Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ookie, Ookie, lend me your comb.

The story of Michael Vick is oddly absent from a lot of Atlanta bloggers right now. For sports and animal rights bloggers he’s still a main source of subject material but the folks who blog about daily life in Atlanta are generally ignoring him. Considering this story hits two areas that I have a major interest in (sports and our treatment of animals as a society) I think I finally need to chime in on this.

Let me begin by saying that I have been a constant cheerleader for Vick. I’ve made excuses for his behavior and performance over the years. The Rolex incident was easily brushed aside in my point of view. The “coach killer” comments by Jim Mora Sr. were sour grapes from a protective Father in my eyes. At every step of the way I defended him.

When he couldn’t seem to get the ball down and into the arms of his receivers I always wrote it off to excitement and nerves, he was just overly eager. He was overthrowing the ball not because of a lack of skill; it was all because of basic human nature and his ambition to win. When he had trouble reading a receiver’s route and didn’t throw it to where the receiver would ultimately be, even under heavy coverage, like a quarterback should be able to do even in college, I wrote it off as a failure of the coaching staff in not emphasizing the fundamentals of the game. None of it was ever Vick’s fault in my eyes.

The only problems I had really had with the direction of the team since 2002 was that I didn’t like the way Dan Reeves was treated when he was fired. I really believed that Reeves should have been kept and that Reeves seemed to have a better grasp on how to get wins with Vick than Mora ever did, or will, know. I didn’t like the lack of interest in building a stronger defense, especially in light of the injuries we’ve had in recent years.

In other words, I was a typical hometown fan of my team. I’ve followed this team since before Steve Bartkowski joined in the mid-70’s. I’ve suffered through the June Jones era, Jerry Glanville’s “California State Champions Trophy” and William Andrews blown knee. I’ve loved a place kicker who was a bartender, Jamal Anderson’s massive Earl Campbell-ian thighs and a gang of thugs who thrilled us with the Grits Blitz.

Another side of my life

In 1997 I became an ethical vegetarian. I’m not a stereotypical Birkenstock wearing vegetarian. I am a convert from an entirely different lifestyle than what most vegetarians come from. I’m a former hunter and fisherman. Other than elk and moose I have hunted for, killed and eaten just about any animal you can think of. I was a very skilled and effective hunter. As a fisherman I was the sort of person who could get the limit almost every time. There are pictures of me even as a small boy where I am holding up a stringer of huge bream and crappie.

My conversion from one lifestyle to another happened on a Saturday morning when I was in a tree stand on the edge of a field that I knew a herd of deer would be crossing soon. I saw a sunrise that I had never seen before and a thought entered my mind that had never been thought of by me before. I suddenly realized that nothing should be killed by me that morning and I should not take the life of another one of God's creatures that morning. With a rainbow of color blistering the morning sky, and a field that was literally frosting over from dew to ice in front of my eyes, I crawled down from the tree stand and went into a long process of thought about what happened to me in that tree stand.

Within weeks I went from a hunter to a vegetarian. I first thought that I shouldn’t kill that morning. I then realized my family or I would not go hungry if I stopped hunting and therefore I had no right to kill a living creature for food. I ultimately decided that no living creature should ever die just to provide me with food or clothing. 10 years later I still do not eat meat, wear leather or use products tested on animals. I’m healthy, I look younger than my actual age of 41 and I can kick ass almost as good as I did 10 years ago.

When the story of Vick’s cousin being arrested for drugs and there was suspicion of dog fighting at his house was announced I was ready to once again hook up the Vick love train. But the Humane Society said that they had heard rumors about Vick’s involvement in dog fighting for many years. The Humane Society isn’t a left field organization; they exist only to ensure that animals are properly treated. They have never gone to the extremes that PETA does. PETA, for all the good they do, shoot themselves in the foot and drive away people who may be sympathetic to the cause, in my opinion, with their crude and brash behavior.

My reaction to the indictment, and the level of reactions from other NFL players, is simple. I cannot find it in my spirit to ever watch another professional football game again. Too many players like Portis and Horn have said things that show me where the minds and hearts of the current flock of players is coming from. To them and the Vick defenders all he is guilty of is doing something stupid, getting caught.

This isn’t betting on boxing, or illegal fighting between two people. This is an involvement in forcing living creature to fight when they have no other option. If they won’t fight or they fight poorly, they are executed in a cruel fashion through electrocution or hanging. How we treat the vulnerable and weak, the lesser among us, is the truest reflection of our soul. You don’t have to love animals to understand that treating them this way is wrong, you only need to be a person who understand right and wrong, cruel and loving, human and inhuman, good and evil.

People are throwing out the race card. Race isn’t a part of this. Had it been Keith Brooking I would have been equally disgusted and my reaction would have been no different. People are throwing out the innocent until guilty line. That’s bullshit too. The actual line is “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” And that only applies to a court of law. This is the court of public opinion and there are too many things that make me realize he is as guilty as sin. I don’t have to presume Michael Vick innocent of any goddamn thing.

The man had the world in his hands. He had a fortune in money, which could have been turned from riches into real wealth. He could have become a leader of men and a better man in the process that was inherent in the position he earned as a gifted athlete. He had a city that was willing to stand by his side no matter what happened on the field and very little of his off field antics swayed us against him. He blew it all and he blew it for one thing. He blew it because he received pleasure at watching two of God’s creatures tear each other to shreds in forced fights. He blew it because that pleasure wasn’t enough, when those creatures didn’t please him he killed them by hanging them, electrocuting them and even slamming the body of one to the ground.

Athletes these days are fond of praising their success by claiming it’s all due to the power of Jesus Christ. When they fail they point their finger at the coaches, their teammates, the press and the fans. Hypocrisy is rampant in American society today. The hypocrisy of the modern athlete and the world they operate in is just as sordid as what we see in Washington. I can no longer provide voluntary support for an activity that works in this way. The NFL is in trouble and Commissioner Goodell needs to prepare himself for more Michael Vicks and more Pacman Jones. He has inherited a snake’s den.

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