It was only a few years ago that Michael Vick was playing quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons and riding high. He was slashing and dashing through National Football League lines, and it was a joy to watch him. Now, he is without a ride and grounded. Much was made a while back about Michael Vick, a star player, being involved in a dog fighting ring. As we know, he was subsequently tried and convicted of this crime. The public at large was taken aback. How could this popular player be a part of such a hideous activity? Of course animal lovers and lobbyists climbed all over him so the pressure to convict him was enormous. Roger Goddell, the new NFL commissioner, had his say and also reprimandeded Vick for his actions by suspending him from the league. So a Michael Vick jersey that once sold at a high price and was once a must-have in your wardrobe is now on sale. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison for the crime, and may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in the next few months. Just recently he appeared in court to share his plan of how he was going to get back on his feet. Of course a part of the plan included him coming back to play football in the NFL. The judge has denied it and asked Vick and his attorneys to submit another plan. Commissioner Goodell has yet to weigh in on whether Michael Vick will be allowed to play football again.
In just a few months, football season will be here and the NFL will be in full swing. Will Michael Vick be in the mix? I am a dog lover and I couldn’t imagine my dog Mr. Ferguson involved in dog fighting. It is my opinion that Michael Vick should have been punished for the dog fighting incidents. After all they occurred over a period of time and he supplied the money and the facilities to make this happen. You have to wonder what he was thinking as he had just signed a 10-year, $130-million contract in 2004. Even though we’re in an economic downturn, $130 million is still a whole heap of money. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, while he dismissed Vick from the team, is still a father figure for him. Blank said, “I just try to be supportive and as understanding as I can be. He talks about the process he is going through and what he has learned, the lessons of life, how he is going to come out a different person. He is sorry he’s affected so many people in a negative way, the league, our club, our fans. He feels awful about that.”
Obviously Michael Vick now knows that he did something wrong. Yet in the beginning, I am not sure that he thought he was doing anything against the law. Vick was raised in Virginia and probably saw dog fighting as he was coming of age. As an adult he only played out what he had already seen. On the grand scale of criminal activity, he and his friends just didn’t see dog fighting as that big of a deal. I can remember my parents telling me when I was a young boy to watch who you call your friends. I have always taken that advice to heart. If you recall it was one of Vick’s so-called “friends” who in the words of the young “ratted” him out. It is my hope right now that Michael Vick is trying to get a new set of friends who will be more uplifting and positive. Many of us have found that we have a lot of friends when good times are rolling who disappear when things aren’t going well.
The good news is that Michael Vick will soon have paid his debt to society and can move on with his life. Now the question is, will we let him? Predictably there will be people and organizations who will continue to attack him and be critical of his behavior. We get a weird and distorted sense of pleasure when we see other people suffering. It increases when they have fame and money. If your day is made by the challenges of other people then you have a sad and unappealing life. I am cheering Michael Vick on and want him to be successful. My thinking is there are some teams in the NFL where Michael Vick could be a starting quarterback. Let’s hope that an owner takes a chance on him understanding that he has paid his penalty. Vick was once the most exciting player in the NFL. I don’t know Mr. Goodell personally, but if he does happen to read this column, I am asking him to give Michael Vick another chance to play football. Sometimes some of us need more than one chance to get it right. “We fall down but we get up” are the lyrics sung by gospel singer, Donnie McClurkin. So let’s get ready for some football and hope that Michael Vick is a part of the NFL.
Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.