Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vick Me

As part of the groundwork in writing the blog, I check out a lot of sites and sources. One of these is the NBC local affiliates for New York and Philadelphia, where you get a much greater cross-section of fan and commenter than you do in the rest of Blogfrica. It's a nice grounding moment, really; stay in the sites that just touch expert level fans long enough, and you'll be in the warm cocoon of people who hate enough color commentators, and never realize that it's you who are the outlier. But I digress.

On the NBC sites for Philadelphia, as the Eagles have made their improbable way to the top of the division despite a struggling offensive line, a historically incompetent red zone defense, and a coaching staff that still can't be trusted with a timeout or replay challenge... well, the temptation to just let your guard down and enjoy the Vick Era has become kind of overwhelming.

But not for everyone. Or even, it seems, a majority of the people reading the posts.

For everyone who thinks that Michael Vick has gotten a pass far too quickly for his crimes, I point you to the commenters on these pages. For everyone who thinks that Philly Fan cares only about winning and would embrace any individual who gets them a football championship, I point you to these pages.

(And by the way, if there is any single person in America who's entitled to hate on Vick more than anyone else, it's Falcons Fan. Having this guy looming in your playoff picture, with a possible NFC Championship home loss after last year's clowning, would set my teeth on fire if I were rooting for that laundry. This assumes, of course, that Atlanta Fan exists. Moving on.)

There are better NFL players than Vick. He's tentative when he commits an early turnover, injury-prone, able to be taken out of his element with pressure, and on the wrong side of 30. There is no greater candidate for ruining your fantasy team next year when you go for him with the top pick in the draft (and you will, and will have to), and I'm quite afraid of what will happen to my franchise when they open up the vaults and put down a nine figure contract offer to lock him up for the rest of his playing days.

Which they more or less have to do, now that he's saved their season and made them a Super Bowl contender in a year where the defense is green, battered, and in transition, and the entire roster is filled with Not Quite Ready For Serious Trust Players.

But after three months of MVP-level heroics, without any real moments of backslide or public comment that should give anyone any pause, any news story or column just brings the hate. The same hate, of course, that you could have written years ago, when the stories were fresh, and before Vick served his time and went back to work.

I have no idea, of course, if Vick's rehabilitation is genuine. I don't even know if he's that much better of a player than he ever was. He never had a plus WR in Atlanta; in Philadelphia, he has two, plus better guys in the multiple WR sets. I don't know if he's better at looking off receivers; he seems to fixate on guys at the start of plays and just execute to them. I don't know if he's actually faster than he once was, but in the fourth quarter of that Giants game, he damned sure seemed it.

But I do know that his detractors haven't gone away, haven't changed their tune, and haven't lost an iota of the hate that they've had all along for him. And I'm left to wonder, well, three things.

1) Would skepticism for his rehabilitation be in the same general rate if Vick were white (um, well, no)

2) If he's the first Super Bowl winning QB in Eagles history, does that get him clean enough for a national ad campaign and/or nearly universal forgiveness (note, haters, that I'm not saying that it should), and

3) Doesn't the fact that he's leading the world in Pro Bowl voting, and no worse than the #2 pick in current MVP balloting (behind only Dreamboat Brady, of course), change anyone's opinion, or just convince the haters that all NFL fans and players are scum?

Finally, there's this. Vick's crimes, while reprehensible and remarkably stupid, are not the worst thing that an NFL player has done. They just aren't. Battering spouses is worse, killing people is worse, being nearby when people are killed is worse, and drunk driving to the point of more human deaths is worse. Vick's crimes were simply unique, and touched on a hot button that's true but nasty; we value the lives of pets more than adult humans, because the pets are more like children, and of a greater utility to us. And we're not real good about that, because it makes us look shallow and wrong, because, well, it is.

Which is an awfully long way to go for the following... I love watching him play. He's an artist more than a football player. For the explosiveness that he brings to the game, the ball security is pretty good. His teammates love him; his opponents do, too. (And that former bit has been true even last year, when he was a shell of himself; the Eagle bench always erupted whenever he did anything of value.) For the fans that hold him at arm's distance, or haven't enjoyed this Eagle year as much as if Kevin Kolb had guided them to their current record -- which would be absolutely impossible, given the line's issues, by the way -- well, I just feel bad for you.

You are missing a hell of a ride. Maybe even one that lasts for 5 to 6 more games and ends with the most unlikely comeback story of all time. Maybe one that just ends with an injury, or a day of frustration like the first 52 minutes of that Giants game, or just the team getting outscored because the defense is as bad as it has ever been since the last days of the Ray Rhodes Era.

But after Sunday, Vick owes us nothing. He deserves the new contract, even if it turns out badly for the team. Because he gave us a memory for the ages, and the fresh knowledge that, for the first time in our history, we are rooting for a team that's never really out of a game.

And, well... I just can't hate on a guy that gives me that. And if you enjoy watching football more than feeling morally superior, I'm betting you can't, either.


Tracer Bullet said...

I want Vick to lead them to a Super Bowl this year just because it would make the mutt humpers' heads explode. Next year would be great, sure, but this year. Oh, that would be so, SO sweet.

snd_dsgnr said...

As a Giants fan I'd be lying if I said that I'm rooting for Vick to make a Super Bowl.

That said, I'm pretty much over the anger about the dog fighting. Part of me thinks he'd still be doing it if he hadn't gotten caught, and that being sorry for getting caught isn't really the same thing as true contrition for the act. But I also think it is unlikely in the extreme that he would ever do something like that again, if for no other reason than self preservation.

In the end, isn't that kind of the point of imprisoning people that you intend to release later on? He spent almost two years in jail, lost millions of dollars, and will almost certainly not be a repeat offender. I don't really know what else you can ask of the guy.

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