At least thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my experience.
VickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s traveling circus came to my home state on Thursday night, a few hours after Warden Goodell reinstated him for Week 3, and regardless of how good he still is Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he was iffy against the Jets Ã¢â‚¬â€œ heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a bigger star now than he ever was before the dogfighting debacle.
I attended the JetsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ preseason game against Vick and the Eagles since my friend Mike came across a couple of tickets. Morbid curiosity was the catalyst behind my wanting to go. I wanted to see what the scene was like, what Vick was like, how the whole thing would go down. I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the only one: rapper Common and EntourageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jeremy Piven were in the house.
As it turns out, except for some errant flying dog biscuits, it was pretty uneventful. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure what I expected Ã¢â‚¬â€œ maybe the pits of hell to open up and swallow the entire stadium? But what I got was a healthy dose of boos for Mr. Vick that died down to a halfhearted rumble of disapproval as the game went on.
I saw a couple of negative Vick shirts and signs. I saw a sprinkling of Vick jerseys and t-shirts Ã¢â‚¬â€œ some Atlanta, some Philly, one Virginia Tech, and one Philly Jeff Garcia model with Ã¢â‚¬ËœVickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ handwritten on masking tape over GarciaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name. Most of the people in Vick jerseys simply sat and watched the game. One liberated Vick-clad soul pranced down the concourse attempting to rile up bystanders, none of whom gave a damn.
For a preseason game, it was actually pretty exciting. The Jets were led to victory by a short white running back named Danny Woodhead, who used a nice burst to amass 158 yards and two touchdowns.
For the record, Mark Sanchez only played one series but was very impressive, leading the Jets right down the field for a touchdown. In addition, the dude is marketable: I saw a ton of Sanchez jerseys draped over people.
Sidebar: WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that they say about people who live in glass houses? I saw plenty of women in Sanchez jerseys loudly letting Vick know what they think of dogfighting. Do they not remember this? No charges were brought, but I actually think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easier to get off scot-free on something like this if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a college athlete than if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in the pros.
Regardless, two women in the row behind us had to be the most vocal Vick apologists in the entire stadium, loudly cheering whenever he entered the game. After one such outburst, something hit off the back of the seat in front of me and splintered. When I checked under the seat, it turned out to be a Milk Bone dog biscuit, meant for the Vick Ladies behind me.
At that point, I showed them the cookie and asked them why in the world they were so adamant about supporting Vick, and one responded, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, nobody else is supporting him, and someone has to!Ã¢â‚¬Â She went on to explain that they admired his talent enough to pull for him regardless of the fact that she possessed a small dog, and that though she wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t crazy about that whole dog murder thing, Vick had paid his debt to society, etc.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s flawed logic, but considering my collection of Barry Bonds jerseys, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say a whole lot.
I believe that Vick is destined to be a heel his entire career. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see NFL crowds being accepting of him ever again. How do you embrace someone who perpetuated such an inhuman act? He doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem contrite in the least; IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d suggest that Philly fans may eventually embrace him somewhat, but only if he performs spectacularly on the field.
And make no mistake, he was rusty. Vick flashed signs of his trademark elusiveness but his killer instinct Ã¢â‚¬â€œ no pun intended, for real Ã¢â‚¬â€œ didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let him turn the corner and slash up a field the way he had in the past. He still has that rocket left arm, but not the touch Ã¢â‚¬â€œ his first pass fell way short and was intercepted. He did, however, score his first touchdown in several years on a two-yard run.
Vick was skilled and fast, but not sharp. That may change, and it may not. VickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not 22. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 29. Your body changes.
The Vick Bowl was actually my first NFL game at Giants Stadium despite having lived in the shadow of it for my entire life, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. As it turns out, the reaction to Vick was pretty tepid. That said, as we agreed upon with the Giants fan next to us, things will be very different in Dallas or even in Giants Stadium with playoff ramifications.
But for better or worse, Vick is a bigger commodity than he ever was. When he came on the field, the buzz Ã¢â‚¬â€œ albeit a mostly negative one Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was palpable. You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t watch anyone else on the field when VickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s out there. Just Vick.
Want to really get back at Vick for his transgressions? DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t boo him or chant things at him; donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make signs with pictures of dogs on them. Just ignore him. Make him feel like that guy in that Twilight Zone episode who ends up all alone and it drives him mad. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you get the feeling a big reason why heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still in the league is because he still draws attention like fruit flies to a nectarine? I do.
But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s simply not realistic. Even when the games matter, VickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sideshow will still be a morbid fascination. People want to scream at Vick. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never seen so much personal pleasure taken in righteous indignation. ESPN knows: Vick is for the people. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s entertainment, baby! This guy is the Ric Flair of football, but with about a third of the charisma.
So crack open a fresh box of Milk Bones and enjoy the ride. For the same reasons people rubberneck on the Interstate for car wrecks, Mike Vick is not going away anytime soon.