You Can Hate on Michael Vick for Being a Dog Killer, but Don't Expect Me to Join You

Apparently I'm in the mood to get yelled at.

Oct 4, 2011 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

Last Sunday, the 49ers went to Philadelphia and for two quarters of football handed us our asses (yes, I say “our” as though I am part of the team) by the Eagles, specifically by quarterback Michael Vick who was having one of his best days ever.

However, when the 49ers marched back onto the field after halftime, they’d found the magic that was missing and came back from a 20-point deficit to win the game. It was football at its best. The highs. The lows. The fear. The elation. The injuries. No, not the players; rather, a high-five gone badly that ended up with my palm making direct contact with Campfriend’s nose.

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But that’s what happens when you come back from that far behind and beat the Eagles to go 3-1 and two games up in the NFC West. You jump out of your chair, you bounce up and down, you accidentally slap your boyfriend in the face and then you tweet about how happy you are!

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As with most of my football tweets, I got a lot of responses from people (49ers and Eagles fans alike), but one response caught my eye:

@daisy I love your football team so much right now!!!

This tweet stuck out because it felt somehow not-at-all football related. This girl didn’t mention that she hated the Eagles. Or that she was a huge Cowboys or Giants fan. She obviously wasn’t a 49ers’ fan since she called them “my” team. So why would she be so happy? I clicked through to her Twitter feed to see if my suspicions were justified.

Now I have no way of knowing for sure WHY this girl said that to me. It could be for a million reasons. But I immediately saw a bunch of retweets from PETA and several tweets disparaging Michael Vick. So I’ll assume that at least part of the reason this girl was happy the 49ers won was because she hates Michael Vick. And not because he’s the Eagles’ quarterback, but because he is the man who plead guilty to felony charges for an unlawful interstate dog fighting venture.

What Michael Vick did was beyond terrible. He admitted to providing financing for the dog fighting rings. He admitted to participating directly in many dog fights.  He admitted to being involved in the destruction of numerous dogs by hanging or drowning.

He admitted to these things, plead guilty to federal felony charges and spent 21 months in prison. Many people don’t think he served enough time, but according to The Humane Society’s website, “Given the penalties available at the time [Vick] was sentenced … he paid a steep price for his crimes, in addition to serving his prison sentence.”

Since his arrest, Michael Vick has also done the following:

And because Michael Vick served his time, took responsibility for his actions, apologized for what he did and promised to never do it again, I wholeheartedly welcomed his return to the NFL.

Many people did not. Many people thought Michael Vick should never play football again. Thought he should rot in hell. Thought he should suffer for all of eternity for the fact that he tortured those dogs. But, unfortunately for those people, that’s not how our justice system works.

Michael Vick paid his time. Do you have to like him as a person? No. Do you have to accept that he has earned a second chance? I think: yes. And I’m not the only one. When Vick got out of prison, it wasn’t clear if he’d ever play football again.  Not only was he viewed by most teams as a liability, no one was even sure if he’d still be able to play after so much time away from the game.

But the Philadelphia Eagles took a chance and signed him to their team. A little over a year later, President Obama called the president of the Eagles to congratulate him for giving Vick a second chance.

“Released prisoners rarely receive a level playing field,” he said. “And Vick’s story could begin to change that.”

OK. So I’m not saying anything new here. Prisoners legally deserve a second chance whether we’ve forgiven them or not. What I am saying, that’s maybe also not new, but for some reason important for me to say right now, is that I’m glad Michael Vick got his second chance. I think he earned it and I think he deserved it. He’s an amazing quarterback and I am happy I live in a country where he was given the chance to play again.

I hate how every time Vick’s name comes up, someone has to say “Dog Killer.” I can’t imagine if people followed me around for the rest of my life constantly reminding me of everything I’ve done wrong, everyone I’ve hurt, everyone I’ve let down.

No, I haven’t killed dogs, but I’ve done things I’m not proud of and I am truly thankful that the world doesn’t remind me of the times I lied, stole, and cheated. And I’m sure you’ve done horrible things you’re happy are left in the past.

Believe me, I get that the horrible things we did aren’t nearly as horrible as what Michael Vick did. But how long must we make people suffer for their transgressions? Who are we to do that to another human being?

In many ways, it’s ridiculous of me to even try to write about this. Animal rights activists are notorious for their over-the-top behavior, and I’ll admit that I am not one to put animal rights before human rights. I love dogs, but I love humans more. That right there makes me an unsympathetic character to the PETA-types. The people who hate Michael Vick aren’t going to read this and change their minds. Perhaps no one will. But as a woman, as a dog lover, and as someone who hates the Eagles, but loves the sport of football, I thought I owed it to at least myself to be honest about my feelings.

You can judge Michael Vick all you want. (And I bet you will in the comments!) But if you’re going to tell me you’re happy his team lost to the 49ers, let it be because you’re rooting for him to fail as a quarterback, not because you’re rooting for him to fail as a man.

He’s already done that once. I don’t think any of us want to see it happen again.