By Jason Keidel
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Some of you are appalled by the applause Lawrence Taylor recently received at the Meadowlands, recalling his recent interlude with Johnny Law.
I respect your opinion – as long as you’re not wearing a Michael Vick jersey when you express it.
This LT uproar forces us into the realm of relativism, which is always tricky, prickly, and perilous. Vick is now hailed as heroic because, well, I don’t know why. The man slaughtered a civilization of dogs just for kicks.
Many of Vick’s apologists say those of us who are less understanding of Vick’s actions don’t understand the cultural mandate that spawns such behavior. What culture is that? Men with $100 million contracts to play football? Men whose jerseys sell more than any other? This idea that urban life or any ghetto forces men to train pit bulls to kill each other is obscene.
It’s impossible to defend Taylor’s conduct since he retired, but before the latest scandal, Taylor hurt largely himself. He had intercourse with an underage prostitute who (according to Taylor) told him she was 19. Now Taylor must register as a low-risk sex offender. There is a difference between a fool and felon, though the former football great is closing the gap every year.
But when did Taylor become Charles Manson? The people applauding Taylor Monday night weren’t lauding the man as currently constituted or signing off on his rap sheet. My guess is they tipped their caps to better times, to the immortal player before he became painfully mortal.
We all agree that rape is a wretched crime, but Taylor was never charged with it. And if I must choose between a man who made a drunken faux pas with a young woman who was younger than she let on and a man who willfully choked, drowned, and electrocuted hundreds of dogs? You got it. And it’s agonizing to see the thousands of No. 7 jerseys hopping up and down like piano keys every time Vick makes a good play. Apparently, that’s all right, but clapping during Taylor’s cameo Monday night is unacceptable.
I clap even harder for Cris Collinsworth. During Sunday night’s Eagles-Falcons game, Al Michaels made the assertion that there are some who won’t ever forgive Vick for his crimes. Collinsworth said, “Well, let’s be honest, what he did was pretty horrendous.” I can’t believe he had the stones to say it. Collinsworth’s candor made me applaud with more fervor, made me stomp and light a match and howl harder than any play I will see this year short of my beloved black & gold winning the Super Bowl. And if you’re a member of the “They’re just dogs” camp, please turn this page.
We can go on and on with this, from Leonard Little to Donte Stallworth: two men who spent a combined four months in jail for killing people with their vehicles while intoxicated. The NFL, which prides itself on its prerogative as America’s game, its shield doubling as the emblem of dignity, has an odd filter when admitting men into its sport.
Sorry if it sounds like I’m calling Taylor a solid citizen. He’s not. But let’s not be so selective in which rotten eggs we root for. Is a man pardoned in public opinion simply because he can still play? If LT were still active would you be so quick to criticize? If Vick lost any part of his arsenal of athletic genius, would you still love him?
What’s acceptable and what isn’t? Well, that’s up to you. But please consider the cluster of convicts who have whisked through the turnstiles of your favorite franchise. You’ll find people worse than Lawrence Taylor, and more accomplished criminals – like Mike Vick.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
What do you make of the LT hubbub? Do you agree with Keidel’s stance on Vick? Be heard in the comments below…