That was the first Vick/Oprah "controversy." The second came when Vick decided to cancel the interview altogether.
"He [cited] personal reasons," Winfrey told the Hollywood Reporter. "We did a field trip with him. We had been shooting with Michael Vick. And the fact that he pulled out and all his people. . . . We move on."
The horror. Judging by the reaction, no one has ever canceled on Oprah, because suddenly everyone wanted to know why Vick would do such a detestable thing to such an important and powerful person. Did PETA apply pressure? Did the Eagles? Or was the Oprah pullout orchestrated by some cabal with still-unknown motives?
It became - and remains - this great unsolved mystery to certain news organizations. USA Today, Fox Sports, Fanhouse, Yahoo Sports, ESPN, Pro Football Talk, and others have addressed the situation and/or floated theories about why Vick backed out. I keep waiting for the Obama administration to dust off Arlen Specter, reunite the surviving members of the Warren Commission, and task them to figure out what happened.
When Vick first agreed to do the interview, Oprah's people billed it as something momentous. The way it was spun made it sound as if television's first lady had demanded and been granted an audience with the elusive dogfighting kingpin. The Oprah hype machine is unmatched. When she says something is true, people believe it's true - even when it's almost entirely not true, as was the case with James Frey's book A Million Little Pieces.
Oprah trumpeted the Vick sit-down as though she had pulled off something no one else could, a true media coup. Maybe that's why Fox Sports called it a "rare interview" and claimed it would be "one of the first [Vick] has given since returning to football." That might also be why the PETA people freaked out and, in an official blog post, promoted the thoughts of a Los Angeles Times scribe who wrote, "Vick needs to learn and show humility, and going on a popular TV show to say look at me now is not humble."
Look at me now? More like look at me some more. That's why this whole Oprah flap is so laughable. There are HBO comedy specials that aren't nearly as hilarious as the simple, ridiculous assertion that Vick was set to give Oprah a "rare interview."
Since he got out of federal prison and returned to football, nothing has been rare about Vick's media schedule. James Brown interviewed him on 60 Minutes. Jon Gruden talked to him on ESPN. Mike and Mike spoke with him on ESPN radio. Jim Mora, Deion Sanders, and Sterling Sharpe had separate powwows with Vick for the NFL Network. Howard Eskin and Ike Reese debriefed him on WIP. Mike Missanelli chatted with him on The Fanatic.
But wait, there's more. Vick also did hits on Fox5 in New York and The Global Grind on BET. He even did an in-studio appearance with Gangsta Grillz Radio in Atlanta. Then there were the countless in-season locker room interviews with local and national beat writers, columnists, radio personalities, and TV reporters at the NovaCare Complex.
It's almost easier to list the people who haven't interviewed Vick than to remember those who have. At this rate, if you have a Blogspot account or a digital recorder or even a string with a tin can attached at the end for Vick to talk into, you could be next.
Given all that, I don't understand why bailing on Oprah was such a big deal. All the dogfighting questions have been asked and re-asked and asked again. We've heard his answers so many times that any of us could fill in for him and regurgitate the same talking points about big mistakes and making the most of second chances. Unless Oprah has perfected some nifty new Jedi mind trick that no one knows about, I'm not sure how she planned to pry free new information.
Vick was supposed to appear on Oprah. He didn't. It's not a big deal. It really isn't. Maybe Gangsta Grillz just has a more comfortable couch.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him at twitter.com/gonzophilly