Michael Vick is one of the most talented players ever to play in the National Football League. He is a throwback to the days of the “triple-threat man.” He could run, pass, and kick. Well, offensive backs no longer kick in either the college or the pro game, but Michael Vick could both run and pass. A fine passer (quoting here from Wikipedia) “Vick owns several NFL records, including the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season (1,039 in 2006), highest average per carry in a single season (8.45 in 2006), 100-yard career rushing games by a quarterback (eight), best two-game rushing total (225 in 2004) and rushing yards in a single game (173 in 2002).” In the pro sport, where the league goes out of its way to try to protect its quarterbacks from physical contact except when it’s absolutely essential, here’s a quarterback who, when he ran, went out of his way to make it. And generally stayed healthy. And oh yes, he happens to be an African-American.
Dog-fighting is an unpleasant “sport” that is common in many countries around the world, and has a long history. It is illegal in most countries even where it is widespread (not including Japan; again, see the Wikipedia entry on “Dog fighting”). In the U.S., both the fighting itself, apparently quite widespread, usually between two pit bulls bred for the purpose, and the gambling on it, also apparently quite widespread, are illegal. For some reason that is yet to be determined, Vick, highly paid with much endorsement income as well, got caught up in both sponsoring dog-fighting and sponsoring the gambling associated with it, across state lines. He was caught, and prosecuted under both Federal law and that of several states.
At first, he lied about his involvement, but he fairly quickly came to admit his wrongdoings. Under a plea arrangement, he paid about $1 million in fines, to set up a fund to care for and rehabilitate some of the dogs (a “re-trained” pit bull, anyone?) He also spent about two years in Federal prison, at Leavenworth, no less. He was also immediately suspended by the National Football League. Everybody went gaga, as much about his lying as about the dog-fighting, dontchaknow.
He is now on his way out of prison, under house arrest and working on a construction site at $10 per hour. Interestingly enough, he has recently made an arrangement with the Humane Society of the United States to become a spokesperson for them, especially in dealing with the matter of dog-fighting. Of course with its several thousand years history, and its common practice in this hemisphere, especially the Southern part, it is not going to go away soon. But Michael Vick is going to do his part to try to help. Of course, the skeptics are out in force, all ready. “Does he really mean it?” “How could the Humane Society give him ‘cover’?” “Well he couldn’t possibly be telling the truth could he?” “He couldn’t possibly have genuine remorse over what he did, even indirectly, to the animals, and directly to the teenagers who were able to attend the fights because he arranged to make them available — dog-fighting being such a bad thing, could he?”
Then there is the whole question of whether the National Football League will reinstate him. The owner of his former team, the Atlanta Falcons, announced some time ago that he would not take Vick back. But Vick is a great player, there are a number of teams that could very well use him at quarterback, and if he was reinstated, he would almost certainly find useful employment for the 2009 season. But will that happen? Well, that’s up to one Roger Goodell, the goodie-goodies inside and outside of professional football, and most especially the NFL’s marketing and advertising folk. Vick may be able to get back into the game, if he can convince people that he is “redeemed.”
Which brings us to Dick Cheney. Now let’s see. In summary, Dick lied the nation into a war that has cost the United States over 4,000 lives and Iraq perhaps several hundred thousand. He continues to lie about it. He lied about getting the nation to engage in torture (among other things a violation of treaty obligations and thus of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution) when he did it and continues to lie about it. Dick Cheney arranged for an endless series of Iraq war-related no-bid contracts for his former company, Halliburton, and its subsidiary, Kellogg-Brown-Root and has said, through “spokesmen,” that he was “not personally involved.” But his pension is related to the overall value of the company, dontchaknow. Seymour Hersh has told us that Cheney set up his own military force, outside of the Pentagon’s Chain of Command, which among other things, engaged in guerilla warfare inside Iran. Apparently it is still doing so, possibly under Cheney’s command still, a new President in office to the contrary notwithstanding. Who knows?
So let’s see. Does Dick get prosecuted for any of his variety of crimes? Well, no. Not yet at least. Has the new Administration shown any interest in even investigating him to see if he committed any indictable crimes? Well, no. Has he been suspended by the National Political League, in the sense that no one will pay any attention to him even if he doesn’t go to jail? Well, no. Not only has he not been suspended, he is now playing quarterback for one of the two major teams in that league, part of the three-headed monster — himself, Gingrich, and Limbaugh — that currently leads it. Not only has he not been put on his very best behavior before he can do anything at all, but also he is currently playing a game a week, it would seem, bad heart (although heartless) and all. The media, which will shun Michael Vick unless he can get the approval of Goodell and at least some of the goodie-goodies, give Cheney the chance to play his cheap-shot fear-mongering game every chance they can get.
So Michael Vick gets it in the teeth for dog-fighting and lying about it. For dog-fighting and lying about IT?!?! And Dick Cheney gets royal treatment for lying the nation into war, lying the nation into torturing and continuing to lie about both, and very likely war-profiteering to boot. Vick and Dick. Some comparison. Am I missing something here?
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a Columnist for Buzz Flash, Dr. Jonas is also a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century (POAC); and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.