Michael Vick Makes Amends?

December 13, 2012

It’s hard to say whether Michael Vick is better known for his skills on the gridiron or for the fact that he went to jail for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Certainly he has become more notorious amongst animal lovers for the latter. When his name comes up in any circle, this is the first thing people tend to remember; not that he was picked first overall in the 2001 NFL draft, or that he was the first African-American quarterback to receive this honor; not that he has been to the Pro Bowl four times; and not that he ranks number one amongst quarterbacks for career rushing yards. Despite his many professional accomplishments, the thing that people most often associate with this athlete is the fact that he participated in an illegal dog-fighting ring, sending innocent animals into life and death situations for the entertainment of onlookers.

After 21 months in jail, the loss of his job and endorsements, and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, nobody would have been surprised to see Michael Vick fade into infamy, never to be heard from again. But you have to give credit where credit is due. Upon his release from prison (not to mention his contract with the Atlanta Falcons), Vick took responsibility for his actions and decided to make amends. And in his audio book, ‘Finally Free: An Autobiography’, he paints a candid picture of the influences and decisions that led him to the height of fame, only to lose everything and then be reborn from the ashes of his former life.

You might not like Michael Vick, and you might not be willing to forgive him for his cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. But you have to respect anyone who is willing to admit to wrongdoing, serve his sentence, and then continue to try to undo some of the damage he’s done. In his autobiography, Vick not only takes responsibility for his actions and recognizes the error of his ways, but he also details how his early upbringing affected the decisions he made later in life. Listeners might think that he is seeking sympathy or making excuses by speaking about being raised in poverty or the fact that he was first exposed to dog-fighting at the age of eight. But while these early lessons may have driven him to see illegal dog fights as a money-making operation, on later reflection they drove him to support H.R. 2492, an act that aims to make it a felony offense to bring minors to such exhibitions. And he has also used his fame to try to increase penalties for those that engage in or promote animal fighting of any kind.

Everybody likes a good redemption story. Watching someone fall from grace can catch the collective interest, but seeing them make good makes even more compelling copy. And Michael Vick has certainly done that. In his own voice he speaks about the poor decisions he has made, his many regrets along the way, and his choice to come clean and seek redemption, to undo his wrongs. You won’t necessarily find motivational sports quotes in this autobiography. What you will find, however, is a truly repentant man. Once he got picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles and got his career back on track, he could have given up on his political crusade against animal cruelty. But he has continued to use his fame to raise awareness and push legislation. So for anyone who doesn’t believe he has truly turned over a new leaf, perhaps it’s time to listen to what the man himself has to say before making a snap judgment.

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