He was watching a game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles when his wife walked into the room. She looked at the screen and responded, (paraphrasing) "Ugh. Get that guy off our TV, I won't watch him play." She was referring to Michael Vick, #7.
The broadcaster continued to comment that there are many men and women who feel this strongly about Michael Vick and his past, despite his recent successes, despite the forgiveness Vick has obviously received by the NFL. For this reason, this sportscaster's opinion was that Michael Vick could not be declared the next "Face of Football".
Yesterday, I read a letter on ESPN written by Nils Lofgren. Nils Lofgren is a guitarist who has toured with Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Neil Young and has released more than 40 solo albums. In a letter he wrote to ESPN, (read it here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/commentary/news/story?id=5876114 ), he expressed his outrage at the praise that Michael Vick is getting in response to his football prowess.
I posted Mr. Lofgren's letter on my Facebook page and received this response from a high school classmate of mine, "He did the crime, but he also did the time. Let's not forget that Vick paid a much harsher penalty than most NFL stars involved with or convicted of violence against people. Let the man get on with his life."
Should we let the man get on with his life? Or should we demand that the NFL reconsider it's rules about retaining convicted felons? Is the game about obtaining the best player regardless of the shame that player brings to the field? Shouldn't the NFL insist that the players to whom they award multi-million dollar contracts, maintain a code of conduct that at the very least should require abiding by our federal and local laws?
I am not a huge sports enthusiast, but I do have the general knowledge required to watch most of the major sports of the US. Football is actually my favorite. I love the sound of the pads clashing together as two players hit. I love watching a long pass land in the breadbasket of a receiver. I refuse to watch a Philadelphia Eagles game.
I often wonder about the decision made by the NFL regarding Michael Vick's possible ban from Football after being convicted of committing a felony. Michael Vick broke a federal law regarding dog fighting. But he was not "just" a dog fighter. He brutally and horrifically tortured and killed the dogs that did not meet his fighting standards . He drowned them, hanged them, electrocuted them, shot them, he slammed their breathing bodies to the ground and left them for dead. Some dogs died quickly, others were not so lucky. He served 18 months in prison and 2 months in home confinement for conspiracy charges and for running a dog fighting ring. He did not serve any time for the animal abuse or neglect that he inflicted on those dogs that could not or would not fight.
When he was released, he was a major source of excitement for the news. Would he be allowed back into the NFL? Would any team be willing to employ Michal Vick? Would he be permanently banned from the NFL? The chattering went on and on, until the news finally broke. The NFL declares that Michael Vick would be allowed back into the NFL. Which team would nestle him under their wing? The Philadelphia Eagles!
As a convicted felon, Vick is now admired by sports enthusiasts and adored by children. He is praised for throwing a ball. He makes millions of dollars, and paid a $5,000 fine along with the time he served for his conviction. What bothers me the most about his return, is that I wonder what this teaches our children. Children that adore him will emulate him. They will parade around in his jersey. They will worship him. And some will mimic his past. Children will learn that if you are good at something, it doesn't matter how poorly you behave otherwise.
People can argue that it is not in a professional athletes job description to be a role model. The job throws you into the hearts and minds of children, and this makes you a role model regardless of the wording on your contract. Many jobs may not specify that you are a role model, but you will become one...teacher, firefighter, policeman. Many jobs would not accept a convicted felon back into the workplace. If it happened to you or to me, we would likely not be fortunate enough to dance out of prison straight into our old uniform.
While the NFL embraces a convicted felon, and raises him up on their shoulders, another man sits and watches. This man also excelled in his sport. This man continues to hold records in his sport decades after his retirement.
Pete Rose, a switch hitter, is the all-time Major League leader in hits, games played, at bats, and outs. He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and made 17 All Star appearances playing five different positions during his career which ranged from 1963 to 1986. Pete Rose was also addicted to gambling.
He gambled on sports, including his own. He gambled on his own team. Within the Major Leagues, there was a rule that gambling on sports in general, and gambling on your team specifically, was reason enough to be banned from the sport.
The point of this blog is not to justify or vilify the Major League's decision to ban Pete Rose. I am not going to debate whether reinstating Pete Rose is the wrong or the right thing to do.
A man who excelled at his game was permanently banned from playing or coaching the game that he lived and breathed. His number is banned from being formally retired in his honor because he is not allowed on the playing field. He is banned from being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite an amazing career filled with even more amazing statistics. A condition of his ban from baseball was that he could apply for reinstatement 1 year after the ban was imposed in 1989. He applied for reinstatement in 1992 and 1997. His application was not denied... it was ignored both times.
20 years have passed, and Pete Rose is still banned from every aspect of the game at which he excelled. He is banned because he broke a rule. He is banned because he broke a rule of ethics imposed by the Major Leagues.
Michal Vick committed a federal crime. Michael Vick was convicted of a felony. Michael Vick walked out of prison in May of 2009. Michael Vick was reinstated into the NFL in July of 2009. Michael Vick was welcomed back into the nape of the NFL during his first game in August of 2009.
Another difference between the two players...Rose was already retired as a player at the time of his ban, while Vick was still young and had the potential to bring money and winning games to the team and the NFL.
I think I am going to start watching baseball.
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