Monday, July 27, 2009

MICHAEL VICK: They Can't Take it Away from You...Can They?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Everyone has weighed in on the Michael Vick situation it seems. I’ve read almost every article since Vick’s release from Federal custody. Many have taken one of the following two sides. Some feel that Vick has already been punished enough after spending 23 months in jail and two on house arrest and believe that the NFL and Roger Goodell should reinstate him immediately allowing him to finish out what’s left of what used to be a promising career. However, it seems that many more would like to see him further punished; and while he has in fact satisfied his criminal punishment, he should now have to face the second phase of his punishment by fulfilling whatever suspension the NFL & Roger Goodell sets in place for him.

As for me, my opinion varies day to day, but honestly I think the entire Michael Vick story has gone far beyond what a reasonable punishment for the crime he committed into what the actual punishment for a person in his position should be which is reflective of the crime but of the person. Now let me be clear I don’t condone his behavior in any way, as a dog owner myself, I think his crimes were horrendous and he deserved to be punished for his role in what happened. However, somewhere along the way the conversation changed from what he actually did into who he is and why people like him in his position have to be made an example of. What’s lost on this argument however on both sides is an idea that is an age old.

Has anyone ever told you that as long as you work hard and attain certain things in life, no one could ever take it away from you as long as they were achieved honorably? It’s something that I’ve heard my entire life and something and I’ve never forgotten. Not many can argue that Michael Vick worked for every aspect of success he that he came to achieve. While playing for Virginia Tech, he broke many records as an all-star quarterback, going on to become the first round number one draft pick in 2001 in the NFL. During his short NFL career Vick secured endorsement contracts from companies that included Nike, EA Sports Coca-Cola, PowerAde, Kraft & Air Tran to name a few. That along with his contract with the Falcons placed him at 33 on the Forbes Top 100 Celebrities in 2005. Arthur Bell and the Atlanta Falcons organization struck gold when they signed Vick making him one of the most popular and recognizable players in the NFL. In return Vick was named an MVP candidate in 2002 after only his second year in the league and was voted to his first Pro Bowl in that same season, in 2003 he led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game, where they would lose to the Philadelphia Eagles, but it was their first appearance since the 1998-1999 seasons. Vick’s work was far from over however, in 2004 & 2005 he was named to both his second and third Pro Bowls for the Falcons and in 2006 Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards during the regular season. In six years Michael Vick had created a lucrative financial payoff to the Falcons organization for their investment in him and was on his way into football allure.
However, in 2007 not much of that meant anything to the Falcons organization once Vick was charged and later convicted in conjunction with an ongoing federal dog fighting investigation. In an instant all of it was gone because he had allowed “them” to take it away from him; and with it all of the God-given ability and hard work was now a thing of the past.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to, successful black athletes, often male, (see Marion Jones for the exception) seems to forget that no matter how far you go, how high you reach in status or how great you become, you will NEVER win over everyone. After one mistake as quickly as you attained success someone will be there waiting to take away what you’ve acquired and worked so hard for. Success is a lot of things but one thing it isn’t is accidental, it’s one of the most deliberate and intentional acts a person seeks out. Take for example an individual who possess formal education; if someone were to take away their physical degree, while the idea may upset them, it’s not the piece of paper that gives them the education. The education is what’s absorbed during the process, the effort given to retain the information and the knowledge gained along the way. The same idea holds true for athletes…today or tomorrow you can take away the training facilities, the stadiums, the endorsement deals and the team affiliation but what’s given by the creator can ONLY be taken by the creator. The training techniques, the natural ability and extraordinary talent will remain intact as long as their will to play exists. Which is exactly where Vick finds himself…and where the dilemma of his situation begins. His skills I’m sure have not diminished over the past 25 months and I’m sure he’s still able to play the position of quarterback today, but he’s no longer in control of when he’ll be able to do so ever again. Now he’s faced with the reality of wondering just how much more they’re going to take from him in continuing to punish him. From my observation I think the NFL is prolonging his comeback by making him wait. Time right now is not on Vick’s side and by increasing the length of time he waits to be reinstated doesn’t help his future in football. The justice system has already taken 25 months from his career, and now the NFL & Roger Goodell have to be aware that with training camp opening for many teams who NEED QB’s time is the ONLY punishment for someone with Vick’s talent and ability. If the NFL is so cruel as to add a yearlong suspension to Vick’s situation that puts him two full years out of the NFL system, and with him knocking on 30 which in football years equals 60 he’ll be at an even greater disadvantage than any other player looking to make a comeback. With the loss of time goes his potential of making millions with other teams, along with the celebrity status and fame he once enjoyed.

This is what happens when we forget just how valuable our talents are and become so naïve as to think that others don’t want to see us fail. Last week we witnessed first-hand both sides of a very familiar coin. On one side we watched as ESPN and the media nearly blanketed the Ben Roethlisberger story which involved sexual misconduct and civil misbehavior; but in that very same week the nation was baffled as one of the best known African American intellectual scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr, was escorted from his home in handcuffs after being accused of breaking into his own home and charged with disorderly conduct for good measure. Don’t think for one minute that Mr. Gates arrest had anything to do with him being a threat in any way to anyone. The Cambridge Police Department tried taking something away from this highly successful Harvard professor by embarrassing his name and somehow tainting his image with this ridiculous arrest. The double standard couldn’t be any clearer between the two, but the facts are what they are and so we move forward. But moving forward has to be done with a clear direction for the successful men and women we are and stand to become.

No matter what you do big or small never allow someone the power of taking away from you what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Holding ourselves to that higher standard that says I’m going to be accountable for my actions because I know that not everyone is happy about the success I’ve achieved is key. You will be tested…no matter who you are, if success is in your future there is almost a 100% chance that something will come your way that will threaten to interfere with the path that you’re on, but if you don’t give anyone anything to go off of no one will ever be able to walk away with what you’ve earned. Michael Vick earned every dollar he was given, every endorsement deal, the franchise tag because of the athleticism he possessed & star power he brought to the NFL. All of this was given to him because of his performance well before he entered into the NFL. And after one mistake that he has paid for many times over already, his future is no longer in his hands because they figured out a way to take it away from him.

Thoughts, comments & questions are welcomed!


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