To say that the Michael Vick signing has been an explosive and divisive issue would be a bit of an understatement. The initial posting here at BTSC confirming the event generated over 1000 comments within hours, as overwhelmed moderators worked tirelessly to keep the peace and focus the conversation. Days later, the debate rages on.
According to a poll posted here at BTSC, 25-30% of the responding fan base are completely opposed to the move. While not in the majority, these are by far the most vocal advocates on either side of the issue, they have expressed themselves in numerous ways in countless forums, with street protests, petitions, and vows to never again support the Steelers as long as Michael Vick is wearing the Black and Gold. There are even those who say they will never support the Steelers again under any circumstances
To those of you who happen to be among this very unhappy group of potentially former Steelers fans, I hear you. I understand your point of view. I am sympathetic to your deeply held emotions surrounding this issue, your love for animals, and especially dogs. You may even feel betrayed by an organization that many of you have had long enduring ties with, I get that too, but please, don't abandon ship just yet.
Steeler nation is a family. I was personally adopted in at the age of 9. Like many of you, I am not a Pittsburgh native nor even from the state of Pennsylvania. I was born in Kentucky and raised in Arizona and had my time divided between the two as a child. Ever the contrarian, during Super Bowl X, I chose to cheer on the Steelers, for no other reason than everyone around me at the time was a Cowboys fan. The Steelers won and I have been a devoted member of the Steeler faithful ever since. The Steeler Way, whether real or imagined, is something that we are all familiar with and a very big part of what binds us all together. I might add that winning doesn't hurt much either. Being attached to an organization which feels that any year they fail to hoist a Lombardi Trophy was a down year, it's quite the draw.
Many here will never be moved from the stance they took when first hearing the news, and that is their right. Many others will never be able to fully understand those who could not bring themselves to forgive a past transgression. I have wondered if maybe this would all blow over in time, or if maybe the rest of us should just let the disgruntled bunch go there way, but as the headline reads, We Are Family. There is a pretty big rift in our family right now. I have no idea if anything anyone says here will ever help to mend it, but at least I can number myself among the ones who tried. Here goes.
For some of you, racial attitudes and stereotypes may actually factor into your decision making process. I'm sorry if that's the case. The best response I can give to you is this, do yourself and the world a favor, come out of the stone age.
While I personally do not believe that race has anything to do with this issue, and have been happy to see it mostly left out of the discussion, culture clearly does. For any thinking individual, possessing even a modest understanding of the world around them, it should be evident that culture, almost always trumps morality. Where you were born, by whom you were raised, by whatever institution was responsible for your education/indoctrination, the society around you will be the predominant factor in determining your world view. The clothes you wear, the food you eat, those things which either amuse or entertain you, how and what you worship, whether or not you worship, your sense of justice, right and wrong, your prejudice and your pride, these are all determined by our environment.
In the West, dogs and cats and a host of other fauna are considered pets, and for a great many if not most, pets are considered part of the family.
--- Just for laughs, this is the point where my computer shut down and I lost the remainder of my post, awesome. ---
In other parts of the world, dogs are considered unclean, vermin, not to be handled, and definitely not eaten. In yet other parts of the world, dogs, cats, horses, snakes and on and on are food. In other places dogs and other critters are indeed pets, only until the time comes that hunger dictates otherwise, starvation surely has a way of putting things into perspective. Believe it or not there are yet still places where you and I would be considered food, given we stumbled unaware into the wrong part of the right jungle. There are tribes which practice cannibalism as a matter of course, those who do so to inflict fear upon their neighbors and those who consume their fallen leaders as a sign of respect and to keep their spirits alive within the community. The world is a very strange and diverse place.
I am not asking that you show sympathy for Michael Vick. The crimes that he committed and was subsequently prosecuted for, and served time in prison over, were heinous. I am asking however, that you make the attempt, at empathy. There was a time in America when a man would not be caught outside without his hat, and promptly removed it at every doorway. There was also a time when indigenous people were viewed as savages, blacks were held as slaves, and both were treated worse than dogs. For better or worse, as a society grows and changes, morals and norms change with it. What was once taboo becomes commonplace, accepted norms become taboo. Sadly, there are still cultural enclaves right here in America where behaviors exist that most of us would consider morally reprehensible or even barbaric, and as the last few days have shown... unforgivable.
Michael Vick was, and shall remain, a product of his environment. Whether or not he is truly a changed man, none of us could ever know. He has however, been very remorseful in his comments, and with his actions exhibited a strong desire to educate others about the evils of K-9 combat. If the words of those who have worked closely with him over the years since his release from prison are any indication, he was an excellent teammate and an over all good guy to be around. Should it turn out that he is still a work in progress (aren't we all?) then it is my firm belief that he has come to the right place. The Steelers organization is an excellent place for the person and the athlete that is Michael Vick, to thrive. Ben Roethlisberger has seen his fair share of off the field issues too, and I think that most of us would agree he has turned his life around for the better, becoming not only a better teammate but a better citizen and human being. He is also the sponsor of a charitable organization that deals directly with dogs. The Steelers front office and coaching staff, while apparently willing to tolerate a media disaster (though I'm guessing they underestimated the public outrage by a wide margin) have proven that they will not tolerate a locker room cancer. Vick will be a productive player and a model citizen or he will be shown the door.
In defense of those who have expressed their utter disdain for the Michael Vick signing. I want to return to the point of pets being members of the family for a moment. The Michael Vick case was widely publicized and in great detail. For a person who has been a life long friend to animals, often times caring and providing for them as they would their own children, those details must have been horrifying. To hear that dogs were used in combat and often to the death, to hear that dogs were tortured to produce a more potent killer instinct, or that dogs which failed their torture training were brutally disposed of, and all for the purposes of gambling, well... let's just say an overwhelming emotional response should be expected.
I am well aware of the posting rules here at BTSC. I do not always agree with them and have made my thoughts sufficiently known on the subject. However, I do understand there intended purpose, do my best to stay within the well established guidelines, and have the utmost respect for those who try to enforce them. Having said that, I find it quite impossible to fully express myself on this subject in a compartmentalized manner.
I am not always proud of who I am, but I am completely unashamed. I have a firmly held set of beliefs that have served me well throughout my life, and I am sure that many of you do as well. In the course of our lifetimes we will all go through great changes, some for the better and some for the worse. We will endure great personal sufferings and hardships. The fortunate among us will overcome enormous obstacles. The less fortunate among us will struggle not at all. For it is my belief, that the trials and temptations of life, when faced with courage, hope and perseverance make us into the people we were born to be. Without struggle, without loss and sacrifice, life loses meaning.
I never needed to forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick does not need my forgiveness. Without dragging up my own jaded past for public consumption, at least in my own estimation, I have committed far greater sins than Michael Vick. I have been forgiven much in my life, and there will be much more forgiveness required before it is over. Whatever your faith may be, if it be great or if it be small, if you are the sort who puts no stock in matters of faith at all, wisdom is wisdom. A very great teacher once said, that we should love our enemies, that we should pray for those who do us evil, that we should treat others in the same way that we would hope to be treated, that we should always show mercy, that we should not throw stones, that we should always forgive. That same man exemplified His commands to the very end of His life, forgiving even those who brutally brought His life to a close.
The hatred (and yes that is the proper word) and total inability to even contemplate forgiveness for Michael Vick, expressed by so many here at BTSC and elsewhere over the last few days, has left me terribly sad. There is much going on in the world today that could and should be viewed as evil, but it takes an issue like this to bring on the outrage, it's bewildering to me, and a little bit terrifying.
Who doesn't have an idiot brother, or a creepy uncle, or a family member that hasn't struggled with some type of addiction or maybe even messed his life up so bad he did some time? None of us are perfect. Nearly every human being ever alive will either consciously or unconsciously, during the course of their lives, create their own morality, a tiny church of one, and most of us will find it difficult at times, if we are truly honest, to even live up to the standards we set for ourselves. If we can't find it in our hearts to forgive Michael Vick, who is part of our human family, and like it or not, now a member of our Steelers family, maybe we just haven't examined our own hearts closely enough. Peace to you all, and thanks for listening.
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"