Michael Vick: The Example the Eagles Quarterback Provides to the NFL

Mike Foster@michaelsfosterCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2011

HONOLULU - JANUARY 30:  Michael Vick, #7 of the NFC Philadelphia Eagles passes against the American Football Conference team (AFC) during the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 30, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Sources are saying that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be franchised in 2011, meaning Vick will be secured and tied to an Eagles roster spot for the upcoming season. 

Vick will receive nearly a 400 percent increase in pay from last year's $5.25 million salary (though he has a lot of it to pay to creditors), and will essentially be taking the job from quarterback Kevin Kolb, who's now become a valuable trade piece at the Eagles' disposal.

Of course, news of Vick's continued climb back to the top of the NFL, highlighted by his start in yesterday's NFL Pro Bowl, comes to the disgust of many sports fans around the world who never believed Vick deserved a second chance.

Some say Vick's return to the NFL provides the average American with a look into the skewed and unfair processes that comes from a society that has the concept of capital gain as a backbone.

The theme of instant reward to the undeserving has become a prominent one that shows its face countless times in the form of disgraceful incidents in the world of sports, usually by professional athletes.

Michael Vick's dog fighting scandal of 2007 is the highlight of them all, displaying a cruel nature and immaturity within the soul of one of America's most dominating icons.

His fall from grace was one of the most dramatic sports stories in history, and many doubted Vick would ever see the field again. Many doubted Vick would ever be able to redeem himself enough to earn the right to earn a yearly salary ever again, let a lone a multi-million dollar salary.

I, a lifelong Falcons fan who coveted Vick's presence in Atlanta, was one of those people. I always felt like there would be a disconnect between me and my idols. I was wrong. 

The Vick incident left me feeling betrayed. It was literally a heart-wrenching experience. It filled me with anger. Believe it, or not, there is a certain degree of emotional investment that ties into being a sports fan.

It's something certain women who hate sports, like my mother, will never understand. Why am I in a bad mood when my team lost? Why do I feel like giving everyone hugs when my team wins?

Why was I distraught when Michael Vick went to prison? 

I felt a let down. It was real. And, the saddest part was the entire city of Atlanta felt it. Vick was on billboards and commercials and radio spots. He was the most popular man in the city. He brought a city together. He changed the lifestyle of a city.

Then it all went for the worse. In the wake of the Vick incident, fans in Atlanta were torn. Vick haters received tons of criticism, while Vick backers unknowingly fueled an ignorant perception of a race-based feud between the divided fanbase.  

People were left feeling disappointed, but even more, they began to question the integrity of professional sports.

Vick's debacle was only one example of professional athletes seemingly taking their way of life for granted.

Adam "PacMan" Jones' repeated off-field incidents showed an astonishing and unfathomable disconnect from his privileges.

Other incidents like Albert Haynesworth's stomp and countless off-field fights between NFL players began to draw a picture of immaturity amongst America's wealthiest and luckiest.

Vick's dog fighting incident simply topped it all off. Ever since 2007, I've had a drastically different view about professional sports and the players involved. I'd always hesitate to idolize an athlete.

When Matt Ryan entered the scene, I saw the other side. I saw a guy who worked hard, brought a blue-collar attitude into the city, and wore a humble attitude to every press conference.

I instantly became a Matt Ryan fan. Others in the city of Atlanta took more time to back him. Vick was still some fans' quarterback.

At this point in time, in 2008, it was pretty clear that either people were Vick haters and Ryan lovers, or vice versa.

Even in the 2008 season, the 11-5 year for the Falcons, seemed to be accompanied by an overshadowing unrest within the fanbase.

In 2009, when Vick returned to Atlanta, a lot of Falcons fans in black or red No. 7 jerseys were cheering for the team in midnight green.

I couldn't understand this phenomenon. Why in the world was anyone in this city actually cheering for this criminal? To me, it was one or the other. I either liked Vick, or I liked Ryan.

However, in Vick's return, more and more video documentations of Michael Vick have aired on television. I've watched more and more, and slowly gained a newfound respect for the quarterback I once hated.

As Vick started to describe his experience in prison, as well as his mental transformation, I began to see a genuine change in his attitude.

One thing that Vick made clear to us in his return is that he takes his place in society as a blessing. He's seen the low, the high, and then the low again and then the high once more.

Some say Vick doesn't deserve to be in the spot he's in, making the money he is. I am not one of those people anymore.

Vick has shown work ethic on the mental and physical fields. He hasn't kept any secrets. He admitted every single spot where he was wrong in his life.

But, the thing with Vick is, he's backing up his talk of redemption. He's showing us he means change. So many NFL players have epitomized the definition of insane, doing stupid things over and over and expecting different results.

Once Vick came to the conclusion of his wrongdoings, he immediately turned things around. He uses himself as an example of how to assert yourself correctly and can cite his own wrongdoings as examples of a lack of respect for one's own life.

And the truth is, Vick's money won't be for him to throw around in a club, PacMan-style. Vick's intake will humbly be distributed to creditors and other debts he compiled over the past three years. The man is working because he appreciates his place in society, more than ever. 

Basically, he's become one of the more powerful ambassadors of professional sports. That's something I never thought I would be able to claim with a straight face.

Sure, maybe walking straight out of a jail and into a Philadelphia Eagles uniform illustrates a kink in the chain of capitalistic success. Isn't this country supposed to be about doing things right and working hard?

Maybe it's not. But, this country is about counting blessings and being grateful.

If something amazing is handed to you, it's a slap in the face of society to take it for granted. That's what the NFL is all about.

While more and more NFL players have continued to show immaturity and ignorance towards their own place in society, Vick's return to the NFL has come with a giant sign on his forehead that preaches cherishing the moment.

That's all he's been about for the past few years, and his Pro Bowl spot and franchise tag are a testament to that more than anything else.

Professional athletes need to realize that with great power comes great responsibility, not recklessness (sorry for using the super hero quote). 

Our country thrives off the famous and media presentation. People in the media and in the spotlight are expected to create a positive image. 

On the other hand, the media thrives off the newsworthiness of drama, which just so happens to include all of the hoopla created by these off-field catastrophes in the celebrity world, which includes sports.

Now that Michael Vick's redeeming story has hit a peak, it's pretty evident he's out to prove doing things right can be just as rewarding and just as entertaining for us to write about.

I sure do find his story pretty remarkable, but the only thing that makes it remarkable to me is his change in character. 

Even as a Falcons fan, and a Matt Ryan fan, I think I'm also a pretty big Vick fan again.

If more players could take on the responsibility Vick shows now, and avoid the poor judgment he showed in the past, the NFL would be a seemingly more accommodating entity. 

And to me, I think that factual exposure is worthy of a pay raise, or better yet, a chance at getting to the top.


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