American sport is littered with examples of players destined for greatness who were never able to hit the mark due injury, untimely death, or – in American footballers Michael Vick’s case (aka: Ron Mexico) – the cruel and positively retarded pastime of dog fighting.
Take Bo Jackson, one of the greatest athletes the United States has ever seen who was not only a phenomenal American football running back, but also a top-flight baseball player. Pundits believe Bo might have even been a two-sport Hall-of-Famer were it not for the hipbone facture that forced his early retirement.
Then there was Len Bias, considered by many to be the greatest and most complete basketball forward ever to come out of NCAA university basketball. Len could do everything Michael Jordon could do, only better. After being the second overall pick in the 1986 draft, an unfortunate night of cocaine lead to the young star’s death at age 22.
And the most talented uber-loser of them all: Michael Vick. Even this disgrace of a human being must have realized during late, sleepless nights in prison that proving to his friends that he was a ‘bad-ass’ thug wasn’t worth forfeiting the best years of his career and a 10-year contract worth over $100m.
Vick eligible to return to the NFL for the 2009 Season
The good news for Vick is that he may just turn out to be an inspirational example for wannabe thug losers everywhere: since his incarceration the first overall selection in the 2001 National Football League Draft has been a model citizen, albeit in a prisoner capacity. He is set to be released from prison early this summer, so the question now is, is a person so utterly undeserving of forgiveness worthy of second chance at stardom?
Before we assess this question, one would think by the sporting world’s collective poor opinion of Mr. Vick that he committed crimes on par with those of Hannibal the Cannibal. Make no mistake, torturing dogs is not only illegal, but also morally reprehensible – but Vick’s greatest crime is being a dumb ass. He had made it – raised from the crags of poverty through diligence, determination, and his superhuman athleticism. And yet, much like his douche-bag companion Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, Vick found it wise to piss it all away so his worthless thug friends would think he was ‘cool’…
Vick’s NFL Career
Before Vick showed his true colours, he was an inspiration to watch on the football pitch. His quarterback play was not nearly as good or refined as that of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but it was electrifying… so much so that Vick was one of the most feared player that NFL defences had ever faced.
He was brilliantly unconventional. With Vick at the helm, the Falcons were never out of a game since his canon of an arm could toss a beautiful spiral downfield for a touchdown – or he could use his high-octane wheels to blaze by NFL defences for a dramatic scoring rush.
By the 2004 season it seemed that Vick was on the straight and narrow path headed for a Hall of Fame career. That season he lead his team within a game of the Super Bowl, the first NFC Championship game that featured two African American starting quarterbacks (Donovan McNabb was the other).
It was this season’s performance that lead to his 10-year contract worth $130m, which was at the time the most lucrative deal in American football history. Sadly for Vick, it was all down hill from here.
The Fall of Vick
Then next few seasons featured not only mediocre quarterbacking that called into question his ability to do the most basic act of passing the ball to wide-open receivers, but also a series of unfortunate ‘PR’ moves.
It emerged that a gentleman by the name of Ron Mexico – with features suspiciously similar to Michael Vicks – went to an Atlanta clinic to get tested for genital herpes. This would be like David Beckham trying to order a pint at a neighbourhood pub thinking he could pass as someone else by bleaching his hair and changing his name to Rick or Hank. Not surprisingly the clinic nurse recognized Vick and called the tabloid press.
Then after one of Vick’s patent crap performances in the 2006 season, he graciously bestowed upon his booing fans the ‘middle finger’, in effect telling those who fund his salary to f-ck off…
One seemingly impressive stat that Vick did manage to accumulate during his downward spiral in the 2006 season was 1,039 rushing yards, the record for a quarterback. Not only is this stat irrelevant, but if anything it is an indicator of a less-than-stellar quarterback leading a team a losing record. True, Vick is superhumanly athletic and runs like Jamaica’s Hussain Bolt, but it is not the quarterback’s job to be an awesome rusher. While Vick was slowing grinding out 100-plus yards, Brady and Manning were throwing laser passes for 300 yards. There is no equivalent in UK sports, but imagine if England’s goalkeeper were the national football team’s leading goal scorer. Would that be a good thing? Not really…
Then almost on cue, Vick’s illegal dog fighting, torturing, and executing emerged. No one was surprised.
Vick's Second Chance
What will be surprising is if Vick can turn his career around next season. He is 28, so by most people’s count still in the prime of his career. But he hasn’t played professional football in two years, and we have to wonder what kind of physical shape he is in.
Thankfully for Vick there a teams like the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings that are still looking for a winning quarterback to lead their team. But will they really chance bringing a bad apple like Vick to their team?
They would be wise to because if Vick can play anything like he did before his incarceration, he will be an immediate catalyst to the team that needs him. And the 49ers or Vikes wouldn’t have to pay him a cent more than the veteran minimum salary: around $800K, which is chump change in the NFL.
But the best part of all is that bring Vick on requires no commitment. If he performs well in training camp, great because he will win games. But if he is god-awful he can be cut with the utmost ease, forcing Vick to join his less talented, but equally stupid brother Marcus in showing the world that there is nothing even slightly cool about being a ‘gangster’.