By Jason Keidel
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Mitch Albom had the guts to say it. During last Sunday’s episode of “The Sports Reporters” – the lone show worth watching on ESPN – Albom made an astonishing assertion, diving headfirst against the tide of political correctness.

Albom said you can root for the Eagles to do well and, by extension, you can root for Michael Vick the player without rooting for Michael Vick the person.

A shame Mitch said it on the most politically correct network on the planet. ESPN, along with Vick’s apologists, have sprung like weeds while Vick beat juggernauts like the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars. After two weeks Vick was a hybrid of John Unitas and Superman.

Other networks guzzled the Kool-Aid as they dove into the shameless euphemisms. Vick was “quite a story” of “redemption” after “all he’d been through” and his “reckless past.”

Let’s be clear. Showing up late for work is reckless. Having a few extra beers and a headache in the morning is reckless. Waking up with the hangover and a woman you met eight hours ago is reckless.

Slaughtering a city of dogs is grotesque and felonious. If the U.S. Attorney can send swat teams to your house, you’ve graduated from “reckless.”

Too many people carry Vick’s water (among other items I can’t mention) under the banner of redemption. Too often they confuse the right to earn a living with the privilege of stardom. Vick can work on a construction site, as you have, or drive a tractor-trailer, as I have. The notion that Vick is assured a spot in the NFL is laughable.

I can hear your fingers pounding the keyboard right now. Before my inbox pops with invectives and senseless accusations, perhaps I can address your questions now.

Why don’t you get on Big Ben?

I did. I implored my beloved Steelers to cut him. Give me Charlie Batch and a noble nine wins anytime.

Why don’t you get on Roger Clemens?

I did. I called him an idiot, which he was (and still is). And he’s a perjurer. Perhaps he too will join Vick as muscular models of the orange jumpsuit.


Indeed. I said I didn’t believe a word he said about his dalliance with HGH. Why do it twice when you can get nice on everything?

I also defended Reggie Bush and Plaxico Burress. Frankly, Bush should have gotten the money directly from the Pac-10, which surely made millions from him. And Burress was sufficiently punished without Mayor Bloomberg’s fatwa on celebrities with weapons.

An athletic nimbus surrounded Vick, who ran past world-class athletes as though they were knee-deep in mud. And he could casually toss a ball 70 yards. He was a savant who left you breathless because he made the impossible so simple. Michael Vick reminds us that we can be brilliant at one thing and terrible at everything else.

Vick’s recent injury wasn’t karma. Two large men crunched him near the goal line – a place only he would have found after dancing through a secondary that would have stomped any other player.

He can speak at all the community centers he likes, yet Vick won’t explain why there was a shooting at his 30th birthday party this summer in Virginia. Vick wasn’t implicated in the crime, but you wonder where all the newfound wisdom went when he decided to have his party in a bar and allow anyone with $50 (the admission price) to enter. According to The Associated Press, Vick’s attorney Larry Woodward said the victim of the shooting was Quanis Phillips – a co-defendant in Vick’s dog-fighting case.

No doubt Vick paid dearly for his crimes, but the comeback can’t be whole until he is whole. Redemption will come in a place we won’t see because it isn’t measured by yardage. Perhaps Vick has changed. But we won’t know that until he retires, until his moves are no longer framed by sideline photographers.

Until then, forgive some of us for waiting.

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