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Michael Vick: Football Records, Fighting Dogs and, Just Maybe, Redemption
November 21, 2010  | By Eric Gould  | 4 comments

Michael Vick: Football Records, Fighting Dogs and, Just Maybe, Redemption


If you think it's all art and design here at The Cold Light Reader, get ready for some football. Last week's Monday Night Football telecast brought us gridiron fans an athletic display so amazing, it will probably never be seen again -- and at the same time, reprised a topic so reprehensible, it will never be easily dismissed. Nor should it be.

Those of us who consider football, not baseball, as America's national pastime, watched in utter amazement as Michael Vick, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, ran and passed essentially at will, in the rain, humiliating the supposed professional football team from Washington in ways unthinkable.

Vick -- who can run faster backwards than most defensive players can forward -- is surely one of the greatest ever to step on the field. Now, as he regains the prowess he displayed before prison (some might say he transcends it), Vick continues to bring the ugly, depraved subject of dogfighting along with him.


On this rainy night, the soggy football not mattering much, Vick became the only player in NFL history with at least 300 yards passing and 50 yards rushing in the same game. He passed for four touchdowns, and ran for another two.

Among many team records set Nov. 15, the Eagles scored 45 points in the first half, and had the biggest lead (28 points) after the first quarter for any NFL road team since at least 1950.

This magnificent display of offense left ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast team of Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski and former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden without sufficient superlatives shortly after the end of the first quarter. There just weren't words left.

But there was, however, another subject.

Tasked with commenting on the full story, the MNF broadcast team soberly recounted Vick's 2007 indictment and incarceration for his participation in the Bad Newz Kennels, which bred pit bulls expressly for the ghoulish so-called sport of dogfighting.


They set out the facts that Vick had served his time, and his debt to society, and also had been bankrupted by his involvement, losing all the riches he had gained as an elite American athlete.

In his book The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption, Jim Gorant followed the fate of the 51 dogs rescued from Bad Newz Kennels. All but four of them made it, either being successfully relocated as pets, or finding refuge in rescue kennels for the rest of their lives. Some were retrained as therapy dogs, where they are close with patients needing loving contact.

Those of us who are ardent dog lovers, to the point of habitually embarrassing ourselves in public by greeting every dog we meet with baby talk and gibberish, find the idea of dogfighting so abhorrent, we. too, are left without words.

The sadism involved in this underground world is just a few clicks away on the internet, where sickening photographs are freely available of dogs who have survived these events.

It's incomprehensible that anyone with the slightest shred of humanity could witness, let alone enjoy, such a thing.

Gorant, writing in Sports Illustrated this October, recounts the debts Vick has paid, the inadvertent spotlight he has thrown on the dogfighting industry, and the raw feelings still out there among the public. (It's worth the extra read, here.)


Again, we crazies who find the world in a dog's eyes had more to celebrate with the engrossing recent NOVA documentary Dogs Decoded. (Premiered Nov. 9 on PBS, it's available at Amazon on DVD or VOD, and also streaming online at Netflix.) This hour examined the thousands of years of history between man and canine, each benefiting the other, with dogs being able to read and respond to human emotions, and humans, in turn, responding to dogs with the same hormones as a mother to her child.

It's with no little irony that the NFL recently started cracking down on defensive players taking cheap shots at offensive receivers and running backs in vulnerable positions carrying or catching the ball. For years, these sickening, sadistic kinds of tackles were considered normal, by some even an essential part of the game. Now, the NFL is levying heavy fines on hits that go beyond a tackle.

As a fan, I somehow was always able to block them out, as part of the strategy and group precision of the sport I love. I assume that same ability to disassociate allows me to watch Vick's athletic feats for a time, without the fate of the Bad Newz dogs coming to mind with every play.

The next sports chapter in the Vick saga finds the 6-3 Eagles colliding with the 6-3 New York Giants this Sunday night at 8:15 ET on NBC. The Philly-Giants rivalry is one of the oldest in the NFL, and second to none.

Surely, after last Monday's performance, all will be watching to see another mind-bending Vick performance, without the degree of savagery that has sullied the game for too many years.

Certainly, the survivors of the Bad Newz Kennels got the lucky break they so deserved. With Vick on the field, we'll be mindful of that for a long time to come.




Tausif Khan said:

"Vick continues to bring the ugly, depraved subject of dogfighting along with him."

I do not think that Vick brings the issue with him I think the media brings the issue up in relation to him. While what he did was wrong he should be able to move on from this part of his life and make amends for it.

Furthermore, I do not see similar coverage for fellow quarterbacks Brett Favre and Ben Rothlisberger. Both of whom have engaged in sexual misconduct. Rothlisberger has engaged in such behavior multiple times. There is no equal coverage of Rothlisberger and his fight for redemption. Favre also holds the record for most consecutive starts. He also had a very famous addiction to pain killers. None of these issues have plagued these two athletes, in the media, as Vick's issues have plagued him.

Comment posted on November 21, 2010 7:27 PM

jesse said:

Tausif Khan,
You are not making a fair comparison. Neither Favre nor Rothlisberger was convicted of anything. Vick was; that's a big difference.

Comment posted on November 22, 2010 5:41 PM

Lucy Crockett said:

From the beginning, I've been relentless and unforgiving toward Michael Vick's involvement in dogfighting. I have wept at the plight of the fighting dogs who survived. Then, last night I saw Vick's televised interview with Bob Costas. I also heard Tony Dungy speak about visiting Vick in prison. I now believe that Michael Vick will keep working to earn his redemption for a long, long time -- perhaps until he even believes it himself. He is a changed man.

Comment posted on November 22, 2010 7:11 PM

Tausif Khan said:

Rothlisberger admitted to his behavior and was suspended for it. Favre has behaved inappropriately with his medication in getting his record of consecutive starts. The fact that his sexual misconduct while with the Jets (if you listen to ESPN there is no denial that he has committed the act. The speculation is on what the legal action will be) has been a hushed discussion highlights how his off the field behavior does not affect the commentary of his on the field performance.

Favre is playing very, very poorly and most people are saying that the Vikings will be destroyed without him. This is in a season in which he has already thrown 17 interceptions. People forget that Favre was supposed to be the last piece on a Super Bowl team with the running prowess of Adrian Peterson. Had this been the case with Vick people would have been asking for his head. Similarly with McNabb anything that other players (namely T.O.) said about him would be McNabb's problem even though he had done nothing himself to deserve that criticism. So I do not think these are unfair comparisons.

Comment posted on November 25, 2010 1:45 PM

emroesler said:

A person who has no empathy with animals, who can suffer like people, has no empathy with anyone or anything. Just because a person has great talent does not mean this is not a psychopathic individual who has been redeemed by serving a prison sentence. It's to his benefit to act as if he is penitent. Money, name in sports books, etc. This is not a man who has taken real responsibility for his actions. It's someone who has altered his behavior for the NFL. Show me a sadistic dog killer and I will show you a sadistic murderer.

Comment posted on November 28, 2010 2:58 PM
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