Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sympathy for a devil?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket I've never been much of a Michael Vick fan. That's actually a bit of an aberration for me, because normally I really enjoy players in most any sport who are immensely talented and spectacular in the way they play, and that certainly describes Vick. But in this case, team loyalty comes first, and in a roundabout way that led me to be his non-fan.

See, back in 2001, "my" San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the NFL draft. Vick was the consensus best available player, but this was only three years after the Chargers had wasted the second overall pick in the Ryan Leaf debacle, so they were leery of taking another quarterback with such a high draft choice. That led them to trade the number one pick to the Atlanta Falcons, who used it to select Vick, while the Chargers selected LaDainian Tomlinson with the pick they got from Atlanta. So, while I never exactly wished that Vick would fail, I always hoped that Tomlinson would be the more successful of the two (and he has been), and that kept me from ever really becoming a Michael Vick fan.

But I feel sorry for him now because of the mess he's made of his life, and as I read this contrarian column by Gregg Easterbrook about Vick's legal problems, as well as the comments that follow it (685 as of Saturday evening my time), I was struck by several thoughts.

The first thought is how unsympathetic so many Americans are. A large segment of our population apparently feels deep disgust at the idea of ever feeling sorry for anyone who has brought troubles on himself. Once upon a time, Shakespeare could write something like "...let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings," but that would never fly in America today. A lot of Americans would say, "Sad?! There's nothing sad about it! It's Richard II's own fault he got killed!" And then they would solemnly intone the words "personal responsibility" as purported proof that there is nothing sorrowful in the travails of a person who has done wrong.

The second thought is that there are an awful lot of sadists in America. Whenever someone is publicly accused of a heinous crime in America (although I'm not entirely sure that "heinous" fits in this case), these people -- apparently quite ordinary in most ways -- show up in internet comments and so on proposing the most vicious, vengeful punishments they can imagine. Since Vick is allegedly involved in dogfighting, most of these proposed punishments in his case seem to involve various ways of having him mauled by pitbulls. That and, of course, "burning in hell." Oh, and he should never be allowed to play football again, even if it's after he has completed a prison sentence. Apparently there's a significant percentage of the American population that thinks that anyone convicted of a felony should never be able to work again.

The third thought is that there are an awful lot of hypocrites in America too. With the exception of the PETA folks, who in my experience are often fanatics but rarely hypocrites, most of the people objecting so strenuously to Vick eat meat. And anyone who buys meat in an American supermarket is indisputably participating indirectly in terrible acts of cruelty to animals on an enormous scale. Not to mention that some of the same people who object to Vick's dogfighting themselves participate in bloodsports like hunting. And, of course, many more of them are fans of sports like football and boxing that are built around violence, that use up the bodies and often the minds of young men and then discard them when finished.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?