Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Feb 2012

The Trauma and the Pity

A poignant look at Michael Vick's concussion early in the 2011 season.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 24 Feb 2012

35 comments, Last at 28 Feb 2012, 7:49pm by Jerry


by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 5:09pm

A dog murderer got injured and no one cared. Well, hard to feel good things about a choke-slamming, electrocuting, life-destroying person.

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 5:56pm

Yes, I agree that a past criminal incident should condemn a person to a permanent lack of empathy.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 7:21pm

Actions make the man. He spent most of his life coordinating gambling and dog killing. 4 yrs later changed? not likely

by RickD :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 5:58pm

I take it you did not read the article.

by jackgibbs :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 7:36pm

I can guarantee he didn't read the article

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 9:59am

I thought he was the last fan to speak in the article.

by Sergio :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 9:07pm

For the life of me, I can't understand some people's attachments to *some* animals, but not others. So killing dogs is a no-no, but eating steak is fine and dandy? What about killing a gnat? Is that unacceptable too?

/pet peeve over

As to the article... I would say it's just a matter of full disclosure, and letting people make an informed decision. But the truth is, it's a tricky situation. I probably would give up a lot for a year in the NFL; financially it's a killer deal, and it would fulfill a lifelong dream. But I'm also 28. I know what's at risk. What about kids just starting out? Highschoolers? Kids coming into the NFL? Are they old enough to make an informed decision?

-- Go Phins!

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/24/2012 - 10:46pm

To take your first paragraph to it's logical conclusion, humans are animals too.

by jackgibbs :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 3:53am

to take it to the other logical extreme, we should all be vegans.

i think the thing with the whole michael vick fiasco is the manner in which he put the dogs down. it was totally disgusting. I don't think the outrage would be nearly as bad if we was painlessly euthanizing the under producers. still gross, but at leat he wasn't power bombing them into the ground and whatnot. that speaks to an uncomfortable level of sadism

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 4:01am

You misobotanist. Plants are organisms too.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 7:38pm

I hate miso soup, so that makes me a misomisoist.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2012 - 5:14am

Fair point. Guess it's the 'All-Sand' diet for me from now on.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 8:59am

Yes, but killing other people means killing members of the same sepcies as yourself - that's different.

Cue the pedantics: "what constitutes a species"...

Anyway I can see the original point - why is it that to some people killing horses is way worse than killing pigs?

All of this is irrelevant: Vick didn't just kill dogs, he tortured them.

by galactic_dev :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 11:07am

Indeed, he tortured them for bloodsport and racketeering.

I don't believe in god, but I believe in Tim Tebow.

by tuluse :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 2:17pm

"Yes, but killing other people means killing members of the same sepcies as yourself - that's different."

According to you. My whole point is that different people have different view points and moral codes.

by Lance :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 1:29pm

"For the life of me, I can't understand some people's attachments to *some* animals, but not others. So killing dogs is a no-no, but eating steak is fine and dandy? What about killing a gnat? Is that unacceptable too?"

I think that the issue wasn't so much that he was just killing animals. It was that he was running a dog-fighting ring, and when certain dogs didn't perform well, he did things like electrocute or drown them.

You're right that people seem to hold some sentimental value for some animals over others. Many Americans think that eating horse meat is wrong, while in Europe it's much more common. However, there's a difference between:

"We had horse meat from a horse that was slaughtered in conventional humane-as-can be slaughterhouse methods."


"My horse didn't win at the track and I lost a bunch of money, so I beat it with a baseball bat until it was dead."

I'm pretty sure that you can see the difference between the two, and how Vick's dog-killing isn't quite the same thing as having a steak.

by rfh1001 :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 2:50pm

What Lance said.

by Rabbit :: Sat, 02/25/2012 - 11:41pm

Or a cat

Let's be real. The issue isn't that he was electrifying nonperforming animals to death. It was that he was electrifying a pet that is present in 50 million American households. None of what he went through would have happened if he preferred cock-fighting instead.

by tuluse :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:31am

That's not true, if he was running a cock fighting ring as big as the dog fighting ring he had, I'm sure the Feds would still have busted him.

by Rabbit :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 10:29am

The Fed's might have; it depends on their motivation. Were they motivated by the principles involved: Gang members, drug dealers, and Vick? By sponsored animal fighting alone? By the fact the fighting was between dogs?

I tend to think it was the former, then the latter a distant second. But regardless of what the Fed's wanted to do, I doubt their case would have had the public backing it did if the fighting was between birds.

Virginia statute on animal fighting:
Summary: Virginia allows attendance at cockfights so long as the fight is not "for money, prize or anything of value, or betting or wagering money" or there is no admission fee charged.

"..be prohibited by the court from possession or ownership of companion animals or cocks"

Virginia, at least, does imply a difference between dogs and cocks.

by Lance :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:00pm

True-- VA does classify cockfighting as a misdemeanor while dog fighting is a felony. And I'm not disagreeing with the sentiment that we care more because it's dogs. The OP seemed to lump in Vick's dog-killing with the slaughter of animals for food, though, and was perplexed that people would be upset at the former but not the latter-- after all, each ends in the death of an animal.

But it seems clear that most people consider the cruelty and abuse of animals to be wrong, regardless of the creature-- even if there might be greater outrage over some (dogs, horses) over others (roosters, carp).

by Rabbit :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:27pm

OP has a point but I think he missed it.

"For the life of me, I can't understand some people's attachments to *some* animals, but not others"

That, I agree with. I'm a dog owner myself, have been for decades. But my appreciation of the animals does not mean I believe others must feel the same way about them. If Vick was raised in an environment where dogs are generally treated poorly, poorly to the point where they become mean and dangerous (which he was), he's not going to have the same affection for them as this dog-loving suburbanite does. I understand and respect that. He may look upon them no differently then I would a rat, and I would stomp a rat, easy. I'd throw the thing in my microwave oven and set it to high if I ever caught one in my house (and wanted a new oven).

"So killing dogs is a no-no, but eating steak is fine and dandy?"

That analogy makes no sense, however.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 5:00pm

Some of that is likely to protect farmers. Roosters will murder each other. A fine-line reading of an anti-cockfighting statute may unintentionally make it illegal to be in attendance when two roosters determine who's the dominant male.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 7:35pm

The feds might have still busted him but I guarantee he wouldn't have had anywhere near the grief had it been cockfighting. Though similar in many ways, those are far different in the general public's eye. There were articles that mentioned cockfighting in the aftermath of the Vick thing, including naming a variety of athletes (mostly soccer players and MLB players, as I recall) who had connections to it. I don't recall there being any follow-up on that at all, nor any public outcry. But Clinton Portis said something about having been to dogfights and was absolutely hammered for it.

by Lance :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 12:33am

Well, again: if he were beating horses to death with a baseball bat, I'm still pretty sure that there would have been some serious backlash. If he preferred cockfighting, there wouldn't be much of an issue about torturing animals for poor performance because the roosters are killed in the fight. One could still hope that he'd have gone to prison, though, were that his hobby.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 02/26/2012 - 2:30am

It's not necessarily true that the losing rooster is killed in a cock fight. That's what I thought until a tour group I was in in Indonesia actually attended one. It was essentially rooster sumo wrestling where they faced one another in a small circle and the first one to leave lost. I'm sure it wasn't the combatants' idea of a fun time, but it was pretty much 100% posturing with no real harm coming to either.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 10:07am

It makes you wonder how many variations of this article could have been written about last season alone, about how many different players at how many different levels.

On the one hand, I'm afraid we're going to reach the point when we can demonstrate enough about the long-term effects on the brain to show that we should have been making changes a long time ago to protect players at all levels. On the other hand, I don't see how that would be possible at any level. I mean, there are professions with significant health risks that contribute directly to our daily lives (say, coal mining), and it's not like we're willing to stand up and demand changes for them. Why would we do that for entertainers? (A better question to ask might be why we don't insist on that for kids.)

by Dean :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 12:46pm

I think that if we had real reason to believe that he'd changed his ways, then maybe we would be approaching a point where we could say that he has rehabilitated himself.

BUT, we still see the same behavior off the field as before. As PFT gleefully points out (and I'm sure they get plenty of hits as a result), people are still getting shot at his parties, to name just one example.

No, he hasn't been arrested, but we still see enough puffs of smoke in the offseason to wonder if the fire was ever put out? When he's 40 years old, retired, and no longer in the public eye, do we really think he's going to be a model citizen? It would be unfair to conclude anything, but it would be fair to look at the anecdotal evidence and say that yes, there are legitimate reasons to question.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 2:39pm

So I see the discussion here has turned into the case for and against Michael Vick. Are people really going to argue that because they believe him to be a terrible person, they're ok with him risking the health of his brain in front of 77,000 people and being yelled at for it? The irony inherent in people being callous and indifferent to his suffering for others' entertainment is so huge and so obvious that it's almost not worth even mentioning.

Whatever. I'm an Eagles fan so maybe I'm just over-defensive of someone who wins games for my team, but I have to believe I'd be as moved by a similar account of this happening to, say, Troy Aikman. So many players get into situations like this, and so little is currently done to protect them from themselves.

You could write the same story about Stewart Bradley, who got dramatically concussed in the same game Vick first came back in for Kevin Kolb. Two days later he was tweeting about looking for some giant aspirin, and then when he realised he might not be able to play the next game if he wasn't considered fully symptom-free, tweeted 'seriously, I don't even have a headache.' I love football, but when I see things like that it makes you stop for a minute and think about the damage people are doing to themselves for my entertainment.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 7:41pm

Well said. Personally, the part that bothers me most is how inconsistent fans are on their moral stances. How many of these Vick haters would suddenly come around if he were traded to their team? I've seem more guys than I can count labeled "dirty" only to have the haters totally change their tune when he joined their team. Rare indeed is the fan who will call out a current star on his favorite team.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 02/27/2012 - 9:11pm

Shame on you, Hines Ward. Drunk driving is extremely dangerous, and far too commonplace. You've been one of my favorites for years, but that's a serious transgression and a major disappointment.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2012 - 2:30pm

Nice, but isn't he retired now? ;-)

by Jerry :: Tue, 02/28/2012 - 7:49pm

He says he wants to play another year, ideally in Pittsburgh.

by Lucas Teddles (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2012 - 12:01am

If he's not healthy enough to compete or continues to perform poorly, drown him in a bucket.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2012 - 4:52am

Drown him in a bucket? Not going to defend his cruelty, but isn't it interesting that this is how fans often behave, with any player? I don't actually think that the fact this story is about Vick is particularly relevant.

I think head injuries effect games more than teams admit. Next time some player does something really really stupid, stop for a second and think about whether or not there's something going on. Think about statements like 'how can that O-lineman possibly have forgotten the snap count?' or 'don't those two DBs realise that whilst they cover a TE deep, Larry Fiitzgerald is running a crossing route underneath?'

I think the answer to 'how can a player be that stupid?' is often 'well, he's probably just been hit in the head so hard he can't see straight.'

The problem, too, is that teams are often concealing concussions for fear of making their vulnerable guy a target. The injury is hidden for fear of it being exploited by opponents.