x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Fans poles apart over Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick

The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback divides opinion into extremes on his return to Atlanta.

Did you smile at the sight of Michael Vick crash-landing in the Eagles-Falcons game last weekend?

Did you fist-bump your buddy when the convicted felon was spitting blood while staggering to the sidelines?

Did you think "same old Vick" when, on the way to the locker room for medical observation, he directed a jeering crowd's attention to the scoreboard that showed Philadelphia ahead by 10 points?

Did you high-five strangers upon hearing that he was concussed?

Did you say: "While he is getting his head examined, could they determine if he has a conscience up there?"

Do you wish you could have lit the match with the tailgaters outside the Georgia Dome who torched Vick's old Atlanta jersey?

Would you have liked to ignite all the other Vick jerseys - No 7 in the red-and-black of the Falcons or the white-and-green of the Eagles - sprinkled around the stadium?

Do you have a new favourite Eagles player - Mike Kafka, who filled in for Vick - and pray that he plays well enough to keep the bearded one on the sideline?

Did you notice the irony of Vick's replacement sharing the surname of Franz Kafka, the famed purveyor of existentialism, which holds that an individual has a free will and is ultimately responsible for his actions? (Especially dogfighting.)

Did you wash and press your Falcons' jersey with Matt Ryan's No 2 for your game-day garb?

Did your cheers blow a hole in the wall when Ryan, Atlanta's quarterback after Vick left them high and dry, rallied the Falcons to a 35-31 win?

Did you view the game in existential terms as the Falcons' past colliding with their present - and the present knocking the past back into the Middle Ages?

When you read about the Vick Apology Tour, orchestrated by as many as seven public relations agents, do you question his sincerity?

Do you believe that a player who commits such heinous acts as Vick did should get no second chance?

Does it give you a headache to process the incongruity of a guy earning 12 cents an hour a few years ago in prison and then being awarded a contract worth up to $100 million (Dh367.3m)?

Does your headache become a migraine when you learn that Vick's jersey is the fourth biggest seller in the league?


Or did you cringe at Vick's misfortune with getting slammed against an extra-large teammate while stationed in the pocket as he is instructed to do?

Did you empathise with the man who has paid his dues to society (he served 19 months in prison) for getting the rag-doll treatment from the Falcons' defence?

Did you see "a new Vick" for maintaining his cool with fans by playfully pointing to the scoreboard?

Would you have used your money intended for the concession stand instead to buy Vick souvenirs from Atlanta street vendors?

Did you think, when his concussion was diagnosed, "his head is screwed on straight now, so let's hope his is OK".

Do you wish the fires of resentment and hatred that burn in fans' souls would flame out?

Do you give Vick his due for a willingness to apologise on demand, especially when so many sportsmen, celebrities and elected officials seem incapable of a single mea culpa? ("If anyone were offended by what I might have done, or how some perceived what I did as wrong, please accept my regrets ...")

Did you get a kick out of the football jersey fashion show in the stands, with all of those No 2s and No 7s in various hues?

Is your favourite person today in the Eagles camp the doctor who can hustle Vick back to health?

Do you say: "Mike Kafka. You are kidding, right?"

Setting aside the circumstances that caused his two-year absence from the NFL and his inactivity the following season, can you name anyone more deserving of Comeback Player of the Year, which he earned in 2010? Do you contend that Vick can serve a greater purpose as a living, breathing cautionary tale in a high-profile role than if he disappeared from the public eye?

Do you shrug and conclude: "Well, he treated those dogs horrifically, but he did his time. Besides, show me a more exciting player?"


Can you think of any athlete - before, now and ever again - who is more polarising than one Michael Vick?