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Now as any regular follower of my blogs knows, I'm really happy former Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick's back in the NFL, and even though he's not signed with a team yet, former Indy Coach Tony Dungy said on NBC's telecast of the "Hall of Fame Game" that a team should sign him within the next week. That's great. But just because God's smiling on Vick, doesn't mean he has to lose control of the image he's working to build so quickly, and risk blowing it all.
What do I mean? Well, there's a new set of expectations of Vick from a number of people: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Dungy, and anyone rooting for Vick to get a second chance and most important succeed at it. I count myself here because I embarked on an attack against on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for its race-tinged smearing of Vick, and I'm still not done with PETA. But because of that, I expect Michael Vick to be that guy we all want him to be, and not someone sporting the latest in thug attire and saying "I'm gonna always love my N___, you know what I'm sayin" as he did in this video:
When I got wind of this via Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports on Twitter, I pretty much fell out of my chair. I wanted to make sure I wasn't being too anal about the whole deal so I asked my Mom, who's visiting me, to come over and watch the video. Her words came out as soon as she listened to him: "He's not gonna make it," she said.
I informed Mom that Coach Dungy said Vick would be signed by someone and she said "I hope so." So do I.
See, what Mike doens't understand is now, like it or not, everyone black's not only rooting for him and fighting for him, but demands that he represent himself in a way that justifies our actions in defending him. I write "black" because Vick's behavior ignites the age-old argument of what it means to be black in America and the idea that one does not have to act black, but that's another blog post, back to this one.
Allowing ones self to be on camera showing the best of thug life (another code word for "acting black") doesn't help us one bit. I don't know where anyone got the idea that rap culture was desirable, but Vick's got to understand if he wants to establish himself as lovable to corporate sponsors (and if you want to say that's a code word for "acting white" go ahead but my retort is that being clean, intelligent, and presentable to companies has nothing to do with race at all), he's got to lose that shtick, and fast.
Am I being harsh, yes, massively so. Do I care? No way. I'm really ticked-off with Vick's actions; perhaps T.O. (Terrell Owens) can talk me down and talk to him in the process. Protecting the proper image is at the center of this issue of Michael Vick's future. There are people betting that Vick will be just the kind of person he's showing himself to be in that YouTube moment and that's not acceptable to us, his fans. While Michael may feel he's got to "keep it real" as Chris Rock would say, "keeping it real, yeah, real dumb" is what he's doing.
Why in hell would Michael allow someone to point a camera at him and just follow him around without knowing what the digital image was going to be used for? Vick not only didn't care, he got right up to the camera and came off big in his thuggy glory.
Great, man. Just peachy.
What we want to see - Ok, what I want to see is a clean-cut, smooth, thoughtful version of Vick that by its very existence gives a collective finger to his doubters and allows him to regain then surpass the value he had before he was hauled off to jail. In the NFL, where potentially hundreds of millions of dollars can be brought to bear on one person, image is everything. One can't whine and cry about not being able to wear his gangta t-shirt or not "looking black", unless of course he wants to kiss his revenue potential goodbye. If so, then fine. There's thousands of brothers on the street trying to sell their music and "looking black in the process, perhaps Vick can join them.
Call me "Uncle Tom" or whatever. I don't care. I'm keeping it real myself. And the real story is that the Michael Vick I saw in that video is pretty much the same Michael Vick I briefly met at the 2000 EA Sports Party in Atlanta during the Super Bowl. At that event, Vick was playing video games wearing a white tank top shirt some call a "wife beater" shirt. His hair was braided. I was disappointed and wanted to kick the ass of whomever was supposedly advising him.
There's no denying Vick's physical talent, but I want to see him bring himself to an NFL-level of character and image, if anything because it's a good, positive message to send to kids. He didn't project that NFL-level of person at the EA Sports party 10 years ago, where he should have dressed business casual, and he's didn't show it on the YouTube video.
Coach Dungy, please talk to Michael before its too late. As my 74-year old Mom said "He's got to stay away from that old crowd. C'mon Vick!"