Whether you're rooting for Michael Vick or not, we've already witnessed the first chapter of what no doubt has the chance to be one of the greatest redemption stories any of us have seen in a very long time.
We all know the story: a clueless, cruel, stupid, and above all, incredibly wealthy and talented Michael Vick brutally tortured and killed defenseless dogs.
A crime for which he lost everything.
His $100 million contract, his endorsements, his status as one of the faces of the NFL, and of course, his freedom—all gone because of his uncontainable actions.
And while things didn't look particularly promising for Mike Vick during his first season back in the NFL after serving 19 months in a federal prison, he's more than made up for it with his incredible performance in 2010.
Vick is currently at the helm of a Philadelphia Eagles team that seems destined for a playoff berth and the 30-year-old quarterback is being mentioned as an MVP candidate for what he's been able to accomplish on the football field.
While this scenario probably would have seemed like one of the more unlikely possible outcomes just a year ago, perhaps the most unlikely development is his current standing in society.
Of course, there will always be those who can never forgive Michael Vick for what he did and that's their right as dog lovers, animal lovers, or just people with an opinion. But it seems that much of mainstream American society has already begun to put Michael Vick's past behind him and focus on the present.
For proof of this you can look to the fact that Vick was recently given his first endorsement since being incarcerated, or you could look to the fact that Vick's No. 7 Eagles jersey is one of the best sellers in the NFL right now.
And perhaps most telling of all, Vick is currently the leading vote getter for the Pro Bowl, having received nearly a million votes (ahead of such players as Tom Brady and Drew Brees) in what is generally a good measure of both popularity and on-field performance.
Over the last several months Vick hasn't said very much about anything, opting to let his play on Sundays do the talking, a tactic which has obviously worked wonders for a guy who was arguably one of the most hated figures in America just a few months ago.
But when Michael Vick opened his mouth about something other than football this past week and said he was interested in getting a puppy, it was greeted with plenty of shock and disgust.
People began voicing their opinions on both sides of the argument but all of this hoopla surrounding Vick's statement is moot for now, because under the terms of his probation he's not allowed to own a dog until May of 2012.
We all know that timing is everything, and this universal fact is even more true for Vick at this point in his life and his comeback.
The timing isn't right for Vick to be making a statement about dogs, regardless of it's sentiment. And Vick's advisers shouldn't so much as let the man eat a hot dog for fear that the media might construe it in a negative way.
Before this misstep, Vick was well on his way to indeed becoming one of the greatest redemption stories we've seen in a long time and in order to get to that point he needs to stick to the script.
Vick isn't the first extremely talented mega-star to be caught up in a horrifying legal situation, and players like Ray Lewis and Kobe Bryant have laid out the blueprint for his return to glory.
I'm not trying to compare the situations that these three men found themselves in. They're all different cases and neither Bryant nor Lewis were convicted of anything and Vick lost much more than either Bryant or Lewis ever did.
But both Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis faced serious rebuilding efforts to their image as a result of their actions or what they were accused of doing.
Just like Lewis and Bryant, Vick needs to play his ass off and keep his name in the news for the positive things he's doing on the football field and most of all win, because everyone loves a winner.
All the while keeping his mouth shut about everything else.
No one ever liked Michael Vick for his commentary or insights, they liked him because he was one of the most electrifying athletes the National Football League has ever seen and that's what he should be focusing on.
As we've already seen over the last 14 weeks of football, Vick absolutely has the talent and ability to endear himself to the American public again and if his Pro Bowl voting, jersey sales, and recent endorsement are any indication, he's already come much further in the last few months than some thought he ever would.
And while it's been nearly impossible for opposing defenses to stop Vick on his comeback trail in 2010, what he does and says off the field can. Just like it did when he played for Atlanta which resulted in his conviction and prison sentence.
I'm all for athletes making a difference in the community and speaking out about critical issues in society as they have the ability to rally people behind worthy causes that most of us never will.
But Michael Vick is still rehabilitating his image and while it might seem like the best way to go about this would be to embrace dogs, this is simply too controversial of a statement to be making at this current point in time.
After enduring a few years of controversy for things that have nothing to do with football, Vick needs to be a football player and nothing else.
Who knows what the future holds for Michael Vick, maybe he will turn into a spokesperson for animal rights in 20 years, or maybe he will eventually be celebrated for his fall from grace and subsequent comeback.
But for right now he should be keeping his nose clean and focusing on his performance on the football field, something that he hasn't done enough of in the past and something that could come back to haunt him yet again in the future if he's not careful.
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