Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Next Time You Watch A Pro Football Game, Remember This Face.... Tuesday Journal

We notice the scars...but mostly the eyes, haunted by a cruelty he cannot comprehend...dark, hollow eyes, the light gone... resigned, asking, "why?"

For some reason the story passed  below my radar.  It was December 23, and attentions were focused on other activities, the holiday frenzy.

On that date, National Football League teams each named one player to receive the Ed Block Courage Award.  Ed Block, a long-time athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts and a well-respected humanitarian, established the Ed Block Foundation, dedicated to the awareness and prevention of child abuse:

"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."

And on December 23, the Philadelphia Eagles cast their vote to hand the award, reportedly by unanimous decision, to Michael Vick.

Vick's long and sordid story of animal neglect and abuse, and his conviction for conspiracy to organize a dog-fighting operation from his home in Virginia, intensified my outrage at his receiving this particular recognition.  It served to whitewash his reputation and dilute his cruel behavior.

When I regained calm, I told myself to be rational. 

I told myself that everyone needs a chance to atone, to be given another chance to overcome past mistakes.  Then I realized that he had been given this chance, in a big way, when the NFL reinstated him.  Anyone else convicted of the same charge would have a much less glamorous and lucrative road to redemption.

I told myself that the players who voted for him knew more about him and his challenges and tribulations than I did, and that maybe he was remorseful.  Then I read his statement after winning the award, sounding every bit as though he felt he deserved it. As I read it, I thought about the animal on top of this page:

"I've had to overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can bear," Vick said. "Take a look at what I've been through. You ask certain people to walk in my shoes, they probably couldn't do it. Probably 95 percent of the people in this world -- because nobody had to endure what I've been through, situations I've been put in, situations I've placed myself in, decisions that I've made -- whether they were good or bad."

I told myself that it was an industry award, voted by the team, and in the long run, it had no significance;  that the team may award any member as it sees fit.  Then I realized that the honor was incongruent with what Vick perpetrated.  I realized that, had Vick done to children what he did to helpless animals, the award would have been loudly decried.  It told me that the culture of professional football, amid its high-tech trappings and pretensions to American values and respectability, only pays lip service to these ideals; for without respect and care for the creatures in our midst, we have not achieved respectability, and don't deserve to be called civilized.

I looked again into the eyes of the poor dog above, and  I could tell myself nothing more.  I could have posted more gruesome would have been can find them...not that you'd want to.

If you want to express your displeasure, sign a letter here:   I did!

Playoffs and bowl games are coming up, and I think it will be somewhat lonely to choose not to be a part of that.  One guy refusing to watch NFL, or be exposed to their sponsors, will not cause the collapse of professional football.  Yet I will make my quiet statement, and (as Ghandi wisely taught)  I will be the change I would like to see in the world.

Next week: my first Saturday at the Animal Shelter.


  1. I'd argue that all professional sports are incongruent with civilized ideals in some way or another. Look at Gilbert Arenas in the NBA, Roger Clemens in baseball, Tiger Woods in golf, etc. The real problem is the lack of serious punishment with offenders. Vick was welcomed back with open arms after his slap-on-the-wrist sentence. How many second chances did Pacman Jones get? And how much you want to be he'll be reinstated in the NFL next season?

    No, what owners and fans should do is just pretend these people no longer exist once they commit such a crime. Because I think these thugs crave the spotlight, no matter how negative. Fading away out of sight out of mind into insignificance is a harsher punishment than any amount of hate mail or angry editorials.

  2. As Bill so eloquently put it, it's of no consequence to the teams what their players do off the field. They are not interested in winning a popularity contest, after all. They want to go to the Superbowl. So they will always turn a blind eye to crimes like Vick perpetrated, or worse, if they think it will improve their chances to win.

    As for Vick, he's total scum. I think the only way he was even eligible to win the Ed Block Courage Award is because his handlers forced him to donate large sums of money to the cause. Was it strictly an altruistic gesture? Or were his PR people more concerned with improving his image so he could have a better opportunity to get his hands on some of the lucrative endorsement money being passed around? His statement, where he makes eight references to himself and none about the cause he was the recipient of the award for, pretty much says it all.

    Great post, Tom!

  3. Most of these over paid players are never what they appear, nor worth it. He did his time but did he learn anything? Seems not.

  4. Thanks everyone for paying attention to this story!