying the right things, while not really coming across as being overly convincing, Vick ended up not only being a standout on the field for the Birds in his second season, 2010, but a genuine good citizen off of it.

When he led an amazing comeback win in the Meadowlands, the one that ended on DeSean Jackson’s walk-off punt return, it kind of personified his comeback to being a productive and law-abiding citizen and family man.

Vick has since retired, gone on to be a better citizen than many others — including Donovan McNabb (two DUI arrests in Arizona, one of which caused an accident).

Vick has worked for the cause of animal rights while also establishing several charitable foundations for at-risk youth.

Vick has been a positive role model to those who have done wrong and now try to do right, showing that a life can be turned around.

For that, he was named an honorary captain for the upcoming – and relatively nonsensical – Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 in Orlando.

Firestorm instantly ignited. It was 2009, the year the Eagles signed him, all over again.

In my inbox, I received e-mails from Change.org (they have me on file for being a crazy radical who has signed petitions in the past).

One asked for my support in removing Vick as a captain.

The other was to support keeping him.

Even though a pickup game in the park between middle-school kids is more interesting than the Pro Bowl, the question was fairly significant.

And it has some resonance this time of the year, where families put aside differences and New Year’s resolutions are made.

Which petition did I sign?

The choice was pretty easy.

Keep him as captain, I said, lest we ski down an endless slippery slope – putting us into a gray area of serious issues of black and white and selective forgiveness – that we don’t want to get into but probably should.

In a country where the system of crime and punishment is broken (recidivism rate of almost 77 percent within five years of being released), Vick should be heralded as a success story of how it should work.

But, because his victims were dogs – and I love dogs, too – Vick is judged more harshly than if he, say, committed a violent crime against even a woman or child.

We live in a country where someone who bragged about fondling women was elected president, and where charges of sexual child abuse against Catholic priests and those using the football brand of Penn State – get swept under the rug.

People get all weak in the knees over stories about the few white supremacists who changed their ways so much that they want to remove their swastika tattoos.

But a black man in a white man’s world? Not a chance.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to his credit, has refused to yield to the pressure to remove Vick as honorary captain.

Good for Goodell.

How about you?

It is a true question of love and hate, and it’s a chance to let love in and let it win.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Jan. 5, 2020.

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