Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bad Dog

As a kid, I believed big guys were supposed to be like Rosey Grier or Mean Joe Greene - gentle giants. I don't even think kids would believe such illusions anymore. Large professionals are obviously like Michael Vick and Chris Benoit - bloated, erratic, probably homicidal. They cannot be content with being large and powerful; they must be more so, and at the expense of others.

Seeing that this is a blog written from the point of view of being a football fan, it's more appropriate to talk about Michael Vick. If the indictment against him is to be believed, more than fifty dogs were found on Vick's property, presumably bred and kept for fighting alone. Yes, it sickens me. Yes, it's inhumane. My wife is a dog lover who notices and makes noises about every dog she sees on the sidewalk. I can't help but think of the countless links lost in the chain of human psychology between someone like her and someone who hangs dogs after they lose their fighting ability.

I think it's also ironically damning to American spectatorship. Overlooking the longstanding rural American tradition of dogfighting, there will always be something American about having other people do your fighting for you. It's a luxury you earn, and while Vick may not have appreciated the jeering he got from Atlanta fans last year, he knew he had to apologize for giving them the finger because he is paid so much. He's still doing our fighting for us on the field, and he is being compensated accordingly. Yet he is, ultimately, disposable. No, he will not be drowned or beaten to death like the dogs he is alleged to have killed without even a thought. However, the disposability of the competing animal is something I find intriguing here, especially as both the NFL and the Players Association look the other way at competing cases of long-term injury among the league's retired players.

In this way, someone so disassociated from his humanity as Vick is alleged to be deserves to be punished for stupidity as well as cruelty. He does not even possess the basic intelligence to recognize that his actions serve as a metaphor for how athletes thrown into the ring are treated when they're not needed anymore.

It is the essence of American sports to keep playing to win, even when you have nothing else to gain. Instead of going on a nice vacation, pursuing a graduate degree in something, doing volunteer work, or even devoting his talents in his free time to addressing the forgotten players of the past, someone like the kind of person Michael Vick is alleged to be will always fall back on the limitless need to compete. How is it that we do not see that, stripped of all the money and celebrity, people like Vick and Chris Benoit are never trained to be anything other than dogs in the ring? No wonder retired players who suffer from the long-term effects of football's violence have such a hard time making their case to the very same fans who cheered them on in the first place.

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