Michael Vick was in court today (July 26, 2007) to plead not guilty to the federal charges against him in a disturbing dog fighting venture. No surprise here. And yes, due process is in action and he is innocent until proven guilty. But the evidence leaked thus far is pretty damning.

To read George Dohrmann’s special report “The House on Moonlight Road” in Sports Illustrated, June 4, 2007, it really hits home how Vick’s innocence may be questionable. After all, whether he was on the property or not, it was still his property. It’s like giving someone else the keys to your car. If they get into a wreck and hurt somebody, you’re responsible. You can cry ignorance all you want but your insurance company isn’t going to buy it.

With additional charges looming, even if Vick gets off on a plea bargain or a light sentence, the images are hard to shake. You’d have to think it’s impossible for anyone with any sense of decency or humanity to watch the clips of dog fighting for more than 30 seconds, less than five seconds if there is sound. It’s why the issue is so volatile.

For the people who were close to him, like Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank, this behavior is not the Michael Vick they know. They can’t picture how such a warm and generous individual can watch or take part in such inhumane cruelty toward another living being. Some will say it’s because he has such a big heart that he’s involved, helping out his childhood friends. Well, it doesn’t matter how much anyone loves their friends, few would engage in such a venture because their friends were into it. They’d more likely start dissing their friends. And if the company you keep determines your character, it’s not looking very good for Michael Vick right now.

So what if he gets off? He’s most likely done from the Falcons. The club is probably waiting for the right moment to release him so it won’t cost them as much money. Unless the league bans him for life (probably only a possibility if he is convicted), then he could potentially play for the Raiders. (Who else but Al Davis would bring him in? Okay, maybe Dallas.) And if he’s banned altogether from the NFL, you know some team in Canada will try and pick him up. PETA members better start making sure their passports are up to date.

Even with all of these scenarios – guilty, not guilty, acquitted, plea bargain – what are Michael Vick fans supposed to feel? If you want to know how big a Vick fan I was, my friends have been holding off calling me for days because they knew I needed time to digest and mourn.

Regardless of where the trial goes and how it ends, we can’t erase the images, knowing it happened on his property. How can we look at a picture of Michael Vick without thinking about what those eyes have seen and that he might have enjoyed it? But – then there are the highlight reels.

How do we erase the jaw dropping plays that endeared us to him in the first place? The magical runs. The touchdowns. Do we feel cheated? Can we ever enjoy the historic football plays that are forever etched in our minds? Do we all become Vince Young fans and hope that he carries on as the Human Highlight Reel? (So far, from his first season, it’s not too far a stretch.)

What do Michael Vick fans do now that they have been cheated out of some of the most exciting football the league has ever witnessed? Maybe someone can start a support group: Michael Vick Anonymous. But as our initial anger subsides and gives way for mourning – mourning what was and what can never be again – we can only hope that maybe this was a good thing for the American Pit Bull. It’s made our conscious more aware of a disturbing sub-culture – one that we will be paying a lot more attention to from now on. Perhaps we’ll be more vigilant about noticing the condition of our neighbor’s dogs from now on, too. I suppose we can thank him for that.

© 2007 Debbie Elicksen

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