I would like to start this entry by informing you that it will be hard to find someone who cares less about character issues than me. I love watching sports and enjoy everything that goes along with it. But do I care that A-Rod was caught hanging out with Madonna? Not at all. I care about on-field production.
However, there are exceptions. I don’t care about character unless it interferes with team chemistry or with the player’s ability to avoid suspension (or in this case jail time).
For example, I would much rather have a player with a shady character if they’re a great team leader and have never done anything to warrant a suspension from the league as opposed to a player who stays out of trouble, but destroys the team’s chemistry (like T.O.) or takes illegal substances.
This brings us now to the case of Michael Vick.
My inspiration for writing this article is the constant babbling taking place (probably as you are reading this) about how Vick has paid his debt to society and any team would be wise to consider signing him.
I just wish that for once someone would man up and speak the truth. I would like for someone to throw out the possibility that maybe everything Vick has done or said has been to get back on the field and he really hasn’t changed.
I want just one commentator to mention that this is not an isolated incident, that Vick has been a character risk since the day he signed his first NFL contract.
And that is perhaps the main point I am trying to get at: That the dog-fighting scandal oversimplified the character problem that is Michael Vick. Even if you believe that he is done dog-fighting, there are piles of evidence to suggest that he will find some other way to get into trouble.
Michael Vick has been involved in numerous incidents with marijuana, including pictures that got leaked online and the airport incident in which he allegedly hid the drug in a water bottle (which is also not allowed on an airplane).
Vick was also caught on camera at an airport stealing an expensive watch. In 2005, a woman sued him for giving her genital herpes, claiming that Vick did it knowingly as he had previously received treatment under the name “Ron Mexico.”
This, of course, led to fans buying jerseys with Vick’s number and the name “Mexico” on the back. Of course, both of these incidents were settled out of court.
And we all remember how Vick flipped off all his fans, right?
All this happened despite repeated attempts by others to get him to stop hanging out with shady characters. Every incident happened even though the one before it happened and people are supposed to learn from their mistakes. So how are we to believe that he’s really learned his lesson this time around when he never did before?
And even though it’s easy to refer to the dog-fighting incident, many of the details get lost in the mess. Vick started this operation before he was even in the NFL. When caught, he lied and lied to the point that it took his friends being offered increasingly amazing plea deals in order to get the truth about what actually happened. He then violated his probation with a positive drug test while the trial was going on.
So again, why exactly should we believe that he won’t get in trouble again?
We make jokes about the Bengals having more arrests than wins and we all mourned the passing of the Jail Blazers. So why is Michael Vick so special? And why is every commentator on ESPN so spineless?
Is it not politically correct to point out that someone simply has poor character and that there is no reason to believe he will change? If you need a precedent, refer to Pacman Jones.
We live in a society that is quick to accuse, but just as quick to forgive and forget when it comes to our celebrities. While I do believe that Vick should be given the chance to live a normal life, I also believe that he is using the NFL to get back on his feet, and that without the inordinate amounts of money we give to our athletes as well as the unwarranted fame they so easily achieve, he’d still be in jail right now.
So here’s to hoping that 31 teams (I’ve given up on giving the Bengals any credit) are wise enough to stay away, to hoping that for once we will not all fall victim to the pitfalls of political correctness, and to hoping that the NFL does not again allow Michael Vick to use the league to fund his vices. And all this coming from a guy who doesn’t care what a player does off the field.
Here’s to hoping.