Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Michael Vick comes clean

Michael Vick wants you to forgive him. You and Commissioner Goodell and Arthur Blank and all the little kids. And Jesus.

Photo: Don Juan Moore/wireImage.com

You can read his apology here or watch on YouTube.

I watched his statement live. He came across as sincerely contrite. I do believe that he is sorry. Except that part about "Dog fighting is a terrible thing, and I did reject it."

I think he does not know why people see dog fighting as cruel. He knows that he screwed up. Big time.

He implied that immaturity was the source of his poor decisions. I believe that, too. The perpetual kid in a candy store with an unlimited check book. Like Peter Pan and Michael Jackson, Vick is the kid who never grew up. Like Jackson, his wealth gave him a certain immunity from accountability, that curse of grown-ups. He never had to pay a price -- before now -- for bizarre behavior. Wealth can do that. If you don't learn how to control wealth, it will control you.

He's grown up a lot in that breath-taking period between April and August. Looking at a world crumbled by stupidity, He's found Jesus.

People are having a problem with that. I don't know why. Troubled times are exactly when people turn to Jesus. That's what He's there for. Redemption is for sinners. Jesus lives in jail. So many people find Him there, apparently for the first time.

He sure couldn't count on friends like "T" and "Q," who he may also meet in jail.

Michael Vick exposed, again, the racial gulf that exists between black and white in America. Vick's most loyal followers are black, of course. Many of them cite societal issues for unfair treatment of Vick. I'm black and old school. I disagree with them. What happened to Rodney King, or Lindsey Lohan, has nothing to do with running a gambling ring based on dog fighting. Dog fighting is not a victimless crime.

To be discriminatory, you have to show that Vick is being treated differently than, say, Peyton Manning or Brett Favre if they conspired to run an interstate criminal enterprise that involved killing. I think the media would make just as much of an issue as with Vick. More so, because Manning and Favre both won Super Bowls. The Vick believers will never buy that.

[A Reuters story by Matthew Bigg says the black-white distinction is not so clear cut.

"Those who demonstrated for Vick supported him as an athlete and man while those protesting against him were against animal cruelty . . . ."]

Mary Sanchez at the Kansas City Star gets it right, when she says "as long as we keep looking at Vick and shake, shake our collective heads, dismissing it all to race and class, we will miss ever understanding more about the deeper demons that people wrestle with." This is all about Michael Vick.

Funny thing, and this may be good for Vick, His problems brought him in close contact with black men of real accomplishment. Men like Billy Martin, his lawyer. I bet this is the first time he's worked closely with a non-athletic black superstar.

The clue is in Vick's suit that closely mimics Martin's normal attire, as does Vick's personal grooming. It's anti-hip-hop and more formal that the urban chic Vick wore at his arrainment. Yes, I realize his legal team dressed him for the occasion. Michael Vick is young enough that maybe a few other positives will rub off, too.

Photo: Steve Helber/AP

Here's an idea for redemption. Michael Vick pledges to pay for the care of the Bad Newz dogs for the rest of their natural lives. As fighting dogs, many of them will be unfit as pets. Their life expectancy will be short through no fault of their own. Vick's plea agreement already requires him to pay for their care while they are in government custody. Vick asks the court to let the dogs be kenneled and cared for on him. That's restitution for the dogs. That wins him some points.

Vick can set up a foundation to fund their care and call it Good Newz Kennels Foundation.

Don't worry Michael Vick fans. The NFL forgives quick. MV7 will play again, if he can put his legal troubles behind him before he's 30. The only question is where? There are two markets where Vick can fit.

Oakland has an owner with the requisite "fuck you" attitude to defy the animal extremists who will dog (oops) Vick's every step forever. And Oakland have a fan base that historically accepted social misfits. Oakland's large black community will give born-again Vick a shot at redemption.

The other market, ironically, is Atlanta where the black fan base adopted Vick as the face of the franchise and defiantly support him still. Whether the owner will ever trust him again is another matter. Arthur Blank's flexibility depends on how well Joey Harrington does as Vick's replacement

Photo: Michael Vick and Arthur Blank/AP

I wonder how Joe Gibbs would have worked with Michael Vick? We came ever so close to finding out. In January 2004, Arthur Blank invited Gibbs to lunch to feel him out about coaching the Falcons. Gibbs owned a small percentage of the franchise. Gibbs heard during that lunch that Steve Spurrier just quit as the Redskins' coach and Blank said he knew that he'd lost Gibbs for the Falcons.

Steve Spurrier saved Joe Gibbs from Michael Vick.

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