Unless you've been living under a rock today, you know that there's been a few Mike Vick stories to come out. Or, more to the point, a few stories that all came out of a recent interview he gave for Will Leitch in GQ. One, highlighting the disgusting man that Vick is, deals with defense of canine murder as, in essence, a cultural thing. Nothing more refreshing than hearing a person of color use the same justification for his behavior as was used by Southern whites who couldn't help themselves from marching in lockstep with the culture of lynching. Way to go, bud. You're showing that your grasp of history, as well as your grasp of fundamental morality, are both in line with Michelle Bachmann's grasp of, well, history and morality. You should run for President! Now please dip yourself in beef jerkey grease and find the nearest pit bull. I hear Yachter's pup is pretty hungry.
The second story, and the more important one on a sports and, in particular, Buffalo sports level, is the one where Vick is quoted as saying that he was, in essence, steered towards the Philadelphia Eagles by Commissioner Goodell, despite the fact that Vick's inclinations were to sign with either Buffalo or Cincinnatti a\fter re-entering the league, both of whom would have given him a solid chance to be the starting QB. Vick's quote describes Goodell, and other unnamed persons (speculation is that it may have been Tony Dungy), as being helpful in their efforts to get Vick into a situation where he could succeed. And for the guys involved, that meant Philly.
My bet is that it had something to do with the high frequency of horrible human beings in Philadelphia. Blending in with the crowd is key.
Many Bills fans have today made a lot of this story - as I am doing now, in all fairness - as a sign of improper collusion between the head of the league and a player. People are concerned, rightly, with the motivations of a commissioner who is effectively telling a player to go one way, rather than another, and whether those motivations might be purposed towards benefiting one team over another. This concern certainly fits in with the Bills fan diatribe that the NFL is out to get us... which, let's be honest, is sometimes absurd and sometimes not.
Honestly, I think that in this case the "woe is us" meme is sort of moot. Bills fans - the fiercely principled people that we are - would have crucified Vick as soon as he rolled into town, and Vick would not have flourished in any way under Dick Jauron's late tenure at One Bills Drive. How do I know? BECAUSE NO ONE FLOURISHED UNDER SKELATOR. And, if we remember, like it or not, the prevailing opinion at that time was that we fans didn't want him. It's completely weak for the group think to shift to anger and resentment over "what could have been" now that he's suddenly great again and now that we're a few more years removed from those days of the puppy blood for cash scheme. So, let's push aside those feelings, shall we? There are bigger issues at play.
The bigger point, noted by many today, is the appearance of collusion - haing long since been replaced by a free-ish market of player contracts - which harkens back to days where players had little say in where they'd play, and where ownership ruled the marketplace of player talent. And, honestly, this should concern people. The idea of steering players to particular clubs - especially when those clubs are bug market and have a history of on-the-field success and ESPN-style marketability. Fans of small market clubs, especially ones barely surviving on the scraps of an uninspired and unmotivated near-death owner, should be wary of this sort of thing. Goodell, inherently concerned with viability of the league and its stars - both star individuals and star franchises - should not be sticking his nose into these kinds of situations, even if he thinks he's being helpful. Simply put, he is incapable of being fair and balanced in that kind of situation since, quite rightly, his top priority is puting a great NFL product out there. While Vick's comments imply that he was happy to get Goodell's advice (at least in hindsght, now that "all is well"), the power that Goodell wielded, and wields, with respect to these player discipline situations is enormous. He made the call to allow Vick to be reinstated, and you wonder - and only the people in the room know - whether that decision-making authority, and a veiled threat of reversing the decision to reinstate, was used as leverage in pushing Vick towards a team of Goodell's choosing.
While this should certainly concern people, it shouldn't surprise anyone in this case. And, honestly, if it remains an isolated example of this kind of influence coming from Goodell, I'm actually ok with it. As I noted above, Vick would probably not have been successful in Buffalo, and he certainly wouldn't have been successful in playing for the Bengals - the NFL equivalent of Siberia, both in terms of desolation and criminal population. For Goodell, who was taking serious heat for letting Vick back into the league in the first place, making sure that Vick found a successful stepping stone was probably less about Vick and the Eagles, and more about Goodell and the NFL covering their asses. A Vick implosion in Cincy or Buffalo would have meant further bad press for the league and for Goodell in particular. Right or wrong, I can certainly understand the desire for self-preservation, even if it takes the form of relegating the Bills to the kids table while the adults get drunk on port and scotch. There were a host of risks wrapped up in the decision to allow (or not allow) Vick back into the league, and Goodell was rightly conscious of those risks and the need to control the situation as best he could.
That doesn't mean that it isn't a troubling sign of a possble trend. It just means that, to the extent that it's limited to just this situation with Vick, my vote is that we all unbunch our panties and get off of our high, principled horses.
Unless you choose to take umbrage, like the Yachtsman, with the fact that this guy is even back in the league at all. In which case, bitch away. You have my blessings.
So, Bills fans, take a breath. Sure, we can be angry with the league and with Goodell - holding onto those principles for dear life - but doesn't change anything, nor does this news really indicate anything more than a commissioner trying to control the re-entrance of a dynamic and controversial talent back into the sport. Not to mention that, as we stomp our feet about the league's bias against our beloved team, let's not lose sight of the biggest threat to the Bills' chances of success: our odious taint of an owner who has us so far below the cap that we could afford Vick's new contract twice over at this point. Let's not worry too much about the "one that got away," since - if we're honest - that list has way more than just the one.
On an unrelated note, this song has been in my head for days. Enjoy it with me, friends.