The Weekly Tail ‘Gater – Every Dog Deserves His Day

Mike Nanna

Once upon a time there was a truly gifted dog in the neighborhood. He was fast, athletic and dominant, the type of dog that all the other dogs looked up to. He wore a hot Nike collar, all the “bitches” wanted him and he urinated on whatever tree he pleased. Then one day, after helping build a doghouse for an abandoned set of puppies, this dog was sent to the pound for his exotic collection of Japanese fighting fish which he had trained since hatching to be vicious killers in the sport of fish fighting. Upon being sent to the pound, this pooch lost everything from his outrageous bone collection to his contracts with Purina and Eukanuba. Did this wonderfully talented hound deserve to lose everything because of one mistake, especially when no dog-on-dog crimes were involved? The answer is a complicated one.

The Falcons’ Michael Vick made some big plays during his days as the swift-footed quarterback of the future, but he’ll ultimately be remembered for one big mistake. He won’t be remembered for extensive charity work in his community or for redefining the quarterback position with his 1,000-yard rushing season. Vick admitted to participating in the revolting murders of some innocent dogs and bankrolling a dogfighting operation, but has he really done anything that we don’t accept in slightly different wrapping all the time? When a hunter kills Bambi or scientists perform ghastly experiments on some of our fellow mammals, where does the line get drawn? What separates the humane from the heinous? Questions only lead to more questions and it becomes clear that there aren’t any concrete answers. What Vick did was wrong, not to mention wildly stupid but whether his punishment has been fair up to this point is undoubtedly up for question; that much is evident from the hoards of supporters that have showed up throughout his ordeal.

And yet, who wants to be the guy to support a dog killer? I have two dogs of my own and the thought of them being harmed makes me want to vomit. People love their pets and that’s fine. But taking everything away from a man, especially one who has done a lot of good for a lot of people in the Atlanta community and elsewhere, is not right. Also consider the fact that people who harm other people get the same amount of time or less. Was he dishonest? Yes, but who wouldn’t have been in that situation. He admitted to being embarrassed and ashamed of his actions and apologized sincerely for everything, without notes on live TV.

Some people may ask this question: would Colts quarterback Peyton Manning be run over the coals for a similar offense? How about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady? It’s always dangerous to make something a race issue that isn’t one, but I can’t help but wonder. A prominent black man falling from grace makes a much juicier story than a prominent white man doing so. In addition, the action of defining what is culturally acceptable and the group that does the defining also becomes quite relevant. Who tells us what is and isn’t culturally legitimate? Rodeos are acceptable and those animals aren’t exactly treated like one of Paris Hilton’s Chihuahuas. Would boxing still be considered acceptable in our society if the HBO and Showtime suits weren’t making millions off of it? What about the Ultimate Fighting Championship? I won’t venture to assert any conclusions from this, but I only ask that you ponder it for yourself. One thing is for sure: if humans pounding other humans into the ground is morally permissible, Mike Vick enjoying dog fighting suddenly doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

We all make mistakes. His certainly was a bad one, but the public has forgiven people for at least as much in the past. If Vick asks our forgiveness and puts himself out there, we as sports fans should accept his apology. Even a dog deserves that much.