Friday, July 2, 2010

Approaching 'This is Pitiful'...


And now for the more intemperate side of me. I'm in total agreement with this statement...

"Personally, if I'm Michael Vick, I'm done with these hood rat get togethers. There's nothing good that can come out of them. They are attended by reams of low self-esteemed groupies dying to throw themselves at the feet of professional athletes, whether or not they have a fiancée, as does Vick, and his hangers on. Most of these hangers on aren't Vick's friends but rather associates who specialize in snatching the crumbs that fall from his bountiful table."

"Who knows, perhaps there are folk out there dying to challenge Vick. I don't know, maybe someone whose dog lost a fight with one of Vick's and now this clown is ready to settle a score with the one-time All-Pro quarterback."

"You just never know, which is why Vick has to be one hundred times more judicious in anything he does for the rest of his life in the limelight."

Count me among the scores of middle age men (or beyond, depending upon how you're counting), who dreamed of a life in the NFL. Back in the day, before ESPN and Sunday Night Football, etc. the Sunday afternoon Cowboys game was followed by a game of touch football in the neighbor's yard. We would be the heroes we had watched just an hour or so before. Bob Hayes, Meredith, Calvin Hill or whomever (alright I know I'm dating myself). The point is these were guys we looked up to.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe professional athletes ought to be put up on pedestals. At least not inordinately so. But playing the game (any professional sport) is a privilege. Today, with literally tens of millions of dollars annually to men who would otherwise be consigned to middle class incomes at best - at least at the beginning of whatever careers they chose - this privilege should be zealously and jealously guarded. While isolationism might be extreme, protecting one's livelihood at nearly all costs doesn't seem unreasonable.

I had friends of mine who defended Michael Vick at the beginning the troubles that sent him to prison. I've heard all the talk about wanting to surround yourself with people you know; trying to reassure one's friends that your still one of 'them'. But I'm sorry, once you make around $3-$5 million a year plus, you are no longer a 'homie'. Use your wealth to go back and help other kids as talented or less talented than you were to get out of poverty. Hire someone to teach you how to act and speak in a new environment that will help you utilize your influence to encourage others to do the same. Invest in your neighborhood in ways that will provide jobs, education, housing and other forms of human capital development. But for Heaven's sake, if you are in Vick's situation, you don't throw parties where the same folk that help you nearly blow up your career are in attendance - you just don't do that!

Here's what you do: you have your birthday party at the swankiest hotel, inviting your fellow professional athletes (well behaved of course), business leaders, professional sports executives and the hoi paloi to the event. You make it a charity event - admission $1000-$2500. You make the SPCA, the United Negro College Fund and the Haiti Relief the recipients of the proceeds. You make an appearance at the affair. Take pictures. Glad hand. Have dinner or whatever. AND YOU GO HOME!

But you don't invite anyone who will bring a gun, drugs or a pit bull. Or who will talk about it.

Frankly, Michael Vick doesn't quite get it yet. I don't think this will be the end of his career, but he's flirting around the edges of it. It's unfortunate. Because NFL history in particular, and professional sports history in general are replete with examples of athletes who, for unnecessary reasons, missed one two many games, or seasons and suddenly and irrevocably the gift they took for granted was gone. And the lessons of maturity that would have helped the grow as a person - which people who really loved them would have helped them learn - are lessons that they have to learn not only of necessity, but with regret.
There have always been frivolous athletes. And there have always been those who have been controversial. But there was always something admirable about Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Pettis Norman who had a social conscious and some sense of responsibility. They never made the money that today's professional athletes made, but they also knew that they represented something larger than their own ambitions, even if they sometimes chafed under that burden. Tony Dungy, former Indianapolis Colts head coach tried to convey that to Vick and was one of the main reasons he got a second shot in pro football. But the same money that entices (or seduces) young men into professional sports, is impatient capital which gives perceived or actual trouble makers an expiration date on their usefulness.

I was counseling a young woman about her behavior when I was a pastor and the warning I gave her was apropos in this situation: 'It's an incredibly short and unnecessary trip from 'Isn't that cute' to 'Isn't that interesting' to 'Ain't that a shame' to 'That's just pitiful'.

Michael Vick is on that trip. I hope he stops soon...real soon. Vick had better wake up and young admirers better pay attention.

2 comments:

belinda said...

AMEN!

Shawn Scott said...

Unfortunately I don't see a good ending to the Michael Vick story. Some people just seem bent on self destruction no matter how much others try to intervene. I really do pray that he will turn things around, but realistically do not see it happening.