Dear Michael Vick:
As a lifelong dog lover and a pro football fanatic, I gave you a few weeks of freedom before chiming in with my opinions about your predicament, although just about anyone who can spell dog and spell football already has had something to say.
Off top, Mike, know that I love dogs. Scrambles, Brittany and Trixie are the creative names of the Standard Poodle, Cocker Spaniel and mutt, respectively, that at different time was a family member at our house when I was a kid. I cried real tears when we had to put deaf Brittany down because physical ailments had ravaged her body.
These days, when the hyperactive Maltese Jake and sneaky Jasper the Pomeranian are on the scene, they get as much attention as they demand, and that's usually loads. However, as a devotee of dog trainer extraordinaire Cesar Millan, I know the difference. I know that dogs, no matter how lovable and obedient, are animals. But I'm a (usually) rational, educated man who can drive, walk on two legs all day and prepare my own food.
Show me a dog that can match my ability and I'll show you a grown man wearing a dog suit.
I also am a football junkie. Love it; watch it; follow the games, and enjoy debating the prospects of players and teams in the preseason, regular season and off season. I'll argue with anyone who has lips over my favorite and most disliked players. Come to think of it, the NFL Network in high definition gives me reason to even own a television, let alone actually turn it on.
Those baselines set, I'm comfortable "talking" to you, man to man, dog lover to dog abuser, and football fan to football player. You don't know me from Adam and while you might contend that I don't know the you that makes you you, I'm well aware of the dreaded decisions you made that sent your personal and professional lives reeling like a kite in a tornado.
You should've served jail time and lost your burgeoning iconic status as a quarterback once you were convicted of bankrolling a dog fighting ring. You can't be surprised that the Atlanta Falcons kicked you to the curb once your ass ended up in hot water. What you did to those dogs was appalling and abhorrent. Dog lovers and organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were warranted in their disgust.
You also dotted the NFL with yet another unneeded black eye. America's game has enough problems, what with too many stories of players driving drunk (and running over pedestrians), using banned substances to gain a competitive advantage, smoking weed to stay connected to their homeboys, shooting themselves in the thigh and fathering more kids than the aforementioned Cesar Millan has dogs in his stable (that's over the top but the point needed to be made).
However, those realities notwithstanding, if America was not a place where second acts are possible, then the dog pile - pun intended - of corporate executives, cops, judges, teachers, janitors, baseball players, editors, doctors and so on would be littered with the disposed carcasses of people across the spectrum who have committed a range of crimes and t ransgressions and never received a chance to right the wrong, make moral amends and financial restitution, and get a shot at becoming a (re-)valued member of society, their family and profession.
In short, you should have received qualified clearance to play football again. Your debt to society - in the form of incarceration - is paid. If you didn't get a chance to play football again, then elected officials who engage in sexual activities with their pages and members of their staff shouldn't get a chance d to run for office again - and their constituents should be banned from casting a vote for that sex freak. Then a man convicted of one non-lethal DUI should never be permitted to work again. And, while we're at it, philanderers should be sterilized.
Mike, whether you demonstrate remorse and show a capacity to change for the better is totally up to you (and apparently having a mixed drink in public so soon after your release isn't an ideal way to dem onstrate rehabilitation). This second act is yours to excel in or screw up.
The nation's dog lovers will never forgive nor forget you for drowning and electrocuting dogs that didn't perform to your expectations. As a dog lover, I'll forgive you but won't forget what you did. But you deserve a chance at a second act. What you do with that chance is totally up to you.
A final piece of advice: Stop memorizing your handlers' talking points and speak, as best you can, from the heart. Those dead dogs deserve that level of contrition.
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