Michael Vick spoke with the creases of James Brown's forehead yesterday. Again we were treated to the spectacle of a man who has profited off a brutal, inhumane sport nonetheless claiming the moral high ground. I refer to James Brown.
A flock of father confessors has surrounded Vick since his release from prison, all of them demanding that the quarterback perform a rite of penance before their eyes for the sin of dispatching dogs into a ring to maul each other. First there was Roger Goodell, the self-dramatizing moralist who responded to Vick's bid for reinstatement by making a public show of being tormented, then by demanding that Vick demonstrate "genuine remorse." Then there was Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who
said he wanted to see self-hatred in Michael Vick, wanted to know that the player his head coach and quarterback both wanted for the Eagles could grasp the "cruelty, the torture, the complete disregard for any definition of human decency" that disgusted Lurie.
And at last there was James Brown, who will go down in the record as having been "tough on Vick" — in accordance with everyone's wishes — simply because he spent a few minutes of primetime television talking to a grown man like a 4-year-old.
JAMES BROWN: Do you understand why people are outraged?
MICHAEL VICK: I understand why. And I'm going to say it again. Sickens me to my stomach. And it was, you know, the same thing that I'm feeling right now.
JAMES BROWN: And the feeling you're feeling right now is?
MICHAEL VICK: Disgust. Pure disgust.
JAMES BROWN: When did you arrive at that feeling of disgust, Michael? When did the light go on?
The average NFL career lasts 3.8 years. At this moment, some 39 NFL players have already lost their seasons to injury; nearly 200 in all have found their way onto this list. A fifth of the retired NFL players who could recall having sustained three or more concussions during their playing days have been diagnosed with depression. At least four former NFL players have died from the effects of football-related brain damage. Brown, Lurie and above all Goodell have built very lucrative careers for themselves in a sport that dispatches humans onto a field to maul each other and that differs from dogfighting largely as a matter of taxonomy. In football, of course, the participants maul each other of their own free will. Usually. But no one with a stake in such a sadistic and dehumanizing endeavor — not Goodell, not Lurie, not Brown — has any authority to plumb the depths of another human being's morality. Where is their self-hatred?