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Doug Farrar
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Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Profiles in Courage?

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My own reaction to Vick winning the Ed Block Courage Award is tempered to a great degree by the fact that his teammates, who know him better that I ever will, and who see him in private and revealing moments, decided that he was worthy of it. I don't think that can be discounted for one minute. But in looking at the history of the award, I saw a few interesting things that pushed me away from really accepting the idea.

First, there's the fact that the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation has raised millions of dollars for, and awareness of, the prevention of child abuse and the rehabilitation/recovery of those who have suffered from it. While Vick's own rehabilitation is an understandably interesting story, his was not a victimless crime, and he was not dragged into what he did -- he had nobody to blame but himself. It is one thing to agree that he has now paid his debt to society and deserves a chance for a new life; I wouldn't argue that for a single second. But it's another thing entirely to turn back after the near-completion of a football season and claim that Vick is the deserving recipient of an award form an organization which has the prevention of abuse of any kind as its leading interest.

Second, the names and stories of some of the other recipients this year: Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Richard Collier, who has pressed on despite the paralysis and loss of a leg suffered as the result of a shooting. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who returned to the NFL to play at a high level after missing nearly the entire 2008 season with a major knee injury. Indianapolis Colts defensive back Marlin Jackson, who beat the anticipated recovery time for his own knee injury to play again. These are the kinds of stories we're used to.

Third, the description of the award itself.

Each year, the Ed Block Courage Awards honors those National Football League players who exemplify commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Recipients are selected by their teammates for team effort, as well as individual performance.

The Ed Block Courage Award recipient symbolizes professionalism, great strength and dedication. He is also a community role model. With this honor, he enters into an association which contrasts his fierce profession by becoming a major component of the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. He becomes an Ambassador of Courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect.

Ask the dogs from the Vick-financed operations if they were not victims of abuse, violence, and neglect. The ones still alive, that is. That's where this becomes difficult to reconcile for me. To honor Vick, who ruined his life with a casual dismissal of the consequences of the very traits the Block Foundation is so intent on eradicating? The irony is a bit too thick for me. I don't begrudge Vick a bit of whatever success he has in future -- only a sadist would say that he hasn't evened the account of his former life. But to single him out as an example? Tough to wrap my head around that one.

On the other hand... well, maybe it does two things. It gives Vick the positive reinforcement to keep him life straight, and it gives a lot more awareness to the award and the foundation behind it than there would have been had Brian Westbrook or some other Eagles player won it. Then, it's a nice blip in the paper and on to the next story. Perhaps the reason Vick needs to win the award is the awareness it gives the award itself, and the concept of recovery that it personifies.

By Doug Farrar  |  December 25, 2009; 3:00 PM ET  | Category:  Philadelphia Eagles Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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sorry, not worthy enoug

Posted by: stephenrhymer | December 26, 2009 9:19 PM

Doug, sorry, but I don't believe it's possible to "even the account" of one's former life if that person's past voids the lives of other living beings or creatures. No amount of restitution paid or teary, remorseful apologies will ever bring back the 40+ dogs Vick was convicted of torturing and killing. Nor will it ever alleviate the suffering of the dogs that survived.

I also think it's a crime for institutions like the Humane Society of the U.S. to *pay* Vick to be the poster child of animal cruelty re-hab. It reinforces the frightening message that celebrities are more entitled to forgiveness than the rest of the world.

Vick got caught. He didn't have an epiphany and turn himself into the law. His sentence and his subsequent losses were light; after all, he was allowed to return to a high paying position in the NFL. Anyone else who perpetrated such murderous, torturous crimes would remain cast out, unclean forever. And deservedly so.

Vick's still the self-serving, arrogant person he was before he got caught. Not once to my knowledge has he ever said the words "I'm sorry for what I did". Instead he wallows in self-pity for having to "endure" his well deserved punishments.

What, of any of this, spells COURAGE?

You even cite 3 examples of heroic athletes who have not only endured and overcome life threatening and nearly unsurmountable obstacles but they've all done so while remaining responsible, humane human beings. None have never been convicted of heinous crimes or exuded the dangerous psychotic behavior that Michael Vick embodies. Any of those 3 men would have done honorable justice had they been recipients of the Ed Block award. I only hope Vick can resist his violent, psychotic tendencies because the next time around it could be a human being instead of innocent, defenseless dogs.

What then? A Congressional Medal of Honor?

Nothing about Michael Vick is honorable. Just another overpaid sports celeb who, too often, are mistaken for heroes.

Posted by: aeduval | December 29, 2009 4:18 PM

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