Face of the Franchise

The other evening, I sat down to watch the Eagles play the Redskins in DC on MNF. Now, the Eagles this season have been by-and-large better than the identity-less .500-ish team I thought they were going to be and at 6-3, they’ve been a pleasant surprise. So when they took the field I thought they might be able to avenge this season’s earlier loss to Washington.

Did they ever.

 

Running Away

I missed the first 30 seconds of the game, and they were already up 7-0. What ensued was an offensive assault that I’d never before witnessed – and certainly not from an Eagles team. By the beginning of the 2nd quarter they were up 35-0. They had > 500 yards of offense midway through the 3rd quarter, when they pretty much stopped trying. The NFL Hall of Fame asked for starting quarterback Mike Vick’s jersey after his historic night of throwing, running, and scoring seemingly at will.

 

Starting quarterback Mike Vick. Ahhh… there’s the rub.

At the beginning of last season, when the Eagles signed him fresh out of finishing his incarceration for dog-fighting, I expressed mixed feelings about having him on the team. On one side, here’s a guy that committed a crime, went to jail and served his time. Rationally, he should be able to try and make the best living he can. On another side, he’s a dirtball felon who maliciously killed dogs and I don’t want guys like that representing teams I like. At the time, I thought that it was sort of a philosophical argument – because Donovan McNabb was the starter and Kevin Kolb was the heir apparent. Vick was at best going to be a curiosity and likely trade-bait, and at worst, a dreadful distraction.

Well, in 15 months, he’s gone from holding a clipboard to saying all the right things to being named starter to having his jersey sent to Canton to being a legitimate MVP candidate.  Quite a ride – talk about making the most of your opportunities.  And so, I’m left again with mixed feelings about this guy not only being a member of, but now being the face of the “my” team.

“I’m no role model.” – Charles Barkley

Maybe Sir Charles had it right.  Perhaps the issue is how we uphold these highly paid athletes.  That somehow we need to build a narrative that the players we watch are “great guys”.  Because let’s face it, likeable athletes are a lot easier to root for than dirtballs.  But come on, how many of professional athletes are “great guys”? You can’t turn to ESPN without seeing stories of guns, domestic violence, infidelity, sexual assault, etc.  They could have a ESPN-Police Blotter sub-section on their website.  So, as a society, maybe we should leave the “great guy” fantasy behind.

 

New Face of the Franchise

So what about Vick?  I really believe that once someone’s served their time you can’t continually punish them, because to do so suggests that imprisonment can never really expunge the crime and that the idea of rehabilitation is fraud. A clean slate is just that — so I say, even though it’s not easy, we have to give him one.

 

I guess what lingers with me is that unsettled feeling that the “dirtball” is still in there – that this hard-practicing, focused, team-leading QB isn’t the “real” person. That the “real” Vick would go back to his ways if he knew he wouldn’t get caught.

But maybe that says more about what I think about human nature than about Mike Vick.

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10 thoughts on “Face of the Franchise

  1. That the “real” Vick would go back to his ways if he knew he wouldn’t get caught.

    my thoughts exactly. I scold myself for being so cynical, but I can’t help it.

  2. Vick hasn’t redeemed himself yet so he hasn’t yet fully ‘served his time’. He has a huge amount to put in the ‘good’ bucket before he’s even close. He’s a dirtbag and I don’t think he has it in him to change my opinion. This is the same reason I can’t root for the Steelers this year. I can’t sit there with my son and get excited that a repeat sex-offender (Rothlisberger) does well on the field. A person is a human being first, everything else is secondary. Vick fails as a human being.

    • Craig — so jail time doesn’t atone for the crime? What would?

      The Ben Rothhisberger case is harder in many ways. Unproven allegations seem almost worse than pleading guilty, serving time and moving on.

  3. Kind of the same paradox I have with politicians. I think there are some politicians out there who do generally good things for society, but also have done morally reprehensible things in their private lives… say Clinton or Eliot Spitzer. I really place more emphasis on what they’re doing professionally over personally… but sports are different. I don’t have much riding on a sports team practically, so what they do as people matters more. I didn’t really realize until recently just how sadistic Vick was with those animals – it was much worse than just dog fighting. To a degree, athletes are also brands — and they can erode or destroy their own brand with their actions.

    • Hapa — yes, I do think that there is a similarity between the brands that these athletes create (think Tiger Woods) and how easily it can be brought down. Clinton and Spitzer are excellent examples of men who are “professionally” laudable, but “personally” disappointing. And does an effective leader have to be a “great guy”. I say no.

      I wonder how many “greats” in the history books would have survived unscathed in the digital age? My guess is not many.

  4. The problem I have with Sir Charles’ assertion that “I’m no role model” is that it’s not his decision to make. Kids look up to him and want to emulate him, whether he wants them to or not. He is a role model, by default.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily unrealistic to think that most athletes are “great guys.” At worst, I would say most of them are just regular working stiffs, same as the rest of us. It’s just that the only ones we hear about are the cheating, lying, wife-beating slimeballs. That’s partly the media’s fault for pandering to the lowest common denominator, and partly our fault for lapping it up.

    • Auntiebellum — yes, I imagine that you’re correct that our workplaces may have the same distribution of people from dirtballs to great guys. I do think though that being rich and living an “exempted” lifestyle allows the lower-end guys to indulge their interests (whether it’s women, or violence, or whatever) with the sense that they won’t get caught, because they’re sort of above it. Like Tracey said above, there’s seems to be a similar sense with politicians.

  5. Some good points. When does a person ‘pay’ back for a crime? Does the stigma of the crime stay with them forever? Whatever your beliefs, he played a better than fine game that night. I’d say, don’t look at him as a hero, just as an excellent athlete. Don’t even bring his home life or life off the field into the equation. He’s just a guy doing a job and his boss is happy with his performance.

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