Brandon Sneed wonders if any good can come from hating the Eagles quarterback.
So, even now, three years after he was convicted of bankrolling illegal dogfighting operations and a year after he got out of jail, Mike Vick remains one of the most polarizing sports figures in America … and let’s be frank, some people still hate him.
In one way, I get that. Vick was responsible for some nasty, nasty things done to some sweet, innocent dogs, things that make me shudder and shiver and wish for a drink. I’ve got dogs myself, and trust me, as much as I love to watch him play football and as much as I believe in redemption and want to believe he’s experiencing just that, there’s no way he’s ever dogsitting.
However, some of the angry things people are spewing make me shake my head and wonder if they might need a drink or two themselves. Relax, neighbors. I mean yeah, Vick’s no saint, but some of the things being said about him are about as shocking as the things he did.
To be sure, these things come largely from the Internet, a place only slightly more savory than your local sewage pipe, and those who populate it with comments sometimes make me wonder if they somehow ingested, from said sewers, some sort of brainkiller mutated fungi.
What most people get most riled about is when folks like me say, “Well y’know, it was horrible, yeah, but the man was convicted of his crime and he served his time and, y’know, they weren’t people he was torturing and killing.”
“Oh, so you’re saying they’re just dogs, then?”
“Well, I suppose so, yeah.”
“Ohh, so it’s acceptable then to be cruel to those who are powerless, who society sees as somehow less important? Well then, let me tell YOU somethin’ …”
And here’s what I’ve been told:
“That’s what the Nazis said during the Holocaust—’They’re only Jews’.”
“That’s what the slaveowners said—’They’re only blacks’.”
“That’s what pedophiles said—’They’re only kids’.”
“Do you get it? This kind of behavior is sick and purely evil.”
I mean, what is there to say to that? (Actually, I know: “Bartender!”) Comparing him to Hitler, to abusive slave owners, to pedophiles? Really? What he did makes any normal person cringe, but he’s nowhere near what some people make him out to be.
Regardless of how we feel about Vick, we all agree that the torture and murder of dogs is gruesome. That’s why it’s been criminalized in America, and that’s why Vick lost his fortune and his freedom for it.
But don’t lose yourselves to misreasoned hatred. While dogs are precious members of many families in our culture, they are food in other cultures, same as we consider cattle food while those in India consider them sacred. They are animals; Vick is human, and he has, as far as any of us know, repented. He served his time. He’s paid the debt our justice system required. There’s no need for you to add more to that.
I know he did unspeakable things to those dogs and he was responsible for unspeakable things done to other dogs, but they weren’t YOUR dogs. Let’s remember that.
Some of those who so hate Michael act like he broke into their homes, took Fluffy and Fido, set up a ring right there in the living room, and made them go at it. Heinous though his crime may be, Michael did not personally harm anyone’s animals or property. In fact, he spent quite some money on financing personal property and purchasing the animals. And bear in mind that that is actually the crime he went to jail for, not the torture of animals.
Those of us who cheer for Michael to succeed … It’s not like we’ve forgotten what he did. We’ve just moved on, because it looks like he has.
Hating Michael Vick doesn’t bring back the dogs. Hating Michael Vick doesn’t stop others from killing dogs. (In fact, some studies suggest that the firestorm of attention around Vick actually only further popularized dogfighting in some areas.) Hating Michael Vick doesn’t make the world better.
All hating Michael Vick does is leave one full of hate, and the only impact that has is on the hater.
Maybe this whole redemption narrative is fabricated and maybe these messages that he’s saying when he speaks to crowds of teenagers are all scripted and maybe it really is all some elaborate public relations scheme. But you can’t manufacture the unbelievable talent Vick exhibits on a football field. You can’t fake the mental fortitude and the uncanny ability to command a team that he’s shown since returning to the game.
Sports aren’t always a metaphor for life, like people like to make them out to be, but sometimes they’re a good barometer for how a person’s personal life is going. (Reference: Woods, Tiger.) And if that holds true for Vick, it looks like, in short, the young punk has grown into a man.
I’m not saying you have to like Vick and if you never do, I’ll understand. And look—I know he has publicists helping him out. But I also believe there’s more to it, too, and until he gives me reason to think otherwise, why not?
It goes against the cynic in me, but here’s why: Life is hard enough, and these days, it’s about as hard as it’s ever been for Americans and it’s certainly as hard as it’s ever been for my generation.
And so, with the economy, the housing market, the national debt, the wars, I think that a story like Vick’s is good for us. I think it’s healthy to believe in something like what we’re seeing there.
Maybe last season was a fluke, and maybe one day soon this new world Vick’s built to live in will fall to pieces like the proverbial house of cards, but I doubt it. There’s a reason the Philadelphia Eagles just offered him a six-year, $100 million contract: They believe in him.
Originally posted at brandonsneed.com.
—Photo AP/LM Otero