August 20, 2014

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Tim Dahlberg: Sympathy for Michael Vick goes up in smoke

It was almost time to call piling on, nearly time to start feeling a little bit sorry for Michael Vick.
The images of him and his buddies laughing and joking while stringing one dog up on a tree or holding another underwater in a pond had faded just a bit. In their place were fresher images of a contrite and remorseful Vick giving what appeared to be a heartfelt apology to God, country and anyone who has ever experienced the pleasure of their dog greeting them at home after a hard day on the job.
So when Vick was indicted Tuesday on state dogfighting charges that largely matched the federal charges to which he has already pleaded guilty, some might have felt it was overkill. The same day, the precarious condition of Vick’s finances was exposed when a bank sued him for $2.3 million he borrowed for real estate investments.
And then, at what was billed as a nationally televised town forum on the whole Vick debate, only a few hundred of his supporters bothered to show up to defend him in the very city where he played football.
It was almost as if Vick had become the victim, not the dogs buried at his Virginia dogfighting house.
Thankfully, Vick has set us straight.
Now we know he’s not just a puppy killer. He’s way more than that. He might be the dumbest person ever to play quarterback in the National Football League.
That’s going a long way in a sport that has had more than its share of players who played too long without their helmet. It brings back memories of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson talking about Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw before the 1976 Super Bowl.
“He couldn’t spell C-A-T,”‘ Henderson said, “if you spotted him the C and the T.”
That was funny stuff, even if Bradshaw got the last laugh on the field and later in life.
This is far from funny.
In case you missed it, Vick apparently has been spending his time between court appearances getting high instead of getting his life together. He tested positive for marijuana Sept. 13, prompting the judge who will sentence him to order electronic monitoring to make sure Vick stays home at night.
It could have been worse. Another judge simply might have decided to jail Vick until Dec. 10, when he likely will be sentenced to prison for bankrolling a dogfighting ring.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson couldn’t be happy about the failed drug test, and you have to wonder how he will take Vick’s latest transgression into account. The most common theory had been that Hudson would give Vick about a year in prison out of a possible five. Now, there’s no doubt the prosecution will remind him of the positive test.
And remember the pundits who got out their calendars and figured Vick could be playing football again by the 2009 season if all went well? That was a bit optimistic at best, but just to make sure add a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
If nothing else, Vick’s positive test explains a few things, not the least of which is the water bottle that was seized from him in January at the Miami airport. Vick was cleared of wrongdoing, but police said it smelled like marijuana and had a hidden compartment that contained a “small amount of dark particulate.”
And now we know why Vick took so long to plead guilty to dogfighting, even after everyone else had thrown themselves at the mercy of the court and turned against him.
He was too stoned to think straight.
That wasn’t the case with Vick’s attorneys, who understood their client had an image problem, as well as a legal problem. They knew animal lovers everywhere were aghast at the thought of dogs fighting and dogs being executed by hanging, electrocution and drowning.
They realized Vick had to show remorse if he were to escape a long sentence and play football again. That’s why they had Vick stand in front of reporters after his guilty plea and give what appeared to be a speech from his heart, though later it was discovered he had some talking points.
The tactic seemed to be working. The outcry subsided somewhat, the talking heads on ESPN stopped discussing him 24 hours a day, and a lot of Falcon fans took a look at their woeful team and began thinking how good it would be to have Vick back.
One positive drug test changed that. One positive drug test told us a lot.
Now everyone can get back to hating Vick, hating what he did and hating that they were almost ready to believe him.
Feel free to start piling on again.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.