Sunday, February 03, 2008

You Can Take the Thug Out Of the Ghetto...

... but you can never get the ghetto out of the thug, apparently.

CORRECTION: My wife has informed it was Whoppi Goldberg who made the comment about dog-fighting being culturally acceptable. My apologies to Ms Winfrey (especially since I've gotten a few visits from her company, Harpo). I have corrected the body of the post.

Yesterday's New York Times has a story on the pit bulls formerly owned by disgraced, convicted and imprisoned former NFL superstar-turned-ass Michael Vick.

Vick, as you may recall, operated a dog-fighting business at his Bad Newz Kennels, located on the grounds of his estate in rural Virginia. 48 dogs were seized. One had to be euthanized due to viciousness; the others are scattered around the country at various dog rehab facilities.

Life at Best Friends is nothing like it was at Mr. Vick’s property on Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Va., where many of the dogs were found chained to buried car axles. They slept on concrete. Their water, if any, was kept in algae-covered bowls. Most were underfed. Some showed recent lacerations.

The dogs were bred and trained to be fighters, nothing more. Vick and his cronies abused these animals. They tortured them, And, when the dogs no longer provided income, they killed them. Vick's thugs didn't humanely euthanize the dogs, either: they were electrocuted, hanged, drowned, shot or slammed to the ground.

Many of the surviving dogs may live to be adopted, going to safe, loving homes. Others -- because of what Vick and his homies did to them -- will have to live out their days in sanctuaries, unadoptable for a variety of reasons.

This is what Vick did to his dogs:

  • Georgia has no teeth. All 42 of them were pried from her mouth, most likely to make certain she could not harm male dogs during forced breeding.
  • Little Red is a tiny rust-colored female whose teeth were filed, most likely because she was bait for the Bad Newz fighters. Handlers cannot explain why loud noises make her jumpy.
  • Cherry, a black-and-white male, has what seems to be chemical burns on his back. His file at Best Friends says he loves car rides and having his backside rubbed. But like many of Mr. Vick’s pit bulls, he is petrified of new situations and new people.
  • [Meryl] lunged at a veterinary technician, snapping at him three times. By court order, she must stay at Best Friends forever.
As the story was unfolding, the lovely-yet-talented Mrs 618 mentioned in passing that Whoopi Goldberg had tried to explain that in the culture in which Vick was raised, dog-fighting was acceptable, and that we should not judge him too harshly.

Simple response to that: in that same culture -- the deep South -- lynching blacks was also acceptable. Does this mean I can string Vick up in a tree and Whoopi will leap to my defense?

I didn't think so.

For too many people, the fact that Vick is (or was) a talented football player was more important than any other fact. To some, it is Vick's skin color that is paramount:

But when all is said, done and served, there is the very real possibility that three years will be lost to a celebrated African-American athlete in the prime of his professional life.

That quote, from another NYT article, expresses one of the most infuriating aspects of this case - the race card. Former NFL wide receiver Duke Ferguson expressed that sentiment.

Yes, Vick was a star, a gifted athlete. So was Mike Tyson. As was Darryl Strawberry.

But inside, all are just plain thugs, thugs who used their talent and their money to avoid paying the price for their "off-field" antics. Yet, some people claim Vick should receive special treatment -- i.e., a lighter sentence -- because of his talents. As I recall, that argument didn't work too well for Tyson or Strawberry, either.

Does Vick's superstar athlete status somehow magically exempt him from the constraints of civilized society? And if it does, what does that say about society?

Of course, there are also those who play the race card in reverse, seizing upon Vick and his ilk to "prove" that African-Americans are incapable of participating in society, solely because of race. These morons jump on every mis-step by a black to justify "keeping them in their place." That's equally wrong, obviously.

Pete Rose bet on sporting events. His was banned from baseball, permanently barred from the Hall of Fame, and generally shunned by "polite society."

And all he did was bet on games.

In sentencing Vick to 23 months in a Federal prison, the trial judge did depart -- upwards -- from the prosecutor's recommendation. But 23 months is not enough to punish Vick for his cruel, cowardly actions.

He should be banned from any connection with any kind of athletic endeavor (including coaching, product endorsements, or anything else). He should be barred from any sports arena, even as a spectator. No journalist or sportscaster (and yes, I do imply there is a difference, but that's for another post) should ever interview Vick about anything.

Despite what Vick and the rest of the criminals at Bad Newz tried to do, the dogs are doing reasonably well:

“These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us,” Mr. Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. “But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are.”

Let Vick rot in hell.

When I was a kid, professional athletes were people we looked up to. Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizutto, Joe Namath, Whitey Ford, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Jack Nicklaus, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Mario Andretti... these men were role models for thousands of kids (and yes, they were all men, as women weren't really allowed into the ranks until after pro athletes stopped caring about others). They didn't lie, cheat or steal. They didn't do drugs (at least not to today's extent). They didn't charge for autographs (and they sure as hell didn't have 100,000 "signed" pictures printed in advance) - they never refused to sign whatever some little hand shoved in their faces, whether it was a ball, a picture or a trading card.

They also didn't have multi-million dollar contracts. During the heyday of the Yankees, in the 50's and 60's, the guys like DiMaggio and Mantle made $50,000, a fortune by their standards, but a pittance compared to today (even on a percentage basis).

Vick is not fit to share the same honored profession as these men.

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