Michael Vick: adding insult to black people’s injury

Wait a minute — what injury did Michael Vick inflict on black people? Since when are an individual’s crimes a reflection on his race?

It’s not Vick’s crimes that reflect badly on his race. It’s the reactions of black people — a few of them anyway. Reporting for Reuters, Matthew Biggs wrote:

“Ron Thomas, director of the Journalism and Sports Program at Morehouse College in Atlanta, said it would be a mistake to say that all blacks supported Vick but the black community did often exhibit a willingness to forgive celebrities quickly.

“‘Part of a reflex response among black people is to be protective about well known blacks when they come under intense public or legal scrutiny,’ he said.”

As with O.J. Simpson, their loyalty is misplaced. It’s understandable if members of a minority group are sensitive about accusations by the majority against one of their own. But there’s no justifying the inclination of some blacks, however small in number, to react to dog fighting with a nod and a wink.

Maybe, whether or not they still live in the small-town South or it’s part of their ancestry, they figure it’s just country, like slaughtering pigs. Urban and suburban white people would sooner become vegetarians than kill their own meat.

But when dog fighting was absorbed by the crack culture, its already considerable ugliness quotient exponentially increased. In fact, the only thing Americans feel more tenderly toward than dogs are unborn babies. Dog fighting generates at least as much rage and revulsion among the American public as partial-birth abortion.

Most black leaders sense how damaging it is for blacks to put themselves in the position of defending a dog-fighting impresario. For instance, it’s a measure of how intent he was on distancing himself and his people from dog fighting that Al Sharpton actually signed a letter from an organization as controversial as PETA.

It’s not only by suckering a few blacks into giving dog fighting a free pass that Michael Vick has incited bias against his race. He’s confirmed white people’s preconceptions about blacks in another way as well.

You can make the case that, along with Michael Jordan, Vick is the most talented man to ever play a team sport in America. A quarterback running like a top halfback bursts out of the confines of fantasy football.

Or, to put it another way, a halfback with the arm strength of a top quarterback tests the limits of Madden NFL 08. What’s the problem then?

We’ll let Houston Chronicle sportswriter Lance Zierlein begin: “Vick has been in the league for six years now and he still doesn’t have an offspeed pitch. Meaning, he throws every pass (whether 50 yards away or 5 yards away) with the same amount of velocity. [Many of his receivers’ drops come] on rockets that Vick was throwing when he should have been throwing with some touch.”

Second, he doesn’t, in football-coach speak, “work through his progressions.” Now we’ll yield the floor to the Out Route’s Tom Mantzouranis: “On passing plays Vick ignores his [wide] receivers, looks to [Falcon tight end Alge] Crumpler as his first option, and takes off if he’s being covered.”

Sporting News blogger Seal Shockey elaborates: “Vick may never become a great pocket passer, but until he learns to read defenses. . . he will never be a consistent winner in the NFL no matter how much talent he has.” Another Sporting News blogger Chris Russell said: “He consistently makes one read and if it’s not there, most of the time will start running for his life.” You get the idea.

In other words, his underachievement tempts bigots to revive the myth that blacks aren’t smart enough to play quarterback. Even though it should have been shattered when, in spectacular fashion, Doug Williams led the Washington Redksins to victory in the 1988 Superbowl.

Dozens of quarterbacks since, not to mention both coaches in last season’s Superbowl, were black. As if it’s even necessary to dignify the old canard by refuting it.

In fact, Vick, personally, may actually not be smart enough to be a quarterback — or even a contributing member of society. In his Sports Illustrated column, Don Banks wrote: “‘He’s not very bright at all,’ the source said of Vick. ‘And that’s a big part of his problems. He’s a very unintelligent person and he makes poor decisions because of it.'”

On what to do with both the football and his life.

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15 replies »

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  2. Yeah, wasting his talent is one charge we can’t level at Bush. Slate is running excerpts from the new book about him, called Dead Certain, in which the author got a lot of face time with him.

  3. Russ,

    You might find Whoopi Goldberg’s comments about Vick interesting in light of your post:

    There really does seem to be a disconnect in black culture regarding dogfighting, but at its core, it’s the same as cockfighting, illegal boxing, or “underground” fight circuits: The demeaning of living beings for the amusement of others.

  4. Since I didn’t see the segment (I usually don’t catch The View unless I’m tied to a chair and have my eyelids sewn open) I’m not sure whether Whoopi was stating facts or defending his actions. If she was stating facts – dogfighting is common where he comes from and he didn’t realize he was fucking up – that’s fine. It’s no doubt true.

    But if she was saying it’s okay, then we need a campaign to have her ass turfed, and I mean now.

  5. This was a well written article. I don’t know Michael Vick’s IQ, but he certainly made some stupid decisions. He acknowledged that. Let’s see what he does with his life after he gets out of jail. His case has served notice to the entire country, dog fighting is a serious and evil crime.
    The Sultan on Sports

  6. There have been more and more stories of late about the race element in the Vick case, and I think you sum up the underlying dynamics around a lot of that. Certainly a lot of blacks, who have seen first-hand how justice often works in this country (Jena 6, anyone?), are going to feel like this an unfair targeting of a black athlete. And there’s plenty of whites out there who don’t think blacks are intelligent and see this as more evidence.

    Of course, if you’re black and you see the evidence here and you still conclude this is about race, then that tells me you’re not very bright (or very humane). If you’re white and don’t think blacks are smart enough to play QB, then you’re not very smart, either. It’s certainly true that Vick, while a great athlete, isn’t much of a QB, but Donovan McNabb is awfully smart, as is Steve McNair. And not all white QBs have been rocket surgeons, either.

    In other words, not every person out there stands for an entire race. Not every case is a universal symbol. And smart people of all races understand the consequences of hitching your wagon to the wrong mule.

  7. On this link:
    I found this statement:
    “How about dog torture and dog murdering?” Behar asked.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, and I know white people tend to lean inthis direction, but isn’t it impossible to murder an animal? Isn’t murder reserved for human beings? I know some human beings are murdered years ago but it wasn’t actually considered murder. Someone help me out here…

  8. “Murder” is a legal term with a legal definition, so technically you have a point.

    So what term would you prefer for the subhuman act of killing an innocent, helpless animal? Some people would argue that all human life is more important than any animal life, but I know way too many humans to buy that for a second….

  9. Well Sam, I don’t want to get into proper terms or semantics; and I’m not justifying what Vick or people who engage in the torture of animals do.

    And okay, although, if I may be stereotypical for a second, most white people in america love their pets. I think a lady just left $5 million to her dog, and the stipulation was that her son take care of it. But I get your last point. In fact, it reminds me of a Chinese proverb that goes, “There is little difference between men and animals; some men throw that difference away”

    By the way, I need some help with my science fiction writing;)

  10. One’s inclination is to think Vick mirrored some blacks’ casual attitude toward dog fighting. But the degree to which he and his partners in crime kept Bad Newz Kennels under wraps (despite its Web site) suggests otherwise.

    Incidentally the New York Daily News’s Mike Lupica reamed out Whoopee. Excerpt:

    “Who knows. Maybe Goldberg is under the impression that before Vick gave the sport such a bad name by drowning and electrocuting underperforming dogs, we might have been on our way to professional dogfighting leagues, fantasy dogfighting, maybe even some kind of dogfighting Super Bowl!”

    In reply to the New G, I have an equation: four dogs killed equals one human killed.

    Finally, love the phrase you coined, Sam — “rocket surgeons.” (Combining “It’s not rocket science” with “It’s not brain surgery.”) Gotta remember that one.

    Loved McNair at Tennessee. (He’s hanging on by a thread now at Baltimore.)

  11. 1: I wish I could take credit for “rocket surgeon,” but I can’t.

    2: McNair is going to have a great year. He was new to the system last year and his running game was one-dimensional. I hate any team with Ray Lewis on it, but if you don’t respect what McNair has done and how he’s played through ungodly pain, you just don’t understand sports.

    3: Can’t wait to hear if Whoopie has had enough….

  12. Speaking of the Redskins, how in the fuck is this 2007 and they still have that stupid, offensive, racist name of theirs?

    “Washington Redskins… That’s a racial slur! That’s kind of like having the New York Niggers.”

  13. Redskins. I guess only Jeff Foxworthy shouldd quote it then.

    Russ Wellen: As far as Whoopi, Vick, Dogs and black people thinking alike, I think I’ll write a post on it to add some clarity.