Those who hate Vick have made no secret they expect the judge, at sentencing on December 10, and the Commissioner of the National Football League (as soon as possible thereafter), to punish him with the lengthiest prison term, the heaviest fine, the most definite of indefinite suspensions.
And here’s why they are wrong.
If you hate him, the equation should be pretty simple. His $130 million contract is gone, his freedom is gone, his reputation is gone. We already know what he is -- we’re now just arguing about the price. And the real price comes due after jail and after the suspension, when Michael Vick tries to return to football in 2010, maybe 2009.
But the sooner the better.
No NFL miscreant has been so vilified while an active player. Not gun-play and trouble-at-strip clubs veteran Pacman Jones. Not serial batterer and general trouble-maker Lawrence Phillips. Not turned-state’s-evidence-against-his-friends-in-a-murder-trial Ray Lewis. Not a drunk driver who killed a mother, Leonard Little, in 1998 and was then arrested anew for driving drunk in 2004.
For, even in a football world where just a week ago a scout could still compliment Corey Ivy of the Ravens by calling him a “pit bull with a gold cap,” no other crime has been so viscerally felt and reviled, and none gone so unforgiven.
And a year in the big house and two under suspension will not change that, except to postpone the next enraged protest. For whenever he comes out, whenever he tries to come back, PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the public’s memory of what he did to dogs for the sake of fun and games will come back, as well.
Initially, in his convoluted, lawyered-up and agent-approved guilty plea last week, his “I didn’t actually kill any dogs myself, I only told others to” speech, Vick seemed to not understand that his only hope was to absorb and retain as much guilt as possible that any chance of redemption for him depended entirely on his willingness to take responsibility, and blame and punishment.
Thus his statement today, “I want to apologize for all the things that I’ve done, and that I have allowed to happen,” was exactly the right start.
He did not repeat the nuance, and the loophole-filled admission. He did not “Pete Rose” it. And now comes the tough part. Do not get me wrong, he is Michael Vick not Michael Victim.
But if you think him evil, you should still be rooting for him to be returned to football, as soon as possible, from the hell of incarceration, and the hell of suspension, to the hell of a life as Michael Vick, would-be quarterback, pleading for a job while the hounds of public approbation are nipping at his heels