On Michael Vick

What is it that makes me think that Michael Vick didn’t grow up in a “Father Knows Best” kind of environment?  I just don’t see his sitting down for a good heart to heart with Fred MacMurray or anyone else from the world of “My Three Sons.” That’s what crossed my mind yesterday when I read that my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, had signed Mr. Vick to a two-year contract.

The debate between the “He has already paid his debt to society and besides the NFL is not exactly the last vestige of Amish culture” vs the  “I love my dog” folks (and I do, believe me, “Fenway,” if you happen to read this!) will go on for a long time. In the short term, Vick will join Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny as victims of the infamous Boo Birds of Philadelphia. But if he can help the “Iggles” win games somewhere down the line, then there will be massive metanoia in the Delaware Valley.

(An aside: As in the Rick Pitino situation, when it comes to the world of sports, talent rules. If you can win games, it goes a long way towards making sure your version of justice is measured. If Vick had the talent level of Gus Ferotte, for example, it’s unlikely any team would have been willing to endure the wrath of the PETA folks on his behalf.)

Back when Michael’s younger brother, Marcus, was disciplined and eventually booted out of Virginia Tech for doing things like deliberately spiking other players in the face, some scribes attributed this kind of undisciplined aggression to larger, sociological forces. No one would ever have thought that Marcus would eventually turn out to be “the good brother.”

The Vicks’ situation reinforces the belief that boys need men. Mix this absence with a hard, unforgiving urban environment and far too often boys develop a sense of hyper-masculinity. For them manhood is about violence, law-breaking, misogyny and defying authority. Not a pleasant mix. And watching Michael Vick mumble half-hearted apologies leaves me asking the question: Where is Robert Young when we need him?

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