On Monday, with their season over, the Eagles cleaned out their lockers, and both Chip Kelly and QB Nick Foles addressed the media. During their sessions at the podium, both men were asked about Michael Vick, who more than likely does not have a future with the team, with Foles entrenched as the starting QB. Vick thinks he is a good enough player that he can still be a starting QB somewhere in the league, and he's probably right. As a free agent, Vick is open to explore his options on the open market.
"I love Michael Vick," said Kelly. "I mean, that guy is awesome."
"Ever since I got here, Mike's been tremendous to me," said Foles. "He's been a great veteran for this team. He's been a great leader for this team, and I think it really showed through the course of this year, his true character. He has great character as a person, and you can just tell that he has grown a lot."
As Kelly and Foles spoke, I found myself nodding my head in agreement, as Vick has made many charitable efforts since he signed in Philly, most recently a donation of $200,000 to renovate a North Philadelphia football field for kids.
And then... I was blindsided by a shocking revelation. As I do every day, I checked the New York Times for the latest happenings around the globe, and stumbled upon a truly eye-opening article about Michael Vick, and his role in something called "dogfighting." It is a Pulitzer-worthy read, as the unquestionably talented author, Juliet Macur, exposed Vick for being a convincted felon.
"Animal lovers everywhere can cheer Vick's departure from this city. Especially those who have had to watch him play here since 2009, less than three months after he served time in a federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring."
If you look at Michael Vick's statistics page on ESPN, there's a lengthy gap in his career. He played for the Falcons in 2006, and then mysteriously missed two seasons, before returning to play for the Eagles in 2009.
I had always assumed he suffered an ACL tear or some other major injury. It turns out it was something much more serious.
"If the Eagles cut him loose this off-season, teams considering giving him a third chance in the N.F.L. should be required to look past his strong left arm, his nimble feet and his potentially cost-effective upside.
They should remember this: Vick was the mastermind behind his dogfighting operation. He bankrolled it, gave it a home base, encouraged it."
He did what? Well, it turns out that there are people out there who force dogs to fight each other for sport. They call it "dogfighting." I googled "Michael Vick dogfighting," and there were a staggering 568,000 results.
It turns out that this was national news, and it may even be that Vick is as known for his involvement in this "dogfighting" thing as he is for his football career. I had no idea, and I'll bet most of the NFL is similarly unaware of this.
Previously, as noted above, I had only had pleasant interactions with Vick. In light of this new information, I've decided to re-think my feelings on him. It's difficult to choose the right words when someone you've been around turns out to be an entirely different person than you thought, so I'll express my change of opinion of Vick in chart form.
If that's not enough to change your opinion of Vick, it only gets worse. After Vick got hurt this season, forcing Foles into action, Vick would often be seen on the sidelines, encouraging his teammates. Or so I thought. It turns out that was a false reading on my part. Macur explained that Vick's presence on the sideline was rather pathetic.
"He stood like a spectator on the sideline, looking helpless and anonymous in a long black coat and an Eagles knit cap."
Within the article, the New York Times also added a picture of Vick to back up Macur's claims.
Long black coat? Check.
Eagles knit cap? Checkmate, you knit hat wearing loser.
That spurred me to see if Vick had worn knit hats and coats in the past. After extensive research, it appears as though Vick has been helpless and anonymous with a knit hat and coat on the sidelines a lot in his career.
Knit hat and coat...
Knit hat and coat again...
And the coup de grâce... A knit hat, coat, AND A HOODIE!!! Lol, a hoodie too? Sooooooo helpless and anonymous.
Vick also has a strange collection of toiletries in his locker, as reported by Macur.
"'I've changed in so many ways, so many — why don't you write that?' he told me as he walked off from his locker, leaving behind a few shirts, cocoa butter lotion, a bottle of baby oil and green shower shoes."
One can only assume the cocoa butter and baby oil are mixed together to form a performance enhancing elixir. I tried to reach Vick and his agent to confirm, but several voicemails remain unanswered.
He also carries a stuffed bear with him on the road.
"Vick, who owns a family dog after having previously been barred from doing so, showed me the six-inch fuzzy teddy bear that he carries in his duffel bag for good luck. The bear was a gift from his three children last Christmas. Signs of a changed man? Maybe."
Macur sounds skeptical. So am I.
But really, the most troubling thing is that Macur explained that it goes way higher than just one player. Macur didn't just expose Vick. She exposed the entire Eagles' organization for encouraging the use of racial slurs by wide receiver Riley Cooper. Apparently, the Eagles pay him to be racially offensive.
Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper made racist remarks about African-Americans — on a team filled with African-Americans — and still ended up starting in the playoffs, the recipient of roaring cheers.
Saints Coach Sean Payton was suspended last year for a bounty program in which players were paid to inflict serious injuries on their opponents, and still he was hailed for ushering the Saints to their first ever road playoff win.
What can children who watch the game and idolize its players learn from that?
If you can throw a football, if you can catch a football, if you can call plays that win big games, then nothing else matters.
You can be capable of cracking a little dog's skull against the ground as it struggles to breathe. You can show disrespect to the men you call your teammates by using racial slurs. You can violate the game's rules and society's rules by encouraging your players to physically hurt others, to give them head injuries, torn anterior cruciate ligaments or broken bones.
And what will it get you in the N.F.L.? Huge contracts. Applause. A bank account stuffed with money.
At first, when I read in Macur's column that the NFL rewards racism with huge contracts, I thought it seemed far-fetched. However, I was able to obtain Cooper's contract from the league office, and it appears that Macur wasn't just making a ridiculous exaggeration. Riley Cooper does indeed receive bonuses for every public racial slur.
NFL, you have been put on alert. For the 90% of you (estimated) who are employed by the NFL or one of its franchises who have no idea whatsoever that Michael Vick went to jail for dogfighting, please read Juliet Macur's article about it before you sign him. It is chock full of wisdom and new, little-known information.
As for you, New York Times...