Opinion Columns & Blogs

Can Vick find redemption?

The appropriate punishment for Michael Vick is:

A. Permanent exile from the NFL

B. Being tossed in a ring with four hungry pit bulls while wearing a necklace of pork chops

C. A life sentence

D. None of the above

I vote for D.

Pardon me, but the vitriol directed at the ex-star Atlanta Falcons quarterback drips with hypocrisy. As AP sports columnist Dave Goldberg wrote last week, the only NFL player ever threatened with a harsher sentence was former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth, and that was for murdering his paramour!

Granted Vick's brazen involvement in the gruesome "sport" of dog fighting is reprehensible, but was it worse than the multitudinous cases of domestic abuse, drug dealing and general thuggery NFL players have engaged in for years?

Personally, I don't care if Vick ever gets near a football again, but I take with a grain of salt expressions of outrage by people shocked -- shocked, I say -- that some people enjoying watching dogs tear each other apart.

It's not as if Vick and his playmates invented the bloody pastime. Drive across Rock Hill on any day, and you'll see vicious dogs straining at chains, lunging at passers-by. Chances are that they are not in training for the Westminster dog show.

And when those dogs give up or are so badly wounded that they'll likely never fight again, guess what happens? They're executed, which is what Vick and his buddies were suspected of doing.

And, yes, that's terrible, but what happens to greyhounds when they become too old or feeble to chase a stuffed rabbit around the track?

And those noble thoroughbreds that can no longer burst out of a starting gate yet aren't considered candidates for stud? Here's a hint: They end up in cans and are fodder for dogs owned by cretins like Vick.

Years ago, when I was an ink-stained wretch on Hilton Head Island, a frequent visitor to my office at The Island Packet was Adkins Lowell, who almost single-handedly shamed the community into building a first-class animal shelter. Passionate in his defense of helpless cats and dogs, Lowell frequently spouted off about how many social psychopaths had been animal abusers when they were young.

A retired McGraw-Hill executive, Lowell was a marketing genius. He convinced local movers and shakers that if something weren't done about the number of stray dogs roaming the island, Hilton Head one day would be hit by a rabies scandal, which would cost the resort community a pretty penny.

Lowell was married to a lovely woman, Eleanor, whose mother once was head of the biggest animal protection group in Pennsylvania. Both Lowells are now deceased, but I wonder what punishment they would have advocated for Michael Vick. I dare say Adkins Lowell would have tried to turn the disgraced athlete's notoriety into a positive.

In Adkins' memory, here's a suggestion: Let Vick spend the upcoming NFL season in the clink (he deserves some hard time) but release him two weeks prior to the Super Bowl (if for no other reason than to give sports columnists and TV commentators something to chew over than their tired mindless chatter about the world's most over hyped sports event).

This assumes, of course, that during his time behind bars, Vick will have been on good behavior and not busted for wagering on cockroach fights in the prison mess hall.

Conditions of his release would include that Vick participate in -- and pay for -- a national publicity campaign about the dangers of animal cruelty.

The next time you see some young stud, pimp-strutting down the sidewalk, leading a pit bull on a chain heavy enough to secure the U.S.S. Missouri at anchor, ask yourself this question: Whose advice would he be more likely to consider, Officer Friendly's or that of an NFL superstar talking in prime-time spots about the error of his ways?

Surely, this nation, which prides itself as being Christian, can forgive a repentant dog abuser.

Of course, Vick may reject my solution out of hand.

In that case, I vote for Option B (above).