Why the Michael Vick story is important

The sportswriters have run out of adjectives. They can’t find superlatives big enough to describe yesterday’s incredible, improbable, amazing victory of the Philadelphia Eagles football team over their archrivals, the New York Giants. The Eagles were losing 31-10 with only 8:09 left in the game. They scored 28 points—four touchdowns—to win.

The Eagles were powered, almost single-handedly, by quarterback Michael Vick. This is the same Michael Vick who, in 2007, was convicted running a dog-fighting ring and served 18 months in prison.

I’ve been writing about Michael Vick since the Eagles hired him for the team in August 2009, a move that outraged thousands of fans, myself included. After researching his history, I came to the conclusion that Michael Vick is a psychopath. I wasn’t the only one who thought this—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to the National Football League saying the same thing.

Here’s my previous article: Can Michael Vick change his behavior?

Stellar football season

Last year, Michael Vick barely played. This year, he was supposed to be a backup quarterback, but the Eagles’ starter suffered a concussion in the first game of the season. Michael Vick replaced him—and played brilliantly.

Now, Michael Vick is football’s story of the year. Vick has the third-highest passer rating in the NFL.  This season he’s rushed for 613 yards—far more than any other quarterback. Opposing teams change their defensive strategies just to cope with the fast, scrambling, multi-talented threat.

From a football perspective, Michael Vick has become a hero. “He masterminded the impossible yesterday with his legs and with his gumption,” gushed sportswriter Rich Hoffman in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Another dog

But Vick has been in the news recently for another reason as well. He says he wants a dog. “I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process,” he said.

Vick is on probation from the dog-fighting conviction until May 2012. While on probation, he is prohibited from owning a dog. Keep in mind, this is a man who personally hanged, drowned and electrocuted dogs that didn’t win. But he says he’s a changed man. He also says he’s not a psychopath:

“I really mean what I say. I don’t have a problem. I’m not a psychopath. I’m not crazy. I’m a human being,” Vick told The Associated Press on Thursday. “What happened in my past and what I did in the culture I grew up in doesn’t shape and mold me as the person I am now. I said it before that I wish I can own a dog and I’ll continue to say it. I’m not allowed to, but I’m just saying I wish I could because my kids ask me every day. It’s more so for them than for me.”

Read Michael Vick says he would like a pet dog; anger follows on

Humane Society

So the controversy rages among fans and dog-lovers: Should Michael Vick be allowed to own a dog?

Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society, addressed this question in a recent blog post. Pacelle has probably had more interaction with Vick on this issue than anyone. Vick is working with the Humane Society to speak against dog-fighting to at-risk schoolchildren, and Pacelle says the quarterback is having an impact, making inroads where no one else could. He writes:

While the most important aspect of this work is the education it provides for these kids, it is also part of Michael Vick’s own rehabilitation and his process of relocating his reservoir of empathy, and exercising it and building it up.

Although Vick shouldn’t have a dog yet, Pacelle says, the time may come when he could.

Read Michael Vick and having a pet on Wayne Pacelle’s Blog.

Is change possible?

At first, I was highly skeptical of Michael Vick. I thought he wouldn’t be able to stay out of trouble. In fact, last summer, when Vick attended his 30th birthday party at a Virginia nightclub and his co-defendant in the dog-fighting case was shot in the leg, I thought the incident was the beginning of the end for Vick. But he was not charged in the shooting, and was accused only of bad judgment.

Read Quarterback Michael Vick possibly in trouble again.

Yesterday, I was at a family party. While the Eagles vs. Giants game was on the TV in the background, I argued with a relative about Michael Vick.

He said that Michael Vick had grown up in a brutal culture, where dog-fighting, and killing dogs that failed, was normal. But Vick was a changed man.

I said that Vick exhibited a variety of behaviors typical of psychopaths—lack of empathy, financial problems, run-ins with the law, sexual impropriety. He may seem to have changed, but psychopaths are capable putting on very convincing acts.

I also said that we’d probably never know if Michael Vick really changed until long after he left the NFL.

My relative said, “So you’re willing to concede that the jury is still out?”

I conceded the point.

Then he urged me to watch the Michael Vick interview with Bob Costas.

Talking the talk

NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas interviewed Michael Vick on November 21, 2010. Much of the conversation is about football. But at the end of the interview, Costas does ask Vick about his time in prison, life change and redemption.

It’s an intriguing interview. Michael Vick acknowledges that he brought his problems upon himself, rather than tossing blame around, as psychopaths typically do. He admits that his life is a work in progress. He says he doesn’t want to blow it again. He seems to be sincere.

Is it an act? I don’t know. There are two ways to look at this:

Cynical view: Psychopaths can control their behavior when they want to. The guy isn’t capable of a change of heart, but he is capable of looking after his self-interest. A lucrative football contract, nonstop media attention and the adulation of an adoring football public are enough of an incentive for Michael Vick to control his behavior and put on a good show.

Optimistic view: Michael Vick did grow up in a disfunctional culture. Then, as young football star, he was showered with money, attention, and who knows what else, which all lead to his psychopathic behavior. But he did have a seed of empathy within him. His time in prison, the losses he experienced, the counseling he’s receiving, and his work on behalf of dogs has allowed the empathy to grow.

Watch Video: Michael Vick talks with Bob Costas prior to Eagles-Giants SNF game on

Withhold judgment

So why have I now written four articles about Michael Vick? Why is all of this important?

Here at Lovefraud, we tend to be ruthless in labeling people in the news as psychopaths. Usually, this is an important way to illustrate just how many of these social predators are out there, what their exploitation looks like, and how much damage they cause.

But maybe there are times to withhold judgment. After all, we don’t need to make a decision about Michael Vick. We’re not living with him or going into business with him. Heck, I don’t know if any of us are even in a position to have a conversation with him. None of us are at risk. So maybe we should just wait to see how this all plays out.

If Michael Vick can stick with the changes he’s made in his life years from now, when the media glare dies down, that would be mean, in some cases, change is possible. We have a lot of gloom and doom on Lovefraud. It would be nice to feel hopeful.

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30 Comments on "Why the Michael Vick story is important"

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Yes the how is the issue. Sadly there is no 100% way to get it right. There will always be some that will slip through. This is one reason why anecdotal cases can be harmful. It can make something look much worse than it appears. We talk about the nasty mistakes but never hear about the other 99 ones that were not.

I sent someone a case today and she was commenting about what should happen if it was true and the baby dead and she missed a piece entirely. I mentioned that yes that is right but even if the child is safe what does it say about that person that she would even say that she had killed a baby out of revenge, would say that to the other parent just trying to get even. This is the type of psychological abuse that many victims suffer but that no one ever gets to witness and often does much more harm than any physical injuries. This is the stuff that when people say he/she said this, others often don’t believe it because who would say such a thing? So even more damage can be done by that. This kind of psychological abuse is, I think, the most ignored and the most damaging, even more so when it is directed at young developing children. (For those interested here is that case

Anyway enough of my ranting, good night Oxy.

Why should he be allowed to own a dog when he has demonstrated his ineffable cruelty in keeping his own family pet? If you watch Animal Planet- well when I used to watch tv more often I would watch those Animal Cop shows… if you are written up for cruelty to animals, by either neglect or perhaps deliberate cruelty- you’re done! No other way around it. You should be able to handle being given one chance in taking care of a live animal. No one would give someone who would sell their child to prostitution ANOTHER chance of being able to raise a child. So why would you give Michael Vick another animal? Not only did he own a private dog fighting establishment, but he singlehandedly murdered several dogs, including his OWN FAMILY PET ( threw it into the dog fighting ring to encourage the 2 pitbulls already in there to fight ) . Why should he be given special treatment, when others who abuse animals are not given the same? Why should he be set apart from others? He should be grateful that he even got a job after this incident… asking to keep another dog? That’s too much. Stick to throwing the ball around Vick, whether you’re a psychopath or not- you in NO WAY deserve the chance to care for another dog. NO WAY.

I don’t like Vick but neither you or I
have any idea what he’s like off the
field. I can’t categorize everyone I
dislike as a psychopath. HIM BAD,
B/C ME NO LIKE HIM. IMO, the whole thing
about having a dog is probably treated
by him as a complete joke but he will
try and look real serious in front of
a camera.

Thanks for the article Donna.

While I very much believe that people are SPIRITUAL BEINGS at the same time, I also know that many religious people (and/or spiritual people) will grant “forgiveness” to people like Vick without TESTING them.

The story in the Bible about Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery when he was an obnoxious spoiled teenager (at first they had decided to kill him) but they sold him and then told their father that they had found his distinctive coat covered in blood so a wild animal must have killed him.

Years later, when through a series of adventures Joseph had become a powerful man in Egypt, second only to the king. There was famine and Joseph’s brothers showed up to buy grain. He recognized them but they didn’t recognize him.

Joseph had long ago forgiven them, had long ago ceased to be BITTER toward his brothers, but he did NOT trust them one iota.

Joseph concocted a series of moral tests for his brothers which they passed, and in the tests he saw that they had truly realized just how much pain they had put their father through by faking his death, and that at this point in time they would actually SACRIFICE THEIR LIVES for the youngest brother to keep from hurting their father again. They were no longer the same selfish jealous young men they had been 20 or 30 years before when they had sold him into slavery.

ONLY AT THAT TIME did Joseph reveal himself to his brothers after TESTING them to see what kind of men they had become.

VICK did something that was COMPLETELY DETESTABLE and cruel, just as Joseph’s brothers did to him. MAYBE he has learned his lesson and maybe not. Maybe the reason he did what he did was a short lived power trip that he got by becoming “rich and famous” and having people cow tow to him.

I’m not sure WHY Vick would be so callous as to throw his own pet animal to a pair of pit bulls to tear it apart. That sounds to me like someone with VERY SELECTIVE EMPATHY (Thanks for the phrase BloggerT! Hee hee) yea, like SO selective that it is NON EXISTENT. Joseph’s brothers didn’t have much empathy for him at the time they pulled him out of the pit and sent him off into perpetual slavery in a foreign country. That’s pretty UN-EMPATHETIC for sure.

But, they SHOWED by their willingness to sacrifice themselves to SAVE their youngest brother, Benjamin, that they had remorse for what they had done in the past, and that they were willing to pay whatever consequences were necessary to prevent the same pain from being repeated. When Vick SHOWS by his life being CHANGED that he has “reformed” and that he has “learned humility” then I might say he was not a complete psychopath (scores of over 30 on PCL-R) but I still think he is VERY HIGH IN THE TRAITS and BEHAVIOR that would mark out an EVIL MAN who does EVIL things without any REMORSE or EMPATHY for the suffering he has caused.

I agree, I think he should not only be denied the ownership or being around a dog, I think his CHILDREN should be KEPT AWAY FROM HIM COMPLETELY in case one of them “doesn’t perform” to his expectations. If he is so concerned about his kids having a dog, then he should leave the house, never see the kids again, and the kids can have a dog. GOOD TRADE FOR THE KIDS I think. Just MHO.

I think that anyone who really has taken a look at what Vick’s involvement with the dogs was, realizes it boggles the mind. It goes way beyond most people’s definition of animal cruelty.

I know Wayne Paycelle and understand why HSUS took the stance they did with Vick. Wayne said “Isn’t this what we want people to do….try to reform?” Yes, but it is naive and even dangerous. Society has to grow up beyond Pollyanna beliefs and recognize that some people can’t be fixed. And when you look at the lines they crossed, it gives you a pretty good clue who those people are.

Reminds me of the joke about the guy (who horrendously murdered someone) talking to St. Peter, saying “Come on, I stepped off the path one time…give me a break”

Dear neveragain!!!!

GREAT POINT!!!! Like someone said here once a while back “he is such a GREAT GUY when he is not raping and killing” (about Ted Bundy) Yea, give me a break!

I’m in agreement with you, I think Vick is a psychopath who is working hard at pretending to reform so he can get back into the good graces and high pay check of the foot ball world. The extent of the cruelty he engaged in is beyond belief.

I thought you guys might like to know that president Obama called the Eagles owner to congratulate him and Vick’s rehabilitation on Vick’s recent “success”—several animal groups, particularly the one who rescued and rehabilitated the dogs that were the survivors of Vick’s “kennels” said that they are also WAITING FOR A CALL FROM OBAMA TO CONGRATULATE THEM ON TAKING CARE OF THOSE DOGS. I hope they are not holding their breaths while they are waiting for the call from the White House.

thanks Oxy,
Obama, like Clinton, has been such a disappointment.
But I guess covert abuse from your president is better than overt abuse from your Bush.

Wait…maybe not.


“Michael Vick endorses anti-dog fighting legislation he inspired”


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