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Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Fri, 08/14/2009 - 4:26am.
The text from my friend Joel arrived at 8:36 last night.
"And u thought they booed santa! I cant wait til u visit atl," it read. I was confused. What could have happened with my beloved Philadelphia Phillies as they traveled from Chicago to Atlanta for a weekend series with the Braves? I wrote Joel back with a simple "huh?" The response I got back was shocking.
"U signed vick."
"U" meant my beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Several hours later, I am still stunned. Why? Why would a team still recovering from the circus that surrounded locker room cancer Terrell Owens sign Michael Vick, the most toxic man in sports? Why?
From a purely football perspective, I guess it makes sense. While I have always thought Vick to be the most overrated and overhyped player in the history of football (yes, I mean that), he is talented and explosive, or at least was. So to get him for the relative bargain price of $1.6 million this year to add a new wrinkle to a team that has always been a big weapon away from winning it all and that realizes the time is now to win a Super Bowl, I guess it's a good idea. There is still a great deal of uncertainty, though, about what kind of shape he is in. Eagles coach Andy Reid admitted last night he did not work Vick out, but said that the former Falcons QB looks to be in good shape. Great. The move also puts the Eagles back on the front page of the sports sections in Philadelphia, as they compete with the World Champion Phillies for attention in the City of Brotherly Love.
From a personal standpoint, Reid admitted he has a soft spot for guys looking for a second chance. Reid's two sons have battled legal problems revolving around drugs the last several years. Perhaps he thinks resurrecting and reforming Vick, who in case you've been under a rock, spent a year and a half in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring, will help make up for his parental shortcomings. I don't know.
Then there are the public relations issues. The Eagles are already catching a lot of flack for the signing from fans and, of course, animal rights activists. But you don't have to be one of those overly zealous PETA types to hate Vick and what he did. It's hard to find anything good about this guy, and the Eagles are going to pay the price for adding him to the fold. Still, the Eagles have made themselves into one of the best-run franchises in football in the last decade, and I can't imagine the front office has not thought ahead to the repurcussions. It is already a very strongly community-oriented organization. So expect Vick to do a lot of community work, especially with animal groups around the Delaware Valley.
For Vick, this may have been a smart move. A lot of people thought he might wind up, like many of the NFL's wayward sons, with the dumpster fire that is the Oakland Raiders. Instead, as I mentioned, he winds up with a good franchise with strong community ties that can put him in a position to show his penitence. But he's also put himself in a position to earn that pennance every time he steps in front of the green-clad phaithful. Say what you will about Eagles fans, and many of you will say the negative, but we are passionate, though often to a fault. But Eagles fans are not happy about this, and they will not hesitate to let Vick know how they feel. Yes, four decades ago Eagles fans booed some schlep in a Santa suit during halftime of another late-season loss. That guys only offenses were having a bad costume, being too skinny and being perceived as a then cheap franchise's best presentation of St. Nick (the guy the team hired did not show up, so a PR guy grabbed the legendary wrath victim from the stands of Franklin Field). He never killed dogs and thought he could get away with it.
The bottom line is that if Vick can perform well enough on and, more importantly, off the field to win over Philadelphia fans, he will have earned his way back. That, however, is a big if with a long way to go before it's achieved.
Today I am disappointed with the Eagles. I would not have wanted Vick before everything that happened, and I surely do not want him on my team now. But here he is, ready to be introduced at a press conference this morning and ready to practice with the team Saturday. It is what it is. What will be most interesting is to see what it becomes.
By: Kevin Wuzzardo