I believe Michael Vick. I believe he's sorry. I believe he realized he made a mistake, and that he had to be a man about it, own up to it, and put himself out there for all to see as an example of what not to do.
Vick stood in front of that podium, and the world, for nearly 15 minutes expressing his remorse. It wasn't scripted. If it were, it would have been filled with far more legal jargon and grammatical correctness. But it wasn't. He stood there, took the time to gather his thoughts, and spoke from the heart.
He even went as far as to issue a disclaimer, saying he was just a football player, not a public speaker, and that because of this the things he was about to say weren't going to sound like a prepared statement, because they weren't. They were true, genuine thoughts and feelings of remorse that this man - who is still a human being believe it or not - was about to attempt to put into words in front of the entire world.
I give Vick credit. He could have easily had his lawyer prepare a statement to be read while he was hiding in some back room somewhere deep in the bowels of that Richmond, Virginia courthouse. But he didn't. He took it like a man. He faced the fire. He took responsibility. He pledged to redeem himself. Think of how many others didn't. You listening, Pacman Jones? How about you, Jayson Williams? Mike Tyson? Paris? Lindsay? Are you people listening?
Our athletes, musicians, and movie stars need to learn what that word means: "responsibility". Whether it's killing a limo driver accidentally and later denying it, raping a woman, or driving drunk multiple times with disregard for the lives of those around you, they need to take responsibility for their actions. They're not above the law, as much as the bottom line on their bank statement, or their athletic ability may lead them to believe they are.
Therefore, young people and celebrities alike need to let Michael Vick serve as an example of how not to act. You can be filthy rich, beautiful, or the most athletically talented person in your particular sport, but none of that matters if you don't know right from wrong.
A big factor in the numerous events that have caused the downfall of many of our celebrities and athletes in the past couple of decades has been hip-hop. It's not been the music so much as it's been the culture. Let me first issue a disclaimer of my own. I'm a white guy, and because I'm a white guy, I can't speak for the black community. What I have to say would have absolutely no credibility within the black community because of the color of my skin. However, I'm going to say it anyway.
The so-called hip-hop culture that arose in our society in the 80's and 90's ,and has since culminated into a media giant in the past 4 or 5 years should shoulder at least a portion of the blame here. I say this, having grown up listening to rap music practically from the time I could walk. I play it loud in my car, I play it loud at home. I even know all the words. However, I know the difference between talking about something and doing it.
For whatever reason, black athletes these days have become woven into the very fabric of hip-hop culture. The two almost go hand-in-hand. The trouble is, some black athletes, who have come to think they're above the law as I mentioned earlier (whether it be through ridiculous paychecks, fan worship, endorsement deals, or groupies), have started to take the things hip-hop artists talk about literally.
Adam "Pac Man" Jones of Tennessee Titan fame is perhaps the best recent example of this. During NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas a couple of months ago, Jones got involved in an altercation after "making it rain" on a stripper and a brawl ensued. Shots were fired. And where do you think he got the idea to "make it rain on them hoes"? Lil' Wayne. Rap music.
Even more sickening have been the comments in the past few weeks from other athletes like Stephon Marbury and Deion Sanders. They've all but condoned dog-fighting, calling it a part of black culture and even a sport.
With athletes acting the same as rappers, there aren't too many role models left for our children. Except parents. Parents should be the front line against teaching our kids right from wrong, not athletes like Michael Vick. Sadly, we can't count on athletes to be role models these days. The Tiger Woods' and Arthur Ashe's of the world are few and far between in 2007.
It is because of this that it felt so refreshing yesterday to see Michael Vick on television, admitting, in what I believe to be a sincere manner, the error of his ways. It took a troubling matter of monumental enormity for Vick to wake up, but I belive he has. He openly rejected dog-fighting and other criminal activity. He told kids not to be like him, but be better than him. And he didn't mean Michael Vick the football player, but Michael Vick the person.
It's unfortunate it took something as horrifying as dog-fighting to set this example, but at least it's been set. For years to come, we as a society should not forget these events, but rather let them serve as a reminder of what can happen to any of us when we go astray. I just hope other athletes, celebrities, and most of all, black American youths have their eyes and ears open. Michael Vick is not only learning a tough lesson, he's teaching us all one too.
Call me crazy, but I believe Michael Vick.