Wednesday, 29 December 2010


I was on the BBC World Service's World Update today, discussing President Obama's praising Philadelphia Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance after he served 19 months in prison for running a dog-fighting ring and abusing his dogs. I was all set to talk about how Obama might have been trying to push his proposed expansion of the Second Chances Act in Congress (Lord knows enough Congressmen have got second chances, and more), and how Tony Dungy has mentored Vick, how Andy Reid has brought him along slowly and transformed his quarterbacking, and how both those coaches had personal tragedies with their own wayward children. I was also prepared to discuss the agenda of the animal rights advocates who use Vick as a way to generate publicity, and the right-wingers who use him as another club to beat Obama over the head with his own blackness. But the conversation was hijacked into that last direction by an unexpectedly virulent clip from Tucker Carlson, the Bow-Tie-That-Talks who plays an intellectual on Fox News.

Carlson (who is no relation to me and that is for real sure) said: 'I’m a Christian, I’ve made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should’ve been executed for that. He wasn’t, but the idea that the President of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs?'

This is fascinatingly hypocritical on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. But let's start with Tucker's so-called Christianity, which sounds a lot more like a version that ends a long time before Jesus actually came along. What happened to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, cast the first stone--well, maybe he thinks it's up to him to cast at least a few stones. Executed for killing dogs? Maybe we just nuke the Dominican Republic and do away with cock-fighting there once and for all. More importantly, it's easy to forgive Tucker Carlson's kind of mistakes, like selling yourself to promote the rich and powerful by using hate and fear. But as I understood Christ's message, it was that you needed to forgive people for the really hurtful, awful things they do. That never sunk in very far with Tucker. Vick, meanwhile, has done the Christian thing and not responded in kind, though the old Mike Vick might have sent the sort of message to Mr. Carlson indicated on the right.

The second, more important message, of course, is the coded reminder that Barack Hussain Obama, as Fox called him, is, uh, black. And that if you ever vote for him again he's going to release hordes of his dog murdering fellow blacks on you--Willie Horton's mutant offspring stealing your daughters, lowering property values, and integrating your Christian academies. Michael Vick is a lot easier a target than, say, Henry Louis Gates, who was merely an uppity black man who wears a bow tie and bristled when accused of breaking in to his own house.

I understand the animal rights people who say 'if he'd done this to people he'd still be behind bars' or 'abusers of dogs and children shouldn't be free to walk the streets' knowing full well that he didn't kill people or abuse children, and that there is a difference between people and animals. I know they want to get their own back. Their job is to demonise a celebrity in order to keep their issue in the news, and someone's right to pay their debt to society and return to his previous life matters little. It is interesting that PETA haven't attacked Vick at all, but his doing public service ads for them might have something to do with that.

The Second Chance Act was enacted by the George W Bush regime, who then failed to fund or enforce it. Obama wants to do something about a prison population that stands at 2.3 million, or almost 1 per 1,000 in America, and 38 per cent of them are black. Americans make up a full quarter of the world's incarcerated, although we are only one-twentieth of the world's population. Prison building and staffing is one of the few growth industries that can't be farmed out to cheaper countries. Yet.

I look at my dog Rufus and my stomach turns at the thought of what Vick did to his dogs, but so far he has done and said all the right things to make one think that his stay in prison did what it is supposed to do, punish, yes, but help rehabilitate, like the new-look Vick we see on the right. The Tucker Carlsons of the world would be happier if the black population could be moved en masse behind bars, a kind of perverse domestic version of Liberia, and maybe the turkeys voting for Christmas who believe what they see on Fox is actually true could all get jobs guarding them. It would be a lot like the ante-bellum South, come to think of it, where the Obamas were quickly put in their place.

Meanwhile, the Eagles lost on Tuesday night, giving NBC a big audience and the NFL a new idea for creating more nights of prime time football: watch the weather reports and move the games. Read my Friday Morning Tight End column on New Year's Eve for more on that...


dlwilson26 said...

Amen Michael.

Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State and a civil rights attorney has written about mass incarceration of blacks as a new form of Jim Crow:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks for saying all this so eloquently. I agree completely. Carlson probably never gave animal right's a thought till he could denigrate two black men by airing his venom.

Village Bookworm said...

Got the distinct feeling that your C4 sofa buddy, Gary, didn't think Vick belonged on a pitch early season.

Cheeky I know! As a fan of yours both from the literary and NFL viewpoint, Mike. I have a suggestion for a book review that might fit well with FMTE on nfluk.

In my Xmas stocking was a copy of Pat Kirwan's 'Keep Your Eye Off The Ball', I have enjoyed his writing on and found the book fascinating. Having watched Football since the '85 Bears team, I have gradually begun to understand some of the finer points of trench warfare, as well as the slinging it about.

He has a deep knowledge of the inside of the game and some interesting views on the future of the game. British NFL fans could do worse than read it in the offseason.