He was once an inspirational role model for underprivileged youth, and an example of what hard work and a little luck could bring to a person who grows up in poverty. To Michael Dwayne Vick, though, financial and professional success could not provide enough excitement, and the result is the destruction of nearly everything he accomplished in his too-brief career with the Atlanta Falcons.
The young man from the projects in Newport News, Virginia began to associate with some unsavory characters after becoming a multi-millionaire following the signing of a contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Some like to repeat insipid aphorisms like "you can take the kid out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the kid," but I think Vick's troubles really began after he became a celebrity.
I have always felt that young sports stars and big money are an especially volaitile combination; while working for many years at Joe Louis Arena, I watched up close the self-destructive Bob Probert on his long odyssey of struggles with cocaine and alcohol. Michael Vick is just the latest young man with wads of cash to whom lowlifes are attracted.
Yet it is not my intent to paint Vick as some sort of victim, for the dog fighting operation known as "Bad Newz Kennels" had Vick's complete participation, even to the point of his killing poor-performing dogs. Vick's decision to accept a plea bargain - along with his half-hearted apology - are admission enough of his role as a player in the barbaric world of dog-fighting.
Facing a federal sentence of up to five years, plus the possibility of state charges of animal cruelty, Vick will now be relegated to the status of "has been," or perhaps "never was." At 27 years of age, the Falcons quarterback should have been entering his prime playing years. Instead, he will be spending time in a federal prison, and will likely face a post-release suspension from the NFL. By the time Michael Vick is eligible to play again - if ever - he will likely be well into his thirties, having wasted what should have been the best years of his career as a football player.
I am disgusted with Vick's behavior and complicity as a participant in the cruel torture and killing of canines, but I am equally saddened at the self-destructive personality traits that led to Michael Vick's downfall. Here was a young man with seemingly unlimited athletic potential who threw everything away on the debased thrills associated with betting on dogs who are trained to rip out each other's throats.
And in housing projects across the country, there are little kids wearing black-and-red jerseys with the number 7, passing footballs and wondering what happened to their hero. Michael Vick let down millions of fans with his shameful actions, and his rehabilitation should begin with by publicly apologizing for his disgraceful behavior.