Sunday, July 3, 2011

No Second Chance

Portrait of the fan and his pit bull dog

Reposting this entry from August 14, 2009, for the benefit of new readers, Subway, BET, and Nike.

See also here

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed Michael Vick.

A few weeks ago my friend Mike and I got into it about Vick.

Mike is a lifelong football fan (the Giants). A really hard-core, basic-part-of-my-identity fan. Pro football occupies roughly the same place in Mike's life as dogs do in mine.

He also owned a pitbull named Rocko. Mike and his ex-wife adopted Rocko from a NYC rescue nine years ago. He was already a mature dog. He had some scars. He had no ears -- scissored off.

The folks at the rescue thought Rocko might have been a failed fighter, then a bait dog. I doubt it. But he'd had a rough life.

Within a week of bringing Rocko home, Mike and Kathy came to visit us. As it happened, we'd brought home our new puppy the day before.

Well, that was pre-digital camera for me, but somewhere I've got the print of seven-week-old Pip blithely taking a bone away from a beaming man-eater. That day Rocko also lit a torch that he carried for our Mel for the rest of his life. Because pitbulls are loyal.

Rocko passed away early this summer. He led a blameless life, and from an inauspicious start, whatever it was, he got a second chance. It would be trite to say that he deserved a second chance. He deserved what every dog deserves, what every being deserves -- a decent first chance. He didn't get that, but he showed us what he would have done with it if he had.

So anyway, I got into it with Mike about Vick.

Because Mike kept getting distracted by his fan-ness, from Vick's depravity into Vick's shortcomings as a player, as seen by Mike. Who doesn't think Vick is much of a player, and will go on about the technical details of this -- so much blah blah blah ... Houlie to me. So he'd start to conflate the two kinds of "shoulds" when talking about whether any team should sign Vick.

And I finally asked him to please picture in his mind, Michael Vick taking hold of Rocko -- Rocko who wasn't any good as a fighter, Rocko whose heart was too big for a life of violence -- and declaring Rocko a useless piece of shit. And clamping alligator clips onto Rocko's lips (lips, because he had no balls, and no ears). And throwing him into a swimming pool. And electrocuting him while he screamed and struggled. And laughing. Laughing at his pain and terror and clawing for a second chance. Laughing while Rocko dies.

Because this is not about a mistake. Hitting a guy with a broken bottle in a bar fight may be a mistake. Believing a slick accountant about your taxes may be a mistake. Leaving the baby on top of the car and driving off may be a mistake. Hell, even shooting a lawyer in the face with birdshot may be a mistake.

Vick pled not guilty to the animal cruelty charges, and they were dropped in a state plea deal. He served Federal time for racketeering. Not one minute for what he did to the animals. He has never admitted that he was "cruel." There is no mistake.

Torturing helpless animals to death and laughing while you do so is the outward expression of a depraved consciousness and a dead psyche. Some souls go to Hell long before the body follows them. It's a choice.

This is not about dogfighting, even, though the dogfighting criminal enterprise provided the backdrop for the depravity. There is nothing in the "sporting" requirements of dogfighting that says you torture the losers to death while cackling.

Do you doubt the depths of Vick's core depravity? I say to you, he is not a monster. There is not a word in English that describes what he is.

From Donna, on the Bad Rap blog (read the whole thing):

The details that got to me then and stay with me today involve the swimming pool that was used to kill some of the dogs. Jumper cables were clipped onto the ears of underperforming dogs, then, just like with a car, the cables were connected to the terminals of car batteries before lifting and tossing the shamed dogs into the water. Most of Vick's dogs were small - 40lbs or so - so tossing them in would've been fast and easy work for thick athlete arms. We don't know how many suffered this premeditated murder, but the damage to the pool walls tells a story. It seems that while they were scrambling to escape, they scratched and clawed at the pool liner and bit at the dented aluminum sides like a hungry dog on a tin can.

I wear some pretty thick skin during our work with dogs, but I can't shake my minds-eye image of a little black dog splashing frantically in bloody water ... screaming in pain and terror ... brown eyes saucer wide and tiny black white-toed feet clawing at anything, desperate to get ahold. This death did not come quickly. The rescuer in me keeps trying to think of a way to go back in time and somehow stop this torture and pull the little dog to safety. I think I'll be looking for ways to pull that dog out for the rest of my life.

And now, so shall I.

What about you?

Here's how you contact The Eagles.

And here's a list of their corporate sponsors.


  1. yes.
    thank you, from someone who has exchanged some harsh words with you, I appreciate this so much.... This blog is exactly exactly right.

  2. That was very well-written.

    The sad thing is, I'm sure if most professional sports players were truly good guys down to their cores, they'd take drastic pay cuts to show how well they really can live (which in reality is debatable) without their millions.

  3. I'll be passing this around. I'm ashamed to be from the philly area at the moment.

  4. Thank you for posting the Eagles' contact information and their sponsorers. I have already e-mailed the team, and plan on distributing letters to sponsors this weekend.

  5. And this is really all that needs said.

    Thank you. This could not have been written more powerfully.

  6. @Lori -- you have no need to be ashamed, any more than anyone else does. Collective guilt is ridiculous.

    Vick is a first-rate scumbag.

  7. Thank you for a powerful post and for the link to the Eagle's sponsors. I'll be sending some letters this week, for all the good they'll do.

  8. Looks like the Eagles removed their sponsors from their web page. I guess their feeling the heat already.

  9. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful blog on behalf of us PitBulls and all dogs everywhere.
    Mr. Vick is a bad, bad man.
    Blogging Bog

  10. I've never read your blog until today...I was referred by my dog breed group on the "interwebs". Powerfully written and I thank you for reminding us all of the horrific circumstances surrounding Vick. Thank you again.

  11. I am so glad this Donna gave a graphic description of what happened in such idiots will try to copy. People need to think about the audience before being too descriptive.

    To bad we could not hook those cables to Vicks private parts. Your article is great and we need make our thoughts known. We all know that Vick is not the first or last NFL player involved in dog fighting or animal abuse.

  12. I live in a state where football is a religious cult, and that is an understatement. Because there is literally no place to hide, I've also 'gotten into it' with a couple of cult members regarding Vick.

    You've framed the issue brilliantly; Vick's depravity is on a par with pedophilia, and entirely unfathomable.

    Forwarding the link to clients and cult members alike. THANKS!

  13. Here's some interesting additional intelligence from Wikipedia's Michael Vick page (emboldening my own):

    A significant portion of the plea agreement involved Vick cooperating with federal authorities pursuing other dog fighting cases as well as a complete allocution on his role in the Bad Newz Kennels, including detailing his role in the killing of dogs after the fights. The allocution proved to be a "sticking point," as both federal prosecutors and FBI agents reported that Vick was giving contradictory statements about how dogs were killed, what his role in the killings were, how many dogs were killed, and other details. According to reporters who spoke to Judge Hudson after the sentencing hearing, Vick's pre-sentencing behavior, especially during an FBI polygraph administered in October 2007 which showed that Vick was being deceptive when asked direct questions about killing dogs, was a factor in selecting the length of the sentence.

  14. @Anonymous -- the corporate sponsors page works for me.

  15. I haven't always agreed with you, Heather, but you sure nailed this one. I don't think anyone has said it better.

  16. Im not a football fan and I have ignored most of this other than being pleased that at least he did some jail time. But then I saw him do a tv interview where instead of apologizing for all the horrible things he had done to the dogs..he instead apologized to his fans for getting involved in something so trival as dog fighting. Trivial wasnt the exact word he used but i dont remember now the exact wording. I was seeing red by that point. No doubt to the dogs it wasnt trival at all! I'm no bleeding heart...but for someone to do the things Vick did and still feel no remorse except that it hurt his career..well thats downright scary as well as infuriorating. Fortunately I sincerely believe that he will eventually have to face *real* justice for his sins.

  17. Emily C
    Couldnt have written it better myself. I will be sending this article to everyone I know.

  18. I've not read your blog before, but will never forget this one. I plan on forwarding your well written piece to everyone I know. Thank you.

  19. Thank you. This was extremely well done, I'll be following you.

  20. Thank you for posting this, thank you for taking the time to write and say what I can't seem to form in words like you did. Thank you for helping me remember why it's wrong.

    What was Mike's response?

  21. The word for Michael Vick is sociopath. One day someone may find other nasty things in his past. The scary thing is what will he torture next?

  22. I don't think anyone who's responded to this article has bothered to follow up on Vick's story. He does sound like a man that's remorseful and has come to his senses. What he did was sense-less, brutal and human-ly unforgiveable and definitely not a mistake, he knew what he ws doing the entire time. I am visiting this list because of my interest in adopting one of the dogs here, she would be the 4th dog in my household, I think that qualifies me as a dog lover and an appreciator of what great gifts they are to us. But the lack of compassion I'm hearing towards your fellow man is horrendous. I'm sure you all consider yourselves far better people than Vick because you've never tortured a dog but y'all are equally guilty of something else.
    Everyone deserves second chances because mercy is better than judgement and if dogs deserve that chance, how much more do people?
    Rob Bardenett

    1. There are a few differences here between the behavior of dogs and people. First, people, due to their greater cognitive abilities, are much better liars than dogs. If you're dog and you show love and good will, odds are you mean it. With a person, it is difficult, if not possible, to tell, especially when they are being watched.

      Second, when a person does act cruelly as an adult in our society that almost always exhibits a willful choice. Note I don't say this of children or people forced into military service. But a well off adult making the decision to engage in illegal and harmful behavior is doing so because that behavior makes them happy. A dog forced into fighting is acting for a very different reason.

      Third, dogs, in our culture do not have a national "society" from which they learn behavior. Punishing Vick harshly serves a very important purpose of deterring others from similar behavior and instilling in youth the seriousness of this behavior. Punishing a dog has no such benefit to other dogs.

  23. He was in prison for two years. that is his debt he owned and he paid it. All u ignorant people need to open your eyes. You all have no problem stallworth being out of prison, when he drunkenly ran over and killed man. Open your eyes

    1. Getting drunk and running over someone is a mistake, albeit a really bad one. A mistake is an action based on false information or reasoning. Usually when you get drunk and run someone over, you did not intend to do so. You mistakenly believed that you could drink and not have such behavior. Or, you are an alcoholic who, at the time of that first drink, believed you were not likely to get hooked. Sure a few people who drink and run people over always thought this could happen and just didn't care, but they are in the minority. The rest made a "mistake" and can learn from it.

      Dog fighting is not a "mistake". People who engage know damn well what they are doing to those dogs. It is simply evidence of their disgusting sense of enjoyment from watching living creatures suffer.

      So there are two differences here. 1) The motivation behind the person who makes a mistake and kills someone, and someone who fully knowingly kills and tortures make for very different moral arguments, and resulting in different attitudes from the public. 2) The likely future for someone who makes a mistake vs. someone exhibiting sociopathic behavior is very different. The person who made a mistake may very well change, the sociopath, based on substantial evidence, will most likely not.

  24. Anyone who claims at this time that Vick has paid his dues needs to desperately be hit with a cluestick. He has spent not one second behind bars for animal cruelty, and has never, not once, expressed contrition for what he did.

    Go crawl back under the rock you came from, you soulless monster.

  25. Heather, thanks for your extremely well-written post. @ Rob, I don't believe in giving second chances to individuals who show no remorse for their behavior and who show no signs of a major change in their approach to life. If you have been WORKING to atone for your behavior and have been stating your remorse for the heinous thing you did (not for the consequences you incurred or the distress YOU suffered) then you may deserve a second chance. A monitored second chance because we are not required to be naive. I can see no reason for me to ever support any team that has Vick on it or to purchase their merchandise.

  26. Why does everyone think that after getting caught and released from prison is his "second chance"?

    How about we count the second dog as his second chance? Or the second time he hurt/injured/beat/electrocuted a dog as his second chance? Or the second day that he did it as his second chance?

    If we do that, he had thousands of chances. And all we've now got is him, instead of apologizing for all the horrible things he had done to the dogs..he instead apologized to his fans for getting involved.

    "What I did was very immature... It's just I made a mistake in using bad judgment" -Michael Vick

  27. "Because this is not about a mistake. Hitting a guy with a broken bottle in a bar fight may be a mistake."

    Perfectly stated. A mistake is something you do based on faulty reasoning or bad information. You think you can handle a few drinks; you're wrong; you hit someone. Mistake. You think trying drugs won't hurt anyone; you try them; you're hooked. Mistake. You are young and have faulty and ill-informed political reasoning; you take illegal actions. Mistake.

    When you engage in dog fighting (or, say, mugging and beating up an elderly person), you know full well what you are doing. You just don't care. You aren't making a "mistake in using bad judgement", except insofar as you thought you wouldn't get caugt. Vick knew exactly what he was doing to those dogs - there was no mistake.

    This kind of behavior is, unfortunately, an indication of a deep character problem, similar to that of child molesters and serial killers. The odds this guy is ever really going to change at this age are slim to none. Deserves a second chance - no way. Not only is he not going to change, but failing to severly punsih this kind of crime, and accepting it as a mistake, sends a very wrong message to those of equally flawed character who might otherwise be deterred. Better yet, we might send a moral message to people young enough that they still have a chance to change.

    No, not a mistake. No second chances.


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