It’s the season of forgiveness, and I sincerely wish I could follow the example of President Obama. But I just can’t do it.
Yes, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has served time for the horrifying crime of running an illegal dog-fighting ring. Yes, he said he was sorry. And yes, he truly is a stellar quarterback, and everyone--even Vick--deserves a second chance. But I watch him on the field, and while I can appreciate the athletic talent, I just can’t root for him.
It’s unfair to expect anyone in sports or entertainment to be some sort of moral role model for the rest of us. They’re there to display artistic or athletic excellence, and their personal foibles are generally no one’s business. I was more offended by Tiger Woods’ apology to the public for his extramarital affairs than I was for the affairs themselves. He owes his wife an apology, but it’s a little self-centered to imagine that we all look to him as an example of how to live our private lives. (In addition, I don’t even see Woods as an athlete, since I don’t think of golf as a sport. It’s a game. It’s a difficult game, and one Woods is extraordinarily skilled at playing, but I don’t take it as seriously as I do sports that require the players to run and throw and stay on skates while flipping a freezing puck into a net.)
Vick’s case was different, since it involved an illegal act and the very disturbing behavior of torturing animals, a practice child psychologists use as a marker to identify future violent criminals. Presumably, Vick has cleaned up his act, and Obama--who called Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to tell him, among other things, that giving Vick a second chance was the right thing to do--was correct. But I hope the league draws the line at giving Vick the MVP honor. First, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has displayed both consistently good play and good behavior. Not only doesn’t he torture animals, but he doesn’t trash-talk. Even before the low-ranked AFC East rival Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Brady gamely noted that his team can’t take the Bills for granted, and that Buffalo has some players that can surprise even a team as terrific as the Pats. Bills fans (such as myself) appreciated the comments even more because we know it’s a load of garbage, proven by the Patriots’ 34-3 win over Buffalo. Brady has character to supplement the football performance. Vick is still working on it.