Four years ago you would have had a difficult time finding someone who considered Michael Vick the best quarterback in the NFL. But you would have had an even harder time finding someone who thought that he wasn’t the most exciting.
Vick was a scorching superstar with electrifying quickness and spectacular speed. He revolutionized the game with his quick feet and redefined what it meant to be quarterback. Vick was a hero to some, though he was a villain to most.
As he grew up he was corrupted by stardom. The money and fame that came with being the league’s most exciting player proved to be too much for the young quarterback to handle.
Four years ago, the NFL fined Vick after he made two rude gestures to a fan following a tough loss. A year later, he was caught by airport officials trying to sneak drugs through airport security. And on Dec. 10, 2007, Michael Vick was sentenced to prison for dog fighting.
The nation was outraged, hoping that horrible things would happen to its former hero. The judge assigned him to Leavenworth Prison in Kansas where he was to spend 23 months behind bars. The sentence not only ended his love affair with fans across America, but it seemed to end his chances of continuing to play in the NFL.
While in prison, the former star worked for $0.12 an hour and worked out in his cell, vowing that one day he would right the wrongs he had committed and once again return to prominence.
The media and the fans did not agree. Dog lovers and some football fans wanted Vick to be denied a comeback, a big paycheck and a second chance. This societal hatred made me wonder: Are there such things as second chances for guys like Vick?
Out of prison, Vick was bankrupt, ostracized by his former professional circles and staring an Arena Football League contract in the eye.
The climb back to the top didn’t seem like it was going to be an easy one. Until one day, Lady Mercy arrived and gave the former “conVICK” a second chance.
On Aug. 13, 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they had signed Vick to a one-year deal. Once again the sports kingdom was enraged by the thought of giving the dog killer a second chance.
During the following season, Eagles fans would have to fight their way through battle lines of protesters outside of the stadium to see their team play. Picketers used pictures of abused dogs and clever puns to discourage fans from cheering for their third string quarterback.
Despite the overwhelming hostility, Vick continued to work and study with starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. He tried to learn as much as he could in order to earn a second chance.
The following offseason, McNabb was traded to Washington from Philadelphia and Vick became the backup. He publically pledged his allegiances to the Eagles’ heir apparent Kevin Kolb, all the while continuing to train for the day when he could take the reins.
After Kolb was injured three weeks ago in Green Bay, Vick entered the game and once again dazzled the crowd with his athleticism. He impressed people the following week in Detroit and was finally, controversially named the team starter.
But the controversy wasn’t regarding his past or his wrongdoings, but whether it was the right “football move” for the team. Suddenly the Vick-haters had turned and the Eagles fans began to support the once fallen hero. The nation’s change in perspective toward Vick shows signs of something either incredibly wonderful or incredibly sinister.
It is wonderful that fans and commentators are able to see that Vick has worked extremely hard to return to where he once was. It was remarkable that everyone had seen Vick’s contributions to charity.
It was refreshing to see people realize that Vick’s inhumane treatment of dogs was no worse than the countless athletes who beat their wives, abuse drugs or commit vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
We have found room in our hearts for forgiveness and an ability to show him mercy.
Unfortunately, I am suspicious of why we have forgiven him. Is it because we are impressed by his change of heart or work ethic? Or is it because he is now back to being “Michael Vick” and now has a utility for us?
When Vick was arrested, the fans and the media crucified him ,because ultimately he would no longer be playing football. But now that number seven is scrambling for touchdowns and making his team win, he is accepted.
If this is true, then there is something wrong with the way we treat our athletes. If this is the case, we are holding our athletes to a different moral standard.
Another example would be in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris for the homerun record and years later they were found to have used steroids.
The media, the league and the owners were aware that this was going on but did nothing because there were more homeruns, and McGwire and Sosa were the main characters in one of baseball history’s most magical seasons.
The fans have been willing to turn a blind eye for something that they wanted. As long as Vick continues to produce results on the field, our mercy will never be very far away.
It makes me wonder if we have truly forgiven Vick. Do we as a society truly believe in second chances? I guess we will find out Sunday when Vick makes his first start in Philadelphia against his mentor, Donovan McNabb.
For now, I hesitantly give Vick my blessing because I know that if I were him I would want the world to forgive me.