When news broke that Michael Vick would serve the last two months of his 18-month prison term in his Virginia home for bankrolling a dog fighting ring, much of the nation was given a slap to the face to waken them to the most covered sports story of 2007.
Vick’s 2009 story should be about redemption and forgiveness, even if it isn’t fair to the dogs who suffered so much under Vick’s watch.
Nonetheless, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has renewed its 2009 campaign to label Vick as the Antichrist, and every dog lover in the country is filled with mixed feelings on justice, retribution and second chances. The average Joe looks at Vick and then to his beloved mutt Sparky with feelings of animosity and rage.
But then SportsCenter shifts to Vick’s possible NFL reinstatement and suddenly, Joe thinks Vick deserves a second chance while avoiding the piercing stare of his wife Jane.
When Vick receives his conditional NFL reinstatement, Sparky is kicked to the curb by Joe while Jane is making the grocery list for a Sunday get-together for the big game.
Now the city of brotherly love is welcoming Vick as its newest Eagle. The franchise is banking on Vick’s big-play abilities to make the dog lovers of Philadelphia love the hometown birds just a little bit more than Sparky the mutt.
If we can all agree that human life is valued over animals, then we as the public have forgiven far lesser professional talents in the past.
Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth served 24 days of a 30-day jail sentence after being charged with DUI and second-degree manslaughter. On Aug. 13, 2009, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated that Stallworth could be reinstated after Super Bowl XLIV in February.
If you feel outraged about Vick’s reinstatement, put yourself in the shoes of Mario Reyes’ family. Reyes, 59, was the Cuban immigrant Stallworth struck while driving with a blood alcohol level far over the legal limit. Reyes was crossing a causeway to get to the bus stop after clocking out of his overnight crane operating job, but Stallworth served only 24 days in jail because Reyes crossed the Miami, FL causeway just ahead of the designated cross walk.
Forget the dogs. Vick didn’t kill a single husband or father who couldn’t afford a car to get to his nighttime crane job to support his family. Can PETA please stand up and tell the Reyes family how 24 days in jail is justice? We seem to be far less outraged over Reyes’ death, mainly because the public doesn’t have a soft spot for working-class Cuban immigrants like it does for man’s best friend.
The public must stick by its own hypocritical standards. Vick did his allotted time for the crime many thought unimaginably heinous and claimed he cried in prison because of the guilt he felt for the dogs he killed, but more likely for the endorsements he lost.
Vick has received his second chance. Time will tell if he can still be a positive influence on and off the field. The charity work he is required to do with organizations such as the Humane Society, coupled with the $6.8 million Vick could earn if the Eagles pick up his second-year option (coupled with his first year earnings), means that Vick may save the lives of more dogs through charity work than he actually took away through dog fighting.
Nonetheless, it isn’t fair. But if you haven’t figured out that most things in life aren’t, let this be your slap in the face and wake up.
Ryne Sulier is a junior news-editorial journalism and political science major from Plano.