The Heart of Hypocrisy? The Can of Worms Opened by the Michael Vick Signing
by Ivan Cole
Reader Alert from Ivan: What follows is a rant, pure and simple.
So, some members of Steelers Nation in their righteous outrage take umbrage to the team signing Michael Vick as a backup quarterback.
The most difficult thing about this is figuring out where to begin. Let me start with Chris Kemoeatu.
HBO’s Real Sports is running a feature this month about the former Steelers guard and how his brother, former Baltimore Raven Ma’ake donated one of his kidney’s to save his younger brother’s life.
Touching stuff on one level. But those of us who are blinded by the stars in our eyes and the vision of the Steelers (or any NFL team) being a pure and pristine paragon of virtue at risk of being sullied by the presence in their midst of a convicted dog killer might not want to play close attention to some other aspects of this piece.
It seems that Chris Kemoeatu needed a new kidney in part because of the impact of the ingestion of massive amounts of pain killers upon kidneys that were already damaged in his youth. According to Kemoeatu, Pittsburgh’s team medical staff approved of the practice and of him continuing to play even though his kidneys were operating at only 3 percent. It was made clear in the report that there wasn’t anything particularly peculiar or venal in the behavior of Steelers’ medical staff relative to that of the rest of the league. Just common practice.
Nor was the fact that Kemoeatu needed the pain killers to simply function as a football player, to be able to get out of bed as much as to get onto the field. It’s an expectation. And not just by his employer.
Fans, and I feel I am on safe ground here by saying especially a good number of Steelers fans, have little patience or sympathy for players who can’t drag their pain ridden and damaged behinds on the field of play week after week. These China Dolls and wusses are viewed as liabilities and downers to our entertainment expectations and should be disposed of as soon as possible for the good of our Lombardi dreams.
Does anyone care what became of Chris Kemoeatu after he was released by Pittsburgh? Did you know that he almost died? Do you care? Probably not. They paid him enough money, right? It seems to come down to that all too often doesn’t it? If enough money is involved anything goes. Would it have made a difference about those dogs that Vick killed if they had been better compensated?
And if you are thinking that the situation with Kemoeatu is some sort of outlier, don’t. Read up on Mike Webster, or Terry Long, or Steve Courson. How about Ernie Holmes? He had an ‘episode’ of some sort and ended up shooting at an Ohio State Police helicopter with a high powered rifle. A policeman was injured as well.
Or maybe you heard the one about the Pittsburgh teens who helped a 60s era Steeler out with his errands by delivering his heroin. But Fido having a bad day at the hands of Michael Vick, that’s going to drag the Steelers franchise into the gutter.
I think if you were really paying attention you would have to acknowledge that the NFL lives with at least one foot, and likely a lot more of its anatomy in the gutter at all times.
So here is where my bigotry comes into play. I have this thing about people who care more about other species than they do their own. I’m supposed to be more outraged by what Michael Vick did to a dog than the abuses of what Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Donte Stallworth, Richie Incognito, Adrian Petersen, and what every NFL team, their partners and fans tolerate being foisted upon other human beings in the name of entertainment and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Not just no but, Hell no. At least Vick went to jail for his crimes.
One of the things that sets humans apart is the ease and variety of reasons we find for abusing and murdering members of our own species. I don’t know a whole lot of people who don’t engage in some level of moral/ethical cherry picking. If you judge it harshly I think a label of ‘hypocrite’ would stick quite nicely to just about all of us.
But there does come a point of where we happen to draw the line in our cherry picking becoming a legitimate point of criticism as well. You expect me to sign on to a petition drawn up on behalf of the martyred bodies of Bowser and Fluffy, but the traumatized bodies and minds of the players, as well as the collateral wreckage foisted upon the men, women and children in their orbit, and even that of fans who are infected by the violence and rage that is celebrated by the game and act it out in their own lives is so easily shrugged off.
Why would anyone think that if we have so little regard and respect for ourselves that we wouldn’t be contemptuous those things living or otherwise that are not like us?
I can appreciate the anticipated rebuttal to a point; that animals have little choice in their treatment and, therefore, enjoy the status of innocence. The glib invocation of ‘choice’ and the playing out of the neoliberal line that whatever misfortunes fall upon individuals based upon their choices is essentially their fault avoids a very important point of information. What were the realistic range of choices available?
If you choose football when the alternative would be investment banking is one thing. But what if the most likely alternative is destitution? What if it is, in spite of the risks and costs, the best play or only reasonable play on the board? That’s choice of a sort, but is really a clever dodge of a very troubling landscape that the invocation of choice allows us to sidestep and change the subject.
But finally, this sort of thing speaks to a segment of the Steelers fan base who seem to hysterically overreact to everything. This player or that is declared a bust before they’ve unpacked their bags. Every time something goes sideways someone needs to be fired. Maurkice Pouncey, to cite a most recent example is ‘injury prone’ and should, presumably, be disposed of.
And now, predictably quite frankly, the signing of Michael Vick is the latest sign of the utter collapse of Western Civilization. Many, especially those in the Steelers organization, professionally express admiration for their passion.
I am not nearly so charitable. The emotional range of their passions begins with anger and ends a few steps down the road with contempt. Addicted to adrenaline and drama with attention deficit issues, misinformed, stubbornly negative, unserious and self- righteous, they are the roaches of Steelers Nation that show up everywhere to eye rolling and sighs to make their declarations (it’s never a question) of reality as they see it. It is a indication of their special talents that they actually succeeded to transform Vick into a sympathetic, even noble presence by way of comparison.
One would hope that they would make good on their promise that if Vick stays that they will sell their tickets and go away. At which point I say make Vick a part of the ownership group and raise statues and posters of his image everywhere in Western Pennsylvania.
But you know that’s not going to happen. We couldn’t be that lucky.
Note from Rebecca: Come back tomorrow, if you’re still speaking to us, to see the article I was working on when Ivan sent me this. If you don’t agree with this one you might not like mine a lot better, but I come at the issue from a slightly different angle.