Being a devout American football fan, I feel polarized when it comes to Michael Vick. I currently live in Atlanta, and was here during the time in which Vick was king. He was the highest paid player in the NFL, he sold thousands of tickets and jerseys and made defensive coordinators seek professional help. Even in the Madden '06 video game, he was virtually unstoppable. The kid is just way too fast. I honestly admit. I was a fan.
But all the while, we were being duped. There was a side of Vick that was not public, and in my opinion, heinous. The dogfighting ring that he bankrolled and in which he participated was inconceivably horrid. The entire country, not just NFL fans, were totally stunned and a city was heartbroken. We learned of how he killed dogs that did not perform well in the ring, and even set out family pets to be used as target practice. We were left standing mouths agape as we heard of the drowning and electrocuting of animals, and the money that was circulated therein.
PETA and the ASPCA, among many many many other activist groups were outraged along with the millions of individuals- Myself included. He deserved to go to jail.
And off to jail he went. Not just any jail; Leavenworth, KS. The hardest of the hard are wards there. This is no Madoff-style country club, this is the real deal. There have been many laws acted and signed over the years, even one, signed by George Bush (in this blog to be named hereafter as "Dubya") in 2007, in which it was made a federal felony (State laws still vary). In this law, it provides a penalty of up to three years of imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine for each offense of interstate or foreign transport of animals for fighting purposes.
Michael Vick was luckier, per se. He submitted a guilty plea to a single Virginia (state felony) charge for dog fighting, receiving a 3 year prison sentence, imposition of which was suspended upon condition of good behavior, and $2500 fine. In return for the plea agreement, the other charge was dropped. A single charge! One! That's it! And her only served 24 months in jail! 22 in Leavenworth, and 2 under house confinement! After all the disgusting tales of death and dismemberment, he got one count and home confinement. Why? What about others that did the same thing?
In 2007, A Cottonwood, Alabama judge sentenced Johnny Ray Lewis 102 years in prison and was ordered to pay another $34,000 in fines. He was charged with 17 counts of felony dogfighting! In the raid upon his property, authorities seized 17 dogs, heavy chains, syringes and videos on dogfights. Also, another 38 put bulls died directly because of his actions. It is this writers opinion that Mr. Lewis got off FAR TOO EASY. 17 and 38 make 55 counts! That makes 330 years in the clink. Does this appeal to you?
Apply that to the Vick case. Sure, he was nailed with breach of contract lawsuits and tax liens after this was already in the court system. But, the fact of the matter is that Vick was given highly preferential treatment. In fact, I believe that he got off lighter than ANY OTHER criminal in history. If he was Johnny Ray Lewis, he would still be behind bars and vilified for the rest of written history.
But, now he is out. "He paid his debt to society," as some people say. So be it. PETA and others are still angry as hell at him and I can understand. But let me ask this: does he deserve a second chance? I say he does, but only just.
I am embarrassed for him as a human being, as a member of the NFL and as the face of a franchise in which I cheered. I think his actions make him a vile person and I am not look at him the same again. He deserved all that he got and more. But this is America, and we were built on second chances. I also believe in actions. They speak loudly for a man's character. Let us see where he goes from here.
Does he have the right to attempt to make a living again? Absolutely! And the Philadelphia Eagles think so too. They signed him to a one year deal, worth $1.6 million and an option for a second year (at $5.2 million). Is your head spinning yet?? Mine is. S.E. Cupp's is (an avid animal lover and one whose work I read constantly). Johnny Ray Lewis' is as well.
Why did they do it? simple answer: MONEY! Look at how much FREE media that organization just got! They got a STAR player caliber body on the cheap. Fans are going to fill the seats JUST to see what he does and if the new "WILD EAGLE (my term) OFFENSE" has in store. This team, if all works positively, got a HUGE bargain. And if they get a Super Bowl ring at the end of it, then all is washed away, right?
The Court of Public Opinion, which seems to be law in this country at times, has already written Vick off as a career criminal. Yes, those in high positions (Falcons' Organization, Virginia Tech, et cetera) have all played their cards, "wished Michael well" and downplayed the situation to appease the masses. But lets be honest, it will be several years before most of the scars heal. Some may never do so.
The way I see it this matter is not a 2 party issue, right or left. Many, if not the majority on BOTH sides feel the same way. I am, however, a die hard Dallas Cowboys fan, and loathe the Eagles (its in our blood). I want to see this experiment fail for that reason alone! Yes I know I am unfair about it. But you need to realize, NFL football is not a 2 party system... it is a 32 party system! One for each team! That's a system millions of us believe in, wholeheartedly!
I guess, all things considered, I asked the best football mind I know, my brother, about it. After all, I value his opinion when it comes to pigskin... and many other things.
His initial response? "Eh!" I couldn't say it better myself!