I congratulate NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend disgraced Falcons’ quarterback Michael Vick indefinitely without pay, while at the same time opening the door for the Falcons to get back some of the bonus money they have squandered on this thug.
Until today, the message seemed to be if you were rich enough, arrogant enough, and you had game, then you were immune to the consequences of your actions. Roger Goodell has changed that with one resounding stroke of his commissioner’s pen.
And yes, it has occurred to me that there is a certain perversity to all this. Latrell Sprewell assaulted his coach, Ray Lewis was involved in a murder, and Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a woman (his explanation: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did” Yeah, right.) All three basically got off scot-free. But harm a pooch, and a pissed off PETA leads the charge and the whole world comes crashing down around you.
This is not to make light of what Vick and his cohorts did. Dogfighting is a barbaric and reprehensible activity, and in any event, it also happens to be illegal. Perhaps Vick felt that because of who he is, he was safe from the law. He’s about to find out he isn’t.
By now, everyone knows the details of this rather sordid case, so I won’t rehash them here. The point I want to make is that one of life’s constants is the way people, especially young people, idolize sports heroes. In past years it was Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. When I was growing up we had Carl Yastrzemski, Willy Mays, and Henry Aaron, to name just a few. In later years, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and Joe Montana were role models. Yes, I know Michael Jordan had some private issues, but at least in public he always behaved like a gentleman.
But today, the likes of Latrell Sprewell, Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, and now, Michael Vick offer a dubious example for others to follow. And because teenagers of ALL colors and socioeconomic backgrounds look up to them, their questionable values have permeated seemingly every layer of our culture. Rap music, with it’s message of violence, drug use, and mysogeny, is the music of choice among teens everywhere, regardless of their background. I know this may sound racist, but I am simply pointing out the obvious. Clearly there are many black athletes (Warrick Dunn, Deuce McAllister and Marshall Faulk all spring to mind here) who grew up in even tougher neighborhoods than Vick yet by all accounts are fine human beings.
Vick got what was coming to him. And while it does nothing to right the other above mentioned wrongs, at least it sends a message that, in fact, we still live in a society that values morals and decency, and expects its sports heroes to set an example.