It's not about football
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 all come with a collection of successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses, history we are proud of, and history we'd like to forget. We all gain and lose points with ourselves and others as we move through life. Most of us do this in the privacy of our spheres of influence; others, like Michael Vick, experience more public ups and downs.
The calculus of success and failure is tricky. When we fail, there are often two paths back. We can directly confront the failure, or shine so brightly elsewhere that the failure falls into the shadows. Redemption lies on the first path.
Redemption comes through owning our failures, asking for forgiveness from those we hurt, finding ways to make amends, and living in a way that reflects learning. Vick may indeed be doing these things through jail time, confronting his past, paying his debts, and helping others make different choices. These actions do not happen on the gridiron. A football comeback does not equal redemption.
There is also the second path: The failure or weakness is overtaken by a different strength, quietly sequestering the failure. Vick's technical skill on the field draws focus to that mastery, engaging viewers in the moment, forgetting the messiness of past transgressions.
Vick went through the very public process of talking about past sins, and re-engaging those who follow him. The question now: Is it just about the football from here? Will the power of gridiron artistry allow the past to comfortably fade away, or will Vick use his public stage for an even greater good over time, as a continuing vehicle for raising awareness and inspiring action to save more animals in the future than he hurt in the past?
Michael Vick has had a complex life, and his very public triumphs and trials provide a template for assessing our own values. On one hand, for me, animal cruelty is one of the darkest evils possible, and I find that sin very hard to get past.
On the other hand, forgiveness is one of the values that I hold most dear and have relied on from others after my own failures. To not give Vick that grace contradicts that value. On one hand, I want to say that his past is not an excuse in judging the impact he had on the animals in his control. On the other hand, all of us are impacted by the social world we find ourselves in, and ignoring the influence of Michael Vick's upbringing and social pressures seems unfair.
The complexity of Vick's life invites us to reflect on the complexity of our own history, values, and choices. In the end, the only one who can judge Michael Vick's success in redeeming himself is Michael Vick. Redemption will not come from the fans who cheer him on the field. Redemption will happen quietly in the privacy of his own soul, as it must for each and every one of us.
Posted by: wickme | November 22, 2010 5:04 PM
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