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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.
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.
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