Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Pro-Bono Defense of Michael Vick

The notion of a crimewave led by athletes who always "get away with it" has been present since I was young. To hear some tell it, your average police lineup could be assembled into a Pro-Bowl offensive line.

This "athlete crimewave" script is more padded than Rocky Balboa's record. Wide receivers are not weapons of mass destruction. Their crimes are often victimless acts like drug possession, which shouldn't be illegal in the first place.

What most outrages the "athlete crimewave" faithful is the belief that courts treat athletes differently. I'm outraged this surprises anyone. Rich people always have the upper hand in court; doubly so for rich people who also represent major investments made by even richer people (team owners, the leagues themselves). And if the tables were turned, the "crimewave" soapboxers would surely use every resource at their disposal to conjure the words: "Not guilty." Even Dr. Phil could deduce that given a choice between prison and freedom, most folks prefer freedom.

Michael Vick is a screaming exception to the "getting away with it" rule. The man did time. Our society purports to believe that those who have done time have "paid their debt." So Vick's debt is settled. His credit is restored. He doesn't belong in sweeping rants about athletes "getting away with it."

It's the sports fans themselves--the same guys who can't discuss athletes without using the word "thug"--who have become so unhinged that some NFL stadiums now have on-site jails. Eagles fans were such hellions that Veterans Stadium had its own courtroom. If these sport fans--often middle-aged 9-to-5ers--can't be trusted to behave after a few beers at a ball game, just imagine how they'd act if they were 23-year-old millionaires with the world on a string.

Today's sports fan is a greater threat to the public's perception of sports than the athletes who play them. When debating whether to buy tickets to a game, who is more likely to keep you from pulling the trigger: The quarterback who sins off the field, or the drunken inbred who would sit behind you barking "YOU SUCK!!!" until your eardrums were mousse?

Remember superfans, when you point one of those giant WE'RE NUMBER ONE fingers at someone, there are three puffy fingers pointing back at you.

No comments: