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Vick Should Play, but for his Prison Team

By Carl Langley
EdgefieldDaily.com Guest Columnist

web posted August 27, 2007

GUEST COLUMN – The headline in the Augusta Chronicle read, “NAACP says Vick should play.”

I agree.

Vick, the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons professional football team caught running a dog fighting and gambling operation, should play for the football team at the federal prison he is heading for, unless the presiding judge gives him a probationary sentence.

The judge is on the hot spot himself. He could feel the wrath of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP, which likely will unfurl the banners of racism if Vick‘s punishment is seen as to severe.

The NAACP and other race baiters ignore the fact that we now live in a country where everyone rises and falls on their own merits. I say this mindful of the fact that we still have quotas and affirmative action to lift up those unable to qualify on merit.

I hope the judge hearing this case will block from his mind both Vick’s critics and his supporters and go by the book. I say this in the face of the fact that we now have judges giving probation to rapists, pedophiles, drug addicts and other bad actors. What we need is a law that says any judge who releases a repeat offender on bail and that offender commits a felony the judge who let him or her go would have to serve out the criminal’s sentence.

Vick will be considered by his betrayed fans as an American tragedy, but let’s don’t get maudlin here. I will remember him as a liar and a fool. He is a liar for telling the Falcon owner he was not aware of a dog fighting operation discovered on his property, and he was a fool for letting his good times get ahead of common sense.

Vick was at best a middling quarterback on a mediocre team, but he managed to fool enough people to lock himself into a 10-year, $130 million contract with the Falcons and secured merchandise endorsements worth millions more. And all the time he was breaking the law by fighting dogs and gambling.

Pete Rose, the great baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds who holds the record for base hits, was just as stupid. He was caught gambling and was banned from baseball for life. Once a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame, his picture will never hang there because of his transgressions.

Rose got what he deserved, therefore I am not one of those out campaigning for his redemption. His was a deserved punishment, and it sent a message to others. But Vick was deaf, or too stupid to recall the Rose case. He threw his wealth away because he couldn’t escape the shackles of his heritage and he was drunken by his success.

The Falcons would have been better off if the money given Vick had gone to the Salvation Army or some worthwhile charity. I suggest that for each dollar a professional team gives to an overrated and underperforming athlete, the team should give a matching dollar to a worthwhile charity, but certainly not to any special interest groups.

Vick, whose No. 7 football jerseys are now being used to clean up kennels around the country, was an American success story. He came from the mean streets in Newport News, Va., got a college football scholarship, had a glittering career at Virginia Tech and went on to the Falcons.

He seemed to be on the top of the world. But his genes betrayed him, as they often do those unable to comport themselves properly in a society that, despite its many shortcomings, still demands good conduct. When I think of this case I think of an old admonition My mother said be careful what you do because your sins will find you out.

Professional sports, mainly football, basketball and baseball, have become a cesspool. They are a scourge on this nation because they expose the seamy side of life. Games no longer are played for the thrill of competition but to create wealth for a chosen few, the ones who are lifted up by their skills..

The Vick case exposes professional sports for what they really are, a meaningless charade in which the scores of the past week’s games are quickly forgotten, where athletes rake in big bucks and buy tons of jewelry to dangle from their necks, luxury cars, mansions. And all the while they thumb their noses at their own fans and society in general.

Vick isn’t alone in his stupidity. A man named Stephon Marbury, who plays basketball for the New York Knicks, said he couldn’t understand all the emphasis on the Vick case. He called dog fighting a sport, like other sports and noted that people shoot “deers.” Like Vick, Marbury is what some slavish sports fans call “a role model.”

I heard Marbury defending Vick on a television interview. I had never Marbury try to speak before. He left me wondering how he got into college because he could barely speak good English. I wanted to be there and hand him a copy of the Dick and Jane reader and listen to his masterful recitation of “Jump, Jane, Jump,“ or “Run, Dick, Run.”

I wanted to explain to Marbury, who probably has a single digit IQ, about the “blood sport” side of dog fighting. Dog fighting is the pitting of pit bulldogs against each other in bloody, to-the-death matches. It has long been outlawed in a more humane and sane society, but who is to say that Vick, Marbury or the totems of the NAACP are humane or sane.

Vick and his cohorts, who turned on him and became federal witnesses, were real sweethearts. If a dog failed to fight or lost a fight the poor creature was executed, by drowning, hanging or electrocution. Anyone with a touch of humanity wouldn’t do such a thing. But these savages did.

U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, a wizened old Democrat, was so horror-stricken by the news that he took to the well of the Senate and denounced those he called “barbarians.” Those who mistreat animals in such a way are more than barbarians. They are the lowest scum on earth.

I hope Vick gets 10 years. Not because he is black and not because most of his supporters are hobbling about on the old racism crutches that they drag out every time a black runs afoul of the law. I would say the same if a man who admitted his guilt in a dog fighting case was white.

When I came to Aiken in the late 1950s as a young reporter I heard talk on the street that two local businessmen, both white, were the owners of pit bulldogs and participated in dog fighting on weekends at secret locations around South Carolina and Georgia.

After a few years I came to know the two men and found the tales about them were true. They were truly reprehensible. The two, like Vick and Marbury, couldn’t spell reprehensible but they mistreated these poor luckless creatures. There was a kind of justice delayed. One of the two was arrested for running a whiskey still and the other died after a long miserable illness.

When I was a small boy my father bought two pit bulldog puppies. We named one Pat and the other Duke. They were the companions to me and my brother and they followed us everywhere. They were sweet and gentle and loved our family. I never saw them hurt another animal and they got along great with the cats that came and went on the farm.

Pat and Duke were what they were because of the way they were raised. People are the same way. If a child gets love and understanding, support and praise, the odds are great that he or she will grow up to be a kind and productive person. Apparently Vick and some of those defending him missed out on the bonding that exists in good families.

I am glad that my parents taught me to treat family pets with care and kindness. I found out early in life that a loved pet responds to its owner with greater love and devotion than one could imagine. A good dog will die for its master and there are countless stories about such acts of love down through years.

Two nights ago I watched a television news report from Atlanta where NAACP officials pleaded for Vick but they sure as hell didn’t plead for law enforcement and the justice system to root out and rid our nation of the heartless thugs, savages and barbarians who bet and cheer at dog fights.

If there is a hell, I am certain a special place is reserved for those kinds of people, and the quicker they get there the better off we all will be.

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