The story of Michael Vick seems to bring out the passions of sports fans. For those who love stories of second chances, Vick is a great example – a guy who didn’t play up to his full talent in Atlanta, ran into trouble, but now is playing great and seems to have turned the corner. For those who love dogs or think NFL players (and athletes in general) get too many breaks, Vick is a perfect example: just because he is a possible MVP candidate, Vick gets a free pass for his bad behavior.
The Vick paradox is simple: You can’t look away from the beauty, and you can’t quite forget the brutality. His game is rivetingly kinetic, and now that Vick’s commitment to football is making itself evident, it’s impossible not to wonder how good he can be. Yet his infamous stewardship of the Bad Newz Kennels created a discomfort that has endured longer than the usual distaste for bad actors. On Thursday, Goodell stopped in Philadelphia and, 14 months after he lifted Vick’s playing ban, spoke of the “message” behind Vick’s rebound, the “lessons” to be learned. “We need our kids to see that kind of success story,” Goodell told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “This young man has turned his life around, and he’s going to contribute.” But Vick’s tale is not that tidy, and it’s far from finished.
For some, Vick might never be able to make up for what he did. But if he proves himself to be a winning and successful NFL quarterback, many will look past his transgressions. And along the way, he is likely to get paid handsomely in salary for his efforts.
More broadly, Vick’s situation raises all sorts of sociological issues: should athletes get a second chance? Should anyone who mistreated dogs in the way he did get a second chance? Can jail time rehabilitate people or are they tainted forever? Can Vick become a hero or role model in the future? If Vick can’t be redeemed in the eyes of most Americans, who can?