Congratulations, Philadelphia Daily News. You punk’d me. You knew proclaiming Michael Vick the “top dog” would send me into a full-on, steam-coming-out-of-my-ears tizzy, and you smugly posted it anyway. And then you laughed all the way to Google Analytics where you checked your swelling traffic numbers.
But wait! Not so fast there, devious Daily!
Maybe the joke’s not on me, but on Michael Vick himself. All the dog puns, Pit Bull comparisons, and references to “unleashed” will only serve to reinforce the link between the player and his torturous actions…
Already, reactions both supporting and denouncing the provocative headline are appearing. Yahoo! sports writer Chris Chase defends the tabloid’s choice:
“Vick paid his debt to society and has been a model of behavior since getting released from prison.”
Model behavior? Really?
Chase goes on to say:
“I’m happy for him and actually find myself rooting for him to redeem himself on the football field. But just because Vick served some time in prison doesn’t mean we can’t bring up his past. Prison doesn’t wipe the slate clean. We shouldn’t define Vick for his callous treatment of animals, but we shouldn’t forget about it either.”
There’s so much I take issue with in the above statement, but I’ll concentrate on the most heinous:
“We shouldn’t define Vick for his callous treatment of animals…”
Firstly, let’s put a finer point on the definition of callous: Laughing at a child losing his ice cream cone: callous. Electrocuting a dog: evil.
Secondly, why shouldn’t we define Vick by his actions? His prolonged and prominent role in the repeated torture and suffering of those dogs is who this man is. I can’t argue that Vick is not a gifted athlete – that’s also who he is. But to show no remorse other than to weakly assert that he made a “mistake” doesn’t exactly scream redemption.
Argue all day that Vick is an amazing football player, and I will readily agree. But insinuate that Vick is a decent human being? I can’t concede. Decide for yourself which legacy is more important. Until he demonstrates he understands the difference, I choose to remember and define him just as I would anyone else capable of such cruelty.