utopian

Archived Story

I want Michael Vick to win the Super Bowl

Published 10:41am Monday, December 13, 2010

I fully understand that it’s morally questionable to root for an athlete who has recently spent time in jail for genuine animal cruelty. I understand it’s even worse (probably) to root for someone more so because they in fact committed a crime than if they hadn’t. But this explains my relationship to Michael Vick.

Pre-savagely-making-dogs-fight-each-other Michael Vick held only some of my interest. He was the quarterback of a team I didn’t care about, was never quite as good as he should have been and was the most useful as the digitized version of himself on Madden 2004. I cared much more about my favorite teams and found Vick uninteresting.

With this Vikings’ season in the toilet, and any other of my rooting interests unrealistic contenders, I’ll be rooting for Vick and the Eagles to win a title, and this is primarily because he committed a crime. But it’s also because he genuinely paid for it. Vick is one of the few athletes who did something wrong, spent a real amount of time in a real jail, and came out arguably a better person (he not only seems contrite, but he’s probably no longer making dogs fight each other as well, which is sort of the point of the punishment), and a much better player. Vick sat with his own thoughts. He took advice. He came back to work more humble and appreciative. Vick has exemplified what character actually is: overcoming adverse circumstances and being better from the experience.

We’re at the end of a sports year in where the fans and media seem to have a lot of complicated opinions about things like character in sports. The national mood seems to be against a basketball player who went to play for less money, something we used to root for; the NCAA ruled Enes Kanter, a Turkish basketball player, ineligible for essentially turning down millions, but allows Cam Newton to continue playing; the NFL preaches about player safety, but will institute a longer season and continue to be stingy about post-career health benefits. These issues obviously have multiple sides, but at the very least, right and wrong, good and bad and the content of one’s character are murkier than ever in the small universe of sport.

A Vick-led Eagles team winning a Super Bowl would be an example of immoral and illegal behavior being punished, and that punishment actually accomplishing the goal of rehabilitation. The natural inclination of most people, especially dog lovers, will be to root against Vick and feel disgusted that the NFL would allow such a person to succeed. That’s understandable; especially you’re the type of person that tears up at the Sarah McLaughlin’s homeless puppy commercial.

But actually this would be a positive step for a league that seems to be heading into the public relations nightmare that is Billionaires vs. Millionaires on the matter of splitting their Bajillions. The NFL could point to, in the midst of season of ridiculous decisions (suddenly changing rules, fines, a lock-out, allowing Andre Johnson and Courtland Finnegan to engage in fisticuffs unsuspended), that a young man from an underprivileged background made some mistakes and found redemption on the gridiron.

And we could all see what accomplishment really is.