Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Much Is That Fighting Pit Bull In the Window?

Well, in the case of quarterback Michael Vick, about “$1.6 million this season with a team option for another year at $5.2 million,” according to an August 15 L.A. Times story by Sam Farmer. Vick, who spent 18 months in federal prison for running a dog fighting operation which included charges of inhumane treatment of dogs, including torturing and killing them when they angered him or didn’t perform properly, recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for that nice $1.6 million.

Michael Vick's Redemption

In prison he apparently saw the light with mentoring from retired Colts coach, Tony Dungy, who also ministers to prison inmates. Dungy believes in second chances and spoke recently on 60 Minutes about many young black men who may have lacked proper childhood parenting and so too often went wrong. In that same interview, Vick spoke of a childhood where dog fighting was simply an accepted way of life, including watching the police observing the activity, shrugging and walking away. Which sent the young Vic a powerful message: Dog fighting and gambling on dog fighting and abuse of dogs was simply an accepted cultural norm for his community.

Also on 60 Minutes with Vick and Dungy was Wayne Percelle, head of the Humane Society of the US (HSUSA). As part of his parole and as evidence of his redemption, Vick has committed to an ongoing outreach program to communities to talk about his downfall as well as educating communities about dog fighting as well as urging kids take another look at the issue of animal cruelty in their own lives and community.

So, it’s win-win all round. Vick gets the dough, Dungy saves another soul and the media-savvy Percelle gets a high-profile spokesperson for his money-making operation.

And Then PETA Shows Up!

Naturally, PETA and others had a cow. As the Times reports, one wag showed up at the team’s headquarters bearing a sign that said, “Hide your beagle, Vick’s an Eagle.”

The Times also notes this all important gem: “Meanwhile, according to Sports Business Daily, the price and number of tickets purchased on the online ticket site StubHub for the Eagles’ Dec 6 game at Atlanta against Vicks former team have tripled since he was signed.”

Ah, yes, money, money, money. Makes the world go round. But before too much outrage gets generated over this deal, a couple of points should be considered. First, people do change. As Oprah Winfrey is fond of saying, we do better when we know better. For Vick, it’s likely he realized that in the wider culture, pit fighting and dog abuse isn’t supposed to be “publicly” acceptable.

Too Many Dogs In L.A.

Which brings us to point Two – Irony. In Los Angeles alone, the Animal Control Services there euthanized 7,500 unwanted, unadoptable dogs in 2008. There were also 10,000 owner turn-in dogs and 20,000dogs were picked up as abandoned strays or lost. That’s a whole lot of “abused” dogs and an excellent example that our culture at large, just like Vick’s childhood neighborhood, doesn’t value dogs very much at all. In reality, in our wider culture, dogs (and cats) are as disposable as garbage.

And point Three. If what Vick did to the fighting dogs in his control was brutal and cruel, what do giant, testosterone-fueled football players deliberately do to each other each Sunday afternoon? Professional football is not beanbag and the physical damage these players are supposed to inflict on each other in pursuit of that lucrative win can leave players with short careers and permanent disabilities, including brain damage from head-slams that even a helmet cannot protect against. Professional football, like pit fighting, is a brutal “sport,” which is exactly the way sports fans like it.

Fighting dogs, bad-boy, body-slamming human behemoths, big money, violence and blood on the field on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. What could be more American?


Donna said...

i cannot tell you how much i loved this piece.

you are amazing.

if i had the ability you have with words, i would have said the same thing.

thanks for speaking my mind.

Alon Perlman said...

Dog VS Dog,
Sewer faction Vs Sewer faction,
Cultural influences from the hood VS a high visibility football Career
You gotta' keep'em separated.