Garrison Wynn
Speaker, Consultant, Author

Garrison Wynn

Founder of Wynn Solutions, this keynote speaker is a former stand-up comedian and author of "The Real Truth About Success



Q: After serving prison time for running a dogfighting operation, Michael Vick has come back stronger than ever -- as a football star, and, some would say, as a man. Do you think Vick has succeeded in redeeming himself? If so, how much does his artistry on the gridiron and our love of the comeback/redemption narrative to have to do with it?

We forgive winners and rewrite history for heroes. And, in reality, maybe that's the way it should be; after all, unearned redemption is extremely hard to sell to the hero-hungry American public. I'm not saying that it's right or wrong. I'm just saying it makes more sense than rewarding losers!

I suspect no one would give Mr. Vick a break if he were no longer playing football and instead worked part time at the humane society while living in his grandmother's basement. Our culture does not necessarily forgive those who make a contribution or give back to society. Following a fall from grace, anyone willing to put in the effort can nail down that achievement. It's pretty hard to tell if their efforts stem from a contrite heart or a court mandate.

We specifically forgive people with talent and offer redemption opportunities to those who are not so easily replaced. This human tendency to extend grace more readily to the insanely talented sounds a lot like philosophies such as survival of the fittest or evolution theory. Whether you are of Darwinian leanings or an honest-to-God Adam-and-Eve'r, we can all agree that people who are gifted seem to get more ... well ... gifts!

Not only are collegiate and professional sports big business in this country and a source of national pride; they're also a way to do battle, to win and be rewarded with minimal casualties. It lets us cheer for "our" team and really hate their team without a political mess or the repercussions of our radical beliefs.

If I informed multiple media outlets that I despised a particular group of people, I would end up on Bill Maher's show in the "New Rules" segment, complete with photos showing facial expressions that seem to visually prove my prejudice! But if I were to say "The Dallas Cowboys suck!" (which they do, pretty much), I'm just another guy with a bratwurst in one hand and a beer in the other exercising his God-given right. Please note that I give this only as an example. Personally, I don't voice my sports opinions that loudly and, being a Southerner who likes the best in food, I never eat anything with the word "wurst" in it!

My point is that if you are talented and winning, it makes sense that the public would forgive you regardless of the fact that you are a horrible person. This even applies to coaches. A lot of people consider Bobby Knight one of the greatest basketball coaches in collegiate history ... even though he has choked and hit players, not to mention leading all leagues in sideline furniture thrown on to the court. This behavior would get most people thrown in jail, which proves that all the analogies drawn between coaching sports and business leadership don't always apply. What if Knight were in management in corporate America? Talented or not, he would be found dead in a ditch with knives in his back!

The truth is a strange thing. If you tell people a little truth they'll love you, and if you give them a lot of truth they'll hate you. I will move past my fear of the latter as I make the following statements: We are not judged just by the importance of our contributions; we are judged by how valuable we are perceived to be by the people with the most money and power. We are also judged by where and how those perceived contributions are made.

As humans, our desire to win has more value to us than moral character. For example, in a military battle, if it looks like we are going to lose, we release the people we have imprisoned for their crimes against society so they can help us win the fight. Even the murderers, you might ask? Especially the murderers!

Michael Vick is an extraordinarily talented player in a game that we elevate to a religious level. Let those among us who have not made a mistake cast the first stone -- that's a concept easy enough for us to adhere to as long as Vick's playing well. The truth is, we would be throwing rocks like crazy if he were losing games and had already thrown 10 interceptions!

By Garrison Wynn  |  November 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  The comeback Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I don't forget, but I understand this man has
paid his debt to society and is moving forward. What else is wanted?

Posted by: jerry76960 | November 22, 2010 11:50 PM
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I am not a huge football fan and I don't get into dogfights either. It seems to me that big name people like Michael Vick are getting busted breaking the law all the time.He is obviously good at what he does and he has had to pay a penalty for his actions. Having done so, he is now back to work.Dog fighting is not murder or rape. It is a "lesser" crime, although pit bulls everywhere might be inclined to disagree, and it sports a lesser punishment.

As far as the "public" is concerned I think they are more inclined to forget animal abuse than they are other crimes.

Posted by: Rabbitsmoker | November 22, 2010 7:09 PM
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Mike Vick took the Washington Redskins apart like a "CHEAP PUZZLE". If the Redskins had won that game we wouldn't be reading this article today.

Posted by: austininc444 | November 22, 2010 3:04 PM
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What a shallow, superficial analysis! Let me summarize it for you: "The American people are morally bankrupt and easily distracted." God save the Republic. Who are you a keynote speaker for anyway, the Self-Loathing League?

Posted by: eat-the-rich | November 22, 2010 7:39 AM
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