Glimmer of hope for Michael Vick?

Battle-scarred Lucas

A shot of a few protesters outside the Eagles’ stadium in Philadelphia is the only mention of dogs or dog fighting in Episode 3 of BET’s The Michael Vick Project. Even the snippets midway through the broadcast of Vick’s speech to local middle schoolers makes no reference to the activity. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of remorse or any insight into his character, Episode 3 was a colossal disappointment.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to experience Vick’s sunny return to the world of football, watch Episode 3. There’s the drama around which team will sign him and the joy of learning he’ll play for the Eagles. We’re there as he picks out his new digs and admires the view from his new living room window. It’s all so exciting and squeaky clean it could be an after-school special.

In an extended scene of a meeting between Vick and the Philadelphia branch NAACP president, Jerry Mondesire, we find out that the organization has nothing but affection and kind words for Vick. The exchange is puzzling.

I could understand indignation for a man wrongly accused or support for a hero long ignored, but to rush to the defense of a lying, convicted criminal? It makes no sense. Does a 10-minute speech to sixth graders make up for all the torture and violence?

Episode 4

And then, in last night’s Episode 4 broadcast, the faintest glimmer of hope: It was all about the dogs.

Vick takes us across his former property and shows us the bleak concrete stalls in which his animals were kept. He shows us the gallows where the dogs were hanged. He shows us the chains that were tied around their necks and the grounds where the animals died of their wounds.

He leads us up the stairs to the makeshift arena where he forced his dogs to fight. The ones who were fought on more than one occasion knew the hell they were in for as they were brought up those steps. As Vick admits this, it’s difficult for me to remain composed.

But: instead of referring to his crimes as “mistakes” or “pointless” or “unnecessary” (as he has in the past), Vick finally owns up to a tiny part of his role in the horror. I killed those dogs, he says. For a split second, I saw a flicker of recognition in eyes that had so long been vacant.

It’s not absolution and it’s not redemption. It certainly doesn’t gibe with Vick’s nauseatingly self-indulgent statements about all that he’s had to endure. But it is a small, long-overdue step in the right direction.

My rescued Pit Bull, Maybe, sits beside me on the couch as I watch. She’s a smaller, skinnier version of Vick’s battle-scarred dog Lucas, who I met at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary a few years ago. She doesn’t know why I’m crying, but she licks away my tears and nuzzles her head into the crook of my knee.

My Maybe

And I’m not sure why, but long after the episode is over, I’m still a wreck. I guess because it’s too easy to picture what Maybe’s image might’ve looked like had she been born at a different time and a different place… to a different fate.

-Leslie Smith

Did you watch The Michael Vick Project, episode 3 or 4? If so, please post your comments.