Sunday, August 16, 2009
"Deserve's got nothing to do with it....."
If you happened to be out in West Conshohocken, at the Calvary Cemetery on Thursday, you might have had a chance to see Jeff Lurie and Roger Goodell get together and piss all over Bert Bell's grave. Okay....not literally, but they may as well have. While it's always folly to pretend to speak for a dead man, it's hard to imagine Bell--founder of the Eagles and the former NFL Commisioner who, in 1946, enacted a strict player conduct code--feeling anything but shock and dismay over the hiring of Michael Vick, and what the NFL has become.
The thing I find most irritating is the recurrent meme that he has done his time, and "deserves a second chance." In the words of William Munny in the great Unforgiven, and later, Snoop in The Wire, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
Down on the east side of Newport News lots of poor kids see athletics as their only way out. Like Vick, many of them will go through the Boys and Girls Club football program, then go on to play high school ball at Warwick. Though many, if not most, of them will work and practice and play just as hard as Vick did, most of their athletic careers will end right there. The handful good enough to go onto play college ball will work and practice and play just as hard as Vick, but only a tiny percentage of them will ever play a day as a pro. In the NFL everyone works hard. They study hard. You don't get to that level unless you give it your best every day. Even at that level, most don't achieve the superstar status of guys like Vick, T.O. and the Mannings. There is a reason for that--it's called genetics. As noted exercise physiologist Dr Andrew Coggan is fond of saying, the first prerequisite for success as an elite athlete is, "Pick your parents wisely." The biggest factor in Vick's success is something he did nothing to deserve--it was a gift of genetics.
All those kids in all those shitty neighborhoods who worked and studied just as hard and devoted the same amount of time, sweat and tears in hopes of achieving something greater never got the chance Vick got. Didn't they deserve that chance? But, by luck of emerging from the wrong womb, they never had the shot at fame and fortune Vick did. And what did he do with that gift he did nothing to deserve? He threw it away.
It's not like there weren't people who reached out to him along the way. Dan Reeves tried to get through to him. Andrew Young reached out to him. Vick rebuked all efforts. He chose to turn his back on every chance he's ad so far, and given no reason to believe he won't piss this one away as well.
It all begs the question, how many chances do you get before it stops being a second chance?