It’s all about your choices, Michael

Poor Michael Vick.

The once-proud quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, who had captured and inspired imaginations with his athletic prowess on the football field, was standing in front of a federal judge in a Virginia courtroom on Monday, awaiting sentencing on dog-fighting charges for his involvement with the deplorable activity. Vick was paraded in front of the cameras in the horizontal black-and-white stripes of a chain gang member, and his entire professional life seemed to be evaporating before his very eyes. It was a picture of wasted talent, of broken dreams.

Vick had turned himself in early to begin his sentence and thought that alone would show the judge that he was taking responsibility for his actions, and that he was going to take his medicine, change his ways and get back on the field to restore both his wallet and reputation. But he also apparently lied to investigators a few times in the last few months — when he was supposed to be providing them information in return for a reduced sentence — and failed a mandatory drug test.

The judge, obviously not impressed by Vick’s actions, sentenced him to 23 months in a federal prison.

Boo. Hoo.

Stiffer sentence than some anticipated? Sure. It was indeed a tough one, according to many of the “legal experts” I’ve heard interviewed since Monday. However, Vick did this to himself, and the judge ordered a sentence that was well within his prerogative to render. Do I feel bad for Vick? Do I sympathize with the fact that he’s paying an extremely big cost for this, when considering the financial loss, the slaughtering of his character worldwide and the basic surrendering of his freedom?

Not so much.

His actions were disgusting. Information goes back and forth as to his active involvement in the dog-fighting and if he personally killed any of the dogs, but there is no doubt that he was involved in a major way — through at least his vast financial resources, as well as his knowledge that this activity was happening on his property. It was ignorant, it was inhumane, it was contemptible. And it was a stupid, stupid choice.

I lived in Atlanta when Vick really exploded. He single-handedly turned a moribund franchise into one that was exciting. There was genuine hope throughout the city that the Falcons could win any game they played — for the simple reason that Vick could at any time turn the game around with his magical running talents. Vick’s jerseys were seen everywhere throughout the Atlanta area, and his public comments were humble and well-thought out. Like Cal Ripken Jr. in Baltimore and Michael Jordan in Chicago, Vick was the rallying spot for an entire city — black or white, male or female, young or old, Vick was their guy.

Well, their guy was a moron.

See, it’s his stupidity that strikes me even more than his nauseating acts. Didn’t an alarm go off in his head telling him that, even though he wanted to support his childhood friends and get involved with this abhorrent activity, there was a good chance he would get found out and blow everything he’s worked for his entire life? Have you ever known a secret to really stay secret for any extended period of time?

Could a human being really be that stupid?

I’ve heard Vick supporters say that he was influenced by a rough upbringing, that he was loyal to the people he was close to before he became a star, that he never really had a chance because a young man just can’t get that much notoriety and money without screwing it up completely. Poor Michael Vick, they all say.

Bull. Bull. Bull.

Michael Vick went to Virginia Tech for college. He was 19 years old, and surrounded by a bunch of teammates that grew up in different environments than him, coaches that wanted to see him succeed and one of the best educational institutions in the world. He was drafted with the first pick in the NFL draft and awarded millions of dollars, as well as picking up a close relationship with the owner of the Falcons, Arthur Blank — a tough, driven guy who made his fortune with Home Depot. Vick is 27 years old now, and he’s spent the last eight years of his life away from the streets where he grew up, and was given every chance to start a whole new life — one that promised an easier future for his children than he might have enjoyed.

I know my time in the Marine Corps, college and my various jobs have had an impact on me over the years, and I’m guessing many of you grew up and matured as you encountered new experiences over your lifetime. But not Vick. No, Vick clung to the old, ignored his new opportunities and decided to risk his entire livelihood, and the livelihood of future generations of Vicks, for a stupid, classless, odious activity like dogfighting.

He got what he got, and I only wish he got more.

No need to digress on this one.