Monday, August 17, 2009

"I had a rough night, and I hate the (Philadelphia) Eagles, man."

Those of you familiar with the quote above will recognize the slightly altered words of none other than Jeffrey Lebowski, a.k.a. The Dude, from the Coens' masterpiece, The Big Lebowski. It's a great movie that I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen recently. I've talked about this movie at length (or, ad nauseam) on this blog and on other blogs before, so I'm not here to talk about it more (unless any commenters want to).

What I would like to discuss is how I now hate the Philadelphia Eagles. I've never been much of a football fan - no dig here, it's just not my thing - but, I never minded the Eagles. Matter of fact, I always supported them as my home team and wanted to see them succeed. Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb seem like good guys all in all.

But I will not watch them play a game this season.

As most of you have probably heard, in a move that surprised a lot of people, the Eagles picked up Michael Vick.

Yes, they hired the same guy that operated an illegal dogfighting operation for SIX YEARS. It wasn't much of a prediction, but as I previously said, "someone is going to pick him up eventually and he'll make more than enough money to forget about his time spent inside." As it turns out, the Eagles of all teams decided to hire him.

I hear a lot of people say, "Everyone needs a second chance." And yes, that's true. Throughout my relatively short life, I myself have needed a lot of second chances. But Vick got off way too easily. If I had been caught running a dogfighting operation, I would have been disbarred and never allowed to practice law again. But not Vick. No. After all, he's an professional athlete. He's somehow not subject to the same rules as the rest of us.

Sure, he had to endure a lot of bad press and a two-year stretch inside, but at the end of the day, he's right back to playing in the NFL and earning more money in a couple of seasons than most will see in a lifetime. And besides, he has an agent, a PR rep, and probably countless other handlers who will help him restore as much of his image as they can.

If you still feel bad for Vick, consider this: he was caught doing this. This didn't come to an end because he turned himself in. Oh no. We can be almost certain that, if he hadn't been found out, the dogfighting would still be going on.

Forgetting for a moment the moral objections to allowing such a person to play for your team, I still wonder why the Eagles did this. Before this move, they were projected to make a run at the Super Bowl. But bringing Vick on board is going to alienate a lot of die-hard fans. Maybe some teammates. And wherever they go, whatever town they play in, this controversy is going to rear its ugly-head. It will follow them everywhere this season. Why would they willingly choose to face such distractions when their team was arguably good enough to make it to the Super Bowl in the first place?

I don't know the answer to that question, but obviously Andy Reid thinks this was a good idea. I have always supported Philadelphia sports, but I will no longer continue to do so with the Eagles. It's really a shame for the other players on the team, who will be forced to deal with this all season long.


Phil Stiefel said...

I have multiple points and comments... First off Brian you know me and I am so against what Vick did.... I am on the getting a second chance bandwagon too!!! I do not know if you would be banned from practicing law but from what I understand Vick served the largest sentence ever for the crime he was convicted of along with losing the money of his contract and endorsements. Yes he will be earning more money than I will ever see but that is what his skill set(playing footbal) pays. Now on why the Eagles signed him my personal opinion is that Tony Dungy (former coach and vicks personal advisor now) is in a fraternaty of special coachs and NFL figures. I feel the respect Andy Reid has amongst the league prompted Dungy to ask Reid to be the "guinie pig" and take Vick on. Help reestablish his immage and then after he has proven himself as a person release him so a team that needs him but was scared to take the chance can now see it is ok to take him on. Vick is not needed to make the Eagles a Super Bowl contender and there is no room on the team for him as a player. I personally will not cheer as hard for the Eagles this year bc of the situation but it will not stop me from being a football fan and liking my hometown team. I feel all deserve a second chance but I just feel a bit of a hypocrit because I do not want to be the one giving a second chance.... I hope that all makes sense too busy to really make blogs anymore... so lots of points in a short response to yours

seana said...

I appreciate the post, Brian. I don't have much at stake since I am not a sports fan, but I'm trying to think of the position of the true Eagles fan who also happens to care about animal rights. It seems a really torturous position to place them in, which is probably the worst of this decision.

Brian O'Rourke said...


He may have served the longest sentence ever for such a crime, but in my opinion, the sentence wasn't harsh enough. The dogs that died fighting weren't the only ones. Plenty of dogs died so the ones they were training to fight had "sparring partners" so to speak.

Vick didn't make a living off this dogfighting operation, so why exactly was he doing it? He didn't need it to support himself or his family. He was doing it for kicks. That makes it arguably even more appalling.

And I don't get why you'd bring him on, if there's no room for him on the team. If that's truly the case, then he only adds controversy every time they take the field and is more of a handicap than a rallying point.

Brian O'Rourke said...


You're absolutely right. Hiring Vick puts those die-hard fans/animal lovers in a terrible position. I feel bad for them too, since many of them have loyally supported Reid and co. over the years.

Rita Vetere said...

Shame on whoever made the decision to take Vick on. I'm not a sports fan, but if I was, that would be more than enough reason for me to tune out.


Phil Stiefel said...

Remember Brian I am against what Vick did I just am trying to look at it as a why the Eagles did it because I do love the Eagles and football (also a good Eagles team means better Sunday business for me). I just feel till I see what the Eagles ultimate plans are for Vick as teammate I cannot totally hate the team.... just what Vick did... which he served his sentance. Hey I know alot of dogs died and then more had to be put down after they found all the dogs... it is a horrible crime that needs stricter sentencing... just what would you do if Tiger Woods or Paddy Harrington was found guilty of it and hten let back on the PGA tour would you not watch golf anymore.

Brian O'Rourke said...


Good question there. I would no longer support the individual golfers, but I would continue to watch the sport. With a team sport though, it's difficult to make that distinction. But since I was never a football fan anyway, my case is a little different - I can honestly say I will not watch the Eagles play this season.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Rita -

Yeah, it's a tough one to swallow. I do believe in giving people second chances, but I don't think Vick has earned his yet. Or at least, he hasn't earned it like the rest of us non-professional athletes would have had to do to earn it.

Phil Stiefel said...

You should not support the PGA becausae they would be the ones saying he could play again and its not as in Football where a team is taking all of the chance the PGA is an individual sport and if the league says its ok they are the only governing body so if they say its ok then its not like in the nfl where the commish said its ok but no team has to take the chance on signing him and unofficially still not in the league then

Brian O'Rourke said...

Phil -

First things first. I disagreed with the NFL's decision to let him back into the game so quickly in the first place.

Good point re: PGA analogy, but I don't think the analogy works completely. Every golfer is roughly equivalent to an NFL team. The individual golfer is trying to win just like the NFL team is trying to win. Therefore, I'm still free to cheer for individual golfers I want to support, who had no say in allowing Vick to play their sport, just like I am free to cheer for other NFL teams out there, especially the ones that chose NOT to hire Vick.

The analogy also doesn't quite work because PGA players wouldn't have a say in making such a decision re: whether someone should be allowed to play on the Tour; whereas Reid made a conscious decision to hire Vick once he was eligible. So going back to your hypothetical, if the PGA allowed Vick to play golf, I wouldn't support the PGA's decision, but I would support the players I liked who had nothing to do with the decision.

Now you're saying there are players on the Eagles who are deserving of my support, and yes, there probably are, but this is another point at which the analogy breaks down. Reid is their coach, and he made this decision. If I support the team, I am supporting Reid's decision. Back to our hypothetical golf world - if Paddy Harrington voted to allow Vick to play, I would no longer support Paddy Harrington.

The PGA analogy is also a bit academic anyway - if Vick had been a professional golfer, the PGA would have probably never let him play again.

You are right, though. If this had happened in golf, going by my own logic, I wouldn't be allowed to support the PGA. And I wouldn't. I also wouldn't want to turn my back on the game. I would voice my protests and contribute in whatever small way I could to helping the PGA see the light of reason and learn from its mistakes. I have no such love for football, but I can understand the plight of the die-hard Eagles fan who is also an animal-lover. Like I said, I feel bad for that person too.

seana said...

I suppose the real question isn't whether the Eagles had a right to sign Vick, but why they weren't ashamed to do so. I suppose they are taking the calculated risk that Eagle's fans don't care about animal rights as much as all that. I suspect they are largely right, not just about Eagle's fans, but about everyone. Most of us turn a blind eye in one way or another to animal suffering. It's not just that we eat animals for food, but that we don't protest loudly enough about the conditions they live in till they become our food.

There is a long history of people baiting animals against each other for sport. I don't really understand it, but it certain that Vick did what he did because there was an appetite for what he could supply. What if he held a dog fight and nobody came?

Phil Stiefel said...

Anyway Ill end this discussion the same way I ended the discussion with my brother over it... You know its not like we dont have a reigning World Champion baseball team to support right? And Id reather have been discussing TBL instead so make me a Caucasian please

Brian O'Rourke said...


You're right, there is an appetite for it, which I will never understand. It's somewhat weird and perhaps inconsistent of me, but give me an action movie where dozens of people get hurt, maimed, or killed, and I'm fine. But give me a movie where a dog dies, and I'm reduced to tears. Probably says more about me than anything else.

Brian O'Rourke said...


You would have loved the screening we attended of TBL. There was a costume contest and prizes given away. It was great stuff. I had so much fun, I didn't even mind the fact we were forced to sit in the second row up front. I now probably have a bulging disc in my neck, but it was worth it.

Do you remember how we used to turn that movie on so Aaron would love the common area of our dorm room? Good times.

Brian O'Rourke said...

And Phil - seriously, brother, I know you're busy, but have you abandoned the blog? I loved reading your stuff.