Michael Vick and All of Us

by francine Hardaway on August 25, 2007

I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about Michael Vick and his woes. I live with two dogs that I love. I don’t watch football. I’m not black, and I don’t gamble. And yet I feel as if I want to defend this young man whose life we, as a society, have ruined. He didn’t ruin it. We did.

Michael Vick is 27 years old. That’s younger than my own children, and the same age as my adult foster kids. From experience parenting, step-parenting, and foster parenting, I can tell you that he is not fully an adult. He probably still has that powerful sense of feeling immortal common to teen-age boys. Moreover, he was “discovered” when he was much younger. Who knows what kind of coaching he was given. What kind of steroids. What kind of advice. Probably he was recruited and treated like a piece of meat. Trained to be aggressive. Trained to have an “I can get this done” attitude. At school, probably given the football hero’s pass on his studies. Probably never took philosophy or morality.

His brain? Partially still that of an adolescent. Until he’s at least 30.

Now he’s in the NFL. He is paid big bucks to appear once a week. He’s a role model. He’s endorsed by Nike. (I’m guessing here) He has some friends and relatives he wants to hang and chill with. They are left over from his “old” life before he was a public figure. He likes them. They do drugs and kill animals.

No one has ever told him it was “wrong” to kill an animal. He lives in a rural part of the country. People kill deer, and shoot ducks. Dick Cheney, the Vice President, goes hunting and shoots a guy in the face. Dog? Deer? Duck? Dick?

Quite frankly, I can’t even spend time imaging how those dogs felt before they were executed. Probably like the greyhounds used to feel when they were killed after they couldn’t race. I have a strong empathy for dogs. Their entire lives consist of trying to figure out what the master wants and giving it to him.

But my empathy for people is even greater. We changed the rules on Michael Vick without telling him.
“Oh,” we say, “you can make money playing in a game where people charge into each other, knock each other to the ground, and leave each other battered and bruised once a week. This game is so violent that long-time players often find they have neurological deficits from repeated concussions. They walk off the gridiron with arthritis, too. We admire you for being willing to bang up your body and those of other humans.”

We think you are a man if you kill CERTAIN kinds of animals. But in the unwritten, hypocritical moral sphere that is contemporary America, you will go to prison for killing dogs. We are Americans. We can kill Iraqis and even other Americans. Slaughter cows, pigs, and chickens. But Fluppy the Puppy? Let’s overcrowd the prisons more with you.

Will you learn why what you did was wrong in prison? Will someone sort out the ambiguities and paradoxes of morality with you? Can you spell hypocrisy?

You poor child. You must feel now like the dogs you executed. If you only KNEW what we wanted, you would have tried harder to please us.

If I had been your mother, you would have never stepped on a football field and set in motion this chain of events. Period.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim August 27, 2007 at 7:21 pm

Hunting Deer and Killing dogs are two different things. It is sad that hunting has to be brought into this.

Marshall Kirkpatrick August 31, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Criticisms of the often graceful sport of football aside, this post totally changed my perspective on this case. Admittedly I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought, but this is very well written and much appreciated by this reader.

francine August 31, 2007 at 7:53 pm

I’m honored, Marshall. Thanks.

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