CNN anchor Kiran Chetry asked a sports attorney this week regarding Michael Vick: “If you and I faced prison time for that, do you think we’d get our old jobs back?”
I admire the toughness, but the fact is that Vick DOESN’T have his old job back, and he never will. The words “Matt Ryan” come to mind. Vick has merely been cleared to play in the NFL (with conditions) by the commissioner, not handed a paycheck. (Update: Vick signed with Philadelphia on 8/13/09.)
Fact is, Vick has paid his debt to the public for the dogfighting-related crimes. I’m no lawyer, but you can be sure the NFL has some good ones. So the league can’t really stand in his way of earning a living when there’s no legal reason to do so. Personal feelings about the nature of his crimes … and I found the whole matter pretty disgusting … are another matter.
Any team signing Vick will have two interesting matters to deal with: public outcry and the locker room effect. Protests are certain. And the chemistry and teamwork factors when he is under contract will require a skilled coaching staff.
But frankly, if I ran an NFL team, I’d be interested in Vick. He’s just 29 years old, and he can throw or run for a touchdown whenever he has the ball. NFL teams are out there to win, and win over fans, so a team that does not think about a player of that caliber is not being serious about putting forth a quality outfit.
(I’m thinking Raiders. Owner Al Davis long has embraced outcasts.)
And speaking of second chances, I noticed recently that baseball commish Bud Selig is reportedly considering lifting the lifetime ban on all-time hits leader Pete Rose (video includes comments from former colleague Buster Olney). About time, I’d say.
Rose, you may recall, was banned from the sport in 1989 for betting on games while manager of the Cincinnati Reds, including games involving his own team. Rose since has admitted this, though in an unimpressive matter designed to garner public sympathy.
Still, like Vick, he ‘fessed up. And the collateral damage is his achievements as a player. In 24 seasons, he got 4,256 hits. Most ever. That NEEDS to be acknowledged in the Hall of Fame. No controversy surrounding steroids or anything else has ever tarnished that feat. Keep him from managing, working for or representing a team, perhaps, but let Rose’s playing days into Cooperstown. I’ll never forget the electricity in The San Diego Union sports department in 1985 when Rose singled off the Padres’ Eric Show for the hit that pushed him past previous record holder Ty Cobb.
Personally, I’ve never been fond of Rose. When his 44-game hitting streak ( a National League record and 12 off the major league mark) ended in Atlanta in 1978, Rose complained to reporters afterward about how Braves reliever Gene Garber pitched to him. Hmm. Pete, the object of the game is for the pitcher to get the batter out. You have an untarnished playing record, and integrity that you, Garber and others showed as players is why.
So let the games go on, even with controversial stars like Vick and Rose. And if you want to compare pro sports with the world that you and I live in, don’t.