Monday, January 10, 2011

Michael Vick

And so Michael Vick's season comes to a close.  Newspaper pundits I have read recently have placed him third in MVP voting (a few place him 2nd) and most of them don't have him winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award, either.  Many have him 2nd, some 3rd.  Brady is still too much of a great player for anyone to remember that he missed all but one game last year.  He is, though, picked by most to win another MVP.

This is an example of how sports transcends itself.  Michael Vick isn't, of course, just a quarterback anymore.  He will forever be under the microscope, by fans, critics and reporters, and he will be hated by most of them.  Forgiven by few outside of management; in fact, the Eagles deserve credit not just for hiring him, per se, but for being willing to deal with the mountain of criticism they had to be expecting.  They signed him anyway, and he's had a great offensive year.  (The Offensive Player of the Year Award is something he did not finish in the top 3 for, according to the stuff I read today.  Brady didn't, either.  The winner is expected to be the KC Chief's HB.)  He's been taught to run last and hang in there in the pocket, and outside of it, with the ball.  I have to admit that I didn't value him highly when he played for the Falcons.  Too many games around 100 yards throwing, 150 yards rushing, and seemingly not enough of either to make them win consistently.  The Eagles gave up on McNabb for him, astounding enough; even more amazing is that it seems like the right call.

Did Vick deserve it?  Well, I don't know.  The guys voting for the awards don't seem to think so.  I fear some moralizing going on here, and I feel about it just like I felt about it in terms of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting the last few years.  (See blogs below.)  They seem to be saying that he's lucky enough to get a job in the NFL again; an award is too much to ask for.

Perhaps.  I'm not a big awards guy, and I suspect that Vick is just happy to be out of jail, to have a job that he loves, and to have a job that pays extremely well.  Does he deserve that job?  Well, I see it this way: He's been released from prison, which means a few things:

The simpler thing to say is that he's out, and he needs something to do.  I suspect that the millions he made before the trial are gone; I'll bet that he's in debt to the same lawyers he's already paid millions to.  So he needs a job, and I don't doubt that football is the thing he does best in life.  So he needed a job.  The Falcons understandably had to release him or fire him, as per the league rules of suspension for conduct.  Certainly once he had to go to jail, he had to be replaced by somebody, and the Falcons did very well this year without him.  But the Eagles needed someone, and the genius of an offensive coach they had thought he could change his playing psyche, which he did.  The Eagles and their fans would take a winner, and they got won.  I don't fault the Eagles for offering him the backup position, which he then upgraded to the starting position with his play, and I don't fault him for taking the offer.  What else, after all, was he to do?  It's not his fault that he's extremely good at a sports job that pays very well.  While it is true that few people in life get the second chance he did, you can't fault him for taking it.

The second thing it means, him being out of jail, is that he has paid his debt to society and he's a free man--outside of whatever probation he got, and he's of course also special in that, because of his job, he is free to roam the country when most guys on probation cannot legally leave their state.  Whatever.  The bottom line is that you either believe in the system, or you don't.  He paid his debt to society, and hopefully he's rehabilitated.  That's what the jail system was at first designed to do, right?  Rehabilitate?  Hopefully it has.  I didn't know he was doing all that horrible dog stuff before, so I guess I wouldn't know it if he still was now.  But you have to believe in the system, because if you don't, what are all those people doing in there now?  If you don't believe that such people can be rehabilitated, then you're saying that anyone who has ever been in jail is doomed to a loser life when he gets out.

Since that is the horrible truth for many, if not most, we need to celebrate those who leave the system, hopefully changed for the better, who make something of themselves.  To truly prove that he has, maybe Vick can travel the country--now that his season is over--and speak at other prisons, or halfway houses, or whatever, and show ex-cons that maybe they can make something of themselves as well.  That would be nice.

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