By Jason Keidel
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The post mortems on the game (and perhaps the season) will be savage. The New York Giants lost a game they had to win and that they had won. The Giants lost the lone game in NFL history decided by a punt return on the final play.
Tom Coughlin melted into a madman because his team is maddening. The historic choke burns a question mark into the season. Are they the team that beat the Bears and Jaguars, that stalks and mauls opposing quarterbacks like a pack of ravenous lions? Or are they the spastic band of brothers that gagged the worst game of their lives yesterday? We won’t know until the season’s over. And we don’t know if the season’s over.
This one is worse than the Joe Pisarcik game in ‘78, because that was a bad team perfecting the bad loss. This team is supposed to do something and did nothing. The collapse was so pronounced, so appalling, that words may not do it justice.
Speaking of justice, Michael Vick squeezes the dementia out of the world. Polarizing to the core, he makes you lurch to an extreme, dig your trench, hop in, and grab your loaded gun, finger glued to the trigger. He commits an unspeakable crime and thus he’s either the antichrist or the emblem of redemption. He’s neither.
His apologists assert he’s the reason the Eagles won. In fact, Vick’s defenders are so deluded that they’d give him the Nobel Peace Prize. My posture has been that he’s done his time and that he’s earned a right to earn a living – just not in the NFL. But here he is, and he seems to understand the blessing behind this second chance. The dialogue is so distorted, however, that abstract has become logic and logic has become abstract.
Vick completed six passes in the first half for 33 yards, was sacked twice, threw an interception, and looked like Bubby Brister. In the second half, he miraculously morphed into John Elway. The real player is somewhere in the middle.
The reality is Vick had a stellar fourth quarter, but you don’t win a game when you’re losing by 21 points with 8 minutes left; the other team loses it. Vick didn’t disastrously punt to DeSean Jackson, and Vick didn’t return the ball 65 yards. Vick didn’t abandon the running game and give the Eagles time to rally; Tom Coughlin did. Vick didn’t surrender 28 points in the final seven minutes; the Giants did. Vick didn’t do all he could to lose a game he had to win; the Giants did. Vick ran for 130 yards Sunday afternoon, but to hear the telling and retelling and mythmaking, he threw for 500 yards and 12 touchdowns.
If folks would just shut up and let Vick do the talking, the playing, the performing, the atoning…some of us just might enjoy his comeback. But you won’t let us.
“It was an absurd display of poise, precision and speed,” was the gas leaking from ESPN.com. “While the Giants powered down, as if mesmerized by the performance, Vick threw for two touchdowns, ran for one, and make like Barry Sanders…”
“The ballot is not due until the first Friday of 2011,” belched the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but I have already filled in the name that foes next to MVP: Michael Vick.”
There’s more, too much more: the buzz, the hyperbolic frenzy that shreds the eardrum. Like all reportage these days, facts interfere with advocacy, Op-Ed page blather bleeding onto the front page.
When have so many superlatives ever been heaped on a player who threw for 242 yards? Winning is the criterion for quarterbacks and, at 10-4, Vick is leading a good team, not a great team. Six other squads have as good or better record than the Eagles.
Vick has thrown for over 2,700 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. It’s a fine season, and it’s not over. But Tom Brady has thrown for over 3,600 yards, with 31 touchdowns and it feels like he hasn’t thrown a pick since ‘78.
Brady has more touchdowns, yards, and wins – all while surrounded by a fraction of the talent flanking Vick. (Can you imagine Brady throwing to Jackson, Maclin, and McCoy?) None of that matters, of course, because he’s not No. 7, not anointed by those who need to be right.
It’s not enough that Vick is having a delightful season, for with his success must come myopic and melodramatic declarations of personal greatness, a deification that smells like defecation. To hear his apologists, Vick also cured cancer, invented a longer-lasting light bulb, and brokered peace in the Middle East. Frankly, it’s nauseating. And, for the first time in his professional life, it’s not his fault.
It is this kind of worship that makes it nearly impossible to root for him. After I finally powered off my personal telestrator – the replays of electrocuting, choking, and drowning dogs – I’m ready to move on.
Growing into a better player doesn’t make you a better man. But there’s a part of us that wants the latter more than the former. We can’t change the past, and maybe this man is poised to perfect his present and perhaps his future. For the first time, I want to root for Michael Vick. But you won’t let me.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com