Saturday, August 11, 2012

Time's Up

The other day in my Facebook stream (what, you think you get all of my content? I've got layers, man, layers), I mentioned that I was at the Eagles-Steelers preseason game. A guy that I haven't seen in 15 years then felt it was necessary to wish that someone would break Michael Vick's knees; this someone is, in fact, an Eagles fan, but "on strike" until Vick is gone. When I asked him to either accept that American lives can have second acts, find a new line to say in such issues, or just drop off my feed if he couldn't refrain from saying the same thing over and over again, he said the same thing, then dropped off the feed. And so it goes, and so goes an acquaintance of 20 years. Oh well.

Now, I realize that I'm not going to change anyone's minds about Vick; one of the benefits of being in your '40s is that you realize the inherent futility of changing anyone's mind about anything, and you more or less cheerfully stop trying. I can't tell you how many political conversations I haven't had in the past 5 years that I would have had in the 20 before that, and how much better my life is, and the lives of my friends and families, for just not going there with people with whom you are pretty certain you are going to disagree with.

And then there's Vick. And me making the persuasion mistake. So, once more into the breach...

There are plenty of reasons to dislike Vick. Fair ones, on the football merits. He's injury and turnover prone. Last year, for the first time, his height really seemed to play against him, with lots of tipped balls leading to disaster. He hasn't, for the most part, put up good numbers against good defenses. His taste for the spectacular puts his body and team at risk routinely, and his competitive nature (which a less charitable person might put as arrogance or stupidity) means that he's going to make bad mistakes against decreasing numbers of revelatory plays. Accuracy is not great, and you get the sense that football as an art form is more important to him, at times, than winning games. He may be one of the more overrated players in the league.

If you are waiting for the next era of Eagles QB to start (perhaps with strong-armed traditional QB Nick Foles) for any and all of the above reasons, I don't have any problem with that, and depending on what happens in 2012, just might up and join you.

But if you are still wishing him ill because of his criminal past, I got a problem with that.

And so do you.

Because you, by your actions, show yourself to value animal life more than human. You also don't believe in forgiveness, and believe that you are more qualified to judge the future of a man than the courts and professional counselors. All without, I'm probably right to assume, anything in the way of qualification, behind your distaste for his crimes. (Which were exceptional in their distastefulness. Which means, um, your character is being tested here. Or, depending on how you roll, your faith.)

You are wrong for all of that. You're also going to continue to be wrong about that, no matter what I say, no matter what Vick does. He could toe the line for the rest of his life, save millions of dogs through his actions, and you'd still think the same.

Doesn't that strike you as, well, a little insane? Or, perhaps, more than a little insane?

Since earning his release through model prisoner behavior, Vick has done everything that everyone has asked him to do off the field. He's donated money, spoken to kids, worked with people who didn't really want to work with him, and paid back his creditors. He's kept up with the advocacy work, rather than just let it slip away after the time was served. He's married his longtime girlfriend, wrote a book, stayed away from anything that didn't help his rehabilitation. It's been years now, and he's hit every mark.

I have no idea if the redemption is genuine. No one does except Vick, really. If he's still a criminal at heart, he's doing a hell of a job in faking it.

But in the words of an old Sunday school teacher of mine... pretend you are good long enough, and even God will be fooled. (And if he backslides? He's gone, and I'll be sad for the waste, and you will not be any better of a person for not having hope or charity in your heart. Honest.)

None of that, of course, matters to his detractors. He maimed and killed dogs and nothing else matters.

But, um, why?

Any number of NFL players hit women, caused problems on planes, firebombed an ex-friend, skated on child support, bribed a cop, abused illegal drugs, sold them, and much, much more Some have even taken lives via DUIs, or been in the presence when very, very bad stuff have gone down.

You can't name all of these guys, because the list is too long: in a brief amount of time writing this, I came up with Leonard Little, Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens, Sam Hurd, Alonzon Spellman, Gene Atkins, Michael Irvin, Pac Man Jones, Tank Johnson, Sebastian Janikowski, Lawrence Philips, Nate Netwon, Chris Terry, Mark Gastineau, Darrell Russell and Keno Hillis. I could have also filled up the list some more with the obvious pariahs like Rae Carruth and OJ Simpson, but since those guys are in jail and will remain there, I guess they don't really compare to Vick being on your TV every week.

If you reacted the same way to any of those guys as you did with Vick, you wouldn't watch the NFL. Hell, you probably wouldn't watch any pro league, or college, or entertainment. It's a dirty world, and since dirt sells media, we see it.

But you can name Vick, because of the dogs. Which, the last time I checked, were -- and here's the part that's going to make it a lot easier for you to stop reading me -- a lower form of life.

And before you go down the path of how I clearly hate dogs, um, no. Have one now, have had one or more for the vast majority of my life, have loved them all and will probably have one or more for the rest of my days.

But people come first. They have to. And if they don't for you... um, wow.

So if you are still hating Vick the same way that you did when he was an unrepentant criminal, you, of course, have the right to do so. Just please be aware that I've heard your point of view for a long time now, and since it hasn't changed, I don't really need to hear it any more. And if you can't stop sharing it with me, I don't really need to hear from you any more, since you seem to be the kind of person who doesn't listen to your audience, and don't care when you are wasting their time.

And if I say anything more on this, I'm probably wasting yours.

So, all together now...

Time's up. For both of us.

Talk to me about Vick between the lines, or don't talk to me about him at all.

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