THIS SUNDAY, again, I'll do something uncomfortable for me - I won't root for the Eagles, "my team" since the pre-Dick Vermeil days, when they were a skunk at the picnic. I won't root for the Redskins, because they're not my team. But neither are the Eagles with Michael Vick at the controls.
When he was signed, I accepted it, but I didn't like it. The deal was, he'd be a backup for a year or two. He wasn't the face of the team. I could put up with that. Now that he's the starter, and possibly the Eagles' future, I can't root for them. I just can't.
I'm in a minority around here, but I'm not alone.
A couple of mornings ago, Rhea Hughes was saying on WIP that she watches the Eagles, but without enthusiasm. Morning Show ringleader Angelo Cataldi has turned, after 10 superb quarters of play, from Vick's basher to Vick's bitch. He said that he couldn't understand how you could stop yourself from cheering a great performance. I called in to give one example: In the press box, sportswriters don't cheer.
I should have asked Cataldi how often he cheered superb execution by the Cowboys' Troy Aikman in the days when he dissected the Eagles. That would be a low number because Aikman was in the wrong uniform. I feel that way about Vick.
People like Rhea and me - and not only animal lovers - remain sickened by what Vick did to dogs. It's not that we don't "forgive" him; it's that we are not yet convinced that his contrition is sincere. Anyone who claims to be sure is selling wolf tickets.
Following my WIP interview, I got a call from an animal lover, also a lifelong Eagles fan, who explained how he can be both. "I root for the Eagles' wings on the helmet, not necessarily for the player," said Mount Airy's Craig Glenn, 57.
He disliked Vick when he was an Atlanta Falcon and was "glad he went to jail" after Vick finally came clean about the abominable evil he committed in his Bad Newz Kennels. Glenn said that Vick must continue to do good works. "He has to continue and continue and continue, more so than any other athlete," because he put himself in that position. So Glenn bleeds green.
I just can't.
The facts tell me that Vick has paid his "debt to society" by a long jail term, that he is a Philadelphia Eagle, that he has been superb (against crappy teams) since being called in for injured QB Kevin Kolb. I can't deny Vick's brilliance on the field, but I just can't enjoy it, either. Maybe some day I can, but not yet.
The Eagles tell me that Vick has made 19 appearances at schools, rec centers and churches, about half in the Philadelphia area, to talk with kids about the evils of dogfighting. If he keeps letting his off-field actions speak, he may be able to bring people like Rhea and me back into the fold.
Despite some other high-performing, likable Eagles - such as wideout DeSean Jackson, linebacker Stewart Bradley and defensive end Trent Cole - I am down on this team. They tore my heart last year, when they unanimously named Vick to receive the Ed Block Award for "courage."
Courage? Do they know what the word means? Vick was just living with the humiliation brought on by his own vicious acts. That's forbearance maybe, not courage. If they wanted to make nice to Vick, they should have bought him dinner at The Palm, not tarnished the Block award.
If this team cares so little about how people like Rhea and me feel, why should we cheer for them?
I just can't. The Michael Vick Salvation Project® may be a success on the field, but is he truly reformed off the field? Remember the birthday party dust-up? I'm not a "hater," I'm a skeptic. Die-hard Eagles fans will say, "I don't care what you think." I know. You are your team.
Stu Bykofsky's column normally runs Monday and Thursday. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-5977.