For Michael Vick, the 2004 NFL playoffs must seem like a lifetime ago.
Back then, he was leading the Atlanta Falcons to an improbable win at Lambeau Field, and taking them within a hair's breadth of the Super Bowl. Now he's persona non grata in the American sporting culture.
Since that time, he's settled a lawsuit with a woman who claims Vick knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease. He flipped the bird to fans after getting booed in a regular-season game. He allegedly had doobage in a water bottle he carried aboard a plane. He blew off congressional testimony he was scheduled to give about children's after-school programs. And now the dog stuff.
Make no mistake: this is an execrable human being. But I do think it's interesting what galvanizes the public against a popular athlete, and I don't believe the current outrage is all about love and respect for animals. After all, pro athletes (et tu, Qyntel Woods) have been accused of animal abuse before, and it barely registered on the national sporting consciousness. Why so much more attention this time? Well, first and foremost, Vick's a mega-star. If Steve Nash had been convicted of dog abuse, we'd have heard a lot more about it than we did with Qyntel. But the fact is: in Vick's case, it wasn't just some guy abusing his own dogs. This was dog-fighting, this was murdering dogs who underperformed in horrible ways, this was torture. I believe this is a huge story, in part, because the episode is so sordid, so ultimately and unbelievably low-brow.
I mean, in a country that already treats animals about as badly as one can imagine (ever checked out a slaughterhouse? how about a veal-fattening facility? ever looked a thousand de-beaked chickens in the eyes?), it's more than a little hypocritical to get upset over the murder and torture of dogs, isn't it? No, in my mind, this is a huge story because it's Michael Vick, a guy with a $120-million contract, a guy with incredible athletic ability, a guy who's supposed to know better. And the fact that he doesn't drives us crazy. Heck, I wish we were all really so outraged because of those poor dogs' suffering, and I wish this would make us look at our treatment of all animals. But this is about a jackass who thinks he's untouchable, his hubris, and his fall from grace. The fact that he did something so grimy and grubby, that's what's really gets the sports world's panties in a twist. It's not this specific behavior we particularly care about, not these specific animals. No, it's the fact that Vick did something deviant. So we'll argue about whether or not he should be suspended (this just in: he should) and whether or not you should draft him on your fantasy football team, and then we'll forget about it, and order the veal. And that's too bad.
So what's your take on this Michael Vick situation? With behavior this reprehensible, and considering the NFL hasn't waited for criminal convictions to suspend players this off-season, should Vick be suspended for Week 1?
Bodog Bookmakers, Bodog.com: The difference between the Tank Johnson or Adam Jones incidents is that Michael Vick sells tickets, sports drinks, shoes and jerseys; Vick is a superstar who makes a lot of money for a lot of people. Personally, I think he should be and will be sent to jail; the feds have a better than 95% conviction rate in cases like this. It's safe to say the Falcons are regretting the Matt Schaub trade now. Incidentally, we have two proposition bets about the incident, as follows:
How long will Michael Vick be suspended by the NFL?
No suspension 5/1
1-4 games: 4/1
5-8 games: 2/1
9-12 games: 1/1
13-16 games: 2/3
Which will be the first company to terminate their endorsement contract with Michael Vick?
EA Sports: 5/2
Can you stomach any more Barry Bonds news at this point? Why is ESPN doing this to us? BDB, Bodog.com: At this rate you almost hope that opposing pitchers would just toss him some meatballs; just to get him the remaining home runs he needs for the record. Whatever your opinion of Bonds and how he got to where he is, he's about to break one of the most hallowed records in sports. I believe ESPN is trying to recapture the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire magic in their race to 62, but sadly no one outside of San Francisco cares.
How about the news that Yi Jianlian won't be "allowed" to sign a contract with Milwaukee, because some folks in China don't think there are enough Chinese people in Milwaukee (and because Andrew Bogut is already there)? Is this kid never going to play in the NBA?
BDB, Bodog.com: In America, there are the sports parents and agents directing these kids, but when a kid comes from China, his first priority is to his country and to the Chinese national team. Even China's best basketball product, Yao Ming, was called out this week for not reporting to the national team's camp early enough, as he was promoting the 2008 Summer Games. The Bucks should admit defeat as soon as possible and get whatever they can for Yi in a trade, as they don't want this to drag into next season. I hope they think about this while they watch Corey Brewer, Brandon Wright and the others picked after Jianlian who will develop into solid NBA talent.
Daunte Culpepper...will he ever start another NFL game?
BDB, Bodog.com: Yes, he'll start somewhere, but not in 2007. NFL GMs tend to have long memories, and still remember Daunte throwing bombs to Randy Moss only a few seasons ago. For example, Jeff George signed a contract at the beginning of last season; he was well past retirement age. If Culpepper has sufficiently let his injuries heal, he'll catch on somewhere. A couple likely destinations are St. Louis, where Daunte and coach Scott Linehan have a relationship, and Jacksonville has to be considered, as they were trying to trade for Culpepper while he was still with the Dolphins.