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.