Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vick

More than cheering on the home team, booing the opponent or throwing a $10.75 beer at a player, something that we non-athletes tend to excel in is jumping to conclusions. And so the news of the Philadelphia Eagles’ signing of Michael Vick led to plenty of speculation; some founded and based on logic and the nature of the NFL while the rest was based on sheer hate, stupidity and “Philly being Philly”*.

Because no active athlete other than Kobe Bryant has been more scrutinized in this decade than Vick (arguably even more than the Los Angeles Lakers star), this signing gains attention that neither the NFL or its associated fans and media have ever encountered. You’ve seen enough analysis from beat reporters, former players and coaches, fantasy experts, legal experts, etc. This post has been edited so much that most of the analysis seems to be redundant and pointless to throw into the pot. Yet, there are a few things that we should consider.

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For starters, let this be said in regards to those who are protesting and representing animal rights groups. Most of the Vick supporters are dismissing your message not just because of some hierarchy of justice or an outrage towards the lack of venom towards other prominent individuals who have and continue to commit crimes. They look at the methods – or lack thereof – to make the issue known.

Coming up in the Bronx in the eighties and up until the mid-nineties, there was a fairly-known dogfighting and cockfighting ring in my old neighborhood. Never saw PETA or the Humane Society or anyone representing the interest of the animals involved. Never saw law enforcement come around to bust this thing up. There were, however, plenty of people who walked around the blocks with pit bulls, Rottweilers and other breeds that were used for fighting. So when Vick said that “it’s part of our culture” statement was an excuse to justify his actions, the reality is that these groups are so far removed from where the actions take place that the statement has validity.

Maybe PETA didn’t feel like coming around the projects, but the shotgun approach that its executive board takes DOES NOT WORK in an era where people have become desensitized to their tactics. Waiting for some fashion show to disrupt or hoping that some celebrity wants to pose nude for a magazine ad to make a statement has done little to actually educate people on the seriousness of animal cruelty.

So, instead of protesting and boycotting the Eagles, why don’t you get down to the grassroots level and go to the communities to educate people on the perils. Vick’s crime brought this to light more than any other event in history,

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The other manner of protest that I found rather interesting comes from fans who have claimed they will essentially disown the Eagles by not purchasing merchandise or not watching a game until he is gone from the team. The latter makes far more sense if this was a losing team, but as sports always proves, everyone loves a winner. To not watch games lowers ratings and can convince advertising partners to shrink their investments with the team.

However, do people really update their team gear annually or even semi-annually? I could understand buying a new hat or adding some team paraphernalia like signed balls and Super Bowl DVDs every few years. Yet, the folks who say that they won’t buy another team thread again were probably are better off not grabbing the new Eagles jacket since they barely broke in the jacket from last season.

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On the field, no one knows what kind of player they will get in Vick nor how exactly he will be used. However, something that we should keep in mind is that just because the Wildcat has become the new craze of the NFL, it doesn’t mean that he was signed for that purpose. Vick amazed the football world before the Wildcat and if the Miami Dolphins didn’t take the New England Patriots to the woodshed with that formation last season, Vick would have still been a prized commodity.

Analysts on television and online have spent years picking apart his passing abilities, dismissing him as a less-than-spectacular passer who just happens to run. Yet, let me remind you that Rex Grossman played in the Super Bowl. If Jay Cutler did not fight his way out of Denver (and not that the City of Broad Shoulders was exactly behind Kyle Orton), Bears fans would have been jumping on the Vick bandwagon. Vick didn’t remind anyone of Dan Marino and certainly isn’t in the realm of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or even his new teammate, Donovan McNabb as a passer. Yet, just as those quarterbacks, coaches placed enough faith in his abilities that he could win games by any means necessary.

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Finally, “Philly being Philly” is akin to the infamous and clich├ęd “Manny being Manny”. What I mean here is that those of us with a vested interest in sports – no matter what’s the game – have come to expect fans from there to display a level of obnoxiousness and crudeness that is leaps and bounds above anywhere else. This isn’t said to disrespect or dismiss passions in the city nor does it make other places seem like homes for monks ('Duk at Big League Stew rightfully points at some in Wrigleyville because of that classless act on Wednesday). However, there is good chunk there that does embrace the unfortunate history of crass behavior, continuing to perpetuate the perception of it being a poor sports town.

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