The entire Michael Vick/dogfighting saga has really been unbelievable. For an athlete of his stature to even be close enough to the situation to be credibly indicted says something about his incredible lack of judgment. But before I get to Vick himself, there are some other things that I have been thinking about in relation to this story.
- The Modern News Approach is Dangerous - In my mind, Vick is guilty. I think there is too much pointing to that, the least of which is the fact he was even included in a FEDERAL indictment. However, the problem is that I am not alone. Everyone has an opinion already. This story has been covered 24 hours a day for two days now. There are 24 hour television news channels, talk radio shows, internet new, internet sports, sports television shows. It is a saturation of news. I was listening to Tom Brokaw on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike yesterday morning. The hosts asked him about how he felt the story was being handled. He said exactly what I have felt for a long time. When there is this much coverage out there, it doesn't take long to cross the line to irresponsible journalism. I would go one further. On just about any news story, you pretty much exhaust the angles and facts in about four hours. Then you are stuck with two option: wait for updates or talk about the same stuff. That is what you find on the media outlets. You have people who keep talking and talking about the same exact details. And then everyone is desperately searching for leaks, hints, rumors, and updates. This has led to some of the irresponsible stuff we have seen over the recent past. People release news without confirmations. They use some questionable source as breaking news. Why have we had so many problems with government leaks lately? It all ties into this. The other major problem is that once you reach the point of saturation, the only way to stand out is to make off the wall statements. This is especially true in the sports news world. Every major city has AT LEAST one sports talk radio station. In Orlando we have two. Plus, ESPN has four TV channels, Fox Sports has one, CSS sports, Sunshine Sports (in Florida), and all the traditional news stations. There is a huge amount of babble going on. So many sports guys have resorted to making bizarre and controversial statements to break into that glut. That is how guys like Skip Bayless, Dan LeBatard, and Woody Paige jumped from newspaper guys to television guys. And that is how they stay there - they make ridiculous comments. I'm sure we aren't too far away from one or all of those guys defending dogfighting (if it hasn't already happened). I already have heard sportswriters defending Vick and his buddies by saying this is a racist issue. They also have tried to say that dogfighting is cultural among a group of African-Americans in the south. Really? That makes it okay? It didn't make racisim or slavery or polygamy okay. I think that we all should agree that if a cultural event involved murder and torture, it should generally be frowned upon in America. But some people have tried to defend this to get national airplay. The line between editorial and news is so blurred we don't even know what it is.
- Innocent Until Proven Guilty is Bunk - With the news going this way, that ancient concept of American justice is gone. All that matters is the initial news break. The follow-ups never get the same airplay as the first story - unless it is at the end of a whole overblown media cirucs (OJ, Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton). For example, if someone gets sued for something, that gets front page coverage. Ninety percent of the time, the suit has no merit or it gets dropped or the sued party wins or they settle. But this doesn't get the same recognition. So we hear about people suing McDonald's for getting fat. But we never hear that the courts laughed those people out of the courtroom. Or we hear someone getting charged with something, and then don't hear what happened. We assume that an indictment or getting charged with something means that person was found guilty. Now, a FEDERAL indictment is different than an average one. Those are usually extremely well researched. In most cases, it takes as much work to get a federal grand jury to indict as it would to get a full local trial won. Plus, you don't have the same risk of District Attorneys going out on personal resume building (like the Duke lacrosse case). However, in the court of public opinion, if a person is charged or sued they are seen as guilty. Sure, we may tack the word "allegedly" onto that - mainly with a sarcastic tone and a disdain for having to include it. This is soooo dangerous. With this mindset in place, if people ever do get arrested for political or religious stances, what chance do they have? In addition, it poisons the jury pool. It becomes harder and harder to find people without pre-concieved notions for the jury. What people are you left with? If they aren't aware of a major case even with this massive coverage, how in touch with society are they?
- In Sports, All That Matters Are W, L, and $ - The first statement out of Nike's Headquarters was that this whole incident had no bearing on their marketing for Vick's new shoe. They knew that this incident would not hurt sales, so they probably really wanted to rush out the shoes. Instead, that statement got torn to shreds in the press. Now they are delaying the release. Why? Do you honestly think that moms are going to stop their kids from getting the shoes because they are Vick's? Actually, there is a huge portion of people who would be buying that type of shoes who would be MORE likely to buy it now because Vick is in trouble. The NFL is not going to suspend Vick for now. The Falcons are not going to bench him until the trial affects his ability to play. Falcon fans are hoping he gets off. I admire the new NFL conduct code, but if they aren't going to use it on this, what strength does it have? The line in it that the player "brought shame or embarrassment to himself, his team, and the league." That doesn't describe Vick at all. That bong he tried to smuggle on a plane? Not embarrassing. And even if he is found innocent, having a dogfighting ring run out of his house by his friends? Nope, no shame there. Come on. Just because he's a star he shouldn't get treated different. This is the same as when Ray Lewis was charged with murder and still went to training camp. The same as when Jamal Lewis went to prison for SELLING DRUGS and didn't get suspended by the league. Ridonkulous.
- This Shows How Screwed Up Society's Priorities Are - Why is this such a heinous story? Because dogs are involved. I have said before, the best way to show that a character is a villain in a movie is to have them kill a dog. What happened in Virginia is horrible and disgusting. I think that it shows a degenerate mind. But is there this kind of uproar when people are mistreated? When a child is abused or neglected, when a homeless person is beaten, when an innocent citizen is shot, when a senior citizen is abandoned, when a baby is aborted (oops, I went there). There may be news coverage of something, but it is not intense. We are used to and jaded to ordinary, run of the mill human abuse. The only thing that shocks us out of that is something truly shocking (Virginia Tech shooting, Chris Benoit murders). I think there should be outrage over this Vick thing. Don't think I am saying anything else. But I also wish that we saw humans as worth protecting as those dogs.
As far as Vick goes, I think that it doesn't look good for him. Personally, even if he was completely clueless about the ring, even if he was totally innocent, I think he has to be held responsible for being an accessory to the whole thing. It was his house, his friends, his family members. To say that no one ever slipped in talking around him, that they completely covered their tracks whenever he was at the house, is to really stretch the limits of credibility. He had to have known something, seen a cage, heard the dogs crying, noticed the cars. At first, it looked like he was at worst a passive party in the ring. Now the new evidence that led to his indictment shows that he was involved in the money end AND the dog execution. I think it speaks boatlaods about this whole thing that NO ONE is stunned that Michael Vick was invovled. It is almost like the only question is HOW involved he was. That doesn't speak well of his reputation that with all these people talking about this (even the shock jocks), not a single person has come forward and said, "I can't picture Mike being involved in this. He is not the type of person who would stomach this or allow this." They all just want to know if he actually killed the dogs - which is something they can totally believe him doing. Wow. You must be a real jerk to have your friends not even shake their heads when you get indicted for killing dogs. This is probably the most damning evidence I have heard.
If someone like Drew Brees or LaDamian Tomlinson or Reggie Bush were accused of this, we would be stunned. It would even go so far as to say if Terrell Owens or Keyshawn Johnson or Chad Johnson - some of the more annoying players - were named in this, we would have a hard time believing it. But Vick is named, and we all go, "Sound about right." Man. Those Vick boys are something else. His brother gets accused of rape, assault, and drug use and is such a problem he actually got kicked off the Virginia Tech team - and then is arrogant and uncooperative when the Dolphins stupidly gave him a chance. Mike had about above some of the fray until recently, when it seemed like he stopped trying to cover his scummy nature. My hope is that Vick and his buddies get a fast fair trial (supposedly in October). I hope that if they are truly involved in this, they are found guilty. And if they are, I want them to get the maximum sentence (six years in prison, huge butt fine). And then I want Mike Vick to be stripped of every endorsement he has. I want him to be banned from football for life. I want Nike and Powerade and the Falcons to sue him to get back signing bonuses and contract money. And then I want THAT to be the precedent for the other NFL athletes who decide to get involved in despicable actions. That would send a nice clear message.