We love to watch our heroes fall. It's kind of demented really. We build these people up for whatever reason--maybe they can run real fast, throw a football real far, or hit a baseball out of the park--and then it almost seems like we enjoy tearing them down just as much.
True, in many cases they deserve to be torn down, like in the case of Michael Vick. What the man did was despicable. He deserved all the punishment he got and then some. Three years after his release from prison the question now becomes can we move on and forgive him for his transgressions?
A lot of athletes make it hard for fans to get over the bad things that they did. Vick has not exactly made it harder, but he hasn't made it any easier with some of his comments, like when he said in a recent interview that he has helped more animals than he has hurt.
Headlines across the web quoted that line, and the reason is simple. Standing alone it can be viewed as inflammatory. How dare this dog killer start talking as if he's done more good than evil? It's not as if the world works on a system of pluses and minuses; you don't get excused from something horrible just by doing something noble.
However, if you read the line in the context of the discussion it makes more sense:
I've made peace with it, because I have no control over it. It's not like I could do it all over again. But at the same time, I think I made a lot of changes for the better and I think in my quest to be an advocate against dogfighting and working with the Humane Society, I've helped more animals than I've hurt.
Of course the interview that he gave that quote in was an interview promoting his new book, an autobiography he wrote while in prison. In the interview he gave USA Today some excerpts from the book that painted a pretty bleak picture of the guy that most of America came to hate when his scandal broke:
Back when I was involved in those activities, I may have become more dedicated to the deep study of dogs than I was to my Falcons playbook. I became better at reading dogs than reading defenses....
He goes on to talk about what a good liar he is, and how he completely lied to commissioner Roger Goodell at the onset of his case and had every intention to lie his way through his entire trial.
With that in mind, what are we to believe? The guy that we see now appears to be wanting nothing more than to make up for his past transgressions and move on. Proceeds from his new clothing line 'V7' are going to charity as will proceeds from the book. He says he is candid about his past now and in the book so people will have a deeper understanding of him.
That sounds great, but how are we to know what the truth is? He is a great liar after all. This could all be a well orchestrated PR move. He's making plenty of money now (even with all he owes to creditors); he can easily afford to give to charity. His words sound great, but are they his or a part of a script intended to create a public persona for Vick?
What's to say that he isn't taking advantage of the notoriety that his transgressions gave him to sell more t-shirts and come September when his book comes out more books?
In the end, the perception that people will have of Vick will go back to the very issue that sent him to prison in the first place. Is the brutal killing of man's best friend something that we can forgive?