If you were listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show yesterday morning around 8:50, you heard Tony Dungy come on the air and make his case for the remergence of Michael Vick on the active player roster of an NFL football team. Dungy felt that there was a very, very strong possibility that Vick would be signed within a week.

As SI.com's Peter King put it a couple of weeks ago, Dungy made it clear that he has one overriding goal with Vick over the next few months. "I've told Michael, 'My hope is that you play again, but if you don't, I really don't care. It's more important that you get your life right,'" Dungy said.

I guess Tony Dungy is the Colin Powell of the NFL, with the same unflappable personality, the same clean as a whistle background, the same taciturn manner in which he greeted friends and foes alike. I would imagine that Dungy is the guy the league goes to when they want to hear from a black man they can trust about a black man they don't.

It looks like Dungy is well aware of this phenomenon himself, which is why, after answering the obligatory intro questions yesterday from radio host Tom Joyner, he patiently explained why Michael Vick should play again in the NFL this year. The longer I listened, the more I felt like I was listening to a defense lawyer who was pacing back and forth in front of a jury, detailing item by item the kinds of positive and uplifting activities his client was involved in these days - activities, Dungy asserted directly, without equivocation, that signaled Vick was a changed man.

Dungy knew he wasn't just talking to the Tom Joyner Morning Show audience - he understands first hand the political side of the game of football, the one that takes place before the first player hits the locker room, a world that is scrutinized by sports analysts and sports reporters waaay, waay more thoroughly than political reporters examine our government.

The veteran coach knew exactly how these scribes would rush to slice up his commentary, all of them in a mad rush to break a story. So when Dungy said "I've been getting calls from numerous coaches who wanted to know 'what I saw in his eyes, in his body language'", he was pushing back hard against the conventional wisdom dominating sports media that says no one wants to risk picking Vick.

I applaud Tony Dungy, a man who has lost a son of his own to suicide, for not shying away from the Vick controversy. I applaud him for remembering that beneath the highlight reels, behind the dog fighting, and after the jail time that Michael Vick is more than a fallen football player.

Michael Vick is a fellow human being.

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dave crockett said...

The world wide leader was reporting, based on Dungy's and Vick's agent's comments, that he would ink a deal by the end of the week. Micheal Smith (the brother, not the white guy who writes for Football Outsiders) says Vick goes to Carolina, which makes some sense.
Faux outrage is all the rage these days. Ask yourself when's the last time you heard anybody, and I mean *ANYBODY* talk about dog fighting since Vick's conviction? (No followup stories on "dogfighting since Vick's conviction"; not even during the super-slow late-summer period.) His wasn't the only dogfighting ring in the world. People are no more agitated about dogs than these so-called protesters are about the public option.

This is all about narrative. For some, Vick's behavior confirms what they have always suspected: "you can take the n*&^% outta the ghetto but you can't take the ghetto..." (Need I finish that thought?) And let's be frank, between Vick's dogfighting silliness, his knucklehead brother, and sorry-behin' Pac Man Jones they do have *some* evidence to confirm those suspicions.

Having said that, the part that doesn't fit their narrative but may be more important is that the NFL--for all its coyness about reinstating Vick--can't really needs him to work out. Despite it's current popularity (ironically, built in no small part on a very cozy relationship with gambling) the NFL has a major QB problem right now. You can't name eight good ones--meaning 3+ consecutive seasons of high quality play. Go ahead, try it. I'll give you a second. (If Jake Delhomme makes your list you're proving my point for me. If you're trying to squeeze Favre on there just stop now. Your done.) After Brady and the Mannings, precious few NFL starters are even recognizable outside their region. Of the three major sports, the NFL (despite its popularity) has by far the worst on-field product. In the short-term, no problem. Long-term, watch out. The NBA has the best commish in sports and his product is in renaissance mode. (Baseball, which I love, is another topic for another time.)

So if Roger Goddell thinks he's on a humanitarian mission he better think again. The NFL may not *need* Vick. But need is a funny thing. Sometimes you don't know what you need before you need it. The NFL would do well to hope that Vick not only signs, but comes back with a vengeance. Love him or hate him--and I was never particularly a fan--it can only help the game.

Rick Beagle said...

Okay, I am a white man, so take whatever is said with a grain of salt.

Let me start off by saying that Michael Vick has paid his dues to society and I wish him the best of luck.

However, it is my sincere belief that Vick was not brought to justice because the skin of his color, but rather he pissed off those tasked with the protection of our furry friends. If my sources are right, and I have no reason not to believe them, Michael was given every opportunity to rectify the situation amicably.

My source says that a combination of arrogance (what are you going to do? I'm Michael Vick) and the general FU to the rabid legions of people who care deeply for our furry friends that did him in.

Of course the KKKmedia had to bounce the story OJ style, but pfft, his prosecution and subsequent societal payment was not racially based imho.

Conclusion, don't piss off the gray haired ladies working at the Humane's Society. Their can of whoop ass you do not want to see... ever.

RiPPa said...

I listened to that interview on my morning commute yesterday and you summed it up just as I felt about it.

Tony is a great man, and I love his demeanor, style and humility. Like you, I think he's the "goto" guy in the NFL when it comes to the assessment of Negro behavior.

After hearing the interview myself I thought of his son who recently committed suicide. After which I kinda wished I had a father like him.

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