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Monday, August 13, 2007

Why I'm not slashing my wrists over Michael Vick

Atlanta sports fans can be forgiven if they come off as a rather pessimistic and jaded lot. After all no group of multi-sport enthusiasts anywhere have endured as many false starts, broken promises, and generally dismal play than those for whom 404 is not an internet error message. Even our one moment in the sun, the Braves 1995 World Series championship, occurred in a year when virtually nobody watched baseball. Thus resulting in an endless string of exasperating conversations convincing people that yes, the Atlanta Braves actually did win a World Series.

Now as we stand ready to induct yet another athlete into the Pascual "Perimeter" Perez/Jeff George train wreck hall of fame, people begin to ask the inevitable question...when did it all go wrong? The answer, as it turns out, day 1.

Michael Vick is a one-in-a generation kind of talent, a natural athlete who could dominate any sport he chooses to play. That's the good news. The bad news; everybody knows it, including Vick. It is almost the natural order of things that people who know their potential almost never live up to it.

Think about it. Those who dominate any field be it sports, business, or politics are never the ones who were destined for greatness, those people invariably become disappointments. It's always those who seemingly come out of nowhere that end up running the table. Why? Because these people do not have the burden of expectations. They have no monkey on their back to use a tired, old metaphor. If they succeed, that's great. If they don't, oh well. And that gives them the freedom to reach the top of whatever field they are in.

Michael Vick had the opposite problem. Going back to his high school days everybody knew that he was destined for the NFL. His domination of the college football world as a Hokie simply put an exclamation point on his future. And when he was drafted #1 by the Falcons, it seemed that the sky was the limit.

But the Falcons play in a domed stadium and one cannot see the sky from anywhere on the field of play, so it seems the ceiling for Vick was actually much lower. It began with Dan Reeves who was determined to take all that raw talent and mold Vick into a quarterback. Something Vick thought he had already learned. The two clashed violently and when the Falcons failed to make the playoffs after two years Reeves was forced to walk the plank with Vick holding the sword at his back

Enter the players coach, Jim Mora. Mora wasn't about to mold anybody into anything, he was determined to let Vick be Vick. Left to his own devices Vick became the top rushing quarterback of all time. However this was a problem as quarterbacks aren't supposed to run the ball unless something has gone terribly wrong.

The fact that Vick ran so much was a sign that either A: He didn't have anybody to throw to, or B: He couldn't throw the ball very well, a serious issue for a quarterback. The fact that Vick got away with it as often as he did is simply a testimony to his talent. But the bottom line is that you cannot have half your offensive plays be quarterback draws and succeed in the NFL. Mora eventually figured that out and responded by crafting a more traditional offense. Vick revolted and fought bitterly over the change in tactics and it spilled over onto the field. Vick was clearly mailing it in and the results showed. Push came to shove, literally, and Mora was shown the door cementing Vick's rep. as a coach killer.

Even with his sporadically spectacular play on the field, it was clear that football was a secondary concern. it was merely a paycheck, a nice paycheck, but a paycheck nonetheless. Then came the cavalcade of off-the-field problems that were always really there, they were just conveniently ignored. There was the posse and all the problems that came with them. Ron Mexico, the finger incident, the "water" bottle, and finally we arrived at dogfighting.

We all saw this coming. The dogfighting itself was a surprise, but the fact that Vick would eventually self-destruct was not. Falcons fans knew from early on that there was to be no banner raising in the Georgia Dome anytime soon. Last draft day I along with many of my compatriots were just waiting for the news report to shock those on ESPN "In a surprising move the Atlanta Falcons, with their number 8 pick selected quarterback Brady Quinn. The question now, what does this mean for Michael Vick?"

Alas it was not to be. But no matter what happens do not feel sorry for Michael Vick. He will most likely get a slap on the wrist from the court and will then do a series of public service ads for the ASPCA and Kennel Club. Even if he never takes another snap Vick has more than enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life.

And it may be that Vick will once again become a success in the NFL. Perhaps even hoisting a Lombardi trophy or two. But he will never be great, he will never be as good as he could have been.


Blogger Will said...

~golf clap~

11:49 PM

Blogger ptg said...

brilliant display of wit and purpose.

I give it a B+.

7:23 PM

Blogger Kuflax said...

Well, that was a very well written article.

Not that we don't think you're a smart guy, but you better watch out, and not write such smarty pants stuff all the time, or we'll begin to expect it from you.

10:13 PM


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