May 31, 2007
If he's found guilty, they should pour fat beef chunks and thick gravy all over his head, they should use his own blood to paint the familiar red No. 7 on his chest and back. They should drop him in the pit without a stitch of padding and without an offensive line.
If he's found guilty, he should be met there by a foaming front seven, each growling, each snarling, ready to rush like, yes, pit bulls at the command of "Blitz!" Or "Jail break!" Or better yet, "Red dog!"
Then we'd see how elusive Michael Vick is in the pocket. Then we'd see how much of a man the Atlanta Falcons quarterback is ...
Nah, we're not really advocating such treatment. It would be inhumane.
We'd be as barbaric as the estimated 20,000 to 40,000 lousy excuses for human beings who currently engage in the "sport" of dog fighting in our country.
Besides, if Vick is charged and found guilty of fighting pit bulls, there should be a much grander atonement in store for him. In addition to potential jail time and a suspension from the NFL - one season sounds good - he should become the face of compassion.
In his brief time as NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell has demonstrated he is not afraid to come down hard on Pacman Jones and Chris Henry. He has a chance to show equal wisdom. If Vick is charged and found guilty, Goodell should make it a stipulation for his return that he do public-service announcements to be aired during NFL telecasts explaining the brutality and illegality of dog fighting.
Yep, Vick could be the cover boy of kindness.
He could become the spokesman for ethical treatment of pit bulls.
Heck, he's already on his way.
Did you see the ESPN "Outside the Lines" segment Sunday on Vick? It was powerful. It was gripping. Some may choose to argue that the unnamed source speaking on camera from the shadows had some sort of agenda when he identified Vick as a "heavyweight" in the dog fighting world, one he saw bet 30, 40 grand during these sick events.
We'll see. Just as we'll see if authorities in Surry County, Va., are able to cobble enough evidence to indict and convict Vick after 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and various equipment associated with dog fighting - pry bar, treadmills, blood-stained carpet, etc. - were found during a raid on his home. Vick, of course, is innocent until proven guilty and he has said family members living on his property have taken advantage of him. He denied knowledge of dog fighting there.
What made the ESPN piece so powerful were dog-fighting videotapes confiscated from other police raids. Man, they were sick. Disgusting. Pit bulls have such powerful jaws, they just lock on. They hang on for minutes on end and some of these matches go on for hours, ending in maiming and death. You couldn't watch it without being repulsed, yet you couldn't watch it without thinking, thank you, Mr. Vick, for bringing to the national spotlight a barbaric practice that has no place in 21st century America.
The videos need to be shown by ESPN, by CNN, by NESN, by YES, by television national and local. They need to be discussed, written about - George Dohrmann of SI.com just did an excellent piece - read from coast to coast. Authorities say dog fighting is on the rise. They say it is an industry that involves hundreds of millions of dollars. The dog-fighting subculture has found a home among a number of professional athletes, particularly in the NFL and NBA.
Athletes are competitive. Athletes are high testosterone. Pit bulls can be seen as a vicious, muscular extension of oneself. The chance to bet on those extensions can be enticing to the young, the strong, the stupid.
In the newspaper business, our standards are supposed to be mature. The truth is, I hate the term "subculture" in this context. It is little more than a code word for lowlifes. Pit bulls, in too many cases, have become an accessory for the macho and gangsta. A four-legged magnum. Rappers like DMX and Jay-Z have glorified dog fighting. Romance in animal cruelty? It's an insult to civilized men and women.
I'm a dog lover. Own dogs. Cherish them. I'm a Lab/retriever guy. Gentle souls. Boundless energy. Play ball. Swim. Unconditional buddies. It's like getting your best friend back from when you were 12.
Pit bulls make me nervous.
"Fighting is horrible for the animals, just inhumane," said Alicia Wright, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Humane Society. "From the standpoint of the public perception of pit bulls, it's also very bad. People will come in, interested in adopting a dog, and if they see a pit bull and only know what they've heard on TV news, they only have half the story.
"Disreputable people will use pit bulls for fighting, but the other side is pit bulls are very smart, very athletic, wonderful family animals. They can make very good pets provided they receive proper training and exercise. These are great dogs."
Pit bulls trained to fight have to be euthanized. They're lost souls. They cannot be re-acclimated. That's tragic. There also are some animal groups that feel pit bulls should not be bred anymore, that the risk to humans is too great. I'll be honest. I don't know enough to draw such an important conclusion. One thing I do know is humans who use them for fighting are scum.
I've spent hours reading about this subject the past week and have come across a number of diversionary arguments. Look, save the tragedy of horse racing argument for another day. Yes, greyhounds are put down. Yes, boxing and Ultimate Fighting can be brutal, even fatal. Auto racing claims lives. But humans choose to be involved. The point of animal racing is not to maim and kill. The point of dog fighting is to maim and kill. And it's done without the animal's permission.
Catching dog fighters evidently isn't easy. They'll hold events in the middle of nowhere on private property. They'll have lookouts. But turning public opinion against this garbage ought to be easy. Anybody who sees it should be - will be - sick. This is the sports page, but dog fighting's no sport. It's barbarism.
And before this is over, we're going to thank Michael Vick for helping us all to see this. Of course, some of his buddies who are afraid he'll sing to authorities to save his skin might not feel the same.
Contact Jeff Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org