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Forgiving Michael Vick

Last week in my hodgepodge, I mentioned that I needed Michael Vick to score at least 33 points to win my fantasy match-up (because I know you care).  Otherwise, I would look like an idiot for benching Tom Brady, who had already had an impressive day against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Well, Vick came through for me, scoring 54 points in what will probably always be known as “The Michael Vick Game.”  Vick threw four touchdowns and ran for 2 more, finishing the day with 333 yards passing and another 80 yards rushing.   The performance drew comparisons to Steve Young, engendered some MVP talk for Vick, and even warranted a patronizing-ass “I’m prouder of his work off the field,” comment from NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell:


“There is a big message in what Michael is doing,” Goodell told the newspaper. “He’s a superstar athlete who everyone thought had everything in the world. He fell from grace tragically by making some horrific mistakes, paid a significant price, worked his way back in and now he’s being successful. It demonstrates to me to get to these young men earlier and work with them and make them understand their responsibility making decisions that will define them for a period of time.”

Whatever.

Of course, this response to Vick’s amazing performance was not entirely positive.  The creator of a fantasy football blog I frequent, for instance, acknowledged the awesomeness of Vick’s (fantasy) performance, but not without noting that she would never have Michael Vick on any of her fantasy teams.  As if, I suppose, one might express one’s moral fiber by what one decides to do within the confines of a game that a bunch of nerds such as myself obsess over.  Interestingly, I’ve never heard mention of the morally deleterious rhetoric of fantasy.  Fantasy players love to talk about the athletes they “own.”  Because, you know, it’s ethically acceptable to pretend that you own a person, especially when considering his trade value, but not hardly moral to own a player who supported dog fighting in real life.  (For the record, I do not claim to own players.  That’s wack.)  Such acts seem akin to folks who play anti-Monopoly…with a Monopoly board game…that they purchased.

What does it mean to articulate that one hates Michael Vick?  What does it mean to find it necessary to hold that opinion still?  To be sure, I was not a Michael Vick defender.  I am, by all accounts, a dog person.  I often find dogs more tolerable than people.  I was alarmed and saddened upon hearing the details of what Vick and his associates did those dogs.  Yet, I don’t hate Michael Vick, and I don’t believe–as many do–that he should have never been allowed to play professional football again.  In my mind, there aren’t many instances where I would think that a person, as abominable as their actions may be, should as a result no longer be allowed to do a thing she is really good at and presumably loves if the crime is unrelated to that vocation.  Vick, according to the way this culture runs, paid his debt to society.  Vick served his time in prison, declared bankruptcy, was conditionally reinstated, and by all accounts both adequately acknowledges his past mistakes and has worked to ameliorate them.  Even St. Tony Dungy (he’s a saint because he never cusses and because he led my Colts to a Super Bowl victory.) has become a vocal proponent for this new Michael Vick.  Yet there were vehement protests when the Philadelphia Eagles signed Michael Vick as a back-up quarterback, because, I suppose no one should be given a second chance, or allowed to work after they’ve done a bid.  Some of those protesters have yet to give up the fight.

What, in this Christ-loving culture of ours makes some believe that they have the right to “hate” and/or withhold forgiveness, the latter of which implicitly suggests that they have the right to grant it?  How asinine is our earnestness when we think our moral compass is pointing in the right direction when we say things like, “I’ll never cheer for Michael Vick”?  I suppose it’s a lot easier to sleep at night when we think about our moral stance on a rich athlete who put dogs to death than it is to examine the ways that our daily actions may endanger the lives of people we’ll never know.  What would justice for those dogs have looked like?  Vick never playing football again?  Why?  I suppose he could have worked for a company like Dell while in jail, gained some employable skills so we never again had to watch him on Sunday afternoons.

The moral vitriol spewed at Vick, two years after he served his 21-month jail sentence, ensured his position atop Forbes’ list of most disliked athletes yet again this year.  Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger (who looks like Jeff Daniels to me) has settled in at number 3.  He was accused of sexual assault–twice.