An open letter to Michael Vick...
I don't subscribe to the "let's not rush to judgment" crowd who have written so many "let's wait and see what happens" columns in so many sports pages.
You see, I don't believe in coddling star athletes. Ever since your talent was discovered by those teachers, coaches, professors, athletic directors, shoe marketers, drink manufacturers and all those who hold sports stars in too high a regard — like the groupies and the entourage — life has been pretty good to you.
• Video: The GRRR! Block: Coddled Athletes
But now there are serious questions that you need to answer, like:
— "Did you lead an illegal dog fighting ring that consisted of 66 pit bulls that lived on your Virginia property?"
— "Were you betting on your team of killer dogs at illegal dog fighting events?"
— "Were you involved in the electrocution, drowning and body-slamming to death of dogs who underperfromed?
— "Why were you seen repeatedly at a local store buying syringes?"
— "Who are the rest of those repulsive individuals who profited from and got off on the pain and deaths of innocent animals that were trained to kill each other for their sick "sport?"
I know these are silly questions to ask — especially of a star quarterback — and I don't really expect you to answer.
Besides, your lawyer would advise you not to.
But the notion that you didn't know what was going on on your Virginia property where police recovered 66 pit bulls, training equipment for even more and a blood-stained carpet is about as believable as saying that taking steroids does not help baseball players hit home runs.
I know there are tens of thousands of sports fanatics who believe your story and the tales of those who hit too many home runs, but I'm not one of them. To me sports stars are overpaid, overprivileged and overprotected.
One week, a $25 million-a-year Yankees third basemen is photographed outside a strip club with a "mystery blonde," and a few weeks later he's photographed at a book store signing autographs of his children's book.
His children's book, folks.
And while I don't think sports stars or actors or other celebrities need to be perfect, I do think they should protect their images and respect their positions of privilege, or lose it. That means Pacman Jones shouldn't be hanging out with gun-toting thugs, and Michael Vick shouldn't be involved in a dog fighting scandal.
If they want those lifestyles, they should not be allowed into our living rooms where they can influence millions of children. They should not be allowed to play a game that so many Americans hold as important as family traditions or use as examples in rearing their children.
There is a reason why so many movie studios retain public relations firms who hold strict control over their clients' (actors') private lives. They need to protect their investment. One need only look at how beloved Tom Cruise was in the media when he had the venerable Pat Kingsley by his side for every interview, photo shoot or movie premiere.
Indeed, I don't think I ever saw Cruise out in public without Kingsley or someone from her staff.
And then after years of great press, Cruise felt like he had enough of being controlled and he parted ways with her firm and hired his own sister to handle media relations.
We all know what happened then. The guy imploded and suffered the worst press of his career.
The NFL and other professional sports teams need to be even more vigilant about their players. Either that, or we're going to have to start a ratings systems and dump buttons in the television control rooms so we can shield our children from the players who give their sports, their teams and their country a bad name.
You, Mr. Vick, have a lot of explaining to do. We're listening.
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