It seemed like a good idea at the time. A simple birthday party in Virginia Beach for the commonwealth native. An opportunity, a little more than a year after being released from prison, for Michael Vick to show just how far he’s come. Seems harmless right; ring in 30 years of life with your closest friends. But in Michael Vick’s case nothing is ever harmless.
One year ago Vick was an oft troubled NFL enigma. A superstar in the NFL, Vick was an athlete hard to dislike. His superhuman speed and tendency to turn the mundane 3-step drop into a highlight reel worthy of instant classic status made him a big ticket attraction for the NFL. His off the field exploits, in hindsight were telling, but often seemed relatively harmless. In the Madden generation Michael Vick was as intriguing and exciting a figure to ever enter the NFL; but the shine wore off. A year away from football proved costly as Vick struggled through the 2009 season to find his rhythm, timing, and even (what seemed to be) his innate speed and instincts in the pocket. Vick was simply Human last season, which makes the timing of his latest indiscretion even more damning.
Gone are the days when Vick (like in 2007 when stopped in an airport with drug paraphernalia) received the benefit of a doubt. No longer can people look the other way, like in 2004 when two men running drugs were caught in a car registered to Vick. Most have forgotten that in 2006 Vick and his rolling entourage (which included Quanis Phillips the notorious supporting actor in the birthday party incident) were stopped, questioned, and eventually cleared for snatching an airport security officer’s watch. However all these indiscretions will again be brought to the surface as Vick faces the most daunting pocket pressure of his young life.
After being released from prison for his much publicized involvement in an illegal dog fighting organization, the Philadelphia Eagles snatched him up with the intentions to help rehabilitate the fallen star, but the grace, tenacity, and cunningness which once shone bright had clearly eroded. There were (very brief) flashes of his past brilliance but it was clear he’d lost more than just a significant amount of money during his stint in prison.
The NFL much like America loves a good comeback story. Case in point, the mercurial Ron Artest who’s participation in the 2004 “Malice at the Palace” seemingly had cast him as the villain in perpetuity. One shot and a shout out to his psychiatrist altered that perception forever. Even Milton Bradley, who seems to make it a point to alienate managers, teammates, and fans in city after city, will get another chance to blow it. But Vick is now different.
The dog fighting charges were significant. A quick look at the outcry from the animals rights sect proves as much. Still Vick had his legions of football following fans, as well as an entire league all too familiar with his on-field the performances. But the on-field exploits are gone, and all that remains are the many off-field transgressions. In a city not quick to forgive and forget Michael Vick was given a second chance. But on a night, when Vick proved that 30 is the new 20, he might have possibly thrown away his second, third, and final chance at redemption. Surrounded by his “crew”, consisting of his brother (charged at various times with distribution of drugs, evading police, statutory rape, and serving alcohol to minors), Phillips (partner in the infamous dog fighting ring), Vick’s professional life hangs in a balance.
It’s not easy to predict whether or not Vick will be suspended or worse. The facts from the now infamous birthday bash seem straight forward however explanations from witnesses have been anything but. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has established himself has a hard line disciplinarian. A Dudley Do-Right with his sights set on cleaning up the NFL’s image. As a result, we should expect that after granting clemency to Michael Vick he will feel obligated by principle and his own personal war on truancy to take a much harder stance. Even worse the NFL teams who were once quick to forgive or overlook Vick’s off-field issues will review tape of the 14 weeks Vick spent sitting on the Eagles sideline or running around aimlessly in the pocket and conclude that the risk doesn’t outweigh the reward. The proof is there in video tape, tabloid photos, and investigative reports; the 30 year-old version of Michael Vick still acts like the 20 year-old Michael Vick and clearly still doesn’t get it.