NOT doing this is what makes us human
After months of this story, sitting waiting, Michael Vick was finally indicted on federal racketeering, illegal gambling and animal cruelty charges in connection with the dogfighting kennel and league run out of a property he owns in Surry, Virginia.
The feds think he is 'highly' involved, participating at all levels, from acquiring and breeding dogs, through 'training' them to fight, through placing bets, paying off losing bets, collecting on winning bets and maintaining the facilities. (op. cit.)
Do you know one way these dogs are 'trained' to fight? They are fed gunpower to upset their stomachs and metabolism and to make them ornery. Dogs that do not play along and fight are starved, beaten, fed poisons and ultimately killed.
Dogfighting is a bloodsport and fights are often to the death. Animals that lose are often killed in the fight, and if not, they are executed by their owners. Michael himself is alleged to have killed or 'consulted' on killing dogs that were not shaping up as fighters in the following ways (op. cit.):
Hanging. As in string a dog up by the neck and hang her until she dies choking.
Drowning. As in bind a dog and hold her under until she suffocates, water in her lungs.
Beating. Physically throw a dog against the ground or a wall until she dies, broken.
Electrocution. Tie her down and apply electrical current to her exposed flesh or sensitive areas until she is fried from the inside.
And this is a guy with a 100 million dollar contract in one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, making millions on the side just from smiling into a camera. We are potentially talking a real-life Hannibal Lecter here, coolly going about a celebrated life while a twisted upbringing has forced him or allowed him to find no moral conflict in the taking of captive life for pure sport.
This comes at an awkward time for the Atlanta Falcons as well. They traded quarterback Matt Schaub (Wahoowa!) to the Houston Texans in March, days before the first rumors of Michael's alleged extracurriculars came to light. Michael may be the most exciting thing around, but even before this he was damaged goods, a headcase with little chance of winning a Super Bowl for Atlanta and zero chance of living up to his draft hype of changing the quarterback position.
Such a saddle is Michael's contract that, even though Matt is a consensus starting-caliber NFL quarterback, the Falcons could not realistically demote or release Michael, given the cap hit that wold ensue and the degree to which Michael is the marketing face of the team (and the league). If Jim Mora Junior had his way, he'd still be there, Matt would be the starter going into 2007 and all this dogfighting shit would be another team's problem, Michael cut or traded for a ham samwich.
So first-year coach Bobby Petrino is in a tough spot. He prefers a power running game. The Falcons are all scatbacks. He likes to run multiple looks, with shifts and four- and five-wide sets, and he puts a lot in the hands of his quarterbacks, giving them leeway on audibles and allowing them to call some of their own plays. Michael has a strong arm but is not known for his accuracy, thrives on improvisation, and has shown in his time in the NFL a persistent inability to read defenses and adjust to game situations. Michael is a sandlot guy, a you be the bottle cap you be the piece of glass everyone else go long kind of player. Michael even thinks Bobby will let him call some of his own plays. Don't choke so hard on your coffee, I don't think you have to worry about that. (hat tip to the Falcon Reporter for most of this analysis.)
Actually, maybe not having Michael around will be good for Bobby and the Falcons. Joey Harrington is a first round pick in search of redemption and Chris Redman played for Bobby at Louisville.
Innocent? Yes, Michael has not been proven guilty of anything at this time. A lot of circumstantial evidence is already in the public domain though. It was his house, so legally he has some accountability for illegal activities there. He is a registered dog breeder (op. cit.), giving him access to the market for contestants. ESPN found an unnamed source that says as recently as 2000, Michael was a 'heavyweight' in the world of dogfights, betting up to 40 thousand dollars a match. (link 1 / link 2 / link 3)
NFL conduct policy is not on Michael's side. This is the first year of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's new get-tough policy on ne'er-do-wells. Chris Henry, Tank Williams and Pacman Jones dint do nothing this bad and they got the book.
Public opinion is not on Michael's side. Despite Clinton Portis' ill-thought words (he recanted), no one is stepping up now to say this is no big deal. Old-as-dirt West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd railed in the Capitol about how 'barbaric' anyone that would set dogs on each other for enjoyment must be. And maybe most significantly, when it was time for Michael to appear in Richmond and be arraigned, the feds did not grant him the courtesy extended to mob figures and other high-profile perpetrators and bring him in the back, or in a van straight into the building, or set up a cordon, nope, they dropped him in the lot a half block away and let the haters RAIN boos and jeers on him for five whole minutes as he walked into the building.
I have a pretty good idea of what happens next for Michael. The Falcons were about to suspend him under team rules for the maximum four games before Roger Goodell asked them to hold off until he could figure it out, which he is doing with the help of a former US Justice Department attorney. He then ordered Michael to stay away from Falcons camp (which opened today).
Michael will be suspended by the league for the entire 2007 season, forfeiting his entire 2007 salary. Bobby Petrino will convince Arthur Blank that this is the time and if Arthur wants a winner with his new 24 million dollar coach, the Falcons must release the hundred million dollar quarterback and the team will take the cap hit, be 3-13 this season and start over next season with no Michael Vick jerseys in the stands. Michael will plead down, pay a big fine, do 24 or 36 months in jail, try and come back in the 2010 or 2011 season, never catch on and become a footnote of football history, maybe even rounding out the fall back to earth with a nice drug bust with his Newport News posse.
This is such a serious social issue the the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica has a site devoted to advocacy of this issue. If these charges are true, these guys are truly truly despicable.
Dogfighting victim from here.