I got around to reading Sports Illustrated's cover story on controversial Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick over the weekend. To me, this whole situation is really overblown, but the story is compelling enough to provoke some thought (and a blog entry).
As we probably all know by now, Vick was found guilty of dogfighting in 2007. He killed and tortured animals. He served 19 months in jail. Since his release, he's played a year and a half with the Eagles. This season, he took over the starting QB job and he's been tearing it up. He's a legit candidate for NFL MVP.
On the SI cover, it says, "What Michael Vick tells us about ourselves." Frankly, this whole controversy tells me nothing about myself. It has nothing to do with me. But from everything I've read and heard, there are two fundamental questions that need to be asked here:
1) Should we cheer for Vick now that he's back in the league and playing well?
2) Should he even be playing in the NFL in the first place, considering his crimes?
I can only speak for myself, and there's no chance in hell I will ever cheer for Michael Vick. None. I'm glad the Bears punked his ass Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field. However, IMO, each individual fan can make up his or her own mind on whether Vick is worthy of cheers. I'm not going to tell anybody what to do in that regard.
As for the second question, I have no problem with Vick being allowed to play in the NFL. Yes, the man committed a reprehensible crime. He was found guilty. He served his sentence. He got out of prison and sought employment. He's now employed. Good.
Isn't it better for society that Vick is (very) gainfully employed? To me, that lessens the chances that he'll abuse more dogs or commit some other crime in order to line his pockets. When people get released from prison, I want them to find work. I don't want them wandering the streets doing nothing, left to their own vices. If a convict wants to reform his own life upon his release from prison, I'm in favor of that.
I know, I know. It's not like Michael Vick is bagging groceries. He's playing a pro sport, and that's a little different. It's a privilege to play in the NFL and quite a few people believe Vick should not be afforded that opportunity.
But here's the thing: There are numerous people currently playing in the NFL who have committed crimes against *people*, not dogs. Let me make that point again for emphasis -- many players have returned to play in the NFL after being guilty of crimes committed against human beings. Yet, that doesn't seem nearly as controversial to a lot of folks as the Vick dogfighting situation.
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that doing harm to people is worse than doing harm to animals.
I guess there is just a certain public outrage that comes when animals are the ones who are being harmed. I'm not cheering for Michael Vick because I don't like what he did. But if we're going to argue that he shouldn't be allowed to play in the NFL, there's a number of other players who we'll have to show to the door first. After all, assaulting people is worse than torturing dogs, right?