Nov 23

There are no “do-overs” in sports, but in life there are

Today’s guest post is by Lunchboy, a former Peppercommer and lifetime Eagles fan. 

“Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices – just recognize them.”
-    Edward R. Murrow

M6a00d8342adfcf53ef01156f891b32970c-800wiichael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants on Sunday Night on NBC’s “Football Night in America.”  In doing so, the national discussion that is Vick continued to gain yardage in our collective water cooler chat. At last look, Google had more than 3.4 million listings for the Philly QB while Eli Manning had an average 1.5 million (see, he is just average). The Eagles also took control of the NFC East, but more on that later. 

Back in April 2007 you and I learned that Vick was implicated in an illegal interstate dog fighting ring that he bankrolled, operated on his property and took part in on fight days. The losing dogs were likely starved, raped, electrocuted, drowned or killed. I’m sure some went through it all.  Heinous crimes that you’d expect to see portrayed during parts of NBC’s “Law & Order,” not in real life by an NFL star who had a $130 million contract in his wallet.

He lost it all.  The contract with the Atlanta Falcons, numerous endorsement deals, homes, cars, etc. Everything. 

Playing defense, likely for the first time, he dealt with the court of law and public opinion, and ultimately his Leavenworth guards. For 19 months (of a 23 month sentence), he was living in an 8×10 cell.  When he was released in May of 2009 his debt to society had been paid, but he was some $20 million in debt to the Falcons, the IRS, some banks and anyone who had an opinion about what landed him in the pen. 

Except for the Eagles, every NFL team took a pass on Vick as he tried to regain employment in the industry he had once worked.  Granted, a Fortune 500 company wouldn’t ever hire a felon convicted of an accounting scandal or insider trading to its corporate finance team, but Vick never cheated his employer per se.  He only cheated off of the field during practice (by not going), film study (by sleeping), his nightlife activities (by going and not sleeping),  and ending the lives of dogs “employed” by Bad Newz Kennels.
Fast forward about 18 months and the man is again atop headlines.   Philadelphia, after trading Donovan McNabb away and welcoming in the Kevin Kolb era, is now starting Michael Vick thanks to injuries to Kolb’s head and psyche. Since becoming an NFL quarterback again, Vick has become a student of the game, a practice and weight room regular, a film study junkie.  There is now talk about the team being positioned to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. 

And, again, my city is divided -not over who makes the best cheesesteak- but whether or not Michael Vick deserves their support as he leads our beloved Eagles.  

Ultimately, we all have our own decision to make on this one. You could argue that he deserves the punishment that he inflicted on those poor dogs, or you could argue that our judicial system and due process ran its course and he deserves a second chance.  You could contend that there is good in his various appearances at schools when he speaks with children and young adults about dog fighting and how evil the culture is.  He’s Ron Mexico!  You could recall the gun shooting outside his 30th birthday party this past summer minutes after he left the club. Weeks ago he was captured hugging a coach in pure jubilation following a win against Eli’s brother Peyton. He scored six TDs against the Redskins!  I could go on and on…

Personally, I think Vick will always be guilty of his crimes, even as a free man.  Even without his prison jumpsuit on, he will always be looked at as a felon.  His children, his wife, every player on his team and those he faces, every coach, teacher, fan, grocery bagger, cabbie and waiter will always remember and think about what he did.  He’ll carry that as a life sentence with no chance for parole or peace of mind for a long, long time.   Honestly, that’s enough for me.   

Should he behave and continue to call all the right plays, there’s a new contract that will end his financial worries and there might even be future employment options with the NFL (an athlete/parolee ambassador?),  the US Department of Corrections (a living case study on rehabilitation?) or with the Humane Society (as an animal rights activist?). 

Before all of that happens, though, the Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday.  And I’m rooting for Vick and the Eagles to win. 

Nov 22

Mick vs. Vick: When the very worst becomes the very best

Novick 6a00d8341c39e853ef01348470b581970cThe National Football League has a fascinating image and reputation  conundrum on its hands.    There's a very real possibility that ex-con, Michael Vick, the most villainous and vilified player in league history, will be named this season's most valuable player.

I thought it would be interesting to obtain a dog's POV (since Vick served 18 months in prison for betting on, and hosting dog fights at his palatial estate. Note: countless canines were tortured and killed by Vick and his posse). 

So, I turned to Mick Cody, an 8-year-old pit bull mix. An outspoken advocate of canine rights, Mick was literally panting at the opportunity to discuss Vick (if not disembowel him).

Rep: Thanks for finding time in your busy schedule, Mick.

Mick: No prob. I just finished a six-hour nap and, aside from needing to go bye-bye fairly soon, I've got a few minutes. Hey, how about a Beggin' Strip?

Rep: Sure. Here. Hey, nice catch. Great eye-jaw coordination. You're the Michael Vick of dogs.

Mick: Grrrrrrrr.

Rep: Sorry. So, what do you think about all the Vick buzz? He's an extraordinary athlete, no?

Mick: He's a murderer, pure and simple.

Rep: But, he paid his time in jail. Why not forgive and forget?

Mick: He was directly or indirectly responsible for the torture and deaths of hundreds of dogs. Considering the average pit lives for 12 human years, he should have been given a sentence of similar duration. And, he should NOT have been allowed to ever play football again! Woof!

Rep: Why not?

Mick: Because it sends the usual mixed signal you humans are so adept at. It's OK to decimate another species, spend a few months in prison and then return to a sport that pays you millions and millions of dollars annually. There’s something seriously wrong in that equation. You wouldn't ever let Dennis Kozlowski or Jeff Skilling run Fortune 500 businesses again, but you'll let a murderer play football again to sate Philly fans' insatiable need to win now. The Eagles should be ashamed of themselves. The team, not the birds. The birds are an impressive, if solitary lot. Another Beggin' Strip please.

Rep: OK. Wow, superb over-the-shoulder grab. Positively Vick-like.

Mick: Grrrrr.

Rep: Elaborate on the conditional love thing before you go bye-bye.

Mick: Sure. Eagles' fans are willing to conveniently forget all of Vick's horrible actions because he may be their ticket to The Super Bowl. That's conditional love. Me, I love you unconditionally whether you've forgotten to walk me or you've shown favoritism to my brother, Rooney. Not humans. You're the one who always quotes Paul McCartney when referencing past clients or flames: “Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.” Me, I'll love you until I fetch my last bone or lift my last leg. That's unconditional love.

Rep: Final question. I noticed you were giving some serious paw pumps during last night's game as the Eagles dumped the Giants. Weren't you sending a mixed signal?

Mick: You raised me to love the Jets and hate the Giants. What's an obedient pooch to do?

Rep: Seems like even canines can be conflicted.

Mick: Not at all. I sleep like a log. In fact, that fireplace looks pretty, darn inviting. Later, Rep.