If you follow the NFL at all you know that the league has a new commissioner, Roger Goodell, and that he’s apparently made it his mission to clean up the league’s little crime problem. His early actions suggest he’s serious about it, too. He dropped an 8-game ban on Cincinnati Bengals wide
recidivist receiver Chris Henry and busted Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones for a whole season. Both penalties are richly deserved, and here’s hoping the boot of justice stomps equally hard on other members of the league’s fraternity of thugs.
There’s an emerging story that might define Goodell’s tenure almost as soon as it’s started. One of the league’s biggest stars, the tremendously overrated Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, is allegedly involved in pit bull fighting. The story has been leaking out bit by bit over the past few weeks, beginning with a massive bust at a home Vick owns. The story has progressed, as these sorts of things often do, from “home Vick owns” to “Vick was aware of it” to “Vick was involved,” and today we have a new level of allegation to chew on: “He’s one of the heavyweights.”
So let’s play a round or two of one of my favorite games, What If Sam Were Commissioner?
First, Vick has been accused, not convicted, and so far none of the sources are really radiating that Mother Teresa thing. His accusers range from anonymous to low-credibility, so until the prosecutors at least develop enough evidence to charge him, we’re going to have to hold fire. (However, my gut feeling here isn’t good – this case stinks to high heaven, and if Vick proves to be innocent I’ll be surprised.)
Second, there’s no reason to hold fire on Clinton Portis at all. His punk ass popped off this past week defending Vick’s right to fight pit bulls if he wanted:
“I don’t know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it’s his property, it’s his dog,” Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis told WAVY-TV in Virginia. “If that’s what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their business.”When told that dog fighting is a felony, Portis replied, “It can’t be too bad of a crime.” (Story.)
Yes, moron, it can be too bad of a crime. Not that America has historically looked to the University of Miami football program for intellectual or moral leadership, but this is one of the most disgusting, subhuman activities you can engage in. If I’m the commish, you get in front a microphone and advocate for a particularly appalling felony, you’re gone for half a season. And that’s if I’m in a good mood.
Bad sign: Goodell said, “I’m extremely disappointed and embarrassed for Clinton Portis. This does not reflect the sentiments of the Redskins, the NFL or NFL players.” But Goodell did nothing.
So, hypothetically, say that Vick is eventually charged and that when I see the evidence I’m convinced that he’s guilty. That makes him a fourth-rate waste of skin as a human being, just like everybody else associated with the activity, and it makes him the very definition of the kind of citizen I don’t want my league associated with. Now or ever. Lifetime ban. And with luck, he spends a good bit of time in prison, too.
Vick doesn’t like it? Sue me. We’ll fight it all the way to the Supreme Court. Owners don’t like it? Fire me – and then see how the PR war plays out. There’s just no compromise on some things, and trust me when I tell you that Vick fares a lot better in What If Sam Were Commissioner? than he does in What If Sam Were King of the World?
I hope Goodell is serious about setting the bar for personal conduct higher than it has been. A lot higher. And here’s hoping the NBA, NHL and MLB follow suit. No organization should tolerate something as brutal as dogfighting. And no American sports fan should spend a penny on any league that allows dog fighters on one of its rosters.