If there was going to be an NBA player crazy enough to come out in support of Michael Vick, wouldn't you just figure it'd be Stephon Marbury? And Starbury did just that in an interview that was recently aired by Capital News 9 in Albany.

"We don't say anything about people shooting deers and shooting other animals, you know what I mean? From what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors and I think it's tough that we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down. I think he's one of the superb athletes and he's a good human being. I think he fell into a bad situation."

First off, there are plenty of people who regularly speak out against the hunting of deer and other animals. Just ask PETA, Furries Against Hunting, the European Federation Against Hunting, the League Against Cruel Sports, the Humane Society, et al. But beyond that, at least hunting serves a practical purpose. Hunting is used to control populations of some species that might otherwise exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat and threaten the well-being of other wildlife species, and in some instances, that of human health and safety. Hunting also reduces the annual crop of new animals and birds to allow the remaining animals sufficient food and shelter to survive. Personally, I'm against it, but I still have to concede that there are tangible, proven benefits to federally regulated and sanctioned hunting.

And let's get away from what's "legal" and "illegal." Our American society has decided that certain animals are acceptable to kill for food, sport, etc. If 'lo those many years ago -- as we were forming our societal opinions about what is palatable -- we had put dogs on that short list, we'd be killing them too. This isn't about killing anything. Fight dogs are regularly tortured to make them more vicious. Dog fights are brutal displays of bloody combat between animals that have no free will and could just as easily, with proper treatment, be docile. Anyone who can watch even a short video clip of a dog fight without wincing is a sociopath, and anyone who can actually enjoy one of the these "contests" is a psychopath.

There is no excuse for Michael Vick. Even if he did not directly participate in this so-called sport, he allowed it, and that is no less heinous. Vick has pleaded guilty. As a result, the details of his behavior will likely remain a secret. We can assume, however, these details to be grisly and abhorrent. Sorry, Michael. You have lost the "benefit of the doubt."

What benefits are there to pitting animals against each other in savage gladiatorial combat? None that I can see. Of course, the big justification that's getting bandied about now is that there's a "dogfighting subculture." This group, comprised mostly of family members and close friends, supposedly derives personal and even spiritual satisfaction from breeding dogs against their will, training them to fight and kill each other, and then watching them go out and do it. This process includes beating, electrocuting, drowning, hanging, and shooting said dogs. Well, that's just great.

Guess what? I don't care if Michael Vick grew up around dogfighting. I don't care how many of his buddies are dogfighting enthusiasts. Hell, I don't care if his dad used to take him on father/son dogfighting trips when he was a teeny tot. He's an adult now. It's a cliche, but he knows the difference between right and wrong. Hey, I grew up in a rough neighborhood where fighting and substance abuse was the norm. By the time I was 11, many of my friends were already experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and some of them became hard core users. So now what, I have an excuse to become an alcoholic? To abuse drugs?

Look, Vick didn't "fall into a bad situation." Establishing and financing an organized dogfighting ring is not a situation you "fall into." Conscious decisions, and many of them, were made. And he's not a "good human being" either. He might give money to charity, read to underprivileged kids, and help little old ladies across the street, but good human beings don't do the kinds of things he's now admitted to doing. You always hear stories about how some murderers and serial killers seemed like nice, normal guys. They attended PTA meetings, took care of their elderly relatives, and supported their local youth organizations. They also tortured people and wore human flesh in their spare time. I don't hear anybody claiming those guys were good guys despite their choice of "behind closed doors" sports.

I understand that life isn't black and white. There are plenty of shades of grey in plenty of different circumstances. But there are also lines that, once they're crossed, you don't get to just hop back over without consequences. And I'm not just talking about lost salary and jail time. I'm talking about the staining of one's character. Which is not to say that Vick can't turn things around and become a decent human being again. He can experience genuine remorse and take responsibility for what he's done. He can atone for his misdeeds. Nothing is static, and he has the rest of his life to improve the quality of his character. But right now, are his actions in any way justified? Is he a good person? No.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
A very nice, succinct assessment. I'm kind of tired of pro athletes and their lame excuses avoiding personal responsibility. Vick made a choice. It was illegal. Now he needs to deal with the consequences.

He did have the option to move to another country where such actions are legal. Odds are it's not a country that will shower him with wealth and attention for being good at a game. So sorry, Michael.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I call it, "hanging out with old high school dropout friends when they have nothing to lose." Chances are these are the same friends that will bail on him the moment something benefits them--as seen when most of them back-stabbed him to get lesser sentences.

Now I don't have to see Vick in his terrible Coke commercials anymore!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Personally, i do not think there are many things in the world more sick than what he did. To enjoy torturing and killing defenseless animals is so sick. I really hope that he gets more than a year in jail (i would like to see up to 5 years, but thats not gonna happen). This kind of behavior is inexcusable and shameful to his family and fans. Lately on the radio, they said that vick would miss maybe 3 years total, and that the chances of vick getting an invite to a training camp were very real, not as a QB maybe. The question is this. If you are a coach, GM, owner, whatever, do you take the chance and associate his name with your team? And if you were a player who is appalled with what vick did and vick is invited on your team, how do you speak out against it?

Anonymous starang said...
Justice: 5 - 5 minute rounds bout in the octagon, Vick vs Tito Ortiz. No rules, no referee, no tapping out. Looser gets a swift kick to the nuts by everyone in attendance after the fight, then goes to jail. 75% of Pay-per-view proceeds go to Humane Society, 25% to me for organizing this glorious event.

Anonymous Dennard said...
Right on, I am sick of people trying to include race into this issue. This isn't about race, this is about Michael Vick being extremely foolish and despicable. His actions can not be defended and anyone doing such is making a fool of themselves.

Anonymous Humility Is Good For Ya said...
Actually, I could see Jax or Ray Lewis say something on that order. I see that we've come to adore the killer instinct in athletes so much now that some folks have actually started to entertain its blurring into life outside of their games.

Last I heard, good morals and some philosophy get you Shane Battier type treatment, unless you're big and dumb but decent-hearted like Shaq.

Anonymous Tom said...
I'm not going to defend dog fighting but let's not act like Vick is OJ Simpson, okay? Everyone goes into PETA mode when dogs are being mistreated but no one is bothered when horses and bulls are being electrocuted, kicked in ribs with spurs, and getting their balls tied up while some redneck is perched on their back. I'm not saying give Vick a pass but let's at least admit there is some hypocrisy here when it comes to animal treatment that is based largely on cultural sensibilities.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is the first sensible column I've read about this guy so far. Thanks

Anonymous Andrew_Jackson said...
I agree with Tom. I understand that dog-fighting is a brutal display, and anyone who enjoys watching this probobly does have something wrong with them.

My girlfriend thinks the same when anyone watches boxing, or UFC. No I enjoy watching boxing, and while the people do opt to do so willingly, and no one dies usually, one cannot disavow the brutish nature of such sports.

If one starts commenting on the phsycological states of audiences watching horrible acts of violence then there is a veritable psycho ward culture of miscreants running about in america right now.

Anonymous jorge said...
Am I wrong or Ron Artest has just publicly supported Vick?

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