The Heart of Hypocrisy? The Can of Worms Opened by the Michael Vick Signing

via EllenTV

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. 

40 comments

    • This guy is nuts !! What choices do they have , really???? Maybe they could use their education that they received for free ??? If they went to class and got their degree then they wouldn’t have to play football in the NFL, they make the choice to play so I have some but not a lot of sympathy for them .

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      • You miss the point, if it wasn’t for football, most of them would have never had that free education to begin with. For those who came from the inner cities, many would be dead or in prison if not for the opportunities that football at any level afforded them

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  • I knew about the Kemoeatu story. ESPN.com ran a piece when it happened. I linked it to my facebook page at the time with the comment “some things are bigger than football”, or something like that. As far as Vick, a buddy of mine posted a very similar rant on his facebook page. I asked him this, “Can I dislike the Vick signing because I just don’t like Vick? I have been hating on him before he even got in the NFL”

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  • I didn’t like Kemoeatu as a player. But I wasn’t talking about petitions to pressure the team to cut ties. The relationship the team has with Vick is their prerogative. As a fan I can accept or reject as I see fit. But do I really have to say that given how our fan base behaves that it might not be a good idea that they try to influence personnel decisions? We’d never see the playoffs again 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  • All animals are treated better today than humans and have been since Roe verse Wade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I changed my avatar for now to one of Mike Vick’s “treated better” champion “Bowsers.” The losers he hung and shot because they cost him his bet. And this is what he did in his spare time for shits and giggles because it was FUN!

      I’m not saying he can’t be redeemed, only that he should not be welcomed with open arms simply because he might be slightly better than Landry Jones (If you don’t mind his tidal wave of turn-overs.). Yes, football players and teams including the Steelers have and will continue to over look a lot of crap for the sake of winning, but you should google “mike vick’s dogs” and look at his “Bowsers” before dismissing them quite so contemptuously!

      Liked by 1 person

  • To Anonymous: You do know don’t you that in some programs players don’t have full freedom to take the courses that they would like or need to graduate? They often don’t graduate because they aren’t permitted to do the things that are necessary in order to make satisfactory progress towards a degree. Remember Myron Rolle of Florida State? He was called disloyal to the program because he took time off to pursue a Rhodes Scholarship. But not if he had left a year early to go pro. Don’t even get me started with the abuses in the college scholarship system for football players.

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    • Not the case with Vick. I had an intern working for me during Christmas break that was a student at VT the year Vick played in the National championship. She told me before the game that it was Vick’s last. I asked her if that was the campus rumor. She said no. Said he was not going to be academically eligible. She said she had 3 classes with him and he never came to class even once.

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  • Sure. Spoiled, sheltered and entitled. But many of them didn’t get there on their own. Their enablers are often the people who you would hope to help them keep perspective; parents, coaches, other educators, respected members of the community, all saying that the rules don’t apply to you. And while is almost certain that at the time that the incident occurred Vick had to know that his ticket was already punched and he didn’t need to go to classes, the vast majority of college football players don’t have an professional contract waiting for them at the end of the rainbow. And the even the ones that do probably won’t get enough from it to sustain them for life. And how realistic is it to expect that these young men would be more level headed and have a better sense of perspective than the adults that surround them? They certainly bear some responsibility for their failures as we all do, but they don’t fail by themselves. They have plenty of help.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Couldn’t agree more, Ivan.

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  • Feel free to delete this comment if it is out of bounds. What makes me want to rant is this country has aborted 70 million and counting unborn babies, this country fights illegal wars which have killed over half a million civilians abroad since 2002 and somebody has the audacity to say they are so outraged by Michael Vick killing a dog years ago that they will give up their season tickets. Really? That is the cause that is going to make you take action. I could go on and on, this country is truly made up by a bunch of heartless sheep that is spoon fed a bunch of humanist garbage on a daily basis. Did you know that the average American child born today will see over a million deaths/murders by the time they are eighteen? I love dogs and cats but I love people SOOO much more.

    Rant over, thanks for giving me space to do so and no hard feelings if it is removed.

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    • No deleting necessary. While I’m hoping we don’t go down political rabbit holes in our discussions here for no reason other than to be provocative, you bring up legitimate connections to the subject at hand. I myself have wondered why the anticipated argument Ivan expressed: “animals have little choice in their treatment and, therefore, enjoy the status of innocence” apples to animals but not babies. But I don’t want to take Ivan’s argument somewhere he might not mean to go. There are a great many already-born people who are flung away like garbage, and that’s a good place to start.

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    • I understand your frustration fever. Life makes no sense at all. The book of Ecclesiastes sums it up for me.

      Thomas Wolfe wrote: “[O]f all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth.

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      • I believe I will go back and reread the book of Ecclesiastes next. TY, Mike, TY Rebecca.

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        • My Theology professor was stunned when I told him that is my favorite book of the Bible. Even with wisdom, riches, power and fame Solomon found it all empty.

          It is heartening to know that finding joy in life is equally hard for everyone, and all this world has to offer can’t fill your heart.

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    • Simple. Abortion doesn’t offend many of the people. And the wars were supported by many of the people. Interestingly, many that support the former, despise the latter…and vice versa.

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    • Hello Fever, thank you again for the kind words over at BTSC. But even more, thanks for placing this site in your signature. Going by what I have seen in the comments so far, Truth is much more welcome here. As for your “rant”, I couldn’t agree more. I so very much wanted to make the abortion connection, and many of the others you mentioned, in my own post, but suspected that it would be promptly removed. I tried to do the best I could within the rules. Peace to you and yours and God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I believe in second chances, I’ve needed and received a few. I believe people can be redeemed, and that sometimes the worst of us, when turned around, can do incredible good.
    Micheal Vick has done a great job of tearing down the dogfighting culture he was exposed to, and unfortunately joined. He can’t undo the harm he did, but he can fight against it, and he does.

    Tomlin believes strongly in mentoring, and Micheal Vick, the 35 yr old who threw away everything with his horrible actions, is a prime cantidate to take under wing and foster further along his path. I hope Vick buys in to what Dungy and now Tomlin profess. He can make something good of his life, he can never undo what he did, but he doesn’t have to stay there and be that person. He is on a good path now, and hopefully being on the Steelers will help him move further along it.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m outraged by a lot of the misdeeds by NFL players, coaches & owners. Still don’t like this move.

    Good article though. Glad I found this site as BTSC has been getting too moronic for me. Glad I found this site. I’ll be checking in soon.

    Formerly madanthonywayne.

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    • Wow, never would have made the connection between usernames LOL. As to your comment, I don’t think the Vick signing is particularly comfortable for any of us, whatever our viewpoint on the matter. It’s hard to believe the team didn’t anticipate this. Which makes me think that a) they have a good feeling about Vick as a quarterback, and b) in particular, they have a good feeling about Vick as a man.

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  • A wonderful rant and while I agree with you on many levels, here’s my problem with forgiveness as it’s being shoved down my throat by Steeler Nation. (Wow, that sounds nothing like me.)

    I really have no problem with Vick. For reasons I might describe in a much longer comment, I was over that years ago. But here’s my problem with Steeler Nation…. (note from Rebecca – please see my comment below.)

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    • I have removed most of this comment, not because I don’t agree with it, (I do,) but because I’m going to post it as a guest article. It is well-thought-out, passionate, and articulates something which needs to be said, and more people will see it this way. I don’t seem to have any way to contact you directly, but if you would like to take credit for this please contact me through my website: http://rollett.org/rebecca/ There’s a “contact me” link near the top of the left sidebar. And the article won’t go up until Sunday, so please also feel free to tell me to cease and desist, and I’ll restore this as a comment. Rebecca

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  • I agree completely with the poster above that forgiveness is being shoved down our throats by much of Steeler Nation. It is true that Vick did the crime and served the time and paid his debt to the legal system. But forgiveness is not an obligation. It is an act to be given freely, if and when a person is ready to forgive.

    Vick has done all the right things since he got out of prison, and has joined the Humane Society or some other group to campaign against dog fighting and animal abuse. It may well have been an act of contrition, but it was also surely a good business decision.

    Michael Vick is 35 years old, banged up, and near the end of his NFL career. The Steelers are in desperate need of a back-up QB. Vick is from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, and so is Mike Tomlin. Tomlin knows Vick, and has decided that Vick can help the Steelers in a time of need. I’m confident Tomlin’s assessment of Vick’s character was part of the equation. He thinks it’s worth the gamble.

    I don’t like Michael Vick. I haven’t yet forgiven him. But I’ll go along with Coach Tomlin’s decision.

    Better a dog killer than a wide receiver killer. And last week, while some said it was Landry Jones’ best effort, I saw a WR killer.
    His passes were high, and even some of those that were caught were behind the receivers. If his “best effort” left his receivers with their arms up, defenseless, please remember that they got away with this against second and third string DB’s and guys who won’t be around after Labor Day. When the first stringers and the hitters see defenseless receivers, we then see guys laying on the ground, holding their ribs. Landry Jones has yet to show me that he can throw an accurate NFL pass with any ooomph behind it.
    Vick may be scatter-armed at times, but he has a strong arm, and he can run. He’s far better than Jones..

    The Steelers need Michael Vick every bit as much as Michael Vick needs the Steelers. I’m okay with the signing, even if I’m not yet okay with Vick.

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    • I agree that with you that forgiveness must be given freely Homer. And its no more palatable for me to be told that it’s mandatory that I forgive him than it is for me listen to the high pitched hypocrisy of those calling for him to be drawn and quartered all over again. The Rooneys, MT, Colbert, and all those invloved in the decision are far closer to knowing if his transformation is real, so I will trust their judgement and reserve the right to think whatever I want.

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  • I have to agree with Homer. I am really tired of being told what I should think, how I should feel, that I HAVE to forgive him and that I am a bad person for not forgiving him. I’m tired of being called a hypocrite and that I care more of animals than I do about people.

    I’m tired of being told that I shouldn’t feel the way I do because he paid his debt to society. Well as he was never charged with animal cruelty I don’t feel that he has.

    I am tired of being told that he works with the Humane Society.

    Actually he works with the Humane Society of the United States, which is not the Humane Society. The HSUS is a radical animal rights organization akin to PETA, and is not affiliated with your local humane societies.They are trying to eliminate all hunting, starting in California and then they will attempt to make it illegal a state at a time.They are trying to stop meat, dairy and egg production. They don’t believe in pets.They look for the day that no more dogs and cats are born. They believe that medical testing should be done on mentally deficient humans rather than animals. They collected donations for Vick’s dogs even though they were not in their custody and I don’t believe that money was passed on. They then tried to lobby the court to have the dogs killed even though there were “no kill” options available. They also operate no animal shelters. I haven’t seen any recent numbers but in 2009 they donated 0.45% of their income (from donations to them) to care for animals.

    I have tried to analyze why I haven’t forgiven him and I think a large part of it is because of the years I have been involved in animal rescue. I have seen too many abused animals. I would probably feel better about him if I didn’t hear him say things like he said to the PIttsburgh media, when asked if he was going to help animals in Pittsburgh and he said that his PUBLICIST is looking for opportunities.

    I understand why the Steelers signed him. From a strictly football viewpoint he was the best option available. I accept that. I am not one of the people that will stop supporting the team. But I am disappointed in them.

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    • Thank you for the information on HSUS. I had no idea. I went and looked them up, and they certainly aren’t what one assumes, and what their website portrays. I’m guessing the reason Vick got involved with them was because they weren’t based in a particular state, and since he didn’t know where he might be playing, but I certainly wouldn’t know if that was the case.

      And I’m sorry if Ivan and I are coming off heavy-handed. We’re just both pretty convinced that forgiveness is beneficial to the forgiver, and convinced by looking at our own lives that there aren’t a lot of people around qualified to throw the first stone. (Or at least that’s what I assume from what Ivan wrote – we did not work together on our posts at all.)

      I think I can understand something of what it must be like to deal with abused animals and to then to be confronted with someone who famously did so.

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      • it is a tough subject but I am very please by the eloquence of the commentary whether I am in agreement or not. Good job, everyone.

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      • It’s well known in the rescue community that the HSUS is not what they portray themselves to be.

        You did not (nor did Ivan) tell me what I had to think, you stated your opinion, That’s not heavy handed at all. Personally, I am always ready and willing to listen to other points of view, who knows maybe there is something that I didn’t think of that would make me rethink things. Most of our frustration (or at least mine) comes from site such as BTSC which had seven or eight articles/posts and hundreds of comments telling us we are wrong, how we must think and judging us for judging Vick.

        I appreciate the opportunity to have my say regarding the HSUS in a place where I was sure i would not be attacked for it.

        I was glad when I heard about this site (thanks Fever), I had wondered what happened to you two.

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        • “I am always ready and willing to listen to other points of view, who knows maybe there is something that I didn’t think of that would make me rethink things.” It’s a shame that not everyone feels that way. The idea of “discourse” seems to be disappearing, to be replaced with shouting matches. I think if we can make it through this we’re doing really well : ) And for the record, the only comments to have been deleted thus far have been those in the spam queue (WordPress has a really good spam filter, I’m happy to say. Although this may have prevented some of you from learning how someone’s brother-in-law makes $75 an hour working from home. Sorry about that.)

          Liked by 1 person

  • So… this is where all my favorite BTSC writers have been hiding, what a pleasant surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Pingback: Looking Deeper into The Heart of Steeler Nation: A Guest Article by Dan Goodemote | Going Deep:

  • really happy i found this site and it’s great to find ivan and rebecca! i miss the old BTSC…
    interesting perspective, but more than anything appreciate the thoughtful responses. i hope everyone keeps writing…

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    • I’m happy you found us! I’m thrilled with the discussions we’ve had, and that we have managed to make our cases without disrespecting those who disagree. I hope we can keep it up.

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  • Glad to have found this place. Thanks to Steeler Fever for advertising it at BTSC.

    So much to loathe about the NFL such as the Kemoeatu bit above, fan hysteria around the world about Michael Vick, drugs, PEDs, Goodell, greed, poor treatment of players, concussions etc… but as one wise sage recently noted: thank God for the games and the excitement. This fan watches the games for the purity and awesomeness of the sport itself leaving all the garbage aside or at least trying to ignore it.

    Like

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