There is one lasting image of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick that plays over and over in my head whenever his name is mentioned.
It’s not that inconceivable game-winning scramble he pulled off against the Minnesota Vikings, the diving touchdown in the corner of the end zone while leading an average football team to a playoff victory at Lambeau Field against the Packers. Nor is it the replay of Vick flipping-the-bird at Atlanta fans as he left the field after a poor performance or the helicopter fly-bys of his Virginia Beach home where so many dogs met their uncontrollable demise.
The image I can’t seem to shake regarding Vick is the one when he was hounded by reporters who followed him into a hotel lobby as the dog fighting story developed and evidence mounted against him.
“You can’t touch Mike Vick,” a frustrated but cocky Vick shouted straight into the camera as he finally dodged the reporters.
I don’t think you need to say anymore about how he perceived himself at the time he was charged for fencing a dog fighting operation.
I am not a psychologist, so I dare not try to delve deep inside the mind of Michael Vick at the time he made that comment. However, you can’t help but think Vick saw himself as being above the laws of our society.
Since he was 13 years old, he was told how great he was. From the five to six thousand local Virginia Beach spectators singing his praises as phenomenal high school athlete, to a few hundred thousand Virginia Tech supporters, culminating in millions of NFL fans worldwide placing him on a pedestal.
Why are we so shocked that a dirt poor kid who grew up to realize he possessed super human abilities—and was told so by nearly everyone he met—showered with money, cars, woman, and attention thought he was anything less than a god amongst mortals?
Sure, many of us believe that we would have taken a different road upon realizing these gifts, but we were never raised in Michael Vick’s shoes.
Before you jump on that holier than holy bandwagon of yours, hear me out. I am not a Vick supporter and never was. I saw all the signs that Michael Vick’s life was spiraling downward. The “Ron Mexico” cover-up, the arrest for possessing marijuana at an airport that was dismissed, and the middle finger incident after a loss to name a few.
I was bothered by the fact that the NFL and Nike were promoting him as their poster child knowing he had some off-the-field issues. My distaste for Vick grew to the point that I found myself rooting against him and the Falcons every game.
When he was ultimately charged and arrested, so many emotions surfaced. Relieved was my first and foremost feeling as it pertained to the Vick saga. He would no longer be king of the NFL nor worshiped for the false god he was.
Sadness was another emotion that immediately worked its way into my train of thought.
Sadness for all those dogs trained to kill. For all the dogs killed fighting or put to death.
For Vick and his family, that such a talent would go to waste when he had the ability to earn enough money to care for the next three Vick generations.
For Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who treated Vick like a son and handed him the keys to the franchise.
When Vick received his sentence and was sent to jail, I thought for certain he would never surface again in the NFL.
Now some two years later, Vick is a free man and just met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will determine if Vick is rehabilitated after paying his debt to society for the heinous crimes he committed.
If you had asked me two years ago if Vick should be allowed to participate as an NFL player ever again, without hesitation my answer would have been a definite, “NO!”
But you see I felt the same way about Kobe Bryant. Something about his entire rape case rubbed me the wrong way. Not that I thought he was definitely guilty of anything outside of infidelity, but the fact that his accuser was—for the lack of a better word—“bought off” not to testify left a very unsettling taste in my mouth for Bryant and our judicial system.
Without getting into too much detail on Kobe Bryant, let me just say he showed the same character flaws as Vick prior to being charged. He thought he was, “untouchable.” But Kobe changed his character after nearly losing everything, fighting back to rise to the top.
Since, I have softened my stance on Kobe Bryant and I believe an individual’s character can change for the better if they want it to change.
So I say, give Vick a chance to change. I am confident Commissioner Goodell will clearly lay down the groundwork for his return and, in no uncertain terms, let it be known that Vick will be playing with a two strike count for the remainder of his career.
If Vick clearly wants to change, he can start by volunteering at local animal shelters. He should insist on speaking to young kids publically in areas where dog fighting is prominent and preach ”respect all living creatures.” And finally, stay at home a majority of the time and be the best father he can be to his children.
Should Vick slip along the way even slightly, I am certain he would no longer be welcomed by Goodell and the NFL.
I am no longer rooting against Vick the player if he gets a chance to perform in the NFL. Rather, I am pulling for Vick the man, the father, the role model (a few remain dedicated), and the example he can become for so many who we believe cannot change their character as adults.