22 August 2009

Decision to Reinstate Michael Vick is the Right One

At the risk of offending my PETA friends, I’m writing to defend the NFL’s decision to reinstate Michael Vick. With all the banter on my Facebook pages about it these days, you would think he was being considered for a seat on the US Supreme Court. It’s football, people.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Michael Vick fan. I find his actions reprehensible. But, he served his time. He paid his debt to society and I don’t see what’s wrong with him returning to the position he held before he was sentenced – a quarterback in the NFL. As grandiose as we make professional sports, it’s still a job. To deny him the opportunity seems like double jeopardy.

Plus, all the court-ordered charity work on behalf of animal causes will have greater impact if he's on a national stage (instead of washing cars in Blacksburg), regardless of whether his remorse is sincere.

Generally speaking, I think everyone deserves a second chance, especially when it comes to released convicts and employment. The system has a way of keeping the “undesirables” down and out. I don’t think I’ve worked for a company in 20 years that would consider hiring anyone with a felony conviction on their record, regardless of the circumstances or whether the potential candidate was rehabilitated. Personally, I’d rather have former inmates gainfully employed than back on the streets, desperate and destitute. But that’s a topic for another day.

Most of the objections regarding Vick I’ve heard seem to be centered on him not being a suitable role-model for the young people who idolize NFL quarterbacks. And that’s the bigger issue. There’s nothing about being a star athlete that qualifies one for being a good role-model, in the first place. It would be nice if they all were. And every now and then, one emerges. But that’s the exception. Just because you can throw strikes or form tackle hard or dunk better than most, doesn’t make you a decent person. I think there are lessons children can learn from any successful athlete in terms of hard work and determination, but when it comes to behavior off the field (and, in many cases, even on the field), I have no interest in elevating athletes to the important stature of role model for my children.

If he were applying for a position running Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Nebraska, one would have to consider Michael Vick’s poor judgment and recent conviction as strikes against him. But he’s not. He’s applying to be Donavon McNabb’s back-up, a job that has absolutely nothing to do with being a role model.

I remember Charles Barkley causing a stir several years ago when he insisted that he wasn’t anybody’s role model and shouldn’t be considered one. As it turns out, Sir Charles is a decent guy and probably a much better role model than most pro athletes these days. But his point is right on. Just when you think you want your boy to grow up and be just like Michael Phelps, there he goes smoking dope from a bong for all the world to see.

As long as our young folks are looking to celebrities, including professional athletes, as role models, we’re in trouble.

Instead, we need to ensure that our children are surrounded by positive adult influences: teachers, aunts and uncles, mentors, ministers, people in the community who’ve overcome obstacles to succeed… Surely, if there are enough “real” people in our children’s lives serving in that capacity, celebrities should have less influence, which is a good thing.

Still, there are some lessons to be learned by our children in all of this: lessons about compassion, humility, forgiveness. And we can use Vick to show kids that anyone can change if you learn your lesson or that no matter how big you are in society's eyes you too can spend two years behind bars if you break the rules. Don’t squander teachable moments, even if it’s not the lesson you were hoping to teach.

The bottom line is that the NFL is a business whose primary purpose is to make money, like all businesses. Commissioner Roger Goodell made a business decision. There are certainly risks involved in re-instating Vick. Ad revenue could be lost; fan support among certain demographics may dwindle. But Goodell weighed the pros and cons and decided that it was worth the risk to have Vick in the league (same for the Eagles who signed him). Goodell is no dummy. There’s no such thing as bad “buzz” this time of year when the season is ramping up to kickoff. I would be surprised if Goodell (and the Eagles) aren’t salivating at the new-found intrigue the controversy is creating.

But, because the NFL is a consumer-driven business, the casual fan certainly has a role to play. Don’t feel comfortable with Vick in the league? Don’t watch games or buy NFL merchandise.

The truth of the matter is that the NFL and all other professional sports leagues are comprised of a combination of saints and thugs and everything in between – just like the rest of society. I’m just not sure where one would start drawing the line when it comes to morality.

My final point: If you live long enough (which I have) and you can be honest with yourself (which I'm trying), it gets easier to embrace this concept: "Who Am I to Judge?" Forgiveness is the noblest virtue. Give the guy a chance.

1 comment:

Rhon_RN said...

As a parent of five, I am quite certain that I have lost teachable moments. There are no "perfect" people. Somewhere along the way, there are moments when we just miss it! Forgive me for a moment; this will eventually go in the direction of Michael Vick.

I believe as parents, there is an innate desire to train the hearts of our children toward good, compassion, forgiveness, responsibility, courage, honesty, loyalty, faith, self-discipline, and perseverance. If, for no other reason, we are created in the likeness of our God and those qualities are born into our soul. We are also born into a world of sin and evil. The road that leads to destruction of the good and perfect nature we are born with is much wider and much easier than that which is right.

You are right! We do need to ensure that our children are surrounded by positive influences. And yes, we need to use the Michael Vick moments in life to teach valuable lessons. We also have to realize that no matter how protective, no matter how good we are as parents, no matter what positive influences we surround them with, our children will, without mistake, be surrounded by much more evil than we can possibly protect them from. The best we can hope for is that we properly plant the seeds for good morals and water them as needed so that the goodness is much stronger than any evil that comes along. The "role models" we should encourage are the good qualities within each person as opposed to the person as a whole, because each person has good and bad attributes.

Like you, I am not a Michael Vick fan, nor am I an advocate for his demise. Regretfully, I simply responded to a FB friend comment. I only regret it due to the fact that I may have mislead you (and possibly others) to believe that I am an uncaring person with bad parenting skills. I have no problem "forgiving". Should Vick be allowed to "play" in such a competitive sport that may have fueled his passion for fighting dogs? Not in my opinion! But, that's just my opinion. We all have one! Vick could earn a living, as many others do, that are not in public view. Unlike you and I, there are many parents that don't care what "role models" their children choose or what they are exposed to. Unfortunately, those "other" children, will be a part of this world, along with our children. It would be ideal to believe that good will always prevail, but we know that's not true. In some cases, punishment is its own lesson. Has Vick paid his dues to society? Who decides that? Is "dues" the same to all people? Has he learned his lesson? That's not for me (or you) to decide. I hope he has and I wish him well; that is my prayer. Whether he has or has not, "my opinion" is that he should not be allowed to play in the NFL spotlight. He should work, but not playing a sport that he loves. We can surround "our" children with positive influences and discourage public view "role models", but we can't do that for all children. Ultimately, it is my prayer that, somehow, more good than bad will come from this issue.

Above all, I want to convey that I have always respected you as a person and a friend. Even when our opinions differ, I can always see the goodness and love in your heart!