Daily Archives: July 28, 2009

Michael Vick has paid his debt. Let him play.

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My mother-in-law is pretty far from what you’d call a sports fan.

Wonderful woman that she is, she couldn’t tell you the difference between John Elway, Dan Marino or Wayne Gretzky if you put them in a police lineup.

She doesn’t watch sports, follow sports, or care about sports; one time while on a car trip I asked her over the phone to “check the score” of some game, and it was as if I’d asked her to explain quantum physics. She was completely flummoxed.

Anyway, I relate all this because about two or three times a year, she gets really angry about something that happens in the world of sports. I feel like if she’s fired up about it, plenty of other non-sports fans are, and Monday evening she was all kinds of fired up about the Michael Vick reinstatement to the NFL.

Before I go into why I think Roger Goodell did the right thing by conditionally allowing the felonious Vick back into the league in October, pending certain conditions, I want to stipulate the following, before I get tons of angry comments (actually, I’d be happy for ANY comments at this point, but that’s another story).

Michael Vick has been a disgusting excuse for a human being. His pathetic abuse of defenseless dogs, his blatant lying to everyone about his involvement, and the frightening and methodical way he ran a dogfighting ring puts him just below bat excrement on my list of favorite things.

He deserved to be punished severely, and he was. He absolutely, positively should live in shame for a long time in the public eye for what he did.

But I’m having a hard time agreeing with people, like my mother-in-law, who think he should never be allowed to play pro football again. They argue his deeds were so heinous that he should never be allowed the right to resume his profession.

I don’t get that. Let’s think about what has happened to Vick in the last two years: He lost his NFL career and his major contract with the Atlanta Falcons, costing himself more than a hundred million dollars.  He lost all of his endorsers. He was convicted of a felony. He spent nearly two years in prison, and for the rest of his life he will have to live with the memory of what he did (and, I’m sure, he’ll have to live with the animal-loving masses who no doubt will stalk him wherever he ends up.)

Now that he has paid his debt, is he not entitled to go back to work? If he was a banker or a lawyer or a gravedigger, would he not be allowed to try to pick up the pieces of his life and resume his career?

This is America, where getting a second chance is practically written into the Constitution. Was Vick’s crime more disgusting than most? Sure. Is it worse than athletes who beat their wives or get charged with DUI manslaughter like Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little, NFL players who aren’t suffering 1/10th the penalty that Vick has gotten?

One other thing that people who are railing against the NFL seem to be forgetting is that no team has to sign him. There are no guns to anyone’ s head.

It would take a coach and general manager who are awfully secure in their jobs, and in their team’s popularity with its fan base, to risk the backlash of a Vick signing. I fully expect huge PETA and/or ASPCA protests at any NFL stadium Vick would play in this year, or any year. Who could gamble on him? I’d say New England, because Bill Belichick is pretty bulletproof up there, or maybe Pittsburgh, coming off a Super Bowl win. And then there’s the Detroit Lions, who are so pathetic that perhaps their fans wouldn’t care about Vick’s transgressions if he helped them win.

Look, I think Vick should absolutely be scrutinized and banned permanently from the NFL if he even does anything remotely outside of the law.

But how long do we as a society need to punish a person? I’m not saying forgive Michael Vick, because he doesn’t deserve that yet.

But by allowing him to attempt to pick up  the pieces of his shattered life, the NFL is simply giving Michael Vick a second chance.

A chance that all of us in this country deserve.

“Rescue Me” and Rickey’s induction speech

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So I’m one of those people who gets really mad when my friends and family don’t watch a TV show I recommend heavily.

I think I have a secret fear that if I don’t zealously spread the word, it’ll get canceled.

I told everyone I knew to watch “Freaks and Geeks,” still the best show about high school ever. Few did. It got canceled after 18 episodes.

I raved about an old Jay Mohr show called “Action,” which was hilarious but criminally unloved. I loved “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which lasted a whole season.

After the pilot, I spread the gospel of “Dirty Sexy Money.” “It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s well acted, and it’s probably way too smart for most of America!” I exclaimed. It too got canceled.

With that track record, friends and family have grown skeptical. But dammit, sometimes I’m right. And from the first episode in 2004, my favorite show on television has been FX’s “Rescue Me.

If you are not familiar with it, a brief primer: It’s about life in a New York City firehouse post 9/11. The adventures of Ladder 62 make for the most hilarious yet heartbreaking show I’ve ever seen. In one minute, you’ll be busting out laughing at the wildly inappropriate humor. A few minutes later you’ll be devastated by the drama.

If you haven’t seen it, I beg you to give this hilarious clip a try. Or this unbelievably heart-wrenching one.

No show I’ve ever seen does comedy and dark humor better. Denis Leary is the star and is a genius. He plays Tommy Gavin, who has so many terrible qualities but so many great ones. Leary has been on other shows before and I’ve always watched them, because the dude is flat-out funny. When I was 14 I wore out his “No Cure for Cancer” comedy cassette, I played it so much. (The joke about the guy with the voice-box pulling up to the drive-through at McDonald’s still kills me).

Turns out Leary, who is one of the writers, is also a great actor, and the rest of the cast is fantastic, too. There’s Franco, the Puerto Rican tough guy who gets all the ladies and was revealed this season to have some interesting 9/11 theories. There’s Mike the probie, who is just so stupid but so endearingly earnest. There’s Ken (aka Lou), a great foil to Leary’s Tommy, who’s unlucky with women but has a great heart. There’s Sean, a great partner for Mike who has great comic timing and facial expressions.

There are lots more terrific, well-drawn characters, too, including a pair of crazy women Tommy’s constantly ping-ponging between. (For fans of the show, yes, I know that’s an old picture of the cast I’ve got up top, but I’m still mad they killed off Jerry the Chief a few years ago. I loved him.)

I don’t know why the Emmy Awards people keep snubbing this show, but it’s in the middle of Season 6 now and it’s still fantastic.

OK, end of arm-twist. It’s on tonight at 10 on FX, and it’s well worth your time.

rickey

**On another note, I was wildly disappointed in Rickey Henderson’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech. Not only was Rickey one of my favorite players growing up (at least when he was a Yankee), but the dude was 100 percent unintentionally funny. He spoke in the third person constantly; one of my favorite Henderson stories was when, disgruntled with the team he was on, he called every GM in baseball and said “This is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey, letting you know that Rickey is available in a trade.”

Then there’s the story, which may be apocryphal, when he went up to John Olerud and said he played with a guy in New York who also wore a batting helmet in the field.

“Um, Rickey, that was me,” Olerud allegedly said.

Anyway, Henderson’s speech was anticipated since he was elected in January; what would such a strange dude say on the biggest day of his life?
Sadly for us, it was a straight, emotional, speech. Rickey didn’t even call himself “Rickey” during the 14-minute talk.

I’d say it was a pretty big letdown. Oh well. We still have the great Phil Rizzuto speech from1994 to appreciate.