Taking into account a few rare exceptions, I don't like, watch or follow the game of football. But from time to time I catch the news of some or the other high priced, high profile athlete indulging in foul or criminal behavior. Mostly I shrug. Assault, battery, gambling, drug abuse, rape and even murder seem to have become par for the course for our arrogant modern day gladiators. The O.J. Simpson case had us glued to our TV sets a little over a decade ago. Accusations of slitting his ex-wife's throat and the ridiculous spectacle of the bloody glove that "did not fit" gave rise to high drama. Sensational journalists called it the "trial of the century" (NOT!). Nothing, we were told could top that tragic and sordid event. But O.J. (who I believe was guilty), if he did kill Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, did so out of rage filled jealousy - a crime of passion. At least we understand that even when we are revolted by it. But how does one explain what Michael Vick, the star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons is accused of doing?
It's time for Michael Vick to hang up his Atlanta Falcons jersey. He should be immediately suspended from the NFL and, if convicted of dogfighting, thrown in the slammer. People who abuse animals belong in prison, not on the playing field. Anyone who is capable of the heinous cruelty that is detailed in Vick's damning 18-page indictment poses a danger not only to animals but also to fellow humans.
Unlike football, dogfighting is no ''sport.'' The ''winners'' are kept on heavy chains, starved, beaten and forced to fight other dogs again and again; the ''losers'' pay with their lives. According to the indictment, in March 2003, Purnell Peace, one of Vick's co-defendants, allegedly killed a female pit bull who had lost a fight by soaking her with water and electrocuting her after consulting with Vick.
Just this past April, Vick and his codefendants allegedly killed at least eight dogs who didn't make the ''cut'' in preliminary fighting sessions by hanging them, drowning them and ''slamming at least one dog's body to the ground.'' The indictment describes at least four other incidents in which Vick's co-defendants allegedly killed dogs who weren't aggressive enough by electrocuting them or shooting them with a .22-caliber pistol.
Vick's success as a quarterback brings him multimillion-dollar contracts, status and recognition, but the ''winners'' who survived Vick and his cohorts' alleged bloody fights apparently got the ''luxury'' of being chained constantly to buried car axles, left with untreated injuries, forced to run on a treadmill and, in the case of females, strapped down with their heads immobilized in a ''rape stand'' while male dogs mounted them.
Yes, Michael Vick has been charged with "dog fighting" - the inhumane pastime (accompanied by brisk betting) of pathetic losers who use dumb animals to satiate their twisted, sadistic blood lust. Note the gruesome details in the quoted article to put things in perspective. Dogs (usually pit bulls) are bred and reared to kill. They are kept chained most of their short lives with little care or nurturing contact, to prevent them from becoming "soft." Other animals - dogs and cats, are used as "bait animals" for the killer dogs to practice their skills on. The murderous enterprise is illegal in all 50 states. Therefore it is also secretive. But that doesn't mean that the practitioners are not organized. They use special equipments to breed and train the dogs. And that dog fighting goes on despite its being a felony in 48 states and a misdemeanor in 2, means that it is profitable and that some people really enjoy the barbaric carnage. Dog fighting used to be mainly a rural phenomenon in the United States. But the vicious practice has in the past decade or so found enthusiasts in urban areas where its popularity has mostly followed the increasing coarseness, violence and macho display associated with rap culture.
I have a hard time understanding the motivations of so called "manly" men for whom expressions of toughness and machismo include activities like bull fights, dog fights, cock fights, canned hunting and sending other people's children to fight their fantasy wars. (Vice President Dick Cheney is guilty of at least two of the five.) It is also an established fact that brutal killers often begin as animal abusers. Cruelty to animals is not punished sufficiently in my opinion, despite efforts by animal welfare organizations and animal lovers. But now that Michael Vick has put a well known, popular and Nike endorsed face on the criminal enterprise of dog fighting, it can no longer be dismissed as the weekend pastime of gap toothed hillbillies in remote corners of the country. I hope people will wake up and demand severe punishment for the perpetrators.
I am not a fan of Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.VA) and his long winded histrionics on the senate floor. But after the Michael Vick story became public, the octogenarian spoke at length about the brutal "sport" of dog fighting. When he protested, his body shaking and voice quivering, "Barbaric!," "Dastardly!" "Sadistic!" "Shame!" "Inhumane!", I cheered. I hope other law makers took note and were similarly moved. I do not know what the punishments for dog fighting or other animal abuse usually amount to. Probably a fine and a short jail term for illegal actions but more likely a slap on the wrist for less "egregious" abuse cases. What will be the fitting punishment for Michael Vick? Seizing his multi-million dollar assets? Neutering him? Throwing him into a pit with hungry wild dogs? 20 years in prison without parole? What is a dog's life worth? I don't know. But it is probably worth more than that of the likes of Michael Vick.