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Michael Vick-The Sympton or Root?

Posted August 29, 2007 3:15 am (about 4067 days ago)

Yeah, so I'm a little late with this posting, but school's back in session so the kiddies come first! Seriously though, just some thoughts about the Michael Vick affair.

I just have to throw in my quick two cents about this whole situation. For the record, I’m whole-heartedly against dog fighting and animal cruelty. Except for child abuse, not much disgusts me more. Vick and his boys should suffer the consequences of what they’ve done. However, something that disturbs me is the high and mighty attitude of the NFL, the media, and many in the general public.

In terms of the NFL, would this really be a big deal if there wasn’t such a public outcry? They sell violence! In a sport as violent as football, should there be any surprise that players are involved in activities such as dog fighting? Does anyone believe that Vick is the only one? Does anyone think that the Falcons gave him that huge contract without running a background check and that something as extensive as this operation never came to light?

Football is based on hyper-masculinity and being tough. Even when I was in high school playing ball there were dudes who would tell me about tying cats together or putting them in a bag so they’d fight. I remember hearing about people letting cats on fire or shooting at seagulls. Because I didn’t do that they tried to get me to catch cats for them since the cats trusted me. I refused. Of course I always heard about dogfights, although I never attended one. Are all ballplayers that extreme? Of course not, but my point is that if kids in high school were doing that, is it so hard to believe that grown men, who are betting and potentially making big money aren’t doing it? Please.

While I think that most athletes who’ve spoken in defense of Vick sounded pretty ignorant, I did think that Deion Sanders was trying to make a valid point when he said that Vick probably related to the strongest dogs. How long has sports promoted the idea of being the “top dog?” Pop culture is all about promoting that idea and associating “real” men with fighting dogs like pits. Sports like football take that to the extreme and we as fans love it. There’s not much that gets a stronger response than a big hit. Of course no one is happy when someone gets paralyzed or killed. Yet, I remember in high school a teammate of mine hit some guy and knocked him out. The guy was taken away on a stretcher and my teammate’s reputation as a top defender was established. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not equating two grown men who are willingly lining up 50 yards apart and running into each other at full speed to dogs who are forced to fight. What I am saying is that in a society that rewards violence, is it any surprise that these things happen? I could talk about the characters of James Bond, Dirty Harry, and John Wayne’s various characters who solve their problems with guns. How about Arnold Schwarzenneger and Clint Eastwood, who made careers out of playing violent characters being rewarded with public office? How about real life characters such as President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney solving their problems with violence? Why wouldn’t Vick identify with the “big dog?” I don’t abuse dogs, but I still don’t want to be no punk. But I digress.

Back to the NFL, I really doubt that Vick’s punishment would be so harsh if it wasn’t for the public outcry. Domestic abuse and sexual violence in the NFL has been well-documented. There are players who have convictions for beating up cops, trafficking cocaine and been charged with murder or attempted murder of a human being who are still playing. As long as you produce, it’s all good. What about drunk driving? And I’m not just talking about players. Plenty of NFL coaches have been caught up in scandals, including Denny Green supposedly paying for the abortion of a stripper that one of his assistant coaches was also trying to sleep with. Some coaches are notorious for sexual harassment. Remember the Lions’ assistant coach who was pulled over for driving drunk and naked? A few things, namely gambling, warrant harsh punishment, but as has been well-documented, the NFL, and other entertainment entities, will go to great lengths to protect their investments for other illegal activity. As I said before, Vick was just became too big of a liability due to the negative backlash. There have been cases of ex-players who “all of a sudden” once they leave the league get picked up for serious crimes such as multiple rapes. Did they “all of a sudden” start this behavior or did they no longer have someone covering their behinds? Granted, the vast majority of ball players aren’t committing crimes, but I just don’t get why people are surprised by those who do. By the way, for an organization that is so opposed to gambling, why are there NFL owners who own casinos and why are there such tie-ins with gambling entities and the NFL (e.g. teams required to name their injured players in advance?).

As the NFL tries to salvage its image and distance itself, it reminds of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake situation. I’m not comparing cruelty to animals with the brief showing of a breast, but rather the hypocrisy. The showing of Janet’s nipple is supposed to make us forget the decades of scantily clad cheerleaders, including dozens at the Super Bowl, and all of the Viagra ads, commercials with women wrestling over beer, and the commercial with Edie from Desperate Housewives disrobing and seducing Terrell Owens on Monday Night Football?

The NFL’s hypocrisy is so transparent that it’s offensive. Beyond the NFL, the whole system is about exploitation to an extent. As soon as someone loses their usefulness, they’re often discarded. This goes back to when I was in high school and had teammates who graduated without real life academic skills, but didn’t have the ability to make a living off of athletics. They were signed up for garbage classes to maintain their GPAs so they could play. I knew someone’s brother who was offered money in junior high school to come play for a certain high school. I hope Vick can redeem himself, but I guess I wish that the NFL would get off its high horse. I know it’ll never happen, but it’s still disturbing.

As far as the public, it's warranted, but many of the same people mad at Vick have no problems with, say, bullfights, when the bull is worn down in advance and struck with various lances and spears before the final bullfighter attempts to kill it. Not exactly a fair fight, is it? We continue to eat animals that are raised in inhumane conditions for our consumption. And bottom line is that we love our sports and heroes. I saw players get favored treatment in high school and I attended a Division I school and saw players passing classes they never attended, getting in fights, drinking, driving fancy cars, and being fed the best of everything. I heard plenty of tales about groupies and sex, as well as sexual assault, domestic abuse, and forced abortions. Some cases were high profile, some weren’t, but except for one case, I don’t remember any of the most talented players being denied a professional career. My point is that celebrities such as talented athletes are on a pedestal and having people looking out for them. They do have a different standard. Do we expect many of them to make sound judgment when they’ve been getting away with so much for so long? Too many people around them are interested in their own interests and helping these guys out. Rookies are getting paid tens of millions of dollars before they even set foot on the field! In most circles Mark McGwire (I know he’s not NFL) is reviled for his alleged steroid use, yet there’s still a freeway named in his honor in St. Louis . Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who’s from the area doesn’t even have that! I know some places, including my college, do character building types of classes, but there’s obviously not enough. I don’t excuse anyone from personal responsibility, but it’s too bad that more people aren’t using this incident for some self reflection of the factors that contributed to the situation, and that includes the average sports fan.

To be clear, I’m not defending Vick’s actions, nor do I believe that all ball players and those who work for the NFL are bad people. Far from that. I just don’t think that it’s fair to scapegoat him for larger issues.

I chose my college partially due to athletics, but as I became aware of some of the issues and had negative actions with some players, I quit watching until I had a few years away from my school and had more emotional distance. I have to admit that the first day of the NFL is one of my favorite days of the year. However, that may change sooner rather than later and Vick is hardly the only one to blame.

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