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Michael Vick: Iverson Redux?

As we begin a new year, it’s worth a moment to reflect on one of sports most polarizing atheletes–Michael Vick. vick-finger-e1289521613250-300x199Last Monday I watched the Falcons-Saints game on ESPN. During the game a spot ran for Woodbury Nissan featuring its new spokeperson, former Falcon and current Eagle Michael Vick. Obviously the spot ran locally, and there probably weren’t too many Falcons fans in the Philadelphia area TV viewing audience, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many Falcons fans love Michael Vick after he gave the Atlanta fans the finger in 2006 (see photo) and decimated their franchise. The Falcons have rebuilt and are again a playoff team, now with a new QB who is unlikely to land in jail soon.

Michael Vick is clearly the new Philly Phlavor of the month. He is an extraordinary athlete, a Pro Bowl QB and his football skills are phenomenal. He has the Philadelphia sports market mesmerized with dreams of a Super Bowl win. He is this decade’s Allen Iverson. In fact he shares many characteristics on and off the athletic field.

AI had a similar grip on the market 10 years ago, leading the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001. He was arguably the NBA’s best “little man” ever. Soccer moms in the Philadelphia area wore their AI jerseys to the Acme.  When he was at his athletic peak, the market overlooked his transgressions, looked the other way at his gun incident, teenage problems, and aversion to practice. (See earlier Struming: Practice)

Then, as with all athletes, his skills eroded. He was no longer the golden boy.  All of a sudden he was seen as a bad influence on the team, unable to lead the team to victory. So it was good riddance, AI. Time to move on.  The hoopla on his return to Philadelphia last season lasted one game—one last chance to wear the #3 jersey. Now he was just seen as a bad guy on the downside of his career.

Michael Vick is today what AI was in 2001–at the top of his game, one of the best players in the NFL, leading his team to victories through his legs and arm. Vick’s star may be even brighter than Iverson’s. However, with Vick it’s even harder to overlook his imprisonment for the brutality and incredible cruelty in his treatment of dogs. Cheer him if you are an Eagles fan or if you like a comeback. It’s certainly an interesting story. Vick deserved another opportunity to play in the NFL, as there are many less than solid citizens in the NFL. But the “he’s paid his debt to society” excuses and new found community service activities, doesn’t all of a sudden make Vick a good man. He’s just a great athlete. He’s the same guy who in 2006 gave the finger to his  home-town Falcons fans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Classy. (Note to Vick: I suspect the Eagles fans might not like that either.)

Morever, a second chance in the NFL doesn’t qualify him as an advertising spokesman, particularly for a product or service which promotes family values. Nonetheless, Vick is now a spokesman for a Nissan dealership in Woodbury, NJ, one from which I’m ashamed to say I bought 2 cars just a few months ago. Shame on me. Why I Will Never Again Purchase a Car from Woodbury Nissan

No one knows how the Vick story in Philadelphia will end. Maybe he will lead them to a Super Bowl win and be a hero forever. But in the more likely scenario where this doesn’t happen, many of the same Eagles fans that now cheer Vick, will boo him just as quickly when he takes too many hits, fumbles too often, his legs get tired, arm gets sore. Let’s see how much love he gets if he displays his underlying anger and gives them the finger just as he literally and figuratively did to the Atlanta fans. Interestingly, for more than 10 years the Eagles had a classy quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who helped lead the team to the NFC Championship game four times. McNabb’s skills may have eroded and the Eagles made the right football decision to part ways. But isn’t it ironic that the good guy which delivered athletic excellence for many years was never fully embraced, while the ex-con star is revered?

To Vick fans, feel free to wear your new #7 jersey proudly, at least for now. But keep a place deep in your closet next to your AI #3 jersey. Do they have a football league in Turkey?

PS: In the interest of full disclosure, I am not an Eagles fan. I am a lifelong Giants fan. So feel free to dismiss my feelings as merely anti-Eagles bias if you wish. But I also don’t think Lawrence Taylor should be the spokesperson for Seventeen magazine.




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One Comment

  1. Kathy Kolppanen says:

    Excellent article!

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