I'll get to the column about paying Little Leaguers at the end of this, but first the latest reaction to my latest Michael Vick column from Monday's plea hearing in Richmond, Va.
Two reminders: I only rarely believe in publishing letters without a name and hometown. I lose some good stuff this way, but it's just a personal preference. A column like this generates about 1,500 e-mails (Little League about the same), so there is plenty to choose from. If you want to have any chance of being printed, provide a name and town or explain why you can't. Also, have a point and be to the point. The ridiculous and the racist need not apply either.
For the Vick column, there was an interesting dynamic in the response – the headline. Or, in this case, the headlines. During the course of the columns run on various parts of the Yahoo! Network (front page, news, sports, etc.) the column had different headlines. One claimed it "was too late" for Vick. Another claimed his apology "sincere." Others said other things. In all cases the column was exactly the same, but as a point of entrance, the headline did a lot to determine how the words were received.
One thing to remember, writers don't write headlines. I usually give people plenty of stuff to go nuts over. But don’t blame me for that part.
Now onto the People's Voice . . .
Are you really so gullible to believe that Vick is contrite? He's sorry he got caught. It wasn't immaturity, it was systematic depravity. Why is every journalist looking to cut him some slack? Oh, maybe it's because you want access to other "misunderstood" athletes. Your pandering to them merely keeps them on the pedestal.
This was tough. I've sat through these things before and I had no idea what to expect from Vick. I was already skeptical of his defense attorney's suggestion that this was "an aberration" since it was a well-organized and time consuming "hobby" that took place over nearly seven years. But I was willing to give Vick a clear shot.
And I thought he delivered. You may not, but I did. The way he walked slow and scared to the podium. The deep breaths he took before (not shown on TV). The way his voice was almost a whisper (TV microphones picked it up, but the entire room was pushing forward to hear). And, mostly, the way he spoke without anything but some brief notes and took every bit of the blame. I thought it was from the heart.
Yes, it may have just stemmed from being upset he was caught, not what he did. No one can look into Vick's heart and know for sure. But my job was to tell you what I thought and I did. I think regular readers of the column know I'm mostly skeptical. The idea that it was done to get "access" is a silly misunderstanding of the media. This isn't "Access Hollywood" or "Larry King Live".
I am not a Michael Vick fan by any stretch. I did hear Vick's post guilty plea press conference and will give him credit for apparent sincerity. So many times, you'll hear a scripted apology, written by a lawyer or PR person, rather than hearing something that is unscripted and unrehearsed. That was refreshing.
Whether Vick is truly contrite and remorseful can be gleaned only from his future actions, not yesterday's words. It would be further refreshing to see Vick pay his debt to society on these charges, be allowed to come back and play again in the NFL someday, have a wonderful career, not get in any future trouble, and then ride off into the sunset with his head held high.
San Antonio, Texas
If Michael Vick is truly regretful, then, after he gets out of prison he should devote his free time (and looks like he will have plenty) to the Humane Society, SPCA, or other such worthy cause. He could do this by giving speeches regarding how inhumane dog fighting and deliberate killing of dogs is, work in his spare time at shelters, cleaning cages, bathing dogs and taking care of sick and injured animals. If after doing this for several years, then I will believe he is truly remorseful and would gladly shake his hand and say "Job well done!"
If his image rehabilitation team has any sense, he'll be doing just that.
"Was his press conference performance just a pathetic attempt by a man sorry that he got caught, or someone who is profoundly sorry as he starts a new life?" That is the ultimate question – would he have been so contrite had he thought he could have gotten away with the crime? He lied when the charges first came forth and said he had nothing to do with the activities. Only when the evidence was overwhelming did he finally admit his guilt. Then, the words he used to refer to his actions were immaturity and mistakes, not immoral and criminal. Yes, we are a forgiving people, but not a stupid one. Vick is a criminal and like any other criminal is now playing the 'I won't do it again' card, so go easy on me.
Do not be surprised if Vick is back at dog fighting matches when all of this dies down, he loves to watch the dogs kill each other and that is why he did it for years.
Sugar Land, Texas
Personally, I don't think he ever does attend a dog fight again. If he did he would either be the dumbest person in America or somehow addicted to the action of a dog fight and a far sicker soul than previously imagined. But only Vick knows for sure.
Any sentence Vick will receive is too short. The only way to make up for this is to allow himself to be mauled by a dog, hey fair is fair. Do unto others. … Only a sick and heartless individual would take part in such a disgusting form of entertainment.
New Baltimore, Mich.
So only life in prison is suitable? Should he be executed?
Look, the crime is the crime and Vick deserve to be punished for it. As a result of his celebrity is he is being used as an example. This is the same way the feds used Martha Stewart (six-month sentence) to scare rich white people trading stocks. I don’t think America was safer with Martha behind bars. But that's the deal. When you are a public figure, you need to walk a straight line.
Judge Henry Hudson, who will determine the sentence, promised only that it would be "an adequate but not longer than necessary" penalty.
I'll wait to attend the sentencing hearing, where both sides will be able to provide evidence and testimony, to make my own determination, but there is, unquestionably, a punishment that is too long.
It seems that you people are happy as hell that this guy has fallen from grace in your hypocritical society. If I was this man I would not apologize to none of you blood thirsty so called journalists. Who the hell are you people, the same sort of people that crucified our Christ for no real reason! The truth is you really want to kill his black ass (tell me I'm lying). He don't owe you nothing, I suggest he tell all you lynch-mob bastards to go to hell!
Michael D. Irvin
During the course of these Vick columns I've been called a black apologist and a white racist, a Republican, a dog lover, a dog hater, a man hater and all the normal stuff – idiot, clown, even on occasion hero. You've got to love writing an Internet column.
Anyway, being compared to "people that crucified our Christ for no real reason!" is a first. So congratulations Mr. Irvin (and the writer is a real person but not the former football player of the same name). It's not every day I get a new one.
All I can say is by reading my coverage you concluded that I really wanted to kill Mike Vick because he is black says more about you than me.
I am an animal rights activist. I have even been to jail. After following this story I have come to the conclusion that we should forgive Mr. Vick. And by the way I hate football and all sports. We as a nation forgive people who kill their children and I think we should not play God. If God wants to punish him so be it.
St. Louis, Mo.
Perhaps there is hope after all.
I totally agree. Give the American kids savings for college and help the developing countries kids raise their standard of living!
San Mateo, Calif.
Guess what, buddy? Once you start adding cash into the equation, you know what will happen. Little League will become the Barry Bonds of kid’s baseball. Talk about cheating before they are teenagers. Little League is now innocent, let's keep it that way. If there is money to be offered, give it to the team to buy equipment. Don't start an incentive program to use whatever means possible to "get ahead"! Your column is noble, but cash? At least try to discourage the kids from steroids until they in high school!
I am a 15-year old baseball player from Florida. No little league player, high school player should be paid to play baseball. If you haven't noticed the younger the players the better the game is played. In Little League you see baseball at its purest form.
No pampered players who complain at the umpire for calling a strike which really is in fact a strike, just because they were guessing off speed and couldn't catch up. In little league the strike zone is huge and umpires give more leeway. When a kid strikes out he sprints back to the dugout.
I think paying kids to play little league would tarnish this.
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
As a former Little League coach, albeit, a long time ago, I am astounded that anyone would even consider the possibility of ruining the basis for our national past time. Paying young kids to play a game that was meant for fun and as an alternative to being on the streets? The very thought of course would have the kids talking a positive yes to the fact but what would it eventually do to the love of the game? Paying a kid to participate in this outdoor event is appalling at the very least. I truly hope that this idea goes down in flames as it really deserves to.
Sgt Scott Byrd
LSA Adder, Iraq
Well, I can assure you this: the idea doesn't have much movement behind it. I'm about it. And I won't even write it again next August since I'll be at the Olympics. So I think going down in flames is a likely prediction.
I haven't even read the article. You're an idiot.
At least give me a chance to prove it.
I enjoyed the excellent column on the Little League. When will parents demand some of that economic justice?
Silver Springs, Md.
Mr. Wetzel, did you ever play Little League Baseball?
Ah, ha! Every column, someone writes in and pulls the old "you didn't play the game" argument. The topic doesn't even matter. I can write that Michael Strahan signed the worst prenup of all-time and sure enough here comes some Giants fan with the ever relevant: "yeah, sure, but I bet you were never the NFL's single season sack leader." Gee, you think?
So Becky, it is with great pride that I say, yes, I played many years of Little League baseball in Massachusetts. I wasn't bad either, until they threw me out of the league for taking HGH. Unknowingly, of course.
Have you absolutely lost your mind?
I totally agree with your point on the Little League World Series.
This doesn't make sense to me.
This is the most sensible thing I've read in years.
Hi Dan, I'm sorry to hear about your severe head injury.
Keep up the great journalism.
Glenwood City, Wisc.
I just wanted to let you know that the article about the little league players getting paid was great.
Read more Twain and Swift. You're too bland.
Come on, you can't pull out Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift as standards.
You are right on the money when it comes to Little Leaguers and national TV. Had it been in place during this year's LL World Series I'm pretty sure you would not have seen the losing Coon Rapids, Minn. team spitting in their hands before the high fives to the winners. As with any sport, any unsportsmanlike conduct has its punishments. OK Little League – Let's start shelling out the "fines."
Round Rock, Texas
So why should 11-12 years-olds get paid not collegiate athletes? Why can a 14-year old be drafted to play soccer or sign a skateboard contract, but an NBA talent has to wait a year. Why can baseball players be drafter right out of high school, but not basketball?
Los Angeles, Calif.
Stick around, I write about that subject about every third month.
Dan, Are you nuts?
Everything you said here, I agree with.
You print letters every week. Do you send the letter writers a hundred bucks? We're participating! We make those columns happen! You are profiting off our backs, you greedy capitalist!
Pay the man, Shirley.
(Do you have to pay Shirley to steal a response?)