Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Whither now for Mike Vick and the NFL?

So in case you hadn't heard, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons was indicted on charges (PDF) of being involved with a dog-fighting operation run out of his house in Virginia.


Now, as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, I will admit to being what is known as a Michael Vick "hatah," in the parlance of our times. I hate the Falcons, maybe not with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns as I do the Dodgers, but like about 999 suns or something. 998 suns. A lot of suns, a lot of heat. They are my most hated team in the NFL. OK? Just so that's clear.

And Michael Vick has irritated and annoyed me his entire career because he sucks. Oh, he's a great athlete: he's just a shite quarterback. So I love every game between the Bucs and the Falcons where we're told that this is the game where Vick's speed and developing passing acumen will tear up the Bucs' defense and... then he gets bitchslapped. And before bringing up the fact that the Falcons did much better last year, it's worth noting that the offense in the September 16 was primarily run yardage. Vick passed 10/15 for 92 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. That's a passer rating of 77.6. Not exactly evidence of becoming a feared passer. He fared worse in his next game against Tampa, with a rating of 62.7 on 14/23 passing for 155 yards, no TDs, and an INT.

And before any accusations of racism arise against me... that's not the issue. There are a number of black quarterbacks I really like. McNabb, Culpepper (whether he'll be able to come back from the knee injury remains to be seen), Leftwich (ditto on his injuries), Cunningham, Moon, Steve McNair, guys that are good athletes and smart quarterbacks, whether they fit the "athletic" mold or not (Mcnabb did, but doesn't any more, Leftwich never did, etc.). There are also black quarterbacks that suck: Aaron Brooks, Quincy Carter, Kordell Stewart (the latter of which I blame for the momentary fascination with quarterbacks that double as running backs and consequently the immediate fascination with Vick when he was drafted). Black quarterbacks are, in other words, much like quarterbacks in general: some are great, many are good, and some suck.

So now that my complete lack of impartiality is completely established...

The NFL should suspend Michael Vick. Now. Yes, he's only been indicted, not convicted. But it's worth noting that Pacman Jones was suspended before being indicted, meaning that Vick was vulnerable even before yesterday. The league doesn't really have a leg to stand on to not suspend Vick other than they'd rather not have to suspend one of their superstar players. But then they'd rather one of their superstar players was not associated with this disaster in the first place. To remove the onus from the league, Roger Goodell needs to suspend Michael Vick now.

Len Pasquarelli provides a potential rationale for not suspending Vick right away:

It should be pointed out, however, that, unlike the players suspended by Goodell to this point, Vick is not a repeat offender in the eyes of the NFL. His actions at times have been offensive, but have never earned him a demerit under Goodell's stewardship. So the Tuesday indictments, in and of themselves, may not be grounds for action by the commissioner.

It's a fair point, although even Pacman Jones wasn't a "repeat offender" since he'd never officially legally offended, because, again, he had not been convicted or even indicted at the point at which he was suspended. But let's remember that Vick's had a few episodes (Ron Mexico, the airport water bottle incident, and I believe a few other minor fracases.

But to me, that's not the most compelling reason to suspend Vick. Instead, the fact is simple: even the best case scenario for Michael Vick shows negligence and a lack of personal responsibility on Vick's part. Even if his culpability is limited to owning the property on which these dogs were raised and trained (because at the very least he's guilty of that), he has to take responsibility for that. This should be an object lesson to every player in the NFL: what you own, what you enable your posse to do, your property is your responsibility.

There is no dispute: Michael Vick owned that property. An on-going criminal enterprise used that property. You can't just have a place and let your crew run roughshod over it, then just proclaim ignorance. And that's the least worst possibility in this scenario for Vick.

And from what I've seen thus far, there's little reason to think that the least worst possibility is the actual truth. My guess at this point, my belief, is that Vick was in this stuff up to his eyeballs. He trained and sold fighting dogs, hosted fights on his property, and gambled big money on dogfights. It's absolutely reprehensible activity, he was fully involved, and any support given by the league or team to this guy now that these activities have come to light can only be considered complicity or implicit acceptance of his activities. Neither is acceptable.

I'd suggest contacting the Falcons and the NFL until they've taken action against this guy (and no, it's not just to keep him from playing against the Bucs; if I had my druthers, we'd get to play against him and knock the slobber out of him).

To contact the Falcons, you can write:

Atlanta Falcons
4400 Falcon Parkway
Flowery Branch, GA 30542

You can also contact them through their Web site.

To contact the NFL, you can write to:

National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

And again, you can also contact them through their Web site.

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