Vick portrayed as “Vicktim”

Dear Mr. Calvaire,

You write in today’s Bleacher Report:

“Off field issues and on field issues really need to be separated and emphasized as two separate entities. What a man does Monday-Saturday should not affect his worth on Sunday. If we found out Peyton Manning beats his wife, would he not still be the best Quarterback in the NFL? Why is it that because Michael Vick made some off the field mistakes suddenly he’s a scrub on the field that should see only 6 snaps a game?”

While what a man does off the football field does not affect his innate athletic ability, his actions do reap consequences–and those consequences may include not being allowed to work in certain professions. No one is saying that wife beating and excellent quarterbacking are mutually exclusive. In reality, great talent often coincides with great fault. But it doesn’t mean we should tolerate the latter.

(And again, media, please don’t use the word “mistakes” to describe torture, maiming, beating, and killing. Instead of diminishing Vick’s crimes, the attempt to minimize them only draws more attention to their scope and severity.)

“When we talk about athletic ability how many guys in the league… measure up to number seven? Let the government deal with Michael Vick’s troubles with the law. When Vick has a terrible season then let his value be depreciated.”

True, Vick’s athletic ability has nothing to do with and can not be accurately gauged by his conduct off the field. But each of us in society – every individual – should feel empowered to assert that how one acts as a human being is more important than how one performs as an athlete. Many of us don’t care how exquisitely he can throw a football since we know that same arm has been used to smash heads, confine females to rape harnesses, and electrocute dogs who’d already suffered unimaginable torture.

“Let the facts be the facts. Michael Vick has always been a winner… Sure, he has a federal felony to his name, but that does not affect his ability…”

In many people’s minds, Mr. Calvaire, felons aren’t “winners.” Nor are individuals who bully and traumatize those weaker than themselves. Being born with talent doesn’t make you a winner. Running a great play – or even scoring higher than the other football team – doesn’t make you a winner. Humane, compassionate choices make you a winner, just as the opposite makes you a loser.

“It’s disgusting that Vick’s troubles with the law have been so highly publicized. Michael Vick’s dog fighting situation was once CNN’s most popular topic of discussion, in the worst recession in the past fifty years, while at war with Iraq and with the future of America in shambles with an incompetent president in office.”

Let me get this straight: It’s not the violence and starvation and depravity–it’s the fact that people are talking about it that has you disgusted? Vick’s legal troubles are not the lightening rod here. It’s his ability to be so unspeakably cruel – so totally removed from any sense of humanity – that has people outraged. It’s his enjoyment of and motivation to reduce living creatures to blood and bones (warning link to image is graphic and upsetting) that have people searching for answers, and for justice.

(As for why it’s important to be talking about dog fighting when there are other issues of grave concern in the world, stay tuned for next week’s article.)

Twice a year I receive letters about sex offenders who have recently moved into the area, in which they are kept anonymous, but Mike Vick covered every publication you can think of that had anything to say about his lifestyle. Since when are personal legal matters something that the world should get to detail and speculate about?

Torture and killing are neither personal nor legal. And when one commits a crime of such magnitude, he forfeits his right to privacy because he is a danger to society. If Vick didn’t want people discussing him, perhaps he should not have returned to the NFL.

To critics who say that Michael Vick is supposed to be a role model, what made a guy who left college early to play football a role model in the first place? Because he runs one of the fastest 40 times in NFL history he’s a role model? Mike Vick never asked for that position in anyone’s child’s mind, but because he’s good as what he does, society place a higher expectations on his actions which makes him bankrolling a dog fighting operation that much bigger of a deal.

Vick may not have asked to be a role model, but he certainly knew that fame and fortune means living under a spotlight. And he said yes to both. As for society making a bigger deal of his bankrolling the operation than deserved, I’m pretty sure that’s not what most of us are incensed about. The big deal is that he repeatedly and for prolonged periods delivered excruciating pain to innocent beings – and then lied about it, downplayed it, dismissed it.

So before we write off Michael Vick let’s all ask ourselves if we feel that our personal lives should have an effect on our value to our employer. Oh what a pain it would be to list our personal activities within our Resumes.

Ok, I’m asking myself. At best, my personal activities are unimpressive – if not downright boring. But when those activities start making people question the very existence of the human heart, perhaps it’s time for my employer to be made aware.

Sincerely,

Leslie Smith

UPDATE

Gregory Calvaire responds:
“I think you’ve made some nice points but it’s obvious from the website your posting from that you have a very strong bias. It seems to be a dog lover website, so I know you must have felt really strongly about Vick’s punishment and I respect that. I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t care at all about Vick’s crimes because if were judging him on his crimes he is or was a very evil man but what I am trying to tell you is that Michael Vick is one of the most talented football players alive, and they’ve allowed him to come back to the sport of football…so what grounds does it make sense for Vick to not be playing in A FOOTBALL state of mind…meaning…how can he hurt a team on the field? Not off the field. I feel like his off field drama has teams questioning his ability which is messed up. It’s all or nothing, either you sign him and let him play how he deserves to play or don’t sign him at all….and I’m really sorry if I offended you as a strong dog lover.”

Leslie Smith:
I appreciate your thoughtful and civil response to my column, thank you. I think we agree that a man’s off-field performance doesn’t affect his ability to play the game. And I understand that it perhaps doesn’t make sense to sign a talented player only to have him sit on the sidelines. To me, the question is not how much time Vick should get on the field, but if he can now go forward and show he is worthy of the label “human being.”