Well, it's been a long time hasn't it? But I think the jaw-droppingly humongous news that the Eagles signed Michael Vick fresh out of his stay in Leavenworth Prison is reason enough to blog. Now that I've had a few days to reflect on the past and on the events of the last few days, I've formed a more decisive opinion on the issue.
Michael Vick's actions were flat-out despicable. It literally brings tears to my eyes to think about the things he and his dogfighting cohorts did to those poor animals. While I wouldn't put him up there with the likes of child molesters and rapists, I have a unique sympathy for animals and an accompanying disgust for people who mistreat them. Dogs are completely dependent, to the point of unconditional loyalty, on the people who take care of them; they have no defenses or alternative options if those same caretakers abuse them. I have no respect for someone who beats his wife, but at least she is physically capable of leaving the situation. Thus, any person who mercilessly beats, tortures or murders a defenseless animal is a special kind of disgusting.
Vick served 18 months of a 2 year sentence in Leavenworth for those actions. We can sit here all day and debate the finepoints of the judicial system in this country, but for all intents and purposes Michael Vick has satisfied his punishment for crimes committed in the eyes of the law. It remains to be seen whether he has been rehabilitated, and we may never know whether he is truly sorry beyond mere regret for the death of his career. Nevertheless, given precedent in the NFL to allow other felonious athletes to be reinstated after serving their punishment, my personal repulsion at his crimes does not justify his situation being treated any differently.
Maybe it's just the underlying defense attorney in me, but I believe that once you've paid your debts and served your time, you shouldn't be continually punished by the rest of the universe. Either keep 'em in jail or let let 'em be truly released. "But," you might argue, "my job wouldn't hire me back if I committed a violent felony, so why should his?" I understand this argument, as the state bars to whom I must report would certainly not be so forgiving of its lawyers. However, being a professional football player is not a job that inherently requires honesty and morality as does the practice of law or medicine. Whether or not you believe these well-paid athletes should be better role models, their job description is essentially to show up and play ball. Vick is not the first nor the last in an absurdly long line of wifebeaters, sexual deviants, drug abusers, animal abusers, drunk drivers, and general douchebags that play professional sports in this country. As shocking as his crimes were, even more shocking to me has been the uniquely harsh reaction that his return has received compared to these other criminals.
I never in a million years expected Philadelphia to be the city in which Vick would land. However, football is a business like any other, and Andy and Joe and Jeffrey are businessmen trying to improve their product. From a football perspective, this may prove to be genius or it may blow up in their faces, but irregardless it is their job to try to craft that football product in whatever way they can. I'm highly disturbed that many fans are treating the Eagles front office as if they themselves were in Virginia partaking in these crimes. Vick may be a horrible person, but he was absolutely going to be signed by some team- it's not like the Eagles plucked him off the streets to give him a second chance that he wouldn't have otherwise had. 99% of the Eagles detractors hadn't said a word about his reinstatement until he came here, which seems a tad hypocritical. I'm hardly saying these former-fans should run out and get #7 jerseys, but it seems rather extreme to abandon a team that they've been following for decades over what essentially boils down to a personnel decision.
I suspect that if Vick pans out on the football field, the complaints will die down- we're Eagles fans for god's sake, we're as faithful as they come. My initial reluctance over this signing was that he can't possibly be worth the $1.6 million pricetag (and the PR nightmare that this decision has proven to be). But frankly, my skepticism is slowly fading as I deliriously think of all of the offensive weapons that will adorn the field this season. Anytime Vick is on the field, he'll be a threat in some way, shape or form, and that constant looming threat has to at least have some advantage. I'll put my concerns aside and let his performance speak for itself in the coming weeks. After all, the legal system has concluded its judgment, so why shouldn't we?