More Michael Vick: At long last, have you no decency?

December 23, 2009 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

I admit it.  Before I click on my browser’s bookmark for Pet Connection each day, I click on  I’ve been a sports nut longer than I’ve been pretty much anything else.  This morning, a sports headline nearly knocked me out of my chair.   Michael Vick has been voted the Philadelphia Eagles’ recipient of the 2009 Block Courage Award.

ed_block_photoThe Block Award is named after Ed Block, who was a well-known humanitarian and former head athletic trainer of the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts.    Quoting from their own website:

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of neglected children and ending the cycle of abuse.  The purpose is to raise Awareness and Prevention of child abuse.  That objective is coupled with the Foundation’s commitment to celebrating players of inspiration in the NFL.

This is, basically, the NFL’s lower-profile version of baseball’s Clemente Award, named for Roberto Clemente, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates until he was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering relief supplies to victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake.  The Block Award exists to recognize and celebrate notable good works off the field more than on-field performance.  Even more importantly, you should know it’s voted on by each team’s players, not front office, fans or media.

This means Vick’s teammates decided he was such a good guy, such a role model for his public works on behalf of others, that he deserved to be lauded as their own community role model.   Going back to the mission of the Block Award “…dedicated to improving the lives of neglected children and ending the cycle of abuse.  The purpose is to raise Awareness and Prevention of child abuse.” Abused children and abused dogs have a lot in common.  Neither are able to defend themselves against marauding people bent on causing them harm, and neither deserve the horrors visited upon them.   The Block Courage Award is dedicated to ending the cycle of such abuse.  Michael Vick perpetuated, and indeed encouraged the abuse, going so far as to slaughter dogs himself, according to eyewitness reports (from his own former employees).

In the past year since he was released from prison and reinstated by the NFL, I’ve lost count of how many interviews I’ve read and seen from players, his colleagues, who have said substantially  “Look, the guy was punished for his crimes.  He did his time.  He gets to resume his life now, so back off, leave him alone, and let the man earn a living.”

He isn’t a star, and in fact Vick’s only played an ancillary role in the Eagle offense this year.  I don’t like his presence in the NFL, but that’s not my call.  Now, though, he’s lauded by his teammates as a role model?  How have we gotten to the point where we not only celebrate poor behavior (i.e. the movie “Mean Girls,” the ongoing fascination with stories such as Jon vs. Kate and balloon boy, etc.) but now the convicted felons receive prestigious awards? 

Fine, he’s earning a living.   But calling him a “player of inspiration” is beyond the pale.   The memories of the dogs in whose slaughter he assisted are again insulted.  The award, and the other 31 (more worthy) 2009 NFL recipients are also duly insulted.  Vick shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Mike Furrey of the Cleveland Browns, who truly is a good citizen, or Shawntae Spencer of the San Francisco 49ers, who returned from a devastating knee injury in 2008 to become a team leader and star.

Vick has done nothing laudable, courageous or even exemplary.  He’s a convicted felon whose crimes are often minimized by some as “just a part of his upbringing in a tough neighborhood.”   Instead of a cautionary tale, today I can imagine kids in Vick’s hometown of Newport News, Va.,  saying to themselves “Hey, no matter what we do wrong, no matter how much trouble we get into, we can still play in the NFL, and our teammates will say we’re OK.”

To Vick’s teammates on the Eagles who voted for him, all I can do is quote Joseph Welch in front of the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.  “Have you no sense of decency sir[s], at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”…

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