The return of the prodigal quarterback
I was as shocked as the rest of America to hear that Michael Vick has been signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Although I’ve always supported Vick’s human right to fairness, I never thought he’d be back on the field so fast. I was honestly happy to see him get a second chance, but not as happy as his bill collectors.
I have five words that describe the thoughts running through my mind regarding the return of the prodigal quarterback:
1) Redemption: Michael Vick was in his early to mid 20s when he committed many of his most egregious crimes against animals. His age does not, in any way, excuse him from necessary punishment. But the truth is that if any of us were forced to pay a lifetime price for dumb things we did in our twenties, we’d all die in debt. The problem with the way most Americans decided to attack Michael Vick was that there didn’t seem to be any finite point at which we could all agree that his punishment should end. PETA wanted to barbecue Vick and the rest of America seemed to think that he was a modern-day OJ Simpson (he was acquitted, by the way). The public response to Michael Vick was a reminder of America’s disturbing past of mob attacks against black men who were believed to have committed a crime.
2) Philadelphia: Michael Vick wasn’t going to be signed in a touchy-feely city. He needed to be signed in a place where morality is optional and even a mass murderer can get on the field if he knows how to win. Philadelphia is that kind of town. I love the city immensely, but the truth is that when it comes to sports, many Eagles fans wouldn’t care if Michael Vick had run a human death match syndicate. In fact, they might think it was kind of cool. If Michael gets on the field and helps the team win, Eagles fans are going to give him an extra dose of brotherly love.
3) Opportunity: If the animal rights groups have as much sense as Russell Simmons, an avid supporter of animals who has been championing Vick’s return, they would realize that having Michael Vick on a public relations leash of their own could be a tremendous opportunity. Vick is so anxious to make things right that he is probably willing to do just about anything to redeem himself to the public. Any organization that cares about animals is going to utilize the opportunity to force one of the most high profile athletes in the NFL to fight tirelessly for their cause. A broke and sidelined Michael Vick does nothing for animal rights but a high profile, wealthy Michael Vick can do more for animal rights than anyone in recent history.
4) Racism: Why do we have a nation that continues to ignore our consistent habit of vilifying black athletes? Every year, there seems to be at least one black athlete who is hoisted to America as public enemy number one: Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Terrell Owens, OJ Simpson, Ron Artest, Latrell Sprewell, Randy Moss. I can continue. Even Marion Jones is still considered an immoral person for lying about steroid use. Give me a break: Marion is not the only liar we’ve seen on TV and she wasn’t (and isn’t) the only high profile athlete to lie about steroids. Why must we conclude that when a black athlete makes a mistake, he/she is somehow the worst person to ever walk the face of the earth?
5) Dollars: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell studied economics in college, and you don’t have to be Einstein to realize what kind of money can be made from the properly managed return of Michael Vick to the football field. The warden at Vick’s prison probably could have got rich by televising prison football games! I’m just kidding but whether we like it or not, Michael Vick is going to be one of the hottest things to ever hit a TV set when he finally returns to the field. The NFL Network is still a growing entity, and there’s nothing like a national controversy to get people to tune in to your channel.
Love it or hate it, Michael Vick is back. His friends and enemies will all be talking about him, getting emotional about him and ultimately watching him. That’s what gives him power.