Enough already: Give Vick a second chance

The Eagles' Michael Vick waves as he leaves the auditoriumat a high school in Hunting Park, where he made a joint appearance with the Humane Society yesterday.
The Eagles' Michael Vick waves as he leaves the auditoriumat a high school in Hunting Park, where he made a joint appearance with the Humane Society yesterday.
Posted: September 09, 2009

Maybe 11 weeks away from work has made me soft, but I don't see why everyone is dissecting every word Michael Vick says. Is he sorry, really sorry, he executed those dogs, people want to know, and if he is, why isn't he communicating that better? Why doesn't he just say, "Man, I have nightmares about those little puppies, and I'm so sorry I bludgeoned them to death."

Take yesterday, for example. Vick spoke to about 200 freshmen at a Hunting Park high school in a joint appearance with the head of the Humane Society of the United States. He told the kids to listen to their parents, use their teachers as role models, and be leaders and not followers. He told the story about how he lost everything because of his "foolish" decision to fight dogs, and how sorry he was that he messed up his life as a result.

But he didn't apologize for killing the dogs. He said he "didn't choose to go the right way, which led to 18 months of being in prison," something he called "the toughest time in my life."

"I wish I could take it all back, because I did so many things that was wrong and was influenced by so many people," Vick added.

To some people, that wasn't enough. He sounded too rehearsed. There wasn't enough contrition. He seemed sorry only that he got caught, not sorry for what he did. And his partnership with the Humane Society looked only like a partnership of convenience, a vehicle for Vick to rehabilitate his beleaguered image and regain entry into the National Football League.

That could all be true, but at this point, what is more important is that Vick has learned his lesson, knows now that fighting dogs is wrong and won't do it again. If the reason he won't is because he's afraid of losing what he has, well, so be it. Isn't the goal to save dogs, not hurt them?

I had an opportunity to watch this Vick saga unfold from afar, and it was fascinating how people tried to make Vick into who they wanted him to be. Some wanted him to be articulate and remorseful, to prove he was really sorry for doing something that was a part of his life since he was a child. Some wanted him essentially to disavow everything he knew, and to express regret. And when he didn't do it to people's satisfaction, they crucified him.

Fighting dogs is a vile, repugnant activity. It's morally reprehensible. It's disgusting to think that Vick actually enjoyed watching two dogs tear each other to shreds. How he viewed that as entertainment, not to mention a sport (as Vick said he viewed it at the time), is incomprehensible.

But Vick paid his debt to society. He served his 18 months in federal prison and lost just about everything, including an astronomical amount of money. He deserves a second chance. And if he's unable to eloquently articulate his remorse, that's OK, too, as long as he doesn't take another dog's life.

"I was skeptical, yes," Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society, told me yesterday when I asked if he believed Vick was sincere about being sorry for fighting dogs. "I would have to be skeptical, because his professional interests run in the direction of good public relations. But I consider that an insurance policy . . .

"We can only really be judged by our actions. Thus far every time we see each other he says, 'When's the next one? I'm really enjoying this. I'm really liking that I'm on this side of the fence.' For me, that's enough."

So far, Vick has made three appearances with the Humane Society. The first led to 100 people joining the organization's campaign to curtail dogfighting on the south side of Chicago, said Tio Hardiman, who spearheads the group's End Dogfighting campaign. Vick has agreed to make two appearances a month for the Humane Society, with the next two likely in Baltimore and Washington. Return trips to Chicago and Atlanta also are likely, as is an appearance in Dallas before the Eagles play the Cowboys.

"We can't crucify this brother forever," Hardiman said of Vick.

"This is a tangle, but clearly he's sorry for what happened to him," Pacelle said. "I'm convinced he's never going back there, and the point for me is putting him to work in the form of community service to attack this problem and to do more good in the future than he did harm in the past. . . . If he turns around and doesn't fulfill his obligations or if he were ever to get back in this, we would have no sympathy for that. But if he wants to do better, we will give him the platform to show that he can be part of the solution."

That's where Vick seems to be at the moment. He's such a polarizing figure, some will crucify him for that, too. But to me that's enough. For now.

Ashley Fox:


Ashley Fox:

Vick seems to have learned

his lesson. D2.

Contact staff writer Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com.

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