Hypocrisy, Culture, Murder, and Vick

I have to be careful writing this column, it can be very easily misconstrued. It could also, I suppose, be mistaken for satire (which my last column was). But I'm serious, even though I'm sure I'm in the minority.

The fury over the Mike Vick situation has been blown WAAAAAAAAY out of proportion. It should rank towards the middle of illegal outrages committed by professional athletes, ranking behind hurting or killing, you know, a human. Like Leonard Little and Rae Carruth have done.

Take this article by Peter King. He sounds about ready to execute Vick personally. Notice how he moves on to other topics, but keeps coming back to Vick. He's too furious, too consumed, not to.

King is in the majority from what I've seen. Apparently, not only has Vick been conducted dogfighting, but actually invented the sport.

That's my first problem with this. Dogfighting is nothing new, everyone's heard about it. But have you reached this level or anger over dogfighting previously? Do you donate to PETA and groups that work tirelessly to end this scourge, or did you before the Vick thing happened? Or did you just sneer at that liberal wacko organization?

Another SI writer at least touches on it. Don Banks complains that Deion Sanders uses "twisted logic" when he points out that Vick may not have the same love affair with dogs that most of us have.

I'm really glad he finds that logic twisted, because it means he can't really argue my second point: animals suffer and are tortured for our entertainment all the time. Peter King is fat, and I think I safely say that eats a lot of animals and, I would guess, doesn't make a point to limit his meat purchases to free range animals. King, and the rest of us, would be a lot healthier if we stopped eating cows and pigs, and we know it. We eat them anyway because they taste good. It's entertainment to us, no more morally acceptable than dogfighting.

The lives and deaths of slaughterhouse animals are just as painful and torturous as a dogfighting dog's. Probably moreso. And their nervous systems are just as developed as a dog. But no, Vick is Hitler and the rest of us McDonaldites are juuuuuuust fine.

What, you say, we humans have a special bond with dogs? That's what makes it sick? Careful, that's that "twisted logic" Banks was complaining about, basing our judgment of Vick's crime based on personal or cultural setiments. In China, I'm sure they'd be very perplexed by our outrage, and in India, cows are sacred. I again point out the pain a factory farm pig feels is every bit as real as what these dogs feel. Dogs don't have a greater capacity for pain than cows because Americans like them more.

This outrage is because we don't like Vick's kind, anyway. He has had minor scrapes with the law before and, much worse, he's a corn-rowed FUBU wearer that clearly isn't following the Johnny Unitas Guide to Life, Hair, and Quarterbacking like he should be. It's why we hate guys like Allen Iverson, too, and why David Stern implemented his dress code. It's not exactly racism, but it's something close: we are now prejudiced not against blacks per se, but against black culture. We now like and accept black guys if they act white, and we now hate white guys if they act black, and call them wiggers.

It bears repeating that we haven't been particularly outraged at the two football players (one active!) who have actually killed people, and I can't list all the athletes who have been busted for beating their wives and girlfriends because I'm dealing with a one gigabyte limit.

But those guys get at least somewhat of a pass because, to our knowledge, they don't embody cornrowed hip-hoppery the way that Mike Vick does, and we even give them the benefit of the doubt when we don't know for sure. Such progress!

Note: One Sports Illustrated guy gets it: Pete McEntegart. I must thank him of reminding me of Little and, oh yes, the rapists and sexual assault artists that I haven't even mentioned. Don't grow cornrows, Kobe.

Comments and Conversation

August 9, 2007

Greg W:

I’ll agree that other athletes have committed worse crimes. Sweeping under a rug a DWI where you kill someone is unforgivable. I don’t think that makes the treatment of Vick blown way out of proportion, but makes the treatment of the other athletes blown way under proportion.

And comparing eating an animal for sustenance to killling an animal for gambling and enjoyment purposes is a thin comparison. I’m not eating a juicy burger relishing on the fact that the cow must have been scared to death in his last moments, and I’m not taking bets on who’s burger tastes better.


Your comparison to racism doesn’t hold up to the OJ case. OJ as a black celebrity was more white than black and often came off as shunning the black culture. But according to what was shown on almight TV, whites were merciless against their judgement of him for what he allegedly did.

Give me a break, man.

August 9, 2007

Brad:

Another lame apology. Your argument is basically that killing dogs isn’t really that bad and that other athletes have done worse and suffered less. All that says to me is that other celebrity athletes have gotten off too easily.

What has Vick suffered? He’s still getting paid. He’ll have his day in court with the best lawyers his millions can buy. If he’s innocent, he’ll be back on the team. If not, he’ll be a convicted felon who committed crimes that seem part of a Jeffrey Dahmer starter kit.

Are you whining about his loss of endorsements? The NFL is entertainment and if Vick’s actions are going to cost them advertisers or ticket revenue then they’ll punt Vick. Janet Jackson’s breast didn’t hurt anyone, and the Dixie chicks just spoke their mind — yet they lost sponsors and revenue too.

The racism argument is tired. Vick’s no poor, underprivileged kid. He didn’t buy the property, build the kennels, have the t-shirts made or electrocute, shoot, drown or beat those dogs to death because he is black — and the consequences of those actions aren’t because he’s black either.

Vick did it because he’s stupid. The law is after him because he’s an idiot. To put is simply, it’s not the black, it’s the stupid.

Part of this is timing — have you seen the list of criminal professional athletes? It’s huge. I think the public is tired of Michael Vick, Tank Johnson, Ray Lewis, PacMan Jones, Steven Jackson, Todd Marinovich, Lawrence Phillips, Rae Carruth, Michael Irvin, Mark Chmura, Barret Robbins, Nate Newton, Justin Strzelczyk, Chris Terry, Keno Hills, Lawrence Tayler, Ray Lewis, Bill Romanowski, Sebastian Janikowski, Samari Rolle — all millionaire athletes or celebrities in the courts and jails for being stupid.

August 9, 2007

Brad:

Oh! Just saw your parting shot..

“Don’t grow cornrows, Kobe.”

Another racist, b.s. comment. You seem to be saying that if Kobe wears corn rows he’ll be target for being “too black” whatever that is. Kobe wouldn’t have been in the news if he didn’t cheat on his wife. What major celebrity wouldn’t have been in the news for that situation? Quit whining.

August 10, 2007

Kevin Beane:

Greg W-

“I’m not eating a juicy burger relishing on the fact that the cow must have been scared to death in his last moments, and I’m not taking bets on who’s burger tastes better.”

Neither of those comments make much sense. You’re not taking bets on your burger not because it would be heartless, but because it’s not a competition. And while you may not relish the cow suffering, you’re probably not sad about it either. You’re probably just indifferent about it. The same indifference that - what’s this? - Vick feels about the dogs.

The other murdering football player I had in mind was Rae Carruth, not OJ. Thanks for playing, though.

Brad: Congratulations. I know someone would come in here and groundlessly twist my points, “Not many people have room to criticize Vick,” and “We give less condemnation to athletes who do much worse” into, “What Vick did isn’t so bad,” which I never said, implied, or thought.

If he’s guilty, I hope Vick gets the same kind of sentence other people convicted of doing the same crime get. This story isn’t about Vick. It’s about all of us.

You totally missed the point on the Kobe thing too, which was that although there was a fuss about Kobe, it was NOT as fevered as the fuss about Vick, even though what Kobe did was worse. Had he had more of a “thug culture” persona, we woulda stuck it to him more.

August 10, 2007

mick bellar:

Not only do we have it blown “WAAAAAAAAY out of proportion” it seems we suffer from twisted logic.

Funny, I thought this was about a sports role model involved in illegal and bloodthirsty activities displaying Nero like cruelty and punishment not, “us”. I thought this was about what the NFL means to our society, not what more it can take from us. I thought this was about message and morality, about the team and the FANS.

Millions of tween to teen boys across this land have walls full of NFL Gods. Acceptance of Vick and you might as well send the message that slapping Fido around and other acts of cruelty are as normal as a pair of $200 sneakers. If you make this about race you might as well say Blacks are bloodthirsty, uncivilized and accepting of the gangster role perpetuated by rap moguls. You might as well bring back the “N” word and predict what a “N” with money will do. “That “N” is gonna blow his money on drugs, doggs and Ho’s, after all they can’t help themselves.” Acceptance of Vick’s actions IS ACCEPTANCE of RACISM, worse defense of Vick is defending the monstrous, he didn’t kill dogs out of jealous rage, to steal their money or because he thought they stood in his way. No he killed them because they didn’t kill for him, they were not “bad” enough, cruel enough.

No one is down at the slaughterhouse betting on which Cow will maul the others to death, no one is drowning cows or beating them to death. We have rules over our meat, animals do not suffer, do not get tortured and do not hold court with us like the dog. Where the eyes of a cow are vaccant the eyes of a dog hold intellengence. We use dogs to tend to our cows never the other way around because cows are amoung the stupidest of creatures unless we count the biased sportswriter…

The twisted logic I see is from those that try to use race to let yet another monster walk among us, regardless to the cost of those young hearts our society has told, “these men are football, these are the best, these are your heroes… be like them and make us proud”

Unless they start to think about the fan I think it’s time to stop going to NFL games all together, after all it’s time better spent walking the dog.

August 10, 2007

Elaine Hendrix:

In my opinion, and that is what this article is about - opinion - the strongest comment is about the hypocracy of eating slaughtered animals while pointing a finger at a dog fighter. That is definitely something to discuss. The rest, again, in my opinion, is dependent on perspective.

I happen to believe making such an example out of Vick raises the awareness of ALL violence and abuse committed by men, especially those in agressive sports. What is so tragic about this is animals have NO choice. Humans do. I am a woman. If the man I was with hit me, not only am I walking out the door, but I’m walking straight to the police station to have him arrested, restrained and then I’m going to gather every abled body I know to watch my back. It has nothing to do with race, and to play that card I believe sets both blacks and whites back a good 40 years.

I am an avid animal lover, and I still found myself strugling with “gulity before proven innocent”. To me, the issues are about those poor animals not having any choice, the children that were subjected to watching such grusome violence, and the distinct possibility that Vick lied in court.

Perhaps I am naive, but I don’t care what color he is, how much money he has, or what kind of track record he has. What I care about most is peace, safety and justice - for the big and the small.

August 10, 2007

Mark:

Mick Bellar, you know a lot less than you think you know to say slaughterhouse animals do not suffer. Take visit to YouTube.com and type PETA into the search. Then come back and cry for hours about how horrible it is to eat meat. Doubt it.

Okay next topic, before I get accused of being in PETA and spreading outrageous propaganda.

To say that the “outrage” from the Vick case is racism is not entirely correct. With a deeper look into the roots of what is acceptable in terms of animal cruelty, betting, and entertainment shows that this is a class/cultural issue.

If it is not let us take a look at the acceptable forms of animal cruelty and the major players involved. Starting with greyhound racing. These dogs, yes it is dog as is a pitbull, are breed, trained, abused, and killed in much greater numbers than Mike Vick horrible acts. Shocking? No, accepted. People involved are usually middle-upper class whites.

Pitbulls are defenseless, right? This brings the next topic of interest, hunting. Hunting is killing of unarmed animals in a field for entertainment. If it is not entertainment it would not be on ESPN. These people are not killing to feed their family because most of the people who can afford the cost associated with hunting licensing and rifle fees can afford to feed their family. The people involved, while I cannot say everybody that I know that hunts is white, I can say they are fairly well off, moreso than myself and I eat comfortably. I can also say I have never seen any of my friends in the “hood” let alone from Newport News, Va take a trip with their father to murder some animals in the field as they are trying to eat. As long as Mike Vick is not doing it, it is okay?

I’ll limit the examples to two for the fact that more may be overwhelming and reiterating the point that certain classes and cultures have a pass to be cruel to animals for their entertainment and betting and others do not.

Being in this argument before, pseudo Johnny Law will chime in and state, “That doesn’t matter, what Mike Vick is doing is ILLEGAL.” In the very next sentence of hypocrisy this person will “convict” Mike Vick before he is given due process, in a great display of contradiction as they are going against a Bill of Rights amendment by calling him a criminal.

On a closing note, I am aware that the events in the case are illegal. I wrote this response to help people who do not understand how this case is more than just right or wrong judged by the courts.

Some people call what they are seeing racism. That has yet to be determined. However, it IS a case of class and cultural norms and their acceptance by the law.

August 10, 2007

Kevin Beane:

Mick -

The second person who misinterprets “this is blown out of proportion” as “what Vick did isn’t so bad,” instead of “we show much less fury against athletes that commit worse crimes.”

I would hope to be crucified if I contended what Vick did wasn’t so bad, but I didn’t. I instead pointed out that we are just as guilty. I know you are culturally trained to care more about dogs than cows and pigs, but pain knows no cultural bounds, the pain a cow feels is just as acute as that a dog feels, regardless if she is a as smart as a dog, and the pain she feels is for our entertainment. We want it for food that is bad for us and we don’t need to eat, but is tasty. If anyone here is a vegetarian, or only buys free-range products, then I am 100% behind them lambasting Vick. The rest of us are in glass houses throwing stones.

Your role model bit is also specious. This isn’t a trend like steroids or drugs or whatever, this is a single case. Impressionable as our kids may be, give them SOME credit not to rush out and run a dogfighting ring based on one lone athlete.

August 11, 2007

Kate:

Kevin,

First off, I’m a vegetarian (both for moral and health reasons) so you can’t throw out your argument that the farm animals that I eat suffer as much as those dogs that were tortured and killed by Mr. Vick and his buddies.

Regardless, though I can very easily negate your argument that what happens to the farm animals is as bad as that which occurred to Mr. Vick’s dogs. The farm animals are being killed for monetary reasons (which doesn’t lessen their suffering of course) while the dogs in Mr. Vick’s care were being sadistically tortured and killed but for the pleasure and enjoyment of Mr. Vick and his buddies. This is the worst type of suffering since the sadistic tormentors are specifically trying to hurt innocent creatures as much as they can for their own pleasure. It’s completely disgusting.

Additionally, there is much research that shows a definite link between animal abusers and people who commit violent crimes against people. A 1997 study by the MSPCA and Northeastern University found that 70% of animal abusers had committed at least one other criminal offense and almost 40% had committed violent crimes against people.

Regarding the greyhounds that are purported to be abused and killed (by poster Mark) I haven’t heard of this situation as of yet and if it is deemed true then those poor dogs also need to be rescued from that situation ASAP.

August 11, 2007

Lisa N. Dixon:

The lives and deaths of slaughterhouse animals are just as painful and torturous as a dogfighting dog’s. YES, BUT ARE THE PEOPLE DOING THE SLAUGHTERING, CHEERING THE KILLING ON OR JUST MAKING A LIVING. MIKE VIKE ENJOYED WATCHING DOGS TEAR EACH OTHER APART. YES PRO BALL HAS BEEN WAY TO SOFT. THERE NEEDS TO BE A CHANGE IN PRO BALL. MAYBE THEY SHOULD TALK TO THE FOLKS AT POP WARNER UNTIL THEN I WILL BE BUYING COLLEGE JERSEYS. P.S. I LOVE CORNROWS

August 11, 2007

Kevin Beane:

Kate,

Dogfighting is also about the money, and the betting. That’s why they hold the dogfights. While surely Vick feels nothing for these dogs - how could he, and do what he is alleged to have done? - indifference is not the same as deriving pleasure from it. And no one but Vick can say whether her gets his jollies off this way. Or more to the point, that he’s sadistic as opposed to cold.

It’s an important difference, because although we are not sadistic about the slaughter of animals we eat, we are cold/indifferent about it. I say “we” but of course, if you are a vegetarian, I applaud you and you have plenty of justification to take Vick to the cleaners.

Lisa,

You’re right. The slaughterhouse worker has it tough, and is not comparable to Mike Vick. But I didn’t compare the slaughterhouse worker to Vick, I compared society at large to Vick. You see, that slaughterhouse worker wouldn’t have to do what he does if the nation’s appetite for fatty meats didn’t compel someone to do it for us.

August 13, 2007

Kim Lemon:

I am sick to death of the blacks in this country making every single stupid action that they have to pay a consequence for about their race. It is NOT!!! about the fact that you are black!!! It is about the fact that you are committing a crime even if you don’t believe it to be one. Society has rules to follow, and a moral code that should prompt people to be the best that they can be, and if not then you pay a consequence. Michael Vick knew he would be in the public eye because of a path he chose (pro ball). If he gets caught breaking the laws of society, then he should be punished for it, not defended because a bunch of black people in our society cannot get past the cruel reality that their ANCESTORS endured not them!!!! This is the year 2007, welcome to it!!! If anyone is racist, it is the black community. Every hardship they have, they blame it on the white folks. Grow up and take responsibility for your actions and teach your children to do the same.
Animal cruelty is disgusting and cowardly and should never in a civilized society be swept under the rug. Most serial murderers start off being cruel to animals and move on to people. People who are cruel and torturous to animals whether black or white should be punished. NOT IDOLIZED.
And by the way, I think that pro ball players who abuse their wives and/or girlfriends should be punished also. Let’s not minimize what the coward Michael Vick did because there are other players who didn’t get the punishment that they deserved. Let’s use Michael Vick as an example to our children of the types of behavior that we as a society will not tolerate. And while we are at it, let’s teach everyone that just because they are a celebrity and have millions does not mean that they can do whatever their sick and selfish minds decide to do. If they engage in the behavior they need to suck up the punishment and stop blaming the color of their skin for their misfortunes!!!

August 13, 2007

Brad Oremland:

Kevin,

It’s true that other athletes who have done terrible things haven’t gotten the same exposure and condemnation that Vick has. There are a number of reasons for that, first and foremost that Vick is much more well-known than, say, Rae Carruth. I mean, everyone knows about Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but how often do you hear about Armando Ríos in steroids discussions?

It may not be fair that bigger stars get more notoriety, but it is effective, and if Vick’s wrongdoings get a lot of publicity that raises awareness about dog-fighting, I think that’s great. The bigger they come, the harder they fall. Vick knew that, and he should have made better decisions.

I certainly don’t deny that race plays a role in opinions of different athletes, but I think it’s pretty minimal in this case. A lot of people don’t particularly care for Vick, but I’ve never heard anyone criticize his appearance the way they did for someone like Iverson, and I don’t think anyone really HATED him until the dog-fighting issue arose.

I share your general point of view on this subject, but I think it’s irresponsible to bring race into this discussion with so little evidence. Who cares if Vick has rows? I certainly don’t buy the Kobe comparison; the evidence against Vick is MUCH stronger than the evidence against Kobe, who was never convicted. Kobe is also a much better player than Vick, and that makes a significant difference in what people are willing to forgive.

It sparks a lot of passion when someone tortures animals. People who love the rest of the horror movie hate the scene with the dog. It’s an understandable response to violence against animals, which is a lot like going after kids — a different type of violence than that committed against adult human beings.

Violence against animals is an ugly, brutal thing, and deserves to be condemned. That’s true in a vacuum. Shame society for not being equally hard on other violent offenders, but that doesn’t mean Vick isn’t being punished appropriately. He is.

And if all of this means eating meat is wrong, too, maybe it means that more people should be vegetarian, rather than that Vick’s sadistic actions are being punished too harshly. I don’t feel that anything has been blown out of proportion in this case.

August 13, 2007

Kevin Beane:

Thanks for commenting, Brad.

I stand by my comments on race, although again it’s not strictly about race, but rather our distaste for people who give off an aura of “street,” regardless of whether they have been convicted of anything. We will never know for sure, but I can’t imagine the public reaction being this strong if it had been Peyton Manning of Tiki Barber.

You also said “And if all of this means eating meat is wrong, too, maybe it means that more people should be vegetarian, rather than that Vick’s sadistic actions are being punished too harshly. “

…and I think that’ spretty close to my point. This has been about a) relativitism (is our anger commensurate with the crime, when compared to other notable crimes?) and, more importantly, b) hypocrisy (how many of us are in a good position to condemn Vick when we sanction other aninals to be tortured to death for our enjoyment?) When I say it’s been blown out of proportion, I mean compared to players who have committed worse crimes. But your point about Vick being a bigger target as a bigger star is well-taken.

August 17, 2007

Kenny:

Kevin,

I’ve been arguing, basically these same points among other sports fans and am alone in my thinking. I’m a white, middle-aged guy and I see many disturbing issues here including race, sub-culture, and hypcocricy in relation to animal suffering and killing!

I just wondered why you didn’t include hunting in this piece? Here’s a form of entertainment where the animals are harrassed, chased down with high tech devices, and killed for sport (not even used for food!) and our society condones it! This usually occurs in rural areas or by “sportsmen” in cities with enough money to pursue the “sport” and their mostly white. When they kill their animals (legally because someone decreed that it is OK to kill that particular species) they can brag about the hunt and mount the head on the wall!

Dog fighting is an awful thing and I would not minimize it! It should be illegal with penalties but ….


….who decides when an animal killing is a sport you can get a trophy for or an illegal act that can land a person in prison?

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