Micheal Vick's life is the essence of what's good and bad about modern America. Mostly, it's about the bad.
It's good a boy can start out in life with nothing and find a path to untold wealth and success.
It's good when the merit of one's gifts can find reward and acclaim, and bring such joy to the lives of others.
It's bad when the boy becomes a man with the mistaken perception his wealth puts his behaviour above the law.
It's bad when his wealth gives him access to things he might not have otherwise sought out on his own.
It's really bad when he allows his status to numb his heart to the point he would subject those poor dogs to the kinds of things we've seen.
It's bad when a man on whom many looked as a hero and an example falls from grace.
It's bad when his fall, and the reasons for it, are used by others with hidden agendas to condemn the fall as racist, or use it as fodder for anything other than what it is.
It's equally bad when the joy and acclaim of others becomes a vehicle PC zealots use to manipulate the media to crucify a man to a larger degree than a normal person would be persecuted.
It's bad when the media goes out of it's way to extend the news cycle of the fall by reporting every mundane fact three times an hour, ad nauseum.
It's good when the fall pulls the wool away from the man's eyes and reveals to him who are truly his friends and who was only there for the money and the party.
It's good when a man admits his blindness and seeks the light.
It's good to see a man pull himself back from the brink of the void and put his life back together.
It will be stomach-turning to watch and hear the media continue to make money on this guy's back with exhaustive minutiae and analysis by the talking heads on ESPN, all cleverly veiled in the voices of concern and understanding.
Truthfully, Vick was never talented enough to succeed in the NFL in a regular system. His success in Atlanta stemmed from the fact they designed their entire offensive philosophy around his skill set. He would never have been productive in any other system.
I think Vick is permanently damaged goods. What he did in the grand scheme of things is awful; unfortunately, it isn't rare in the south. Vick grew up around a lot of folks who don't see anything wrong with these so-called "sports," and that turned out to be tragic for him.
But I don't have any sympathy for him, either. He knew it was illegal and wrong, and we all know that he knew it, because he tried to hide it from the world before it became national news, and then he lied about it to God and everybody. If he really thought it was not a bad thing, why did he hide it from everyone like a 13-year-old kid hides the Playboy from his Mom? He knew what was up.
In the end, I really just feel badly about the whole thing—for the dogs he abused, the fans of the Falcons who deserved a star of higher moral character, for Arthur Blank, who stood by Vick in the whirlwind, and for the rest of the men who play the game who don't have anything to do with dog-fighting, but have been smeared by the same brush as Vick.
Everyone lost too much in this deal. Everyone except Vick.
Vick lost plenty, but I don't think he lost more than he should have. He's the one who rolled the dice on this deal, so I have no problem with what it has cost him. He knew the stakes before he gambled.
Now, as we enter the final chapter of this story, the question is: "Which team will take a chance on him?" Don't be fooled into thinking nobody will. Winning has proven time and again to be motivation enough for teams to overlook anything. Drug dealers get second chances in the NFL; are they not more objectionable than Vick? We all know the answer to that question.
For me, it all comes down to this: How can Vick possibly not be forever damaged by the violence his heart perpetrated on those dogs, or by the events that violence put in motion? I don't think he can. He might well still have the skills to find a job in the NFL, but I'm not sure I'll ever watch him play again.
The issue now is forgiveness. He's paid the price and he's served his time. People make mistakes and deserve a chance at redemption. And while I have some issues with whether a team should give him a chance or not, there's not much anyone can do about it if they do.
He was good and a joy to watch. He was bad, and I will try to forgive him. What he did was ugly, and I may never forget.
He had the talents to take our breath away. And he did.
I just wish there was some way for him to give it back.