• Forgiveness and Michael Vick

    Tue, July 24, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    We’re a forgiving society and even when we’re not so forgiving, we’re forgetful. The current buzz is that Michael Vick is done as an NFL player. His alleged connection to a hideous dogfighting ring will send him straight to sports oblivion.

    Right?

    I’m not so sure.

    Just take a look at Ray Lewis, who was charged in 2000 in connection to two stabbing murders outside an Atlanta nightclub and later convicted of obstruction of justice. Lewis has, against the odds, rehabbed his reputation, partially by avoiding trouble and partially by finding God. A sprawling article in Sports Illustrated was titled, “The Gospel According to Ray Lewis.” His presence at a stadium now causes hardly a flutter.

    No doubt, the accusations hovering over Vick are disgusting. Dog fights, according to federal prosectuors, were common at the Vick home and the losing dogs were electrocuted, drowned and crushed. The furor over the accusations has started a fascinating and at times bizarre debate in Atlanta, where Vick has played quarterback for the Falcons.

    “To give (dogs) rights is to make a mockery of human rights,” said one letter-writer to the Atlanta paper. “We have no right to send (Vick) to prison for allegedly violating the nonexistent rights of lower animals.”

    “This country cares more about dogs than it does for people,” another letter-writer said.

    Then there’s the other side. And I’m thinking this other side is immense. Millions of Americans love their dogs. Millions of Americans will boycott everything connected with Vick.

    For a time, that is.

    Lewis and Kobe Bryant (accused of rape in 2003) are not exactly American heroes, but they aren’t villified at every turn. They were detested for a few months and then new villains came rumbling along. If the charges against Vick are true, he’ll face months of torture. If he steps on an NFL field, the barking will be deafening.

    But it will fade. If Vick makes enough apologies, if he contributes a few million to causes close to the hearts of animal-rights activists, he can survive.

    He’s tarnished, horribly tarnished, but he’s not done.
  • Angry soccer fans

    Tue, July 17, 2007 by David Ramsey with no comments

    A couple dozen soccer fans were angered by my column criticizing the sales of MLS jerseys to advertisers. I think this turns players into walking billboards.

    Soon, a deluge of angry e-mail entered my life. I was called various names, which didn’t bother me. Except one. The name that did get under my skin was, “soccer-hater.” Soccer fans, who feel embattled in our country, seem to believe anyone who criticizes the game in any way hates soccer.

    I have many faults, but hating soccer is not among them. I played – not very well – center midfielder for my college team. I spend hours a month watching games on Fox Soccer Channel and GOLTV. I have bored many real soccer-haters by talking about Zidane and Bergkamp and Maradona. (For the uninitiated, these are soccer greats.) Just this Sunday, a few of my friends gathered in my living room to watch Brazil throttle Argentina in the Copa America final.

    My devotion to soccer fuels my disdain for human ads. I don’t want to watch the beautiful game polluted by commercialism. Yes, I know American sports are stuffed with ads. NFL games feature 75 minutes of commercials and 30 minutes of actual action, but what’s wrong with America doesn’t excuse the invasion of jersey selling from Europe and elsewhere.

    Many of my critics – and I was glad to hear from every last one – seem to believe I’m blind to the sins rampant in the sports Americans love most. I’m not.

    I just don’t like to see jersey ads invading the action in soccer.