When it’s come to writing about touchy and/or controversial points in my editorial style posts, I come in with an open mind, and generally play devil’s advocate. You saw it when I defended John Rocker’s steroid comments, defended Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, when I voiced my support for the Redskin name, when I ran a big risk by voicing my opinion on gay athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam, and most recently, my defense of Jets general manager John Idzik’s offseason strategy. Now, I step into yet another touchy subject: Michael Vick.
We all know the story, gifted athletic quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, had a couple minor incidents early in his career, then in 2007, it was discovered that Vick had financed a dogfighting operation out of a Virginia property he owned, as well as personally killing dogs. Long story short, he was arrested, incarcerated for 18 months, let go, found himself back in the NFL, resurrected his career, and on March 21st, signed a contract with the Jets.
The feeling that I get among Jets fans is that it’s a mix of support and outright disgust. Some people like the idea of Vick stepping in as either a mentor to Geno Smith, or an insurance policy should he get hurt or have another meltdown. Then of course there are those who feel that the signing of Vick prevents them from being Jets fans, period. There have been plenty of comments on Facebook, Twitter, any social media site or comment board has a good amount of fans saying that they will “boycott the team unless the Jets cut that ——–” and that “I love dogs, I loved the Jets”. Pretty much, the idea here is that Vick is a bad idea because of something he did in his past which was off-the-field.
As a pet owner, although it’s cats, not dogs, that I like, when I heard what Vick had done in 2007, I was appalled, disgusted, and disturbed. Animals do not deserve to be treated that way, and for people to finance an operation and also personally kill animals for sport is vile. I was glad that he was going to prison. So what if he had game changing speed or a good throwing arm? The man let his off field actions speak louder than his on field actions, and unfortunately those off field actions involved killing animals.
When Vick was released from prison in 2009, I was slightly apprehensive. 18 months for killing multiple animals was a slap on the wrist, but apparently it changed him. A man who was once viewed as a moneymaker, a marketing boon was now a pariah, broke and abandoned.
When Vick signed with Philadelphia, I had no opinion. Yes, he had found a team that was perfectly willing to let the past be the past and see what he still had in the tank. Granted, it was Philadelphia, the same city known for booing Santa Claus, throwing batteries, booing and cheering injured players, having the most unruly fans (I can attest to that, having nearly gotten crushed by a throng of rabid Phillies fans who wanted Jim Thome’s autograph), and essentially being the cesspool of North American sports, but still, if he could make it back in Philadelphia, then he could make it anywhere. What ended up happening showed that Vick still had his athletic traits in him. He brought Philadelphia to the playoffs in 2010, and completely torched the Washington Redskins along the way on Sunday Night Football, just in case people forgot, and served as an effective replacement for Donovan McNabb and failed franchise savior Kevin Kolb.
Off the field, Vick rehabilitated his image, becoming an advocate against animal cruelty, returning to his former status, essentially the protests that Vick was an animal killer were pretty much silent, save for one game in Oakland, and a few bad-taste jokes, as well as the infamous “Hide your Beagle, Vick’s an Eagle” from opposing fans.
Vick also matured on the field. When he got hurt in 2013, and Nick Foles took his stead, he showed his support for the move. Now, to be displaced by a young quarterback is obviously not fun, but for Vick, who had been viewed somewhat as a character concern, the fact that he took it in stride really showed growth.
I find it particularly odd now that Vick has signed with a new team, that people are bringing back the past, and that people are so upset. Then again, signing with a team in the largest media market is obviously going to have its share of polarizing opinion. Detractors and so-called fans are now ripping the team to shreds, dropping their allegiance because they still can’t cope with what he did a long time ago. Is it that hard to move on? Has he permanently earned the epithet Dog-killer despite the fact that he’s paid his debt to society?
Let me give you my feelings on the situation. I forgave him a long time ago. However, I’m not going to forget what he did. Some people have told me that there are two things that are unforgivable: killing children and killing animals. And rightfully so. However, as a Catholic, one of the biggest things you learn is to forgive, to hate the sin, not the sinner. You forgive people because what is the hatred going to accomplish? Is calling for Vick’s head going to bring back every dog he killed? Is it going to get the Jets to void his contract and put him behind bars on a life sentence? Obviously not.
Furthermore, to drop your allegiance with your football team because of the actions of one player is outright foolishness. Is associating with Vick going to make Eric Decker, Geno Smith, Mo Wilkerson or Rex Ryan an advocate for dogfighting? How about Woody Johnson, John Idzik, or even Roger Goodell, for that matter?
Jets fans should know that there is at least one positive result of Vick’s signing; Mark Sanchez getting cut, saving the team an additional $8 million in cap room, which $5 million was used for Vick’s one-year deal. Plus, Geno Smith is essentially a younger, more malleable version of Vick. Having a mentor whose prime is essentially your ceiling is going to be a huge benefit for Smith.
Back to the fans though. You don’t necessarily have to forgive Vick for what he did, Obviously what he did was outright despicable. Heck, you don’t even have to like Vick for his football skills now. He’s not what he was back in 2004, or 2010. But still, think rationally, not emotionally. Emotion driven decisions rarely succeed and make people look bad, but thinking with a clear mind does increase the success of your decisions. What happens if Vick does end up helping Geno, or in the worst case, comes out in relief and brings the Jets to the playoffs? What now? If you’ve decided to boycott the team and/or drop you allegiance because of your moralism, what do you do? Do you admit that you were wrong? Do you miss out just because of the past actions of one man?
While it personally disgusts me that fans can’t let the past be the past and are letting emotion get the best of them, I realize that my words serve little purpose other than to highlight what’s going on. I’m not going to call anyone out for their opinion. They have a right to it. However, I will call people out on their stupidity. And if you’re going to make that rash of an emotionally charged decision, then I personally think you are stupid. You don’t have to forget what Vick did, but you can at least support your team.