After watching Michael Vick placed on a media pedestal since his release from federal prison and subsequent signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, I have only been able to think of one thing.
Why is the National Football League and the media treating a convicted felon better than that same media and Major League Baseball have treated players suspected of steroid use? I recall primarily Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, in this context.
Now let me preface the following by saying I honestly have almost no strong opinions about Michael Vick as a person. I have only thought he was a talented athlete, but overrated quarterback who did a stupid, cruel act with dog fighting, and he served his time.
As for Bonds and Clemens, I have never been fans of theirs, but respected their achievements on the field until steroid accusations tainted their accomplishments.
When Vick was first accused of dog fighting, the sports media responded with vitriol and shock that Vick would be apart of such a thing. Prior to his dog fighting issues, Vick had already shown he might be a person of questionable personal character.
In 2004, two men were convicted of selling marijuana out of a truck registered to Vick.
In 2006, a woman sued Vick, claiming he used the alias "Ron Mexico" and gave her genital herpes. The incident ended with an out-of-court settlement.
Later that same year, Vick paid a $10,000 fine to the NFL and gave another $10,000 to charities for giving "the bird" to his own Atlanta fans after a game.
In 2007, the dog fighting allegations came out, attracting national attention and inciting outrage from many fans and animal rights groups.
Once convicted and sentenced to prison, the majority of media did a curious thing towards Vick; they began to look forward to the day of Vick’s release and began speculating what teams he would play for and how effective he would be for them. It was quite a change from their initial reactions to the dog fighting allegations.
The talk only grew more frequent and impassioned as his release date grew near.
Since his signing with the Eagles, the majority of the media continues to heap praise on Vick and what he can contribute to the team and how he needs to take advantage of his second chance.
Now contrast the Vick saga with what happened to players in baseball suspected of steroid use.
Bonds and Clemens were perennial All-Star, record breaking, and dominant players in their sport. They were both considered locks for the Baseball Hall of Fame until the steroid allegations.
Both players appeared to have large egos and temperament issues (e.g. Bonds bragging of his abilities and having his own locker area, and Clemens throwing at batters and a broken bat incident with Mike Piazza). However, neither had been in trouble with the law until Bonds was under investigation for his ties with Bay Area Laboratories Co-operative (BALCO).
As far as personal character, both players allegedly had affairs outside of marriage.
While neither player has officially failed a test for steroids, both players’ names have come up on reports indicating failed tests prior to the enactment of the current MLB policy on steroids.
Currently, both players are dealing with perjury issues, but neither has spent time in jail.
The obvious difference between Vick and Bonds-Clemens duo is that Vick was in the prime of his career while Bonds and Clemens were in the twilight of theirs when their troubles began.
As Vick trained, killed, and forcefully bred dogs for fighting, Bonds and Clemens allegedly put an illegal substance in their own bodies to improve the performance of their game.
While groups such as The Humane Society and PETA protested Vick and the NFL, no one protested Bonds and Clemens playing in MLB for alleged steroid use.
While well-respected NFL personnel like Tony Dungy supported, represented, and fought for Vick to be given a second chance and be reinstated so he could play again, MLB owners all but blackballed Bonds and Clemens, and no major names or faces came to their support.
While Vick was lavished with media attention when he signed with the Eagles, Bonds and Clemens have been tried and convicted in the media and court of public opinion as heretics to the purity of baseball. No team would sign them even when they indicated they still wanted to play.
Why the disparity? Why was Vick supported by the media and NFL and given a second chance after being a convicted felon, while Bonds and Clemens were ostracized from baseball while yet to be found guilty of any federal charges or baseball regulations?
There seems to be a huge hypocrisy between the two situations.
Based on the media and respective leagues' reactions to the situations, I get the impression allegedly cheating at a game is more frowned upon than killing dogs for sport. A federal conviction and prison time is not as damning as a federal investigation.
I know it’s not as simple of an issue as that. There are more details and circumstances to both stories to take into account. I am just saying when you take an unbiased look at the overall media coverage of both issues, and the actions of the NFL and MLB, something seems wrong.
I am not writing this to make any of the players look bad, or to take sides. I am trying to figure out why things are the way they are.
I can’t see a reason for the difference in the reactions to the situations by the media. Baseball is considered by many to be a sacred sport, while football is more popular. In the end, both are just a game. Wasn’t more damage done by sponsoring a sport that kills animals than injecting drugs into one's own body to gain an advantage?
So all I am left with is asking why.
Why was the media reaction to the two stories so different? Why were the reactions of the owners and offices of the NFL different from that of MLB? Why were more fans unwilling to give Bonds and Clemens another chance, while most were ready to forgive and forget for Vick? Is taking steriods on the field more unforgivable than commiting a violent act off it?
One thing I do know for sure. The sports media is not the place to look for an unbiased answer.