More to Mike Vick story than football

Lately, the local sport talk radio station has been one of my more frequent stops on the FM dial.

It is a good time for sports talk. Football season is on the horizon and major league baseball is winding down with the playoffs in the not-too distant future. Besides, one has little to pick from when it comes to music on FM in the Beaumont-Houston area. And on AM, of course, it’s practically all right-wing radio unless you get in just the right geographical spot and can get the Cajun station out of South Louisiana.

A lot of the radio sports guys have recently spent a lot of air time on the fate of Michael Vick, the one-time Atlanta quarterback who was recently reinstated into the NFL after serving federal prison time for organizing dog fights.

As a story — be it sports or just news — Michael Vick’s is a compelling one given the standard for news stories these days. It is a story tinged with race as well as that of animal cruelty. If gay abortionists were somehow involved in the story you would touch just about every hot-button out there.

The sports talkers are, not to a man, mostly missing the boat when it comes to the fate of Michael Vick. Many of these talk show folks I have heard want Vick back on the field where he belongs (their sentiment). There also seems to be a good-sized element of the African-American community who feel Vick is being, pardon the pun, black-balled from playing football. After all, Vick was one of the top NFL quarterbacks before his trouble with the law began.

I can’t speak for the sports guys and certainly not for blacks. I do believe though that the former are swimming against the tide in a great cultural gulf. Some of the sports talkers can’t understand why, if the NFL commissioner has reinstated Vick, that he has not been automatically snapped up by the league’s teams. Some have even gone so far to say the team executives must be worried about PETA showing up on their 50-yard lines.

But my guess is that the concerns go way beyond PETA. Some of the same folks who abhor animal cruelty show up on Sunday’s in the seats and skyboxes of the NFL’s stadiums. Countless others are chomping down on hot wings and drinking Bud Light at home while the games televised into their living rooms feature young guys knocking the bejesus out of each other. Yet many of these same fans go ballistic when they see abandoned or abused puppies on the evening news.

During my career as a, full-time, journalist I covered double homicides, wrecks killing or maiming handfuls and other miscellaneous mayhem. But never, ever, did I get as many phone calls and e-mails than the next day after a story I did involving stray dogs and cats.

This guy had become a one-man animal rescue and he kept taking in dogs and cats until animals had occupied one house and mostly took over another. I was out at this guy’s house when sheriff’s deputies came to take the animals away because this otherwise Good Samaritan couldn’t properly feed or otherwise care for these strays. It was as sad as it was vile, if you can imagine nothing but dogs and cats everywhere and doing pretty much as they do when not housebroken.

I notice that the local television news reporters lately also jump on animal abuse stories like a duck on a June bug. These stories run at the top of the newscasts, ahead of fatal car wrecks, Saturday-night stabbings and armed robberies. That’s because they know such stories play on the basest of human emotions. That is, at least for those who have the compassion to understand what is taking place.

I won’t dwell on the racial aspect of it because that is something which I personally know little about. However, there is also the “gangsta” element in the dogfighting cult that ticks off people of more than one race. Some people just can’t abide by crack-smoking, drive-by shooting, thugs for some reason.

NFL owners know the tightrope they are walking. Should they give Michael Vick another chance? And then that one little nagging thing: What if he lost some of his umpph while he was in the joint?

I have thought that perhaps Vick deserves a chance at some point in time but only after he has shown sincere remorse for his actions. I thought perhaps his talk in Atlanta to some kids over the weekend might have been a start. Although, some folks see it more as self-serving.

In the end, neither the sports talk guys nor Jesse Jackson nor PETA nor I, will have the say as to whether Vick suits up again for the NFL. Whether that is the case, ultimately, is another story.