By Jeff Schultz | Monday, August 20, 2007, 08:35 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
He owned a team. He owned a city. He owned a league.
He spit on all of it. Everything and everyone.
This isnâ€™t a time for apologies, unless your name is Michael Vick. No excuses, no alibis. This didnâ€™t happen because of bad friends today or a bad family situation as a youth or the pursuit of some ravenous and misdirected and racist media.
An icon has just lost his freedom and possibly his career, and itâ€™s not because Michael Vick is a great guy who made one bad decision. He is flawed. Not a little, but deeply.
People of great character make bad decisions and rebound. They donâ€™t fund and operate an illegal operation whose primary functions are to fight and kill dogs. They donâ€™t go through life always deflecting blame on friends or family. They grow up. Michael Vick never grew up. He probably never felt he had to.
He is as wonderful an athlete as weâ€™ve ever seen. But he was flawed on the field, the residual of poor work habits and laziness. He got away with it because coaches and surrounding yes-men let him, and all the money in the world apparently couldnâ€™t buy him a decent mirror.
He owned this town with his smile. But he was flawed off the field. So many people have said Vick is not a bad guy, but they miss the point. Somebody doesnâ€™t have to be a bad guy to do awful things. When somebody in a position of power is immature, arrogant and just plain stupid, itâ€™s a lethal combination.
He lied. Easy and often.
He lied to the owner of the franchise who gave him a $130 million contract and the platform to earn millions more. He lied to the commissioner of the most powerful sports empire on earth. He lied to you, the people who defended him and adored him and bought his jerseys.
He lied, probably because it worked before and he saw no reason to change. He thought he could skate. Why wouldnâ€™t he? It happened after the water bottle incident in Miami, which devolved into a great tap dance by Vick and the Falcons organization. Rather than show appreciation to authorities and accept that he got away lucky, Vick suggested the police tried to frame him. That didnâ€™t go over well in Miami or Flowery Branch.
He flipped off a crowd but figured people would forgive him quickly. Many didnâ€™t. He allegedly transmitted an STD to a woman, but he and his attorney didnâ€™t move quickly to bury the matter and settle the case, probably because he figured she would disappear. She didnâ€™t. The result was talk-show lampooning and what some in the Falconsâ€™ front office viewed as a permanent defect.
He lied about missing flights for testimony before Congress, incorrectly thinking that his endorsement company (AirTran) wouldnâ€™t throw him under the plane. Oops.
Nike. How do you become so tarnished that you lose Nike?
Vick seldom took the blame when things went wrong. But it was so easy to blame coaches, wasnâ€™t it? Dan Reeves. Jim Mora. Greg Knapp. Do you feel for them a little more today?
Such a wonder as an athlete.
Such a catastrophe as a leader.
So many people have wanted to make this about race and not the individual. ESPN recently explored Atlantaâ€™s racial divide on this and several issues, dating to the Civil Rights era. But in doing so, its Web site juxtaposed photos of Vick with the likes of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Ralph David Abernathy, as if they were somehow equals, either in morals or objectives.
Michael Vick and Martin Luther King â€” are you kidding?
â€œNot guilty,â€ Vick said three weeks ago.
â€œI have a dream,â€ King said, a week short of 44 years ago, â€œthat my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.â€
This isnâ€™t the case of a person with great character jumping the track with one bad decision. A six-year operation does not constitute one bad decision. So many other incidents donâ€™t constitute one bad decision. Betraying those who trusted you, particularly owner Arthur Blank, does not constitute one bad decision.
Weâ€™ve seen great athletes throw away careers before. Drugs, spousal abuse, a general attitude of feeling above the law. Weâ€™ve never seen somebody blow so much over something so dumb. But all are symptoms of the same thing â€” serious defects.
Judge Michael Vick by the content of his character. And what he just spit on.
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey