Greetings friends and frienemies and newbies.
Been a while. Hope you guys are enjoying life, or at least not preventing others from enjoying theirs.
No tears though. I know you missed me. Here is my most recent article. It's about the often unnecessary germ-related panic that arises in some folks after the outbreak of a virus, like swine flu.
But if you want my opinion on something (or just want it so you can disagree with me ;-) then let's talk Michael Vick, who was released from federal prison in Kansas around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
In case you're one of the three people who doesn't know, Vick, 29, is the former star quarterback of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. He was the highest paid pro football player ever. He had endorsement deals out the wazoo. He was on top and had everything to lose. And that's exactly what happened. Three years ago Vick was busted for hosting violent dog fights on his rural Virginia property. The fights were for gambling purposes. He was also charged for general animal abuse, for killing losing dogs himself, allowing others to kill 'em, and for having a kennel operation to breed and board fighting dogs.
When he was formally charged, the Falcons cut Vick and demanded some of their money back. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him "indefinitely."
Animal advocacy groups picketed any- and everything Vick-related. Dog lovers, including me, and the ambivalent alike condemned Vick for killing helpless animals.
And when Vick reported to prison about two years ago, speculation started immediately as to whether he'd ever be able to play football again.
So he's out of prison, and the debate has fired up again. There's not a lot of middle ground. Folks are either calling for his head and demanding that the NFL ban him for life, or they're calling for the league to give him a second chance.
Vick is remaining mum for now. The Humane Society has confirmed that he has been working with them to be a spokesperson and lead the society's efforts to end dogfighting by urban youth.
I've never questioned whether Vick should go to prison. I'm a dog lover. I called for him to get locked up from the beginning. But I wasn't just salty with him for his crimes. I was angry that he threw away a good life. Vick was so blessed or fortunate or lucky that he had an almost moral obligation to "make good." And if you've read this blog much you know I'm a big believer in the philosophy that says to whom much is given much is required.
Some of you won't like it, but I say let the guy play football again. What do I care? Seriously, it's what he was trained to do. It's what he's best at. If he'd murdered a human or sexually assaulted someone I'd say leave 'em in prison or under the prison. But I'm sorry, I don't care a lick if Roger Goodell allows Vick to play football again, as long as Vick passes Goodell's litmus test of showing "true" remorse first.
I'd say the Humane Society gig is a good start. But good luck to Goodell in figuring that one out. How exactly do you tell if someone you don't know well is being real with you when he says sorry? Lie detector test?
So many of us are hypocrites when it comes to second chances.
Tom Cruise peddles Scientology and he's nearly blacklisted in Hollywood for believing in aliens. Roman Polanski sleeps with a 13-year-old girl back in the day and there are whispers in Hollywood that his talents are missed, it was a long time ago, and perhaps he should be given a second chance.
Michael Phelps smokes a bong pipe full of weed that may or may not have killed some brain cells and made him hungry for a few hours, and he's skewered for being a bad example. Jessica Simpson inhales 800 calories of trans-fatted burger that probably left a film of plaque on an artery or two, and is criticized for it, and her fans say she's being persecuted.
Actor Wesley Snipes doesn't pay taxes for a few years and is convicted of (intentional) tax evasion and sentenced to several years in prison. Dancing with the Stars champ and IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves is accused of the same thing, except his defense was he didn't know he hadn't paid taxes on more than $5 million in income, his people hid in an offshore shell company. His jury acquitted him. And fans and the IndyCar world welcomed him back.
A stranger takes a shot at a cop and he's charged with attempted murder. The wife of Fort Lauderdale, FL, police chief Frank Adderly takes a shot at him, and prosectors are doing cartwheels to sidestep Florida law that calls for a mandatory prison sentence. They want her to do little or no time. Guess she didn't mean it.
I'm not kidding. We call for "justice," which in this country tends to be administered by the legal system, and then we don't like the amount of "justice" meted out. Vick got a roughly two-year prison sentence. He served his time.
Whether or not Vick owes a moral debt to society...and dogs, and dog lovers is another matter. If he does still owe that moral debt what's a fair punishment - keeping him from playing football and getting rich again, keeping him away from dogs forever, putting him in a cage with an angry hungry dog and making him fight for his life? All of the above, two out of three?
I know it's cynical of me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that for lots of people this is no longer about Vick killing and abusing dogs. Now, what turns them off is the notion of him regaining his wealth in an occupation that many of us consider a dream gig.
I was listening to a sports talk show this morning, and one host agreed with me. The co-host, however, argued that Vick shouldn't play football again, because being a pro athlete is a privilege, not a right.
Wrong about the privilege thing, right about the right.
Playing football isn't a privilege. Playing any sport for a living isn't a privilege. It is a combination of a giant stroke of luck and cultural reward for having superior physical skills and talent.
You want work-related privilege? Being President of the United States is a privilege. Being a teacher entrusted with young mushy minds is a privilege. Being a cop, given a badge and a gun and empowered to regulate the people, is a privilege. Being a member of the clergy, entrusted with the sensitive hearts of parishioners, is a privilege.
As rights go, the sports show co-host was correct. Playing in the NFL is not a right.
Michael Vick had a chance. He blew it. Now, the law has been enforced. And the commissioner has drawn his line in the sand.
So rules are no longer the issue. Humanity is.
Eventually believe Vick that he has regained his and let him play, or tell him to got to Hell and disappear?
Michael Vick did horrible things. But we asked the courts to make him pay, and they did. If Roger Goodell is ever convinced that Vick is truly remorseful Vick should be allowed to play football again.