By Jason Keidel
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It’s hard to fathom the frothing resistance over Michael Vick. To hear the more jaded Jets fans talk about it, you’d think they just signed George Blanda or Charles Manson. He’s either washed up or worn out his welcome.
Some of you think there’s nothing left in his formerly electric limbs, and that your desire to see him in any other uniform is based entirely on his athletic prowess.
Some of you can’t shake his shaky past. Since the former can only be measured in a few months, on the gridiron, we can only look at his past, which still has millions of Americans divided.
You can’t take the PETA people seriously. They sent President Barack Obama a packet for catching flies when he swatted one down during an interview in the Oval Office. PETA believes in catch-and-release in all endeavors, even for houseflies.
So the fringe folks, the political crusaders, obscure their own messages with their own fanaticism. So when they call for Vick’s professional head over his gruesome crimes, you consider the source.
But it is entirely fair for people to say they don’t forgive or forget. A caller argued the issue with Mike Francesa on Tuesday. Mike’s take was that since Vick paid his penance, he was merely a matter of football, and should be considered only in athletic terms. The caller disagreed, saying there are some things that don’t vanish, and that he, the caller, was still haunted by the crimes.
Neither man is wrong, of course. The problem is, like with most toxic topics, the loudest voice often hijacks the issue. You can like the man, hate the man, forgive the man, or forget the man. You can measure him by normal football metrics, or you can consider the baggage he brings, or you can say his baggage was dropped the moment he peeled off his prison uniform.
And just as the PETA people are quickly dismissed as neurotic hippies with nothing better to do, the “Oh, they’re just dogs!” people are equally shameful. Vick did hideous things to animals. He choked, drowned, and electrocuted helpless dogs simply because they didn’t want to fight other dogs or didn’t do it well enough.
I spent many a column on his crimes, and, frankly, I considered myself the last person to forgive or forget Vick. Any man who could not only commit but even consider that kind of cruelty to another living creature has an evil streak that can’t be erased. This wasn’t a matter of a hit-and-run, drunk driving, or a misguided synapse. And I considered his initial contrition to be contrived, every mea culpa scripted by a lawyer, publicist, or consiglieri.
But it’s been years since his imprisonment, and the remorse feels sincere. When Riley Cooper went racially nuclear on video, Vick could have justifiably kicked Cooper to the curb, driven a wedge into an already fractured locker room. Instead, he became a spiritual balm on the wound, which was vital to Philadelphia’s surprising season. No way they make the playoffs without Vick’s team-first ethos.
Then Vick lost his job to Nick Foles. It was another opportunity for a selfish star to flex his feathers, fly the coop, and leave his droppings all over a conflicted team that already pledged its allegiance to Vick.
He could have been bitter that the new, hot-shot college coach, who hadn’t won anything in the NFL, telling them to embrace a QB who hadn’t won anything in the NFL.
Instead, Vick embraced the fledgling Foles, shared whatever knowledge was needed at the time, and spoke entirely in selfless platitudes about patience and winning, going all Spock on how the needs of the many trump the needs of the one.
Is Vick tricking us? Is this all some sublime acting performance meant to cloak his more nefarious mores? Maybe. But it’s just hard to buy the new Vick as the old Vick with a few superficial tweaks. It’s hard to recall someone fooling us this well for this long.
So he has convinced yours truly, who’s truly a dog worshiper, that he is a new man. Or at least new enough to earn some forgiveness, if not some forgetfulness. The Jets could use a dose of honest, earnest redemption. And no one is searching harder than Vick.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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