PITTSBURGH -- Now that I've had time to read the GQ Michael Vick article, while loitering endlessly about the tarmac on a USAirways regional jet, I'm surprised.
Surprised that the fuss, as far as I can tell from Twitter and a few emails, is about the part where Vick said he initially didn't want to come to the Eagles, where he would be the third quarterback in that 2009 season, that he thought Cincinnati and Buffalo might be better options.
In some quarters, this is being taken as Roger Goodell taking a Pro Bowl quarterback away from the poor Bengals or Bills. I think that's silly.
First, as Vick said in the statement he was forced to release today, he never said in the story that Goodell insisted he sign with the Eagles. If you recall the situation in '09, Vick's primary advisor was Tony Dungy, who had a relationship with Andy Reid he might not have had with a lot of other coaches. Other key advice came from agent Joel Segal, who also is pretty close to Eagles management. Also, Vick was not a hot commodity, coming out of prison. There was talk he might have to play in the UFL to get another NFL opportunity.
"I did speak with many people, but the decision to sign in Philadelphia was based on my discussions with my agent, my family, and with coach Reid," Vick's statement today said. "After those discussions, it became clear to me that this was the place I wanted to play ... The commissioner never told me to sign or not sign with particular teams."
The NFL also released a statement, from spokesman Greg Aiello: "Michael Vick's decision on where to play to put himself in the best position to succeeed was entirely his own. Commissioner Goodell obviously met and spoke to Michael and his representatives as part of his decision on whether to reinstate Michael and on what terms. But the commissioner would never steer players to or away from particular teams and did not do so in this case."
OK, now that's settled, on to the real reason I'm surprised. It's because this piece in GQ is not a story about whether Vick could have ended up with the Bengals or the Bills. It's a story about how blacks and whites interpret the Vick saga differently -- a topic I have addressed, as well -- and beyond that, how Vick's public contrition might not be the entire scope of his complicated feelings about the dogfighting conviction that landed him in federal prison.
That's way more interesting to me than who might have had a hand in what decision two years ago. Especially since I still say, any team that wanted Michael Vick could've had him after the '09 season for any kind of decent offer, like, a third-round draft pick, whether the Eagles are willing to admit that now or not.
If you've ever been to any of those inner city rec centers where Vick often speaks, the vibe is not "let's listen to this man explain to us why he hurt those dogs." Vick doesn't spend a lot of time on that. The centers are usually packed to the rafters with people who've come to celebrate Vick as a beacon of hope for them -- a black man the whites sent to prison, whose money was taken away, but who has persevered and triumphed. Frankly, that's the storyline that netted Vick the Eagles' Ed Block Courage Award, voted by his (mostly black) teammates) in '09, that white folks were so upset about.
What Will Leitch, the author of the GQ piece, gets at better than anyone else has so far is how this might also be ithe storyline Vick believes, more or less, and not so much the one about how he had to be shown the error of his ways and taught a painful lesson.
I'm willing to bet we have not seen the end of the exploring of this topic, as Vick prepares to lead the new-look Eagles onto centerstage in the NFL of 2011. And hey, if we're going to have a controversy, let's have a controversy over stuff that matters, not over "what ifs."