Here’s the thing. I hope Michael Vick gets to play again.
For those of you who may have missed the story, Mr. Vick was the three-time all pro quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.
"Was" is the most significant word in that sentence because Mr. Vick recently pled guilty to federal felony charges concerning his involvement in a dog fighting operation.
Trust me, the details of what he did aren’t pretty. In fact, words like "abhorrent," "repugnant," and "disgusting" just barely scratch the descriptive surface of how Mr. Vick and his cohorts treated dogs.
Since this story broke, Mr. Vick’s life has, basically, gone down the tubes. The National Football League has suspended him indefinitely, sponsors have dumped him, his career is likely over, his loss of income will amount to tens of millions of dollars, and he’ll be going to jail for an as yet undetermined amount of time.
All of which he damned well earned.
Still, I hope he gets to play again – not out of any thought of leniency or of "giving him a second chance." Such would be appropriate had Mr. Vick simply made – as some are calling it – a mistake.
What Mr. Vick did, however, was far beyond any mistake. A mistake is when you turn right at a corner where you should’ve turned left. A mistake is when you hand someone the wrong bill to pay for your purchases. Mr. Vick’s treatment of dogs was no "mistake." It was a morally perverted choice that he’d made. And now, for all of the cruelty and brutality in which he participated, he gets to pay the price for making that choice.
In the 30 plus years that my wife and I have been married, we’ve had the good fortune to have had three dogs that had us wrapped around their paws from just about the moment we laid eyes on them.
"Monty" is our latest acquisition and he’s just turned two. Before him there were "Max" and "Blackie" – mutts of grandly uncertain lineage who both lived to be more than 14 years old and were spoiled rotten their entire lives.
Anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows that these animals are loyal and loving beyond words. That, in their hearts, we’re the only people in the world who matter to them. That all they ask in return is a bit of affection.
Michael Vick and his "friends" had no use for any of this.
Just now, Mr. Vick is making all of the right noises in all of the right places. Whether or not he’s sincere is something only he knows. The one certain thing is that, as noted, he’s taking a well-deserved beating for what he did.
But when it’s all over. When he’s finished with jail and his body is slower. When his mechanics are rusty and his talents reduced, that’s when I’d like to see him come back.
I want him to return so that others who think that behaving like a degenerate thug is both "cool" and has no consequences can see, not just how far the fall is, but also how brutally tough it is to regain the barest remnants of a life that’s been stupidly thrown away.
I want him to return so that he can whisper tough words into the ears of young men for whom the path has always been cleared. For whom fame and special treatment are part of daily life. For whom the rules do not always apply.
I want him to tell such young men that, yes indeed, there are boundaries. That there are standards by which decent people live and expect others to live.
I want him to tell them that actions do have consequences and, if they have a tough time understanding that simple concept, to just look at what happened to him.
If he were to disappear and never come back, he’d become just another footnote – a figure who’d soon be forgotten rather than someone who could be an "up close and personal" example to be seen and talked to every day.
So, I want him to play again. I want others to be able look at him and, then, walk away saying, "Man, no way I’m traveling that road."
OK, so maybe I’m just dreaming. Maybe, if he did come back, he’d do none of the above.
But, if he did, there might come the day when I’d be able to look at Mr. Vick again without thinking, as I do now, "Jerk."