The Philadelphia Eagles are dead to me

It has been a few days since the Philadelphia Eagles — defying all sanity and logic — signed disgraced NFL quarterback, illegal drug user, alleged STD transmitter and, oh yes, dogfighting kingpin Michael Vick (aka Ron Mexico).

Upon learning of the signing during the Eagles’ preseason opener against New England, I immediately flipped the TV to another channel and proclaimed my full support to my usual “B team,” the New York Jets, by chanting “J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!”

All of this talk about giving Michael Vick a second chance is ridiculous. This is like his 10th chance. Just take a look at Vick’s Wikipedia entry under early incidents. Sure, there weren’t any convictions or arrests, but you know the saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? Well, Vick seemed to be quite a hotspot.

And then the allegations and evidence began to mount that Vick ran a dogfighting ring out of one of his homes in Virginia, and that he personally took part in torturing and killing dogs in a variety of vicious ways, including hanging, drowning and electrocution.

Vick didn’t just make a mistake that he paid for by serving a prison sentence. He engaged in violent, sociopathic behavior and only stopped because he was caught, convicted and stripped of his livelihood and money. And just because he is now a free man does not mean he has proven himself to be rehabilitated.

Now, all of that being said…in no way would I deny any person redemption. I think the NFL could have reinstated Vick, but told him he had to sit out as a player for one more year. However, during that year, the league could have hired him to speak to NFL players about the horrors of animal cruelty and also work with the Humane Society, the SPCA and other animal rescue organizations. If Vick stayed out of trouble while also being a true asset to supporters of animal rights, it would have gone a long way in shedding the monster image he has bestowed upon himself.

But, no…the Eagles’ organization decided that Vick is a changed person already — despite not having done a damn thing for animal rights except for some minimal work he has done for the Humane Society of which I have yet to see proof.

And here is where my anger gets to the breaking point with the Eagles. Knowing that this signing was going to meet with controversy, the team should have been ready to communicate with local animal rights/rescue organizations (especially Utley All-Star Animals, the charity run by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley and his wife, Jennifer) and develop the framework of a strategy for using Vick as a force for good.

Basically, there were things the Eagles could have done right away to make the signing of Michael Vick a bit more palatable to animal lovers and fans like me who can’t stomach rooting for a team employing such a vile individual.

At the press conference announcing Vick’s signing, the Eagles should have done at least these three things:

  1. Announced the creation of a program that would raise funds for area animal shelters and rescue operations.
  2. Designated a number of these shelters and rescue operations and make a generous donation that would be split among these groups.
  3. Proposed the creation of an advisory panel that would include Vick, team officials, city and state officials, and leaders of area animal rights organizations with the purpose of communicating the evils of animal abuse to the general public and working with law enforcement in identifying and shutting down dogfighting rings.

In addition to announcing these plans, the Eagles would have needed to set a timeline for implementing these programs and ensure Vick’s full participation and cooperation. In addition, there should have been a clause in Vick’s contract stating that, upon the first instance of his non-compliance to these terms, he would be suspended without pay and released (yeah, I know…the NFL Players Association would get in a tizzy over that, but put it in anyway and let the arbiter figure it out later).

All of this, in my mind, would at least told me that the Eagles and Vick were serious about addressing the controversy the signing would bring.

But, no. The Eagles didn’t have any of that prepared.  In fact, the Eagles’ lack of interest in the animal cruelty issue was made very apparent when Jennifer Utley attempted to attend the press conference to start a dialogue with the Eagles and Vick. She was turned away at the entrance to the Eagles’ NovaCare practice facility. Instead, the press conference was all about this mythical “second” chance for Vick.

Well, what about the dogs that Vick brutally tortured and killed? They didn’t get a second chance.

The signing of Michael Vick represents a big F.U. to a good portion of Eagles fans — myself included. And until I see evidence that Vick and the Eagles are going to work with the community on the issue of animal rights, they will continue to be dead to me.

And if you are interested, you can sign an online petition to boycott the Philadelphia Eagles for signing Michael Vick.

Way to go, Ron Mexico (Michael Vick)!

UPDATE: 1/24/2007 @ 2:40 p.m. ET
A couple of days ago, the following story became a non-story when the substance found hidden in Michael Vick’s water bottle was determined to be nothing that was illegal. However, it is apparent that he tried to hide something in this water bottle and take it onto a commercial airliner. How is that not at least a minor criminal act? Shouldn’t he at least be fined or something? And then I saw this story, which just makes all of this really, really weird.

But here is my original post…

Well, it seems the most overrated quarterback in NFL history, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons, reportedly tried to sneak a substance “closely associated with marijuana” onto an Atlanta-bound plane at Miami International Airport by storing it in a secret compartment in a water bottle that he reluctantly surrendered to security personnel.

USA Today: Michael Vick’s water bottle raises suspicion at Miami airport

…The Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback entered a concourse Wednesday morning at the airport with the 20-ounce bottle. He eventually handed it over and boarded his flight to Atlanta. But his initial reluctance to turn over the bottle aroused suspicion among airport security screeners, a police report said.

The bottle was found to have a hidden compartment that contained “a small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana,” the report said. The compartment was hidden by the bottle’s label so that it appeared to be a full bottle of water when held upright, police said.

No charges have been filed but police said the bottle would be sent to a lab for analysis…

You can read the incident report here (PDF).

The most shocking thing I found in the incident report? Vick was a passenger on an AirTran Airways flight. What the heck was Michael Vick doing flying on AirTran?! AirTran only has business class and coach. The guy signed a 10-year, $130 million contract in December 2004…can’t he afford to fly on an airline with first class? I’m sure there were other carriers offering flights from Miami to Atlanta.

Then again, maybe he is trying to save his money. After all, when you a) allegedly spread herpes while using the alias of Ron Mexico, b) tell your team’s own fans “they are No. 1” with both hands, and c) are barely a mediocre quarterback, maybe Vick thinks the Falcons–and new head coach Bobby Petrino–will realize he is getting overpaid by, well, $130 million, and the team will try to void that big contract for conduct reasons?

Honestly, Vick is a tremendous athlete…I do not dispute that. He might be, as many claim, the most “electric” (whatever that means) player in NFL history…although those people should really watch some NFL Films footage of Fran Tarkenton (Vikings, Giants), who was ridiculously elusive and could actually make big-time passes (by the way, you should really get to know about the remarkable life Tarkenton has lived). I also think Randall Cunningham was a far better quarterback than Vick, but that might be the Eagles fan in me (even though Cunningham had his best days as a passer with the Vikings).

When it comes to being a quarterback, though, Vick just isn’t any good. His passing game is weak and he is not a good decision-maker…especially when it comes to deciding on an alias, apparently.

And he is definitely not worth $130 million.

(Photo credit: Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)