Sacking Vick with a rush to judgment OK in this case

OTHER VOICES

The Kickoff

August 22, 2007|By David Whitley

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Now that Michael Vick has passed judgment on himself, is it safe for the rest of us to do the same?

Can we express outrage without being accused of loving dogs more than humans?

I posed these questions to a confidante Monday. She looked at me and smiled.

"Ruff," Hannah said.

She's a Labrador and not very adept at English. But I took her response to mean it's finally OK to be rough on Vick.

On Monday, he took "full responsibility" for his actions, mainly to avoid facing responsibility for more charges federal authorities had lined up. The only questions now concern how much jail time he'll get and how long it will take for him to get a contract from TNA Wrestling.

I was hoping Vick would turn down the plea deal, just so we could enjoy United States of America v. Michael Vick, aka "Ookie." Talk about made-for-cable spectacular.

Alas, we'll never see Vick put his hand on the Bible and ask the court clerk to swear him in as Ron Mexico. The upside is we'll be spared further lecturing on the proper reaction to this mess.

By "we," I mean people who dared form an opinion before the verdict was in. And people who wanted to dip Vick in au jus and drop him into a pit of Dobermans.

On the first count, we were constantly reminded about the presumption of innocence - how sponsors were prematurely dumping Vick, how the Duke lacrosse team was railroaded and poor Mikey was on the same train.

To make that point, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wanted to give the persecuted one an award at its convention this month. The key phrase, as always, was "rush to judgment."

Let's see, the feds have about a 95 percent conviction rate. They had piles of physical evidence. They had three co-defendants and four other witnesses ready to say Vick did it. Anyone with a Labrador's IQ could see this was no Duke.

So yes, I ambled to judgment before Vick's fleet of lawyers could construct a smokescreen. May the American Civil Liberties Union have mercy on my soul.

It seems I also was guilty of a lack of perspective. Vick triggered rampant disgust, so editorialists kept asking why there wasn't an equal uprising against wife beaters, drunken drivers, illegal aliens, George W. Bush, falling bridges, etc.

Was it really that hard to understand?

It goes back to the basic definition of news. It's not news if dog bites man. It is news if man bites dog. Then he drowns it or hangs it or slams it to the ground. And that man is one of America's most famous athletes.

The lecturers recited lists of domestic and sexual abusers, which is just the point. Sadly, we're conditioned to hear those stories. And not all the accused escape scrutiny and scorn. Just ask Kobe Bryant.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Human abuse is far worse than animal abuse. But at least most abused spouses can find shelter. The dogs never had a choice or a chance.

Despite all that, I felt sorry for Vick on Monday. For about 12 seconds, anyway.

Here was a poor kid who turned his life into a dream. Throwing it away, lying to all and crushing a city that loved him just adds to the disgust.

Again, pardon me for not waiting until Monday to form that opinion about "Ookie."

And while you're at it, forgive me for hoping his cellmates are dog lovers who suffer from an acute lack of perspective.

David Whitley writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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