Keepin it classy yo
An open letter to Deion Sanders:
I should preface this letter by saying that I think the Redskins made a horrible mistake by signing you in 2000 and that you revealed everything a football fan needed to know about your character when you abruptly retired rather than face Marty Schottenheimer for the 2001 season. If I were Dan Snyder I would have sued for the entire unearned portion of your 8 million dollar signing bonus rather than let you skate with 7.5 million plus your 2000 salary. So I'm not exactly objective here.
That said, you have waded into exactly the wrong story with exactly the wrong argument, and you should stop digging because you are in a deep hole. Your column in the 22 July 2007 Southwest Florida News-Press defends Michael Vick and purports to wonder why we are all making such a big fuss.
Shame on you sir.
Allow me to elaborate with the convenience of your own words. FYI, your words appear in blockquote throughout:
I would’ve never thought Mike Vick, one of the NFL’s most exciting players — the man who makes the network execs smile every time he plays — would ever be indicted for crimes against man’s best friend.
The potential impact could be devastating.
Impact to what? Society's collective sense of decency? Decades of effort by animal rights advocates? The not-so-clean as a whistle image of the NFL? No, in your mind this case could be devastating to Michael's earnings, to Michael's marketability and/or to Michael's reputation.
Deion, no matter what Lindsay Lohan Hollyworld you live in, no one is worried about the impacts on poor Michael and how he's doing. He engaged deliberately in activities that are at once illegal and despicable and he will forever be known this way now. The level of adulation you seem to think Falcons fans or NFL fans have for yourself and other players simply is not there.
What a dog means to Vick might be a lot different than what he means to you or I.
At the risk of turning this into a comedy sketch, I think this is obvious at this point. When we are discussing what a dog 'means,' it is assumed that a dog is valued for his life and for his very existence. Whether your dog is a barnyard hound or a precious little yapper in a purse-carrier, we can agree that the social contract between dogs and humans dictates their lives to humans are not simply to preserve or snuff out on a whim, which is what happens in dogfighting. That's why we have laws against this stuff.
And some people enjoy proving they have the biggest, toughest dog on the street. You’re probably not going to believe this, but I bet Vick loves the dogs that were the biggest and the baddest.
In the same way that slave owners in ancient Rome loved their gladiator-slaves. Life was good for those slaves, as long as they kept killing and were not killed. Another way to say this would be that if your sense of Michael's love is in fact accurate then for him to love and keep alive a dog that dog must put to death other dogs, whose owners presumably loved until they lost and then did not love so much. Again, the social contract dictates that proving you have the biggest and baddest dog cannot include using that dog wantonly to kill other creatures, which is why pit bulls are illegal in Denver and other cities.
...I must ask the question: Where is all of this going?
To trial. In federal court. In November. Don't pretend this is some bullshit witchunt or some existentialist quandary for the ages. Michael and his non-famous co-conspirators are accused of committing very serious crimes. That is the actionable reality and the only thing that matters about this case.
These next blockquotes condense paragraphs 15 to 19 in order to make a point, and I will even spare you the exercise of evaluating the wisdom of quoting a character from New Jack City, the 1991 paean to the 80s inner city crack wars in order to make a point about how Michael is not the problem here:
Why are we indicting him? Was he the ringleader? ...They apparently found carcasses on the property, but I must ask you again, is he the ringleader? ...Are we using Vick to get to the ringleader? Are we using him to bring an end to dogfighting in the United States?
The only thing I can gather from this situation is that we’re using Vick.
Was he wrong? Absolutely. Was he stupid? Can’t argue with that. Was he immature? No doubt. But is he the ringleader? I just can’t see it.
Repeating the 'ringleader?' meme is seeking portray Michael as some cog in the wheel, some schlub that got in over his head. Fact is that is irrelevant, you do not have to be a bloodsport breeding, boarding and banging kingpin for it to be wrong, or a crime. And YES, 'we' are using Michael and 'we' would use him to bring an end to this despicable practice in this country and on this planet if we could. 'We' are using him to make an example of how poorly society thinks of dogfighting and 'we' are using him to find the ringleader, if that is not Michael. You are certain that is not Michael, but I am not so sure.
I believe Vick had a passion for dogfighting. I know many athletes who share his passion. The allure is the intensity and the challenge of a dog fighting to the death. It’s like ultimate fighting, but the dog doesn’t tap out when he knows he can’t win.
It reminds me of when I wore a lot of jewelry back in the day because I always wanted to have the biggest chain or the biggest, baddest car. It gives you status.
Two big flags on this one, Deion. First, the athletes you know that have a passion for dogfighting have a sick obsession with cruelty to animals and illegal activities, so I will paraphrase my mother to make this point: if the millionaire athlete in the next locker spent thousands reveling in a sadist obsession with power and death, would you? Second, '...when I wore a lot of jewelry back in the day...'? Um, I know you cannot write 800 words without mentioning yourself twice, but likening your puerile need to be blingy to a dogfighting racket is evidence of either a sense of self so comically elevated that you will use any situation to remind your reader of the author, or so out of touch that you really think you and and Mr. T are like, badass dudes that symbolize power, demand respect and inspire a cultlike following.
Can I pause for a moment to ask you a question?
Who shot Darrant Williams? Remember the Denver Bronco cornerback? I’m just more concerned about bringing to justice someone who killed a human. Or finding out who broke into Miami Heat forward Antoine Walker’s home, tied him up and robbed him at gunpoint.
First Deion, his name was Darrent, not Darrant. When using someone's misfortune, be they dead or alive, to illustrate a point, it is best and respectful to get that person's name right.
This is a classic attempt at the 'scale/scope' sleight of hand. Falling to your knees you scream, tiny fists of rage shaking at the sky, how can we care about the latest celebrity scandal when CHILDREN ARE STARVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In the first place, Darrent was shot and killed in Denver, not Surry Virginia and so it is reasonable to assume that the search for Darrent's killer will not take resources directly away from the investigation of the sick bloodsport conducted at Michael's house, the house he owns in Virginia. Same goes for Antoine's plight. You insult your audience when you assume that they are incapable of parsing the murder of a human, the assault and battery of another and the twisted and inhumane behavior of others.
Then again by your logic, there would have been no need to arrest you for trespassing on airport property BECAUSE SOMEONE DIED IN INDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We’re attacking this dogfighting ring the same way a teenager attacks his MySpace page after school (by the way parents, make sure you monitor your kids). We should have the same passion for man that we have for man’s best friend.
As a parent, I appreciate the influence celebrities have in the lives of young people, so thanks for taking time out from apologizing for a sick bastard to remind my kids to be safe online.
Seriously Deion, this paragraph makes no sense. We are attacking this dogfighting ring the same way a teenager attacks his MySpace page? I don't have teenage kids and there were no internets when I was a teenager, but I can pretty safely say that teens these days do not attack MySpace, Facebook, YouTube or any of the other new century social networks with the intent of eradicating them completely. Yes, I got your point, that 'we' are obsessing on this dogfighting issue the same way the kids these days spend time in their little worlds, and that we are ascribing more importance to the dogfighting than there is in real life, just like a teenager thinks what happens on his MySpace page really 'matters.' I get it. That's just a really really bad analogy. Hall of Fame bad.
The reason this is turning into a three-ring circus is that baseball is boring, basketball is months away, football is around the corner and we in the media don’t have a thing interesting to write about.
No, the reason we are making such a big deal about this is because dogfighting is a bunch of sick fucks sending dogs into a ring to kill or be killed. Dogs that are abused until they comply and fight, or are killed if they do not. And those that do, well they have a shelf life, not unlike a professional athlete. Except you are still here to write stupid shit about how it's really no big deal what Michael did, and not dead as a result of the sport someone else made you play until you died. Oh, and you used to play baseball at the professional level. It's interesting to hear you call it boring.
I'll go a step further here. If Michael was not involved in this case, you would not have written anything about it at all, unless it caught your eye for its heinousness at which point you would have written a piece condemning the non-famous perpetrators given your absolute allegiance to your working dogs. Which of course would be hypocrisy.
And finally, something you and I can agree upon:
How will this end up? I have no idea. All I know is Falcons fans better pray because Vick’s backup is Joey Harrington. Enough said.
Amen to that. How hilar is it that the Falcons, your first NFL team, finalized the trade of future star Matt Schaub to the Texans less than a month before we started hearing about Michael's little side project? This could not have happened to a better guy or a smarter team. Arthur Blank is choking on his Ensure as we speak.
Deion, you are ignorant, willfully or otherwise, of the magnitude of these charges. You should retract your comments and bow out of this debate.
Benjamin F. Folsom III
The Curly R
It is worth noting that Deion's colum did not go over well. All five letters to the editor published on 25 July in response to Deion's column condemned it. ESPN then picked it up, and the News-Press reprinted Deion's column...twice, here and here. Disclaimer: I don't know John Kincaid, who picked up the story and was substituting on ESPN Radio for Colin Cowherd, but Colin can go to hell.
In the middle of reveling in the coverage value of being at the center of a paper-selling and traffic-generating story, the News-Press remembered it had a responsibility and made sure to condemn dogfighting, sort of, in an editiorial. Nice balls you don't have there News-Press.
Finally, and this is almost comical, Deion RESPONDED TO THE CRITICS in the paper. At this point, the News-Press is Kramer and Newman on Phil Donahue's set, setting up the squirrel and the falcon, rubbing their hands and counting their money as Deion squirms and the readers go apeshit. Go and read it for yourself, but if I can paraphrase, Deion was misunderstood (what he wrote would have come off better if you had seen him say it on TV), he loves dogs (some of his best friends are dogs) and he is praying for Michael (if you had God appearing in the case on 28 July, email me, you win the pool).
This is not a bullshit case, this is real and I hope Michael Vick's profile serves to throw some sunlight on a 'sport' that has long dwelled in the shadows at the fringes of acceptability, apparently, if you ask Deion Sanders and Clinton Portis.
Update 2 August 2007: the NFL (Network) bites Deion in the ass.
Deion Sanders mugshot from here. In June 1996, Deion was charged with having an oversize sense of celebrity entitlement for ignoring No Trespassing signs and fishing anyway on property owned by Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida.