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August 17, 2009

Michael Vick: Not a Story of Redemption


There are a lot of things the story of Michael Vick is, but a story of redemption isn’t one.


Let us sum up: Michael Vick was a star football player, a mediocre quarterback but a freak athlete. At the apex of his stardom, it was revealed that he’d used the money that came with his stardom to subsidize the training of dogs so that he and others could bet as the animals tore each other to shreds. Animals that didn’t take to the training were brutally slaughtered.


Once these facts were unearthed, Vick denied that it was true. He denied it was true right up until he admitted it was true because federal authorities got a friend to flip on him, at which time he was dragged off to the federal pen for a couple of years.


Now, having emerged from prison and claiming to be a changed man, Vick wishes to go right back to the career that provided him with celebrity and mountains of money. Last Thursday, he was given his shot when the Philadelphia Eagles signed up to give him a second chance.


A lot of people apparently think this is a fine thing, and say that Michael Vick paid his debt to society. Since Vick has completed his prison sentence, they say, he should be allowed to take up his old trade and put his life back together.


This is not redemption. He did not come forward and plead guilty because of heavy conscience. He did it because someone else took a deal with the feds. He lied and lied and lied until all of his options were taken away from him, and he was forced to own up to what he did by circumstance. Now he, and a lot of other people, apparently just want him to go back to the way things were when he was just a human highlights reel.


What this constitutes is an attempt to pretend that the whole dog-fighting thing never happened. The ex-jock football talking heads universally endorse this. The question is whether they think this is a great thing because they legitimately think that Vick has owned up to his crimes and has gone through the agony and toil and personal reconstruction necessary for real redemption, or whether they just want to see a talent like him back on the field.


Very few are as fortunate in finding cheerleaders for their post-prison second chance. One of the first questions you’re asked on a job application in fact is whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. The message: Ex-cons need not apply. We’re told that Vick, who used the rewards that celebrity gave him to subsidize brutality and blood sport, is entitled to make another go at that celebrity. He doesn’t have to earn it. He’s entitled to it, and we’re obligated to give it to him. This is the first step toward pretending that what he did was just a bad dream for him and the rest of us, which is just about as far away from being a story about redemption as you can get.


Michael Vick may yet redeem himself. All things in this world are possible. He may actually understand that what he did was wrong. But that’s not the point here. Michael Vick’s so-called story of redemption doesn’t appear to be based on the acts for which he was forced to admit guilt and for which he was imprisoned. It appears that the story of Michael Vick will be based on whether he can again make himself a success in the National Football League, which makes it closer to being a story about denial.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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