Michael Ventre offers another take on Michael Vick’s apology for his involvement in illegal dogfighting in commentary at MSNBC.com, feeling that Vick glossed over the main point:
Vick’s brief apology Monday wasn’t scripted, but it was coached. Vick
stood at a podium without notes and hit all the damage-control talking
points: “forgiveness and understanding,” “bad judgment,” “very
immature,” “role model” and “Jesus,” closing with the always popular,
“I will redeem myself.”
He said this: “Dogfighting is a terrible thing and I do reject it.”
That was the one false note. That was the one flubbed line.
And that was the most important point of them all.
entire scandal is, after all, about dogfighting. It’s a cruel,
inhumane, despicable practice, and Vick blew well over $100 million and
possibly his entire football career because of his lust for it.
are millions of people out there who are irate over Vick’s treatment of
the pit bulls that he tortured and killed. They wanted to hear his
thoughts on dogfighting. They wanted to know how he could ever have
gotten involved in such a thing, how he could justify starving animals
to make them more ornery in the ring, and most of all, why exactly he
and his cohorts had to inflict horrific acts upon dogs he felt didn’t
live up to his standards.
This is all about dogfighting, but you wouldn’t have known it from the
offhand remark he tossed out Monday during a cameo appearance
choreographed to begin the massive repair job on his reputation. ( MSNBC.com)
Mark Purdy at the San Jose Mercury News thinks Vick will definitely play again in the NFL (sadly, I agree …) and muses on lessons to be learned from the whole Vick mess, including this:
We learned that if you
allow athletes to blame others for their mess, they will always try.
That was the only part of Monday’s Vick apology that rang hollow. He
claimed that he had always “accepted responsibility” for his actions.
Huh? Early on, Vick tried to pin everything on his buddies, claiming he
didn’t know what they’d been doing with his money. That was not just
wrong, but stupid. When Vick’s pals saw he was going to let them take
the entire rap, they turned state’s evidence. (San Jose Mercury News)
First, interesting that for Ventre “Dogfighting is a terrible thing” was the one false note, while for Purdy the only part that rang hollow was Vick saying he accepted responsibility for his actions. I want to comment on the latter point.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the whole saga, just waiting for the eventual and inevitable apology, to know to what extent Vick tried to pin it all on his buddies at the outset. But one common reaction in the slew of “locals react to Vick apology” articles has been that Vick is only sorry that he got caught. Which I’m sure has an element of truth. I doubt Vick would have come to the epiphany that “Dogfighting is a terrible thing” on his own had he not gotten caught.
On the other hand, that dismissal of Vick’s remorse misses the point. Getting called to account for your misdeeds — getting “caught”– is often a necessary precondition for contrition, is it not? If you are particularly gifted at unflinching self-examination, have a highly developed conscience, posses a low tolerance for self-rationalization and are blessed with a profound capacity for moral reasoning you might, on your own, without anyone else pointing out the error of your ways, reach the conclusion that what you are doing wrong (whatever that may be) is in fact wrong, feel remorse for your misdeeds and resolve to change your ways without any outside prompting or coercion. But if you are that morally advanced you’re probably Buddha. You’re not running a dog-fighting ring.
The rest of us often need help admitting that we’re doing wrong. It is only when forced to confront the consequences of our actions that we begin to let go of our rationalizations and self-justifications. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But the step before that may be someone else calling that problem to your attention so that you have no choice but to admit it. A federal indictment certainly gets one’s attention. But it need not be so drastic, and my point is not limited to crimes in the legal sense.
Whenever you’re doing wrong, you probably know it. But you’ll keep doing it so long as you can get away with it. You’ll find all kinds of excuses for yourself. As long as you’re suffering no consequences, why not?
Until you get caught. And, again, maybe it’s your own conscience that catches you. Maybe you have one of those “road to Damascus” moments (talk about getting caught …). Maybe you get arrested or indicted, if what you’re doing is bad enough. For the non-criminals (and I hope that is most of you Apologists), it is perhaps something less dramatic … but suddenly you’re exposed! Caught red-handed! There is nowhere to hide! No denying it!
Now … are you sorry you got caught? Of course!
Are you ONLY sorry because you got caught? Probably at first.
And maybe you’ll go right back to doing what you were doing when the heat is off … I think that’s the idea being expressed when people say “He’s only sorry he got caught.”
BUT … maybe you actually do learn from your mistakes. Maybe you do reflect and go on to feel genuine remorse as you recognize the consequences of your actions, not for yourself, but for other people. Maybe you truly resolve to become a better person. To redeem yourself. Maybe you actually accomplish that.
It happens. A lot of criminals come out of prison and commit new crimes. But some really do emerge as changed people and turn their lives around.
Sometimes “finding religion” is just an act or a ploy to gain sympathy. But sometimes those conversions are real.
Is Michael Vick sorry he got caught? I’m sure he is. I’m sure he’s sorry he’s lost his NFL salary and his endorsement contracts. I’m sure he’s sorry he faces prison time.
Has he mentally, morally, spiritually, whatever taken the next step of feeling genuine remorse for his actions and for the harm he caused others — his boss, his teammates, his fans, the children, and those poor dogs?
We don’t know. Only Vick knows. We can hear his words of apology … but only his future actions will tell the real story.