By Tim Kawakami
Tuesday, August 21st, 2007 at 10:40 am in NFL.
Other people have said many thoughtful and righteous things about Michael Vickâ€™s plummet and plead-out yesterday, and thereâ€™s not much need for anything else.
I donâ€™t want to debate the â€œsub-cultureâ€ of dog-fighting among Southern males (FYI: Iâ€™m only mentioning Southern males because thatâ€™s what I hear and read), though I think itâ€™s an interesting conversationâ€“dog-fighting is illegal, Vick knew that, and the feds apparently have proof that he funded and ran the endeavor.
I donâ€™t want to debate the sub-culture of those who would do anything to excuse many of Vickâ€™s actions, though I think thatâ€™s a worthy debate, tooâ€“Harry Edwards, youâ€™re a smart man with an important voice and youâ€™re quoted often in this paper and thousands of others, but could you stop kissing up to famous athletes just once in your life?
I donâ€™t want to debate Nikeâ€™s role or Reebokâ€™s role or Arthur Blankâ€™s role or the NFLâ€™s role or ESPNâ€™s role, though, again, canvassing Vickâ€™s ennablers would be a fascinating process.
But there is one little telling point that sticks in my mind, even now, a day after Vickâ€™s lawyer announced he was accepting the plea deal, which all but assures jailtime for the former NFL superstar:
* Vick met with Commissioner Roger Goodell a few days after the house in Virginia was raided, and, if the NFL statement is correct, told Goodell that he was not involved in any dog-fighting.
* I repeat: Days after the feds gathered proof of, at the least, dog cruelty, on property Vick owned, Vick went to the NFL chief and, for lack of a better approximation, lied about it, apparently.
Now, lying to the NFL commissioner wonâ€™t get you put into jail. Vickâ€™s other actions have taken care of that punishment.
And Iâ€™m sure many other people, from coaches to owners to other players, have lied to commissioners of many leagues over many decades.
The commissioner is not a judge and Vick wasnâ€™t swearing on a bible and there are no constitutional violations in fibbing on Park Ave.
Things were not looking good for Vick by the time he met with Goodell. Vick didnâ€™t know his co-defendants were going to cut deals at that time, but he had to know the evidence was not looking good and that the feds donâ€™t barrell into a case without heavy intention to take it all the way.
He had to know that it was time to come clean, at least in some minimal way. He had to take some responsibility. Here we get to one of the great Vick Failings: He got fame, adulation, $130M, powerâ€¦ and he never wanted to accept responsibility for his actions or his failures.
Ask the coaches who were fired in Atlanta. Ask his teammates. Ask Vick himself, all the way to that fateful meeting with the commissioner.
Apparently, Vick was asked directly about dog fighting, and apparently, he said he wasnâ€™t involved. (Not: Itâ€™s a sub-culture. Not: You have to understand that I grew up with this. Not: Ask Harry Edwards, he understands! These wouldnâ€™t have been great explanations, but wouldâ€™ve been a start.)
The commissioner has to be thinking:
1) If Vick lied to me about this, what else is he lying about?
2) Vick had one last chance at explainingâ€“really explainingâ€“what was happening here. If he lied to me, it must mean he had no explanation, which means he was deeply involved.
3) If Vick ever had a chance at slight leniency when it comes time for the NFL to hand out punishment, itâ€™s gone now.
4) What kind of judgment is this guy using? Zero. Itâ€™s obvious from his involvement in the dog-fighting (again, not just as a participant, but apparently as the organizerâ€“thatâ€™s the titantic difference) and itâ€™s vividly obvious in his decision to, DAYS AFTER THE RAID, lie to the NFL about it.
5) Heâ€™s at the mercy of the NFL. The NFL will show no mercy.
Itâ€™s trivial to compare this situation to any football-field situation, but Iâ€™m going to do it anyway.
Does this help inform us about Vickâ€™s decision-making at QB? You need to know your options, select quickly and wisely, and respect the framework of whatâ€™s possible.
Thatâ€™s also the role of a superstarâ€“you need to understand your team, your teammates, your owner, your coach and your own role.
I donâ€™t think Vick ever understood those things once he left Virginia Tech. He certainly didnâ€™t understand them last April.
Nobody should weep about the cessation of Vickâ€™s NFL career (which might be re-started in two or three years, when heâ€™s in his early-30s), but we can all sit back and wonder why Vick, given all that he was given, never understood what he was responsible forâ€“himself.
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