One thing the average sports fan can't complain about this summer—usually a time reserved for languorous days at the baseball stadium and poring over reports from pro football camp and college football practice—is that it's been boring.
Yesterday, the Philadelphia Eagles unleashed the perfect storm of this bizarre sports summer, making it rain on fans like Pacman Jones at a gentlemen's club when they announced the signing of Michael Vick, pushing him just ahead of the also fleet-of-foot Steve Young, circa 1988, as the most discussed and watched backup quarterback in the history of the pro game.
In fact, shortly after Vick's signing, he dominated the top trending topics on Twitter, usually a sign that one should check their pulse, given how celebrity death usually dominates that particular section of Shaquille O'Neal's "Twitteronia." Rather, Michael Vick's trending on Twitter reflected its own larger trend within sports and society itself—fans having to turn a blind eye to athletes' actions off the field so that they might have some measure of enjoyment when watching them on the field.
In Roger Goodell's NFL, it's no coincidence that Vick found employment the same day Goodell made Donte Stallworth's indefinite suspension official. It certainly couldn't have hurt in reducing the potential blowback from the Vick signing by suspending Stallworth, who earlier this summer pleaded guilty to killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. Every time God(ell) closes a window, he apparently opens a kennel door.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia made perfect sense for Vick's landing, especially considering the Eagles are the team that innovated the in-stadium jail. It's also somewhat fitting that Vick has gone from the clink to The Linc.
As potential professional situations go, Vick couldn't be in a more perfect one to find success on the field. Donovan McNabb will be able to watch his former protege's back when Vick isn't watching his in the ironically named wildcat formation. Besides, what better city than Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, for Vick to begin anew his pursuit of life, liberty and professional happiness?
Bad canine and prison puns aside (on that score, the story has definitely gone to the dogs), a certain segment of football and Philly fans will find it hard to root for Vick, even if they haven't seen Sarah McLachlan's SPCA commercial on late-night basic cable 500 times.
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan, representing the segment of Philly fans wary of the signing wrote:
"It just isn't worth it. Not from a football standpoint, which is secondary, and not from any other standpoint."
Of course, even if the Philadelphia fan base is evenly divided at this moment, the support for the Vick signing will only go up as he produces and that contributes to Eagles' victories.
What a long way Vick has come in just the last seven years: from phenom to mediocre quarterback to dogfight kingpin to con to ex-con to Donovan McNabb's backup and the Eagles' potential quarterback-in-waiting.
Then again, if Michael Vick were just Mike Vick from down the street, rather than Michael Vick of "The Michael Vick Experience," would a new chapter of redemption even be possible? If you haven't already learned from baseball's never-ending steroid saga, or life itself, terms like "second chances" and "redemption" are more possible when you have produced singular achievements in a way society highly values, just as Vick once did on the football field.
If it were you or me, we probably wouldn't get the same shot. Then again, if it were you or me, America wouldn't be discussing this topic right now, just as it has been discussed ad nauseam ever since Vick was arrested.
Vick seems to be genuinely remorseful and is already participating with the Humane Society to become a spokesman against animal cruelty. Through the power of his celebrity and by virtue of his, er, previous "hobby," he has a chance to more than make up for his his wrongs off the field while resuscitating his career on it. There you have your answer as to the continued fascination with Vick's story: it has a little bit of everything that's wrong and right with America.
The Vick story is likely to have a happy ending because Vick will be given every chance now to make sure that it does. It's a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason: the only thing America likes better than tearing down its most celebrated personalities is restoring them to their previous position of esteem. What's done is done and nothing can be done about the animals Vick harmed. Now is the time for Vick to make us feel warm and fuzzy about the work he will now do to help animals, as well as about the way his sport will help him find redemption, which seems to come easier to our pro athletes by the day.