Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday, 7/18/07's main point: Is Vick now the football version of Bonds?


As sad as it is to say this, Michael Vick isn't the only one.

Vick's not the only NFL player who has been involved with the grotesque, inhumane, sickening practice of pitting dogs against each other in a concealed area until one rips the other's head off.

I don't have proof. I can't name names. But I know there are others. All you have to do is listen to what Washington running back Clinton Portis said a while back about the ongoing investigation of Vick: "I know a lot of back roads that have the dog fighting if you want to go see it."

Portis isn't lying, folks. This stuff goes on frequently — especially in the South — and I'm sure Vick isn't the only NFL player (or other professional athlete, for that matter) involved.

He is, however, the only player who has been indicted, and his name makes this case huge.

Which reminds me of an investigation that is ongoing in another sport. Um, does the name "Barry Bonds" and the word "steroids" ring a bell?

Just as the federal government is determined to nail Bonds for what we all know he did — cheated — it is dedicated to convicting Vick for his participation in a dogfighting ring.

The evidence isn't quite as transparent in Vick's case. A book hasn't been written with loads of evidence against him. His dogfighting trainer isn't locked up in a Surry County jail, refusing to talk about his loyal companion. But it has become quite conspicuous that Vick played some role — whether it was running the ring, or simply betting on the fights — that should land him in a dirty jail cell and abruptly end his NFL career.

That's where the similarities stop. Bonds is a free man, hitting home runs, making millions, on the verge of history. Right now it appears unlikely that he'll get indicted for taking steroids, and I'm sure the thought of spending time in the ringer hasn't even entered his super-sized head. He's got it much better than Vick.

What's interesting is that the man in the most trouble — Vick — has been loved by NFL fans for most of his six-year career. His dazzling runs and cannon of a arm made football exciting in Atlanta and filled the Georgia Dome on Sundays. He became a favorite player for video gamers — Falcons' fans or not — and he was featured on the cover of Madden 2004. For his play (and the positive publicity he brought to Atlanta), he was awarded an NFL-record 10-year, $130 million contract in December of '04.

Only recent mediocre play, a couple other off-the-field incidents (the double-birdie to Falcons' fans, the special water bottle), and this current case have tarnished Vick's reputation as one of the most exciting and popular players in the NFL. Despite the federal indictment of Vick Tuesday, Nike still hasn't ended its sponsorship of the quarterback, instead reviewing the new information.

Basically, Vick really had to mess up to ruin his situation, and despite his irreconcilable mistakes, Nike — I guess — still believes he's a decent person to represent the company, which — I guess again — doesn't sell dog collars.

Bonds, on the other hand, has been hated by baseball fans for several years for his unruly attitude and now, of course, the overwhelming evidence that he took steroids. He couldn't land a Nike contract if he threatened the company with Greg Anderson. Unless he hits No. 756 at home, he'll be booed mercifully.

Baseball fans know that Bonds is just one in a first baseman's glove-full of steroid users in MLB, but they don't boo the other guys. Jason Giambi, the contrite one, is cheered at Yankee Stadium and treated indifferently in other ballparks. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who has lost several pounds in the past few years, is beloved in Detroit and was voted the starting All-Star catcher for the American League despite not having the best numbers.

The only player fans, the media and the government — it appears — want to indict, want to lock away, is Bonds, the man who could steal Hank Aaron's record, the man who will never apologize for anything.

And then there's Vick. This indictment is great news. I cannot wait for Vick to be banned from the NFL — the right move for commissioner Roger Goodell — convicted, and then sent to jail. As a dog lover who recently lost my beloved dog to cancer, it sickens me to think of grown men transforming innocuous animals into violent creatures that kill each other.

Vick should get no leniency in this case.

But let's not be too ignorant to realize that Vick's not the only NFL player — just as Bonds wasn't baseball's only steroid user — who has witnessed a brutal dogfight. The NFL and the legal system needs to send a strong message with this case that anyone who so much as knows about dogfighting will be strongly disciplined.

Maybe the NFL should amend its meetings that it holds with players about personal conduct to include a section on treating animals kindly. Whatever it does, it shouldn't view this case as isolated.

Michael Vick, I'm sure, is simply the bass in a pond swarming with fish when it comes to dogfighting.


Tyler Hampton said...

I completely agree. I have a very passionate love for dogs (I'm sorry to hear about Copp, I just found out in this blog.) and I really think that anyone who could do such a horrible thing to animals who have so much unconditional love should definitely be put behind bars. I hope that Michael Vick ends up in a cell and that he never plays in the NFL again.

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