Vick's downfall self-inflicted

That yet another professional athlete has taken a precipitous fall should come as no surprise.

The temptations that lurk in the shadows to snap up young, rich athletes like Michael Vick are many. That 99.9 percent of pro athletes are able to avoid a career-wrecking sin is a tribute to all who have self-control and a understanding of how lucky they are.

That's why the Vick case boggles the mind, that an athlete with so much to lose could throw it away by creating his own temptation. Vick will plead guilty to dogfighting conspiracy charges and could face 18 months in the slammer.

Vick and his buddies, who when confronted by the evidence rolled over on him quicker than a beagle at a dog biscuit buffet, apparently got some ugly joy from watching dogs try to tear each other apart. And, according to reports, he must have gotten something extra from drowning or hanging those dogs that "under-performed."

How stupid can you be?

This apparently wasn't some guy falling in with the wrong crowd and being led astray. It was planned. Vick, according to reports, bankrolled it. He was a willing creator of this sad mess, of his own tumble.

Those who still stand in Vick's corner, and there are many, argue that he's a good guy who just strayed from the straight and narrow. Yeah, right. It's more likely he was just a thug all along.

Some argue he's being persecuted because he's black. If this were Tom Brady, the screams would be as loud, the punishment just as severe, because this is an act of foolishness that demands such outrage.

Some would say, 'It's just dogs, what's the big deal?'

Well, the big deal is it's illegal and cruel.

I do wish, though, there was a PETA for people and those folks who scream and protest at the mistreatment of animals would also scream and protest when a child or a woman is abused, something that happens every day in every community. But that's a rant for another day.

Still, you wonder how a guy like Vick, with so much to lose, can throw it all away. Here's a guy who has been given a free pass to fame and fortune because he can run like the wind and throw a football. Maybe that's part of the problem. He figured he could do it and run from it if anything happened.

This was one blitz Vick couldn't duck, and he's put his career, his livelihood, in jeopardy at the age of 27, at the height of his fame and ability to perform. No other athlete I can think of has ever done that.

All the companies using Vick for endorsements -- Nike, Reebok, Rawlings, others -- already have distanced themselves from Vick. Those corporations will steer clear from Vick even if he does play again in the NFL.

And that is the big question. Will Vick ever find an NFL end zone again?

He's probably going to do jail time. He's not going to play this year. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to whom Vick lied about his connection to the dogfighting ring, could ban him for life, considering the gambling implications that have surfaced in the case.

Goodell could just tack on some extra time, meaning Vick might be able to contemplate a comeback in two or three years. But that would mean Vick, whose career with the Atlanta Falcons (if team management is smart) is over, would have to repair a lot of bridges and convince some team he was, unlike those under-performing dogs, worth a second chance.

His lawyer, in expressing the remorse Vick apparently couldn't express for himself, said "football is not the most important thing in Michael Vick's life."

Since when?

Since the day it became apparent he could run faster, cut quicker and make the most dazzling plays out of nothing, football and nothing else has defined Michael Vick. It turned him into yet another pampered, catered-to athlete who had everything life could offer spooned to him on a daily basis.

Without football, who knows where Michael Vick would be? With football, we know where he is, or at least where he was, and what he held in the palm of his hand -- fame, unlimited riches and power all a part of it.

We'll find out if Vick still has a life, or if he hanged and drowned it in his own temptation.