Michael Vick is the American Dream.
A rags-to-riches story isn't enough for a post-recession America. In today's socioeconomic climate we want our heroes who've made it to the top to hit rock bottom so that they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps once again and live a more fulfilling life of success.
Headed into the 2007 season, Michael Vick was entering his prime. In 2006 the three-time Pro Bowler was the first QB to ever rush for 1,000 yard in an NFL season. He'd already been on the cover of Madden and he had a successful shoe line with Nike—a rare feat for a football player.
Leading up to 2007, Vick had multiple incidents that put his character in question. Water bottles, Ron Mexico, flying the bird and his brother all raised concerns. Then Bad Newz Kennels hit the fan and everything went south.
Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and slammed for millions of dollars via lawsuits.
Fast-forward to December 12, 2010. Vick has just led the NFC East-leading Eagles to 30-27 win over America's Team. He threw a 91-yard bomb for a touchdown, threw a touchdown to an offensive lineman and ran for one.
Michael Vick's return to glory has been the most polarizing sports story of 2010. Starting the season as a backup, he earned the starting spot when filling in for the injured Kevin Kolb and instantly electrified the Eagles' offense.
Vick missed Weeks 5-7 with an injury, and Philadelphia has only lost one game Vick has started and finished.
Drew Brees was recently awarded Sports Illustrated's 2010 Sportsman of the Year Award, not Michael Vick.
It's not that Brees isn't deserving of the award. He's a champion on the field, battled back from injury and has never let naysayers disrupt his focus. Away from football he is a great philanthropist and a servant to the city of New Orleans.
Brees is easy to cheer on, but his story doesn't inspire Americans the way Vick's does.
Vick has changed. The Falcons' Mike Vick wasn't living life in an upstanding manner. The Eagles' Michael Vick is an inspiration to everyone.
The type of change that could inspire politicians, leaders of industry, and athletes at all levels—even the once-great Tiger Woods.
The new American Dream isn't about getting to the top; that's just the beginning. Storybook tales don't resonate as clearly with someone whose unemployed or saw their 401(k) dwindle to a fraction of what it once was.
No athlete appreciates his sport more and no athlete competes harder than Michael Vick. He is playing at an elite level and has had a steeper climb to that level than any of his contemporaries which is why he is truly 2010's Sportsman of the Year.
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