Patricia McGuire
University president

Patricia McGuire

President of Trinity Washington University.

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Flawed heroes: a love story

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 could all hope for one spectacular game to redeem our past lives.

Who among us has not dreamed of that one swing of atonement -- bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, full count, grand slam home run -- to make our colleagues forget about all of our previous strikeouts?

We spend idle hours fantasizing about throwing touchdown pass after touchdown pass against our most hated rivals. We imagine ourselves mid-air, triple-lutz, off the ski jump, double back-flip, breaking the tape, standing atop the podium with our gleaming gold medals bedazzling all those who once mocked our flabby arms and weak wills.

Why are so many of our analogies for success about games?

Sports are not real life, nor even a reasonable approximation of the complex challenge of living each day as well as possible. Professional sports are pleasant distractions, delicious confections, communal shrines for imagining a simpler world where strength and beauty prevail in contests where the rules and goals are very, very clear. Unlike real life, where the rules keep changing, the goals are murky, and even the best people can fail miserably while evil scoundrels run rampant.

Michael Vick is very lucky. One spectacular game has made everyone forget his past life. He is the latest beneficiary of American pop culture's curious penchant for amnesia about the bad behaviors of famous people.

Bill Clinton committed some of the tawdriest acts imaginable in the Oval Office, but he still enjoys widespread adulation.

Eliot Spitzer disgraced the office of New York governor by frequenting a hooker in Washington, but he is now a 'personality' on CNN news.

Paul Reubens is back as Pee-Wee Herman after a few years in the doghouse for some very adult misconduct.

Martha Stewart is still making millions through cooking and crafting after doing time for insider trading.

Crime, punishment, redemption and triumph are all parts of the great American success story. We love our flawed heroes -- the more flaws, the more they seem like us!

And who among us does not harbor the secret knowledge that, someday, we, too, may need such redemption for some sin we have yet to commit?

I'm working on my forward pass.

By Patricia McGuire  |  November 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  The comeback Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I find it funny that we still focus on something that is irrelevant to his football performance. He was tried in the media and convicted of a crime by association. What if he was accused of rape on 2 seperate occasions? Would he still be hailed as a conquering hero for his abilities on the football field?

Posted by: nomolos40 | November 23, 2010 8:09 AM
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The man paid his debt to society and is
moving forward. What else is wanted?

Posted by: jerry76960 | November 22, 2010 11:46 PM
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"Michael Vick is very lucky. One spectacular game has made everyone forget his past life. He is the latest beneficiary of American pop culture's curious penchant for amnesia about the bad behaviors of famous people."

That's one way to view it. Another way is: we as a nation have no moral compass and we are consumed with greed, distraction, and self-interest. What happens to nations after their people lose individual and collective moral sense? Three guesses, watch and see.

Posted by: eat-the-rich | November 22, 2010 7:26 AM
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