The first time Michael Vick talked about the dogfighting that cost him two years of his life in a federal penitentiary, it was February of 2010, and he was opening up for a TV show called "The Michael Vick Project." Back then, Vick made it seem as if the man who ran and financed a large Virginia dogfighting operation called Bad Newz Kennels was someone out of his own body.
"I was living a double life," he said then. "The dogfighting operation was getting bigger, and it was spiraling out of control. I would fly home to Virginia every Tuesday on my off-day, just to check up on my dogs and fight the dogs."
The remorse may still be real, but judging from quotes that hit the Internet on Wednesday, Vick isn't quite as penitent about what he did. In a brilliant story written by Will Leitch of Yahoo! Movies for GQ.com, Vick talked more about the cultural aspect of the dogfighting trade, and how some folks just wouldn't understand where it comes from.
"[The media] are writing as if everyone feels that way and has the same opinions they do. But when I go out in public, it's all positive, so that's obviously not true […] You got the family dog and the white picket fence, and you just think that's all there is. Some of us had to grow up in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods, and we just had to adapt to our environment. I know that it's wrong. But people act like it's some crazy thing they never heard of. They don't know."
As William Burroughs once said about another matter, this is a thin tissue of horse[bleep]. There are obviously thousands and millions of people who have to live in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods, and a great many of them manage to wake up every day and avoid the temptation to fight, torture, electrocute, and kill dogs.
Incredibly enough, Vick then made himself out to be some kind of innocent victim in the whole sordid episode.
"I think that's accurate," he told Leitch, when asked if some people simply don't understand that aspect of black culture. "I mean, I was just one of the ones who got exposed, and because of the position I was in, where I was in my life, it went mainstream. A lot of people got out of it after my situation, not because I went to prison but because it was sad for them to see me go through something that was so pointless, that could have been avoided."
Vick then talked about his experience in prison, and the perceptions of him that he thinks are misplaced. "For a while, it was all 'Scold Mike Vick, scold Mike Vick, just talk bad about him, like he's not a person,'" he says. "It's almost as if everyone wanted to hate me. But what have I done to anybody? It was something that happened, and it was people trying to make some money."
Back to the money thing. In January of 2005, Vick signed a $100 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons that guaranteed him a then-record $37 million. The investigation that brought Bad Newz Kennels down and eventually sent Vick to prison didn't happen for more than two years from the day he signed that contract. Vick wasn't hurting financially, nor was anybody close to him.
And this may be the most amazing takeaway:
"I miss dogs, man. I always had a family pet, always had a dog growing up. It was almost equivalent to the prison sentence, having something taken away from me for three years. I want a dog just for the sake of my kids, but also me. I miss my companions."
Companions? I'm guessing the dogs didn't see it that way.
The general consensus about Vick is that what he did was horrible, but also that he paid the price. Not only did he lose his freedom for two years, but he lost tens of millions of dollars and had to start over in the NFL. But the unspoken condition was that Vick would never try to publicly excuse and rationalize what he did, and that's what makes these quotes so troubling. This will set his perception back with a lot of people, and we may wind up including the league office in that discussion.
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