That Was Fast
Almost exactly two years ago around here, I wrote:
Sports Illustrated ran a short piece that claimed Vick's redemption is not just possible but inevitable. This struck me as insane. I understood the premise of the argument -- that the only thing sports fans like more than judging is forgiving -- but I don't think it fully took into account the nature of the crime. It's true that star players get a pass for bad behavior all the time, and it's true that Vick is going to "pay his debt" with hard time, but still, his actions were a) premeditated, b) continuous, and c) taken against innocent victims.Well, now we get the test. I think Vick's in for a very rough ride. Undoubtedly, a large contingent of (Eagles) fans will accept him. But I think the contingent that won't will be unpersuadable. (The comments on the Times post linked to above give a pretty good sense of how heated and divided response is.) No matter how much I read about it, I have a very difficult time applying the usual process of forgiveness to this situation, for the reasons stated in my post from two years ago. I do feel sorry for Vick, but mostly in the way that you feel sorry for a sociopath. I think the link between consciously torturing animals and other mental issues is fairly well established, and my main concern would be that Vick is being guided through the usual celebrity program of remorse when he should really be getting serious help. Maybe he is. Either way, I don't want to boo someone whose problem seems so deep and ugly, but I certainly don't want to root for him either.
His bad deed didn't fall into the categories most easily forgiven. It wasn't a moral transgression against another adult, like an affair; it wasn't a self-destructive act, like drug addiction; and it wasn't something that could be portrayed as a one-time lapse in judgment, like drunk driving. It's not the purest analogy, but what he did is more equivalent to prolonged child abuse, and I think even sports fans, so often willing to absolve the stars they cheer for -- to avoid cognitive dissonance, if nothing else -- will never feel comfortable aligning themselves with him again.
But that debate can only be settled in a year or two, at the soonest