Do You Believe in Second Chances?

By Bill Neri-Amadeo, BASN Contributor
Updated: August 19, 2009

Michael VickLANSING, Mich. (BASN) — It was the best of times, it was the worst of…crimes. While that may be a play on the most powerful words in the history of literature, those 12 words could truly sum up the roller coaster ride which has become the Michael Vick story.

Vick had it all, lost it, and now wants it again and we the media, the football world, animal lovers and Philadelphia Eagles fans have been appointed judge and jury is the bizarre court of public opinion.

Before you cast your vote on whom Michael Vick truly is, there are two sides to the story and we should delve a little bit into the facts before we pass judgment.

It was the best of times. Michael Vick truly was king of the world. He signed a record $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Prior to that, he was the first pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

He was a hometown hero to the entire state of Virginia and after growing up in Newport News he led Virginia Tech to prominence in the College Football world before bolting to the NFL where the Atlanta Falcons traded up in the draft to obtain Vick with the number one overall pick and for moving up to have this incredible athlete they gave up two picks to the San Diego Chargers who were named Ladainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees.

And despite a heavy price tag and the fact that the Falcons had to move mountains to get him, Vick was supposed to revolutionize the NFL. I can still remember an article that came out on draft day in 2001 that read, “Michael Vick will win at least five championships and he will have a better career than Joe Montana.” Make no mistake about it; Michael Vick was welcomed to the NFL with opened arms.

It was the worst of crimes. I remember coming home from law school one day with my best friend Joe who is a Virginia Native and big Michael Vick fan. We listened to the radio as we drove through the Michigan snow and heard that Michael Vick would be indicted for killing and mutilating dogs.

We looked at each other and thought it had to be some kind of sick joke but we didn’t know this was just the beginning of the story. From that point forward, there was an onslaught of media attention and heinous facts started to surface about all of the dead canine carcasses and the mutilations that took place.

After a Federal trial, everything came to the surface and Michael Vick would eventually admit that he was the ring-leader of this horrid treatment of “Man’s Best Friend.”

The football world and society in general was stunned and the first thing I thought was that Michael Vick would obtain forgiveness a lot quicker if he had killed a human instead of a dog in this country because dogs and cats are placed on a pedestal in the United States as well they should be.

Let’s face it. Dogs can be more likeable than people. A dog has never broken your heart. A dog has never stolen your money. A dog has never cost you a job and a dog will give you at least a decade of unconditional love.

While arguments have been made that Michael Vick grew-up in dog fighting circles, no one seemed to care and Vick served a prison term and seemingly lost his career and people, black and white alike were enraged.

The Black Voice. Black people in general felt betrayed by the actions of Vick. The reality is that black quarterbacks throughout history have not been given a fair shake. In the 70′s, Warren Moon, after a historic career at the University of Washington was not even drafted in the NFL while quarterbacks such as Gifford Neilsen and Matt Cavanaugh were high picks in the 1978 draft.

While Neilsen and Cavanaugh are good guys and have had successful careers in the world of broadcasting (Neilsen) and coaching (Cavanaugh), they were no where nearly as talented as Warren Moon who have to prove himself in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for nearly a decade before embarking on a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.

In the 80′s, Major Harris was perhaps the greatest overall weapon the college football world had even seen did not get drafted until the 12th round in 1990 and never got the chance to play in the NFL.

Rodney Peete, who had a stellar career at USC was not drafted until the sixth round in the 1989 NFL draft and he worked hard to prove his critics wrong and had a very nice 15-year career in the NFL but was still not given an fair shake to prove his worth.

Peete won the Johnny Unitas Award during his Senior Year at USC which is given to college football’s best Senior Quarterback and yet, no one drafted him until the 141st overall pick.

And perhaps the worst case of racism at the quarterback position was the great Doug Williams who after leading the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl Championship could not find a job in the NFL and skin color played a vital role in this occurrence.

The dawning of a new age? The 1999 NFL draft truly was the dawning of a new age. Pioneers such as Warren Moon had set the stage for Donavan McNabb to be selected with the number 2 pick, Akili Smith with the number 3 pick and Daunte Culpepper with the number 11 pick.

The football world no longer cared what color you were, if you had the talent you would be the franchises signal caller. As if this already wasn’t the sign of progress, in 2001 Atlanta took Vick and gave him the keys to the city and boy did it look like Vick would run…and pass his way to this opportunity.

All of the pioneers who blazed the way for blacks to play the most important position in all of sports had their crowing moment and Vick was their leader and he was arrogant in his role.

Overlooked no longer. The facts are that Michael Vick was the face of hope for many black athletes and gave so many black people, athletes or not, a sense of pride because Vick was given what so many of them fought for, a chance to shine.

In this role, Vick was a weapon on the field but did things off of it that were overlooked. When he gave a young girl herpes and portrayed the role as “Ron Mexico”, it was laughed about. When he got caught with marijuana at an airport, it was viewed as immature.

And when Vick gave Atlanta fans “The Finger” while leaving the field one day after a loss, the seats were still filled with “Number 7 jerseys” during the next Falcons home game. Many things were overlooked until the dog fighting facts surfaced.

Now, blacks who stood behind Vick were outraged, groupings of whites who never felt a black man should be a quarterback enjoyed Vicks fall from grace while whites who stood behind Vick were dismayed by his actions and ALL ANIMAL LOVERS revolted against Vick even if they didn’t know the difference between a pigskin or a potato skin.

The feeling was that no team would ever sign Vick again.

Tony Dungy. While Michael Vick’s world was falling apart, in walked Tony Dungy. The Super Bowl winning black coach who is beloved and respected by all had just retired when he became Vick’s mentor.

Dungy, who has worked with prisoners for years stood behind Vick. Many people claimed it was only because Vick was black. Many people said that Dungy was just looking for the spotlight.

Many people wanted Dungy to stay out of it. Many people were wrong.

While race may have played a somewhat of a role, if you know Tony Dungy, you would know that he is just a great man and would’ve helped Vick if he were white.

Coach Dungy is a millionaire.

Coach Dungy has a Super Bowl ring as a coach and a player.

Coach Dungy retired on his own terms.

The bottom line is that Tony Dungy did not need the spotlight or the recognition and as far as money goes, Dungy spent his own money travelling and setting meetings up for Michael Vick.

Tony Dungy, a man who never got to play quarterback in the 70′s NFL after a solid college career, a man who was denied numerous coaching jobs because he was black, a man who overcame all of the odds risked his reputation on Michael Vick.

Dungy standing behind Vick certainly gave the beleaguered athlete a fighting chance.

Does Vick deserve a second chance? There was a time when I would’ve said no to this question. There was a time when many of us were so biased by our love of dogs that we could not even broach the subject but maybe that time has passed?

With the Eagles signing Michael Vick, shock waves were drawn across the sporting world. Eagles fans were thrilled, outraged, upset and elated. Only time will tell if Vick still has the goods to deliver on the field and the odds are if he and Donovan McNabb are a duel-threat and lead the Eagles to obtain the illusive Super Bowl ring, all may be forgiven in Philadelphia.

However, if the team has a losing season, Vick were feel the wrath of Eagles fans, the same fans who are known for hitting Santa Claus with ice pellets and cheering as Michael Irvin was carted off the field and appeared to be paralyzed.

Football is an ugly and magnificent game. It brings out the kids in us. If brings out the best of us and it brings out the worst of us. I can’t say I’m a Michael Vick fan but I used to have a throwback Vick jersey from his Virginia Tech days because I used to admire him.

I so badly wanted to see him bring a Super Bowl ring to Atlanta so he could shut-up the critics but Vick let me, and millions of others down. With that being said, I do believe in second chances and I do believe in Tony Dungy and I do adore my dog.

And while I’m still not sure which way to cast my vote, the support of a man such as Tony Dungy makes me believe that MAYBE Michael Vick deserves one last shot at fulfilling his dream and the hopes of so many others.

One of the things that make America the greatest country in the world is that we do give second chances. One argument is that the man has served his time, he deserves to make a living but the reality is, even if he does get the Eagles a ring, he will never be looked at the same and I’m not sure if that is right or the worst kind of wrong.