Tag Archives: Michael Vick

Big brother wins another Manning Bowl. Catching fish with your hair? Sure. And a baseball player mails pot to his dog.


As a lifelong little brother myself, I always root for Eli Manning when he has to play Peyton.
I mean, Peyton has gotten to do everything first in life: Star in football, first in college, and then the NFL. Peyton got to throw touchdown passes first, got to the Super Bowl first (though Eli now has two rings to Peyton’s one, which just seems strange, doesn’t it?), and is a better overall quarterback and TV commercial pitchman. (that’s Peyton above on the right, with little bro’ Eli in front).

So when Eli has played Peyton, I generally pull for the Giants signal-caller. But once again Sunday, as he has in all three times they’ve played, Eli fell way short.
Peyton was brilliant, throwing for more than 300 yards and powering the Broncos to an easy win over the 0-2 Giants. (By the way, my terrible Jets are 1-1, and the far-superior Giants are winless. I said to my father-in-law, a die-hard Giants fan, Sunday night, that if the Jets somehow finish with a better record than the Giants, he’ll never hear the end of it.)

Peyton beating Eli was expected, but I still felt for the younger brother as usual. You know Peyton has never let him win anything in life, and when they’re old and gray and sitting on the porch chasing the grandkids, Peyton will hold his 3-0
record over Eli’s head forever.
Damn those older siblings.

Some other quick-hit NFL thoughts an another bananas day in the league:
— It’s really fun to watch the Eagles play offense. Not so much fun to watch them play defense. Michael Vick will throw for 6,000 yards this year, and the team will finish 7-9. Good times, eh?
— Biggest positive surprise so far? The 2-0 Chiefs. Still weird to see Andy Reid in red-and-white, but that’s a pretty solid team he’s got there in Kansas City. Biggest disappointment? The Washington RGIII’s (hey, it seems like much of the media has decided not use the offensive “Redskins” name anymore, so RGIII’s is as good as anything else).
Boy does Washington look awful. Their defense is atrocious, they can’t get off to a good start, and there’s no running game to speak of. Griffin doesn’t look fully recovered from his knee injury at all.
— Three games were decided in the last minute Sunday: Chicago-Minnesota, Buffal0-Carolina, San Diego-Philly, and New Orleans-Atlanta, while a fifth, Tennessee-Houston, went to overtime. My point? I have two. First, nobody does drama like the NFL. And 2, why anyone would ever wager on these games is beyond me. Nobody knows what’s going to happen from week to week, and if someone tries to tell you they do, they’re bullshitting you.

**Next up, nothing unusual to see here: Just a college kid catching a fish with only his hair.
One of the many, many reasons I wish I still had lovely mane of locks: I could do stuff like this.


**Finally today, a tale of an athlete so stupid you just have to laugh and just sort of marvel at his stupidity. A couple of weeks ago a Cleveland Indians pitcher named Chris Perez was convicted on drug charges, for mailing a package containing nine ounces of weed.
To his dog.
Yep, Brody the Dog got a package from his owner, which was awfully nice since I’m sure Brodie hadn’t gotten high in at least a few days. All he’d been doing was chasing his tail (which is a lot more fun when you’re stoned, dogs have told me), and running after a tennis ball, (which is an activity that loses its luster when you’re stoned, dogs have also confided in me.)

Ah, Chris Perez. If only you knew the truth: The dog was just ordering the pot for the goldfish; that’s the real drug fiend in your family.

Why I’m kind of a Scrooge about Halloween. Big wins for the Giants and Steelers. And despicable behavior from a foreclosure firm

Happy Halloween to all you kids out there, and grownups who still want to be kids and therefore celebrate this holiday.
Sorry to be a Scrooge about Halloween, but I don’t really get the big deal. Sure, as a child it was wonderful to go around to everyone’s house and get Snickers bars and Taffy and the granddaddy of them all, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and then come home and eat it all.
And yeah, I guess it was cool dressing up as Spiderman or Snoopy or Batman for one day.
But once you hit, I don’t know, 11, doesn’t Halloween just seem kind of silly? Ghosts and goblins and haunted houses and all that stuff?
I know what you’re thinking, that I had some Halloween childhood trauma in my past. But nope, nothing too bad ever happened to me at Halloween, beyond being pelted by eggs and shaving cream by kids.

I just don’t see the big hoo-ha about it. Maybe it’ll be different when I have kids. For now, I just see it as a sort-of made-up holiday.

But hey, if anyone has some 3 Musketeers they’re not eating, give me a call.
And now, for a very different take on Halloween, Mr. Jerry Seinfeld (it gets good about :45 in)

**Couple quick NFL thoughts on the Jets’ bye week, when I have the rare stress-free Sunday…
— Man, that would’ve been an embarrassing loss for the Giants. For three quarters they were getting badly beaten by the awful Dolphins. But then, Miami being Miami, the Giants were able to come back, as Eli Manning had a hell of a game.  The Giants are two games up in the NFC East, and I can’t for the life of me figure out if they’re a good team or not.
— Not sure if the Eagles are as good as they looked Sunday night, or the Cowboys are that bad. But that’s the Eagles team we’ve been expecting all year.
— Hey Tim Tebow fans, how’s that NFL starting gig treating your hero? Oy. Ugly for Timmy on Sunday.
—  I’m officially scared of the Buffalo Bills. I know the Redskins stink, but that was a hell of a dominating performance Sunday. Jets now play the Bills and Pats back to back the next two weeks. Oy. To win the division, my boys will have to win both. Not looking likely.

**The terrific politics writer John Harwood (who, like me, is a big Duke basketball fan, go Blue Devils) pointed me toward this story on Twitter the other day. It’s truly one of the most cold and heartless stories of employees belittling other people’s pain that you’ll ever see. A law firm near Buffalo, N.Y. called Stephen Baum specializes in foreclosures, often evicting people from their homes with little notice.
Last year, at the company’s Halloween party, employees dressed up as people they had evicted, mocking them with signs and dirty clothes. (that’s one photo of them, above)
This is apparently par for the course at this firm; read Joe Nocera’s excellent story and see how disgusting this business operates.
Laughing at people who can no longer afford their homes. That’s real classy.

An awful Jets performance. A “Peanuts” anniversary. And my new favorite infomercial that’s unintentionally dirty

Awful. Hideous. Disgraceful. Embarrassing.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 New York Jets.
The less I say about Sunday night’s 34-17 debacle against the Baltimore Ravens, the better.
Just want to say this: That offensive line is going to get Mark Sanchez killed.
And Sanchez continues to make WAY too many mistakes for a quarterback who’s started since his rookie year. This is year 3 now, Mark. Enough of this crap.
And the defense, as usual, started slower than a turtle in a 100-yard dash.  The Jets were in a big hole early and couldn’t recover.
The only good thing I can say about this game is that I’m actually glad it happened at night. Because I had a perfectly lovely Sunday (bagels in New York City for breakfast, etc) up until 8:30 when the game started. So this stinker of a performance didn’t ruin my whole day.

Jets are now 2-2. With a trip to Foxboro against the Patriots next Sunday. That’ll be fun!
More NFL thoughts for your Monday…

— Reason No. 4,534 I don’t gamble on the NFL: Raise your hand if you had the Redskins, Titans and 49ers all being 3-1 after four games.
— And the “Dream Team” Eagles being 1-3, and losing a game where Mike Vick throws for more than 400 yards.
— Tony Romo, Tony Romo, Tony Romo. You are truly setting a new standard for Jekyll and Hyde, my friend. Every week with the Cowboys quarterback, it’s a great play one minute, an awful one the next.
Sunday he led Dallas to a 27-3 lead over Detroit, an insurmountable edge, only to then throw two INT’s returned for touchdowns, as the Lions (who are 4-0, incredibly) came back for a 34-30 win.
Say this for Romo: He always makes things exciting.

–You know it’s a strange year so far when the Dolphins are 0-4 and I’ve barely noticed. The Fins are so awful, it’s almost not even fun hating them anymore. Ah, yeah, it still is fun. I hope they go 1-15 (I want them to beat New England next time they play)

**Sixty-one years ago Sunday, a man named Charles Schulz had his new comic strip “Peanuts” published for the first time.
Maybe the greatest comic strip ever. Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t know about Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the words “Good Grief?”
On the anniversary, I salute you, Linus and the gang.

**OK, I don’t think it’s just me here. This could be the dirtiest infomercial of all time. Seriously, they had to have realized how this was going to look. Is it possible that the makers of Flex Factor are in on the joke?

Drew Brees’ magic, a Tiger Woods gift idea, and “Halleluja” like you’ve never seen it before

So I thought watching Peyton Manning play was as good as quarterback play ever got.

Then Tom Brady came along, and well, he was at least Manning’s equal for a while.

I didn’t think it got much better. But man oh man, take a look at what Drew Brees is doing for the New Orleans Saints these days.

Yeah, I know the Saints got a little lucky Sunday, as the Washington Redskins completely melted down at the end of regulation (missing a 23-yard field goal? seriously? And then fumbling in overtime after you win the toss? Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, owner Dan Snyder, who makes Jerry Jones seem like a wallflower).

But here’s the thing: When Shaun Suisham, sure to join millions of Americans at the unemployment office Monday, missed that kick, was there any doubt whatsoever that Brees would lead the Saints back? Of course not. Every pass is precise. Every throw is deep enough, or short enough, wherever it has to be.

We’re watching a man play the quarterback position to absolute perfection, and he’s been doing it for three years now. What an amazing player, and the perfect guy to come to Louisiana and give the people of New Orleans a little bit of joy after so much suffering.

I hope the Saints and Colts do go 16-0, just so the hated Patriots don’t have that record all to themselves anymore.

Other NFL thoughts, on a bizarre day of games:

–Speaking of the Pats, pretty weak second-half effort by the boys of Belichick, allowing the Dolphins to pull out a one-point win. I know, I know, Jets fans should calm down, New England is still going to win the division, and the Jets will miss the playoffs.

Still, nice to see New England sweat a little.

–I will say this: Just about everything the Jets needed to go right Sunday, to stay in the playoff race, happened: The Pats lost, and the Steelers shockingly lost to the Raiders (was that Bruce Gradkowski in the fourth quarter in the silver and black, or was that Kenny Stabler?), and the Texans lost. The Jets are now a game out of a playoff spot (Jacksonville’s, at 7-5, and the Jags have a tough schedule the rest of the way.)

I know, I know, I’m deluding myself.

— Had to suck be a Falcons fan Sunday: Not only does your team get blown out at home, not only are your two star players (Michael Turner and Matt Ryan) hurt, but your old dog-torturing quarterback, Michael Vick, comes out and scores two touchdowns on you.

***Random Tiger Woods thought: I just know, in some basement office somewhere in America, someone’s printing “Honk if you HAVEN’T had an affair with Tiger Woods” bumper stickers.

I’ll purchase two, thank you. And if you don’t think all his mistresses are going to be pitched a reality show with all of them living in a house together, my friend, you’re just not alive in America in 2009.

**Finally, my wife’s cool friend Tamara pointed us to this today, and it’s truly brilliant. A high school chorus decided to act out, with cards, the lyrics to the “Hallelujah” chorus. So perfect. I love how they go high for the high notes and low for the low ones, and the short monk jumping in the air at 1:10 killed me.


Michael Vick on “60 Minutes:” I believe him. Also, Usain Bolt is crazy fast.


It’s always dangerous to look into another man’s heart. (I’ve also learned it’s dangerous to tell a woman she has too many pairs of shoes, to ask a rampaging bull to kindly slow down, and to cut a dinner roll with a huge, sharp knife. But I digress).

We don’t ever really know what’s going on in somebody’s head, what their motives are, and if someone who has committed some truly awful crimes is really repentant.

As a fairly cynical sportswriter, I feel like I have a pretty good “phony” radar for athletes. It goes off every time Terrell Owens or Kobe Bryant speaks, for example.

But watching Michael Vick on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, I’ve gotta say that I was truly impressed. I thought Vick came across as sincere, humble, and pretty broken up about what he had done.

Now, I’m sure he was coached by his p.r. people. But I think there was too much real emotion on display for it to be all fake. I liked when James Brown (who did a surprisingly good job as the interviewer; boy would I have liked to see Mike Wallace grill Vick) asked the disgraced dog-fighting kingpin whose fault all his problems were.

“I blame me,”Vick said … “I deserved to lose the $130 million (NFL contract).”

“Yeah, I deserve to lose it,” Vick continued. I deserve to lose the $130 million. Why would a guy who was making a $130 million and, you know, on the flip side, you know, killing dogs or doing the wrong things, why would– you know, he don’t — he don’t deserve it.”

I also was watching Vick’s face closely while Brown read off some of the horrendous details of what Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels did to the poor animals. Vick seemed to be visibly wincing. I got the feeling that every time he relives what he did to the dogs, he feels pain. Which is very good, because he should feel pain.

Vick talked a lot about the “disgust” he felt about himself, and for the entire interview he seemed like a guy who knew just how royally he screwed up his life.

I understand that there are a lot of people who don’t think the ex-Falcons quarterback should’ve gotten a chance to play in the NFL again. But this America, and we give people second chances.

I have no idea if Michael Vick will really do everything he can to educate black and rural kids that dogfighting is wrong, and they should steer clear of it. But he deserves the opportunity to prove that prison changed him, and so far, he seems like a different man.

Good for him if he really has changed. He can do so much more good after falling from grace than he ever could’ve done when he was on top of the mountain.

Couple other thoughts on the “60 Minutes,” piece, whose transcript is here.

**I thought James Brown did an outstanding job, journalistically; much better than I was expecting.

** The most revealing part of the piece for me was when Vick talked about how, as a little kid, he saw dogfighting and thought it was OK. And that opinion was reinforced when, he recalled, some local policemen in Virginia pulled up to a dogfight one night, got out of their cars, then drove away.

In no way shape or form is it an excuse, but kids learn what they see at that age. 

P.S. Hell of a day in sports Sunday, on the whole. Usain Bolt, who is so fast he makes lightning look slow, set a new world record by running a 9.58 in the 100 meter dash in Berlin. That’s .009 seconds faster than Bolt’s old world record, which is a huge gap in a small race like this. (By the way, is there a more perfect name for a sprinter than “Bolt?”). This kid from Jamaica is making a mockery of all past sprinters; he’s just on a whole different playing field than anyone, ever, in his event.

Check out the incredible Bolt race here:


 And although I loathe golf with all my being, I see Tiger Woods was chased down from behind by someone named Y.E. Yang and blew the PGA Championships on Sunday. Mr. Woods shot a 75, and Yang shot a 70.


Tiger Woods getting caught from behind in the last round of a major? Never happened before, and may never happen again.

One more reason sports is the greatest reality television of all time.

Federer and Nadal lose (on the same day!)



So I was going to write my thoughts on Michael Vick signing with the Eagles today, but I want to wait until tomorrow after the new dog-lover’s interview airs on “60 Minutes.”

I will say, though, that I love the new T-shirts making the rounds in Philadelphia already: “Hide your beagles, Vick is an Eagle.”

Instead of Vick, I wanted to write about Friday’s pro tennis action, which saw something rarely if ever seen on the men’s tour in the last 5 years: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both losing on the same day.

Seriously, this is like Tom Brady AND Peyton Manning throwing five interceptions in the same game, or something like that. For Nadal and Federer both to lose at the Rogers Cup in Montreal was pretty stunning.

Federer’s loss was probably more shocking to me: After a close first set that he lost, the new proud papa tore through Jo-Wilifred Tsonga in the second set, winning 6-1.

Then my favorite player gets up 5-1 in the final set, and it’s over soon, and Federer can go visit with his twin daughters, and see you in the semifinals.

Then, incredibly, Tsonga started ripping winners and Federer double-faults and gets broken twice and before you could say “Hey, that Tsonga guy looks like Muhammad Ali!” Federer is shaking hands at the net with the match’s winner.

I don’t want to send out any kind of panic with this loss; Tsonga is very good, and Federer just had a bad set in his first tournament in month. But still, it’s just weird to see Fed lose a 5-1 lead in a deciding set.

As for Rafa, he doesn’t seem to be back to his old self yet, which is understandable. He dropped a first-set tiebreaker to Juan Martin Del Potro (who, by the way, is having a hell of a summer and is a legit U.S. Open threat), then Captain Vamos got rolled in the second set, 6-1.

Rafa seemed pretty calm after the match, and the good thing is that Nadal’s knees held up well through a few matches. It’s too bad he’ll only have one more tournament before the Open to get himself in shape.

Very nice win by Andy Roddick over Novak Djokovic, too. A-Rod may play Andy Murray in Sunday’s final, which would be a great rematch of their Wimbledon match.

P.S. On the Jets: Nice to see rookie QB Mark Sanchez play well in his first ever pro game, but once again the NY media goes overboard on him. All I’m reading today is that “Sanchez locked up the starting job” and “Oh boy, the kid is going to be great.” Come on folks, he had one great drive! Wish coach Rex Ryan had let Sanchez play more, and Kellen Clemens looked pretty good, too.

Gang Green’s defense looked strong, so I’m a happy Jets fan today. Mostly, I”m just wildly thrilled football is back.

My night partying with Michael Irvin at the Hall of Fame


The champagne was flowing, the women were iced out, and one of the greatest receivers in NFL history was giving high-fives and fist-bumps a few feet away from me.

A couple minutes later, we were on the dance floor, me and Mike, separated by about 100 other people.

I’d never felt more like Turtle from Entourage in my life.

How did I get here? Glad you asked.


This past weekend was the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

And as soon as I realized that on Saturday, I thought back to the only night Jerry Jones and I ever shared a dance floor.

It was the spring of 2007, and my good friend Jeff Pearlman called. He was in the midst of working on his book on the early 1990s Dallas Cowboys dynasty, which I’d been helping him edit.

“Listen, I haven’t been able to get Michael Irvin for an interview,” Jeff said. “But his whole freakin’ family (Jeff says “freakin'” a lot) is going to be out in Canton for his Hall of Fame induction in August. Wanna come out and help me do interviews?”

I thought about it for oh, 4.8 seconds. I’d never been to the Hall of Fame, Jeff was paying for my hotel room, and why the hell not?

So fast forward a few months, and we arrive in Canton the Friday before the ceremony. At the inductees press conference, Irvin was terrific. Yes, the man was a cokehead and had a terrible attitude at times and sure, he had his run-ins with the law. But boy, is he a great talker.

Irvin was even better after the press conference, when Jeff and I, along with two or three other reporters, got Irvin in a more relaxed setting. He talked to us for about 45 minutes, to the point where I kept trying to think of other things to ask him,  because I’d run out of topics but wanted to see what he would say next.

Anyway, the next day was induction day, and Jeff told me that he thought there was a possibility, through a guy he met working on the book, that we might be able to crash Irvin’s post-ceremony party.

I was extremely dubious. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I thought two dorky white Jewish guys from New York might not BLEND IN at the party. But still, we could possibly get some cool details for the book.

Throughout the ceremony and afterwards, when Jeff and I interviewed as many as Irvin’s relatives as we could (typical quote: “We always knew Michael was special, he was just so fast and so good, and we knew the Lord had blessed him.”), I was still skeptical about our evening activities.

But when we showed up to the party tent on the grounds of the Hall, Jeff’s friend (who shall remain anonymous here, for the sake of his reputation) snuck is in the back.

I have to say, what I saw was … pretty awesome.

Food tables lining three walls of the enormous tent (this was like a banquet hall room, not a tent).  Beautiful women everywhere.  Music louder than the loudest concert you’ve been too. Hundreds of people, nearly all of them African-American, clamoring to get close to the guest of honor.

Irvin, in the middle of everything, dancing and singing and hugging and sucking all the energy of the room toward himself.

I believe I walked around in a daze for about 10 minutes, then sat down to take it all in. It was like I’d wandered onto the set of a Jay-Z video by mistake. To blend in (yeah, right), Jeff and I started eating and drinking (no Cristal for us, we were working, we told ourselves!).

And then, well, what happened next wasn’t the most professional move of my journalism career.

I started dancing. I didn’t know the words but who cared? I was at Michael Irvin’s party and everybody else was dancing, too, and I chalked it up to a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal.

Within a few minutes, I found myself grooving right next to Jerry Jones. Yes, the Cowboys owner who’s one of the richest men in the world. At the moment he had his hands all over a woman who was, maybe, 25 years old.

The man with the new face (he’d just gotten a facelift a year earlier) had a drink in one hand and the woman in the other, and at one point he looked over to me and winked. It was kind of creepy, but funny. I quickly moved away and snapped a cell phone picture of him and his “girlfriend,” because I knew none of my friends would believe I was really boogieing with Jerry Jones.

After about an hour at the party, the tent became wildly overcrowded. Suddenly, security people started walking around checking for bracelets that apparently identified you as an “invited” guest.

“Let’s put our hands in our pockets, maybe they won’t notice we don’t have bracelets,” Pearlman whispered.

It was not quite a winning strategy. We were quietly asked to leave, and so we did.

I’m guessing no one noticed that the two white Jewish guys weren’t there anymore. Then again, they probably never noticed us in the first place. Everyone there seemed to be so interested in themselves, or with talking to Irvin.

I learned a few things that night: One, it has to be incredible to party like a rock star anytime you want, which is what star athletes do. In just an hour, I saw how intoxicating it could be.

Two, I learned that, though I have little to no rhythm (see photo above,) I’m not alone. One stereotype busted for me that night: There are plenty of black people without rhythm, too.

Finally, I learned that when you’re thrust into a situation like that, the best thing to do is just keep movin’ to the beat and try to take it all in.

Because when trying to tell this story 30 years from now, it helps to add a few true details.

**Couple other thoughts about the NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2009 and the NFL:

— Bruce Smith was a great player, no doubt; as a Jets fan I feared him more than any other guy in the AFC East during those years (except maybe Willie McGinest, he always KILLED the Jets). But his cockiness always drove me nuts, and Thurman Thomas confirmed this at the Hall of Fame ceremony I went to two years ago.

He told the media that Smith, in 2007,  was already signing autographs “Bruce Smith, H.O.F. ’09.”

That, my friends, takes chutzpah.

— Glad to see Ralph Wilson get in; he’s one of the last of the old-school owners who believed in loyalty to fans. With the exception of, maybe, the Packers and Browns, no team has as loyal fans as the Bills.

— Could someone explain to me how Cris Carter is not in the Hall of Fame yet? Seriously. What more did the guy have to do in his career?

— I see that Jesse Jackson has compared Michael Vick with Jackie Robinson. Words fail me. Somewhere, Rachel Robinson just got nauseous.

My new hero


So my heroes used to be Don Mattingly, John McEnroe, Wesley Walker and Mark Messier.

I’d say with the exception of McEnroe, I chose pretty wisely as a kid. I thought Johnny Mac was so cool for the way he blew up at umpires and humiliated them, until I grew up and learned that for all his remarkable talent, he was just a big baby and remarkably immature. I outgrew McEnroe and was sort of ashamed that I used to love him.

But I’ve got a new hero now, and he’s kinda different from any other role model I’ve ever liked.

His name is Lance Allred, and he’s a 6-foot-11, deaf, OCD sufferer who’s a former Fundamentalist Mormon and grew up on polygamous compounds in Montana and Utah. He’s been battling in basketball his whole life, and for three shining games in 2008, finally made the NBA.

He just wrote an astonishingly honest, hilarious, forthcoming and tragic book about his life called “Longshot,” and I finished reading it last night.

To say it’s one of the best sports books I’ve ever read would be an insult, like calling Rembrandt just one of the 17th century’s best painters. Allred’s book is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in my life.

Unlikely, you say? Wait till you hear his story. He was an awkward, gangly child who was seen as a bit of an outcast since his father “only” had one wife. He became deaf immediately after being born but was undiagnosed for years.  He was told by a Sunday School teacher that he couldn’t hear because of sins he’d committed in a previous life (I hope that teacher got fired immediately, but I’m sure he didn’t.)

Eventually, his parents broke away from the compound and moved to Utah, before another family split made them homeless for a short while.

As a kid, Allred struggled to find his place (you know how kind kids can be to children who are different), and he finally did on the basketball court. Of course, that only brought more suffering. A much-beloved coach at the University of Utah named Rick Majerus treated Allred unconscionably while he was there, humiliating and destroying Allred’s confidence and once telling him he “was a disgrace to cripples.” (Majerus was eventually investigated for his behavior, and resigned from Utah shortly after Allred transferred).

Allred became a star at a smaller school, but then found himself battling through the bizarre and highly unpredictable world of minor league basketball in Turkey, France, and the United States (if for no other reason, buy the book to hear Allred’s wickedly funny description of travel life in the NBA Developmental League). 

There were so many times Allred wanted to quit, and so many times coaches and others gave up on him. But he finally made it to the NBA, if only for a few days, and when you get to that point in the book, you almost feel like cheering.

In his beautiful writing style, Allred weaves metaphors about life and basketball together with meditations on religion, the monotony of practice, and too many other topics to count. He refused to blame others for his failures, and is quick to credit others for his success. He’s funny, smart and had me looking at some things in a whole new light.

I got to meet Allred last month at an NBA summer league camp, after having heard about him on this NPR podcast, “Only A Game“. I wrote this column about him for my newspaper, and I was so impressed with his intelligence and humility that I knew I had to read his book. It blew me away.

Lance Allred will not become a major superstar, of  that I’m pretty certain. But he’s why I love sports; proof that beyond the reprehensible reputations of Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Barry Bonds there are good guys with amazing stories to tell of will and determination.

I defy you to read this book and not become a fan of Lance Allred. If money’s tight and you’re not able to buy “Longshot,” you can probably find it at your local library.

“I do not care about the money, or the fame,” Allred writes in a letter to God in the book. “I just want to say that I set an “unreachable” goal and I made it.”

He certainly did.

Michael Vick has paid his debt. Let him play.


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.