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Shameless

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Michael Vick ought to be ashamed of himself. His mamma needs to go upside his head with whatever she got in her hand at the moment.

What is the matter with that boy running that dogfight mess with all that gambling and killing dogs and whatnot and he's making all that money playing football? It's a mess. Smack him again, mama!

Excuse me. I've been watching too many Madea movies.

On Monday, Vick confessed to bankrolling a dogfighting operation, an enterprise that he admitted involved gambling and killing pit bulls that "did not perform well in 'testing' sessions." You could almost see his future in the NFL swirling down the drain.

Until now, Vick has denied, denied, denied that he took part in or even knew about what was going on at his property. At first, that was to be expected. Admitting anything would have been tantamount to Bill Clinton admitting to having sex with Monica Lewinsky the first time somebody asked about it. But now his "dogs" have rolled over for the feds and Vick's goose is cooked.

The federal complaint against Vick lists some of the things found in an April search of Vick's property: "a blood-stained fighting area; animal training and breeding equipment, including a 'rape stand,' a 'break' or 'parting' stick, treadmills and 'slat mills,' assorted paperwork documenting involvement in animal fighting ventures; and performance enhancing pharmaceuticals commonly used to increase fighting potential in dogs trained for fighting, as well as to keep injured dogs fighting longer."

I don't know what a "rape stand" is and I don't think I want to know. As for the drugs, probably most NFL players are familiar with "performance-enhancing pharmaceuticals."

Another part of the complaint says, "The dog fight would last to the end, which would generally involve the death or surrender of the losing dog. At the end of the fight, the losing dog was sometimes put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gun shot, electrocution, or some other method."

In a statement Monday, Vick finally said that he was "ashamed and totally disappointed in" himself. He also said that through this situation he had found Jesus. Public humiliation and jailhouse conversions often go hand in hand. Time will tell if it was sincere.

Every day we hear about people doing things that once would have been considered shameful. Celebrities drink and drug themselves into stupors, get arrested while driving and go on racist diatribes. Hey, spend a weekend in rehab and things are fine. Athletes pump up on drugs, beat their wives, carry guns and still line up smiling for product endorsements. Politicians cut and break deals, lie to their constituents and take money from lobbyists to legislate in favor of corporate interests.

But corporations are the most audacious, most shameless of all entities. Their managers will literally sell you poison — think tobacco companies — and then bat their eyes and play innocent about it. Anything is fair game if they can make a profit out of it — child labor, sweatshops, slavery, tax evasion, crooked accounting, illegal union busting, toxic food additives — the list goes on and on.

And when they're caught, they just bluster and carry on about government regulations and nuisance lawsuits. If nailed, they take their slap on the wrist and continue mining gold from a naive public. There is no shame.

It's different in China. There you can be shamed into the grave. When Mattel Inc. recently recalled nearly 1 million toys, the head of the Chinese manufacturing company that made them killed himself. It is common, some news reports claimed, for disgraced officials to commit suicide in China.

Maybe Kenneth Lay's body turned on him in shame when he died of a heart attack after being convicted of corporate fraud in the Enron scandal. More likely the prospect of spending the rest of his days behind bars weighed on him rather than any sense of shame.

Don't think that just because I've mentioned the shameful behavior of others that I'm giving Vick any sort of pass. Don't tell me any of that stuff about the man wanting to take a brother down. Forget the excuse that claims dog fighting is acceptable among rural, Southern blacks. He knew very clearly that he was running a criminal enterprise. He called it the Bad Newz Kennels. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

According to an Aug. 23 report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, even his father, Michael Boddie, warned him. "I wish people would stop sugarcoating it," Boddie said. "This is Mike's thing. And he knows it ... likes it, and he has the capital to have a setup like that."

Damn! Even his daddy has turned on him. And Vick has been paying for his dad's apartment and given him pocket money. To be fair, you should know that Boddie has been trying to tap Vick for more money and the two haven't been speaking for the past few months.

Still, when your daddy comes out like that you know you are in trouble. For Vick's sake, I hope he has been saving some of the millions he's made playing football so far, because there's little chance that he'll ever make near that kind of money again.

A few weeks ago in this column I wrote about how felons who have served their prison terms have a hard time finding work. It's going to take a down-on-its-luck-with-no-alternatives NFL franchise to take a chance on Vick. Hmm ... maybe the Lions could use him.

He messed up all that money. We've seen it before and shook our heads in wonder. With all that money how could he do that? Apparently millions of dollars don't protect you from making boneheaded moves — not individuals, not corporations, not even governments.

Maybe next time Vick will try cockfighting. That way if your bird gets killed you can eat the evidence and hide the shame.

Detroit sports fans have a little extra interest in Vick's exile from football. It means that Joey Harrington will replace him as starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. Will "Piano Joe" have the last laugh on the Lions?

When it comes to scandal, Detroit athletes haven't had much in comparison to what's happened elsewhere. Lions defensive lineman Shaun Rogers faces a civil suit from a stripper who claims he groped and threatened her. Police didn't find enough evidence to bring charges on the woman's original complaint. Last year defensive line coach Joe Cullen created a buzz when he went through a Wendy's restaurant drive-through line naked and was arrested for DUI on another occasion. (He ended up pleading no contest to a disorderly conduct charge and guilty to impaired driving, both misdemeanors.) Cullen was suspended for two games after that.

Probably the worst local athlete scandal was former Tigers' pitcher Denny McLain, who was suspended from baseball for involvement in a bookmaking scheme, and later spent six years in jail after being convicted of embezzlement, money laundering and mail fraud.

However, my all time favorite little incident was when Red Wing bad boy Bob Probert, who in 1994 had a traffic accident driving his motorcycle while drunk. Probert lay on the ground, noted that nothing was broken, and told police, "Just charge me with the usual."

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former Metro Times editor. Contact him at letters@metrotimes.com

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