Fair enough. But I believe in second chances for anyone who screwed up because they were immature, came from a poor background or were surrounded by unseemly influences ... as long as that person makes amends.
But that said he could go a long way toward re-establishing some fan empathy if he invited 60 Minutes into his home, answered probing questions and managed to come off looking honest in the process.
"Who do you blame for all of this?" Brown asked.
"I blame me," Vick replied.
"In any way, for those who may say it showed a lack of moral character because you didn't stop it, you agree or disagree?" Brown asked.
"I agree," Vick said.
I firmly believe Michael deserves a second chance in life. I understand how appalling dog fighting is, and in no way do I condone it. But he was given a punishment that the court deemed appropriate, and now he exits prison having paid for that crime. It's time to let him bounce back after that loss. If we are willing to forgive Michael and take an honest look at the person who is leaving that prison, we might be surprised at what we see. We might see a man who says "I'm sorry" with his actions and not just his words. We might see a man who wants to get back to his three children and stop the cycle of young people growing up without a father to help them.
Least important, we might see him play football again. I'm not sure of the Michael Vick we would see on the field, but I believe we would see a very different person off the field. That's what would be exciting to me.
Vick also will receive $5.25 million for the 2010 season if he remains with the Eagles, including a $1.5 million roster bonus due by March 5. Once paid, it is counted as money earned. In addition to the bonus, Vick's base salary in 2010 is $3.75 million, of which $1 million is guaranteed.
Would you want to root for Vick if he had helped conduct the torture of Guantanamo Bay prisoners?
How about if he'd sexually abused children entrusted to his care?
What if he'd maimed a domestic partner? Or more than one?
The disgusting thing about dogfighting isn't that animals battle and die -- after all, animals fight to the death in nature, tearing each other's flesh with heartless violence. The disgusting thing about dogfighting is that supposedly intelligent members of Homo sapiens add sadism to the natural equation by starving dogs to make them extra aggressive, filing their incisors to make the fights bloodier, and engaging in other acts unbecoming any man or woman of ethics. What Michael Vick confessed to Monday ought to disgust you, regardless of whether you are a dog lover. Include me. The Official Dog of TMQ -- a Chesapeake retriever, noble state dog of Maryland -- slumbers happily near my feet as I write this.
But the punishment expected to be imposed on Vick -- one to two years in federal prison, and perhaps never playing in the NFL again -- seems out of proportion to his actions and his status as a first-time offender. The situation is confusing because the federal crimes to which Vick pleaded guilty turn as much on gambling and racketeering as dogfighting; gambling and racketeering concern federal prosecutors because of their relationship to organized crime. Racketeering can lead to jail terms even for nonviolent first-time offenders not involved with drug sales, such as Vick. The NFL, for its part, has very strong reasons to detest gambling, and elaborately warns players they will be harshly penalized for associating with gamblers. Yet I can't help feeling there is overkill in the social, media and legal reactions to Vick, and that the overkill originates in hypocrisy about animals.
Thousands of animals are mistreated or killed in the United States every day without the killers so much as being criticized, let alone imprisoned. Ranchers and farmers kill stock animals or horses that are sick or injured. Some ranchers kill stock animals as gently as possible, others callously; in either case, prosecution is nearly unheard of. As Derek Jackson pointed out last week in the Boston Globe , greyhound tracks routinely race dogs to exhaustion and injury, then kill the losers, or simply eliminate less-strong pups: "184,604 greyhound puppies judged to be inferior for racing" were killed, legally, in the past 20 years.
Hunters shoot animals for sport. They do so lawfully, while the manner in which Vick harmed his dogs was unlawful. But from the perspective of the animal, there seems little difference between a hunter with a state game license zipped in his vest pocket shooting a deer as part of something the hunter views as really fun sport, and Vick shooting a dog as part of something Vick views as really fun sport. In both cases, animals suffer for human entertainment. The animal-ethics distinction between Vick's actions and lawful game hunting are murky at best. A first-time offender should go to prison over a murky distinction?
Much more troubling is that the overwhelming majority of Americans who eat meat and poultry -- I'm enthusiastically among them -- are complicit in the systematic cruel treatment of huge numbers of animals. Snickering about this, or saying you're tired of hearing about it, doesn't make it go away. Most animals used for meat experience miserable lives under cruel conditions, including confinement for extended periods in pits of excrement. (Michael Pollan, who enthusiastically consumes meat and fowl, describes the mistreatment in his important new book The Omnivore's Dilemma.) Meat animals don't magically stop living when it's time to become a product; they suffer as they die. One of Vick's dogs was shot, another electrocuted. Gunshots and electrocution are federally approved methods of livestock slaughter, sanctioned by the Department of Agriculture for the killing of cows and pigs. Regulations under the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 give federal sanction to shooting cows or pigs, or running electrical current through their bodies. Shooting and electrocution are viewed by federal law as humane ways to kill animals that will be consumed. Federal rules also allow slaughterhouses to hit cows in the head with a fast-moving piston that stuns them into semiconsciousness before they are sliced up. Being hit in the head with a powerful piston -- does that sound a bit painful, a bit cruel? It's done to tens of thousands of steers per year, lawfully.
Don't say "eew, gross" about how meat animals are butchered, then return to denouncing Vick. If you're eating a cheeseburger or BLT or steak or pot roast today, there's a good chance you are dining on an animal that was shot or electrocuted. You are complicit. You freely bought the meat, you did not demand Congress strengthen the Humane Slaughter Act. Livestock can be calmed and drugged before being slain. A few slaughterhouses do this, but most don't because it raises costs, and you, the consumer, demand the lowest possible price for your meal. Now about your turkey sub or coq au vin. Federal slaughter regulations apply mainly to large animals, leaving considerable freedom in the killing of fowl. Many poultry slaughterhouses kill chickens by slashing their throats rather than snapping their necks. Snapping the neck kills the bird quickly, ending suffering, but then the heart dies quickly, too. Slashing the throat causes the bird to live in agony for several minutes, heart still beating and pumping blood out of the slash -- and consumers prefer bloodless chicken meat.
Further, the Humane Slaughter Act exempts kosher and halal slaughter. In both traditions, the cow or lamb must be conscious when killed by having its carotid artery, or esophagus and trachea, slashed. The animal bleeds to death, convulsing in agony, as its heart pumps blood, which is viewed as unclean, out of the slashed openings. The delicious pastrami we consumed at a kosher deli, or the wonderfully good beef we could buy at a halal butcher, comes from an animal that suffered as it died.
Yes, Vick broke the law; yes, he arrogantly lied and refused to apologize when first caught; and yes, his actions before and after the dog killings indicate he is one stupid, stupid man. But Vick's lawbreaking was relatively minor compared to animal mistreatment that happens continuously, within the law, at nearly all levels of the meat production industry, and with which all but vegetarians are complicit. There is some kind of mass neurosis at work in the rush to denounce Vick, wag fingers and say he deserved even worse. Society wants to scapegoat Vick to avoid contemplating its own routine, systematic killing of animals. We couldn't all become vegetarians tomorrow: that is not practical. But American society is not even attempting to make the handling of meat animals less brutal, let alone working to transition away from a food-production order in which huge numbers of animals are systematically mistreated, then killed in ways that inflict terror and pain. We won't lift a finger to change the way animals die for us. But we will demand Michael Vick serve prison time to atone for our sins.
Legal note: Vick might be compelled to repay the Falcons a huge amount of bonus money, and will lose $25 million or more in endorsement income. I have no sympathy for his loss of endorsement income: Vick was hired to bring Nike and other companies he endorsed good publicity, and instead brought them bad. But think about the income loss in the calculation of overpunishment of Vick. One or two years in federal prison, and perhaps state prison time if state charges are filed as well; plus $25 million in lost endorsement income and, oh, $50 million in lost or returned NFL income. That's overkill! Often the indirect financial consequences of legal proceedings are worse than the official ones, in the same way that a speeding ticket might cost you $75 but add $1,000 to your annual insurance bill.
In effect, the federal indictment of Vick is resulting in him being fined around $75 million, which is far too much retribution. The legal hang-up is that since 1984, federal courts have been forbidden to consider monetary loss in private life as counting toward punishment. But a year of banishment from the NFL, a guilty plea with suspended sentence and probation (meaning the sentence is imposed if probation is violated), seems plenty of punishment for a first offense by someone who has not harmed another human being. Prison time and a $75 million fine? What Vick did was indecent, but now excessive punishment is being imposed, and two wrongs do not equal one right. Justice, after all, must be tempered with mercy. That's what you would think if you stood in the dock accused.
Hypocrisy note: Look who's advertising on a Web page extolling the cruel crossbow killing of animals for sport -- the NFL. Oh, that Michael Vick, he's evil, he's bad. But buy NFL Shop items to wear when you shoot deer with arrows so they slowly bleed to death!
Admittedly I was not aware he actually DID do a 60 Minutes interview, but frankly if this is as heartrending as it gets I'm all the more that he's just saying what he thinks people need to hear to sign off on his paychecks. Two and three word responses to questions where the "correct" answer would have been obvious to a five year old are not convincing to me. I must be a cynical bastard, then.
"Was there any adrenaline rush? Was it the sense of competition? What was it that gripped you about what you engaged in with the dogfighting?" Brown asked.
"Regardless of what it was, don't even matter," Vick replied.
"Do you know what it was?" Brown asked.
"I know why. And regardless of what it was - and why I was driven, you know, by what was going on, whether it was because of the competition or whatever it may have been, it was wrong," Vick said.
"Were any of those reasons, though? The competition? The adrenaline?" Brown asked.
"Yeah," Vick acknowledged.
Asked if he understands why people are outraged, Vick said, "I understand why. And I'm going to say it again. Sickens me to my stomach. And it was same thing that I'm feeling right now."
He told Brown that feeling right now is "pure disgust."
Didn't Donte Stallworth kill a person and is now back playing for Baltimore?
I am still wary of Michael Vick’s character, and I think that giving him little to zero margin of error for any criminal activities is a perfectly fair condition in allowing him to remain in the NFL. I’ll definitely be rooting against Michael Vick. However, I hope to only be rooting against him as I would any other Eagle and that he finds personal redemption off the field.
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