America loves a redemption story. Because of the media, today we have 24-hour access to “information” about any professional athlete. When individuals become immersed in the media, they have the potential of quickly turning into avid supporters of these athlete’s because of the highlight reels that circulate each hour.
Michael Vick, for example, is a player that is capable of capturing the hearts of media-cravers in a matter of seconds. Each time he steps onto a field he is one game-changing play away from making history and having ESPN gushing about the dramatic entertainment he brings to the table. To the same token, if a player drops the ball, he or she is going to be ridiculed and over-analyzed by every perceived expert until the next athlete takes the spotlight off of them.
But as we all know, what Michael Vick did was more than just dropping the game-winning touchdown. He was found guilty of a felony dog-fighting charge and sentenced to 21 months in prison. Vick served his time and seemed to make a conscious effort at bettering himself as a person and separating himself from people who could potentially bring him down once he was released. Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles believed the transformation Vick made was real, so in 2009 they decided to give him a second chance.
What they didn’t expect was for him to play better than he ever had before. The 2010 season for the Philadelphia Eagles was highlighted by some remarkable play from their new and improved quarterback. Vick led the Eagles to an NFC East Championship and an 11-5 record under Reid. But this success was nothing new to his coach, who had been to five NFC Championship games and Super Bowl XXXIX.
The biggest difference was the polished passing attack that Michael Vick had added to his arsenal while away from the game. Posting career highs in passing yards, passing percentage, QB rating and passing touchdowns, Vick re-captured the hearts of football fans across the country. People paid close attention to his off-the-field actions as well and noticed that he had developed into more of a leader that his teammates could follow. Which leads us back to the beginning of this article: America loves a redemption story. Or so we thought.
According to the latest surveys conducted by Nielsen and partner E-Poll Market Research, published by Forbes, “Michael Vick is the most disliked athlete in all of sports, just edging out Tiger Woods.” The survey found that while Vick is one of the most popular athletes amongst NFL fans, the people who don’t follow the sport but know who he is despise him. These people are entitled to their opinion and rightfully so, because what Michael Vick did shouldn’t be condoned by anyone. He broke the law and had to suffer the consequence for his actions.
For the conscious football fan, this adversity adds substance to Michael Vick’s quest for redemption. His negative public perception is yet another obstacle in the way of Michael Vick’s climb back to the top. For him to be successful on the football field, he can’t worry about what other people think or let surveys like the one above become a distraction. Last year the Eagles labeled themselves the “Dream Team” and those big preseason expectations only led to an 8-8 record.
I think Vick understands now that his growth as a football player is paralleled with his growth as a man. This preseason there hasn’t been much talking on the part of Vick, just doing. Andy Reid has himself another loaded roster which is capable of going the distance, but they can only go as far as their quarterback takes them. It’s shaping up to be must-see television, whether you’re a football fan or not, because the sun is setting on Michael Vick’s career. Waiting to see how it all unfolds are his biggest supporters and harshest critics. This season will tell us a lot, and Vick’s legacy is on the line.