As a Carolina Panther fan living in Atlanta, I think I'm entitled more than most to despise this guy.
I was at the Falcons game in 2003 when he came off the injured list to beat the eventual NFC Champion Panthers.
I was at the Falcons game in 2004 when he put on his cape and dove five yards a foot off the turf to score the game tying touchdown. The Panthers would eventually lose the game, one that would have sent them to the playoffs and cap their remarkable comeback from a 1-7 start.
I've listened to every single Falcon fan at one point tell me he was the greatest thing in the history of the NFL, and that if he only had a receiver he'd be elite.
I saw him wreak havoc on my team, and I watched his surreal trial unfold.
There is no excusing what he did. It was a horrific, inexcusable, senseless act of cruelty. What he did should not be forgotten. It should remain as a harsh reminder to anyone that thinks training animals to kill each other for sport is in anyway socially acceptable.
However, we do not need to forget in order to forgive.
Vick has served his time and paid his debt to society, and is going out of his way to rebuild his image. Regardless of his intentions, he's contacted PETA to serve as a spokesperson against animal violence. He's lost everything he once had, including, most likely, his career. His name is dirt.
It would send a tremendous message to anyone who came from a similar situation if he were able to recover from this. Young men and women who saw someone larger than life fall for these crimes would see there is such a thing as redemption in a social system many see, perhaps accurately, as stilted against them.
It would also go a long way to repairing the social and racial rifts that opened up in Atlanta during the trial. Vick was always a very polarizing figure in the city, due to both the ways he played quarterback and the way he carried himself. Major networks like ESPN didn't help matters by fanning those flames with their Town Hall Sessions about the matter. In a city with one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, people still wear number seven jerseys.
There is no reason to cheer against him in his efforts to rehabilitate his life. Whether or not you feel it's appropriate for him to receive another chance from the NFL, it's obvious that playing football is integral to that process.
It would be a tremendous accomplishment for Vick as well as the American legal system if he were able to return to the NFL and become a productive member of society.
Just as long as he never produces against the Panthers again.