One of the most interesting questions people often ask themselves is how a person who seemingly has everything can screw up so badly?
The answer may be embedded in this quote, which is “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” It’s a phrase that originated from the Sun Tzu, and if I tried to explain it word by word, I could pile up 3,000 words easily.
But to keep the definition short, the phrase urges one to be cautionary of everyone around them, even those they consider friends. For if they don’t, they may find out one day those who they thought wanted nothing but the best for them, turned out to be just the opposite.
This phrase can apply to everyone, but for those with amplified success, such as professional athletes, it really hits home. As they pile up stats, win big games, acquire massive amounts of cash, a cloud of envy forms around them.
This cloud is made up of people who would like nothing more than to see his money pile shrink to a penny, or see his legacy buried in an ocean of doubt and criticism. When you're up that high, people want to knock you down. It’s just a part of success.
Athletes may quiver with dread when they come to realize they can’t please everyone, but eventually they accept it as a badge of honor. They even start liking it in a weird way.
LeBron James learned that lesson this year, and once he took it in stride, he grew as a player and person. Now he’s in the NBA Finals.
But in LeBron’s case, he did nothing illegal, so the stakes weren’t as high. However, when you look at the case of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who served nearly two years in prison for his substantial role in a dogfighting ring, the consequences are much greater.
In Vick’s case, he’s walking a tight rope where his every move will be watched. His image is fragile, and his dedication to do the right thing must always be apparent.
Vick was trying to prove two things in 2010. First, that he was still so quick that converging defenders would tackle their own. Second and more importantly, that he was a man worthy of living outside a jail cell.
Vick answered question No.1 in glorious fashion, winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award and saving the Eagles from certain mediocrity.
As for No. 2, that’s more of a critical thinking question than a simple fill in the blank. But so far, he’s showed nothing but a positive transformation.
He’s remained disciplined in his pursuit to enlighten those currently in bad situations, a prime example being his use of free time during the NFL lockout to reach out to fellow inmates along with former Colts head coach Tony Dungy.
He’s also reached out to another NFL Player, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who will be released from prison June 6. Burress was convicted of weapons charges in 2009 and served a sentence similar in length to Vick.
While there’s no question Burress would be a good fit on the football field, so much as he shows he still has that same leaping ability that makes him an absolute terror in the red zone.
But where Burress will be an even better fit for the Eagles will be off the field, where he and Vick could serve as great mentors. Part of making a mistake is not only redeeming yourself, but showing others they don’t have to go through what you did.
Burress vowed he would come back better than ever in 2011, and who better to have beside you in a locker room somebody like Vick? Someone who’s been through the ringer like you and made heads turn with his?
What better way to continue your remarkable reemergence into the game than to help someone else reemerge himself? It’s a win-win situation. It’s the ultimate connection. Better than any touchdown pass.
Vick said, according to an NFL.com article, the hardest thing he had to do was get rid of those people he thought were his friends. Clearly, Vick didn’t keep his enemies close enough, and it cost him dearly. He didn’t even know they were there.
Entering the twlight of his career, this may be the last opportunity Burress has to end his career on a high note. Vick showed how much better he could become when let his athleticism take a back seat to preparation and execution.
If Burress somehow lands in Philly, and undergoes a transformation similar to Vick, the kind of momentum these two could generate when they fully dedicate themselves to the game of football would be downright scary.