These days, the bigger problem seems to be in finding one, especially a youth-sized version. The Sports Authority near my home had two adult-sized No. 7s left yesterday. Dick's Sporting Goods, down the street, had none. Modell's had just restocked its adult supply after a barrage of recent buys, said Mike Tupe, the assistant store manager.
Sales of Vick jerseys have been brisk in the Delaware Valley since the Eagles defeated the Indianapolis Colts three games ago, thinning and eliminating inventory that had not moved much since the Eagles signed Vick in the summer of 2009, just months after he served 18 months in Leavenworth for running a dogfighting ring in southern Virginia.
Vick was long removed from the halcyon days in which his jersey sold worldwide, when his image graced video games and advertising campaigns. Marketing experts speculated he would never recover those days, especially as his 2009 season suggested he would not recover the talent that had once made him as electrifying in football as Allen Iverson once was in basketball.
That electricity is back, coupled with a humbled and studious approach that, until recently, was viewed skeptically by fans burned by too many phony rebirths.
The dollars spent recently hint there may be some belief brewing in the man. "We've at least doubled sales week over week for the last 3 weeks on Vick product," said Jed Berger, senior vice president of marketing for Modell's, adding that his company is selling seven times the number of Vick jerseys now than it was before the Indianapolis game.
He was asked if he thought customers had changed their minds about Vick. "I can't read customers' minds," he said. "I can only read their wallets . . .
"According to customers' wallets, which is all I have to measure, the demand has certainly increased . . . I don't know if that means they are accepting him. But they're accepting him as their quarterback and they're willing to put on a Vick jersey to watch him."
To be clear: DeSean Jackson is still by far the most popular Eagles jersey stocked and sold, followed by LeSean McCoy, then Jeremy Maclin, then Brent Celek. These you can get in adult and youth sizes. Kevin Kolb jerseys in both categories hang on a rack as well, a testament to the iffy, and fickle, nature of such buys.
Which is why Hughes was shopping for an Eagles jacket and not a Vick jersey.
"I don't think Vick will be here next year," he said.
That's one reason for shying from buying a No. 7 this holiday season.
Here's another: "Daddy's message might be one of redemption, of a second chance in buying a Vick shirt," said Kenneth Shropshire, a Wharton School professor who has written and lectured extensively on such sports-business topics. "But it can be problematic if the kid goes to school, goes somewhere with it on, and the conversation becomes something else."
Hughes, who is white, said his kid has a teacher who has made her continued disgust of Vick very clear to her students.
And that's in a Catholic school.
September Santos, a 41-year-old, born-and-bred Philadelphian, said she has been part of that conversation repeatedly over the last few weeks, as Vick has again established himself not just as a starter, but a star. An IT professional involved in global management, she said Vick has been a recurring topic in a workplace she described as "very diverse."
"Actually, unfortunately, my African-American friends are harder on Vick than other ethnic groups, male and female," said Santos, who was holiday shopping yesterday.
She, too, is African-American. "We've actually had this conversation over and over," she said. "I think he's judged harsher by his own race because we're disappointed. He's created even more of a stereotype or something else to overcome or be judged by."
A mother of four, Santos' children are young adults. If they were younger? "Would I buy a Vick shirt?" she asked. "At this point, I would definitely buy a Vick shirt. I would buy it for a little kid as well. I would say, 'He did something bad, he paid for it, and when people do things bad, as a person you should be able to forgive and move on.' "
It's still unclear how far along in that process we are, or how far the majority is willing to go. It's still unclear whether a spike in the sale of Vick jerseys equates to a thousand pardons.
At the very least, though, it suggests that possibility even exists. Which seemed impossible the last time the holiday season came around.
"At some point everybody deserves a second chance," Santos said. "I don't want to be judged the rest of my life for mistakes. The Bible says don't judge."
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