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The Philadelphia Eagles honored reserve quarterback and admitted dog-killer Michael Vick with an award for courage. Yes, you read that right. "Michael Vick" and "courage" are in the same sentence.
Each of the 32 NFL teams annually honors one of its own with an Ed Block award, named for the Baltimore Colts head trainer who was an advocate for improving the lives of neglected and abused children; the Foundation says it celebrates "players of inspiration in the NFL." Unfortunately, there is no stipulation that football players who abuse animals are ineligible receivers.
Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb told the Philadelphia Inquirer the award was "well deserved." Vick, his team, and what appears to be a loyal foundation of fans who believe Vick will help lead the Eagles into a SuperBowl, all believe the man who ran Bad Newz Kennels has "seen the light," has reformed, and is now a model citizen.
However, Vick’s own words show the humility and humbleness that he should have are still missing from his egocentric world of sweating multi-millionaires.
"It means a great deal to me," Vick told the media, gloating that he "was voted unanimously by my teammates. They know what I’ve been through. I’ve been through a lot. It’s been great to come back and have an opportunity to play and be with a great group of guys. I’m just ecstatic about that, and I enjoy every day." He further justified the honor by explaining, "I’ve overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can handle or bear." Elaborating, he declared, "You ask certain people to walk through my shoes, they probably couldn’t do. Probably 95 percent of the people in this world because nobody had to endure what I’ve been through, situations I’ve been put in, situations I put myself in and decisions I have made, whether they have been good or bad." He said, "There’s always consequences behind certain things and repercussions behind them, too. And then you have to wake up every day and face the world, whether they perceive you in the right perspective, it’s a totally different outlook on you. You have to be strong, believe in yourself, be optimistic. That’s what I’ve been able to do. That’s what I display."
Not once in his statements to the media did Michael Vick apologize for what he did, or for the deals he cut in order to be restored to the status of a millionaire athlete. Everything he said was focused upon his own "courage," with "I" being the prevalent word.
Perhaps Michael Vick isn’t aware that courage is not being so vacuous as to believe it was acceptable to breed and arrange for dogs to fight to the death, to allow equally malevolent "fans" to bet on the matches, and by the cruelest means possible to kill dogs who didn’t perform as well as he thought they should. Going to prison for 18 months, losing two seasons of multimillion dollar income, having to work out to get into fighting condition, and then earning about $1.6 in his first year back into the NFL, with a second year option for about $5 million, isn’t courage.
In case Michael Vick doesn’t know what courage is, here are just a few examples. There are thousands of others.
Courage is the soldier who is on 100 percent disability from combat wounds who is now working almost every hour of every day with physical therapists, social workers, and other medical personnel to try to regain even the most remote possibility of being able to walk again.
Courage is the firefighters who risk their lives to rescue people and their pets from burning buildings.
Courage is law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line to serve and protect the people.
Courage is the "whistle blower" who risks a job and family stability to point out greed and corruption within a business, educational institution, or governmental agency.
Courage is the lone dissenter who fights for social and economic justice in a society that is determined to continue the "me generation."
Courage is the recent graduate who delays entry into the job market, the mid-career executive who gives up the fast track, or the senior citizen who decides there is more to life than retirement, and volunteers for AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or any of hundreds of non-profit organizations that have taken on the burden of helping those who society has made invisible.
Courage is the parents who work two low-income service jobs, support their families, and still donate time and money to charities that help those less fortunate than they.
Courage is the family who last year had a home and job, and this year has neither but survives day to day.
Courage is the animal rights advocates who risk their lives to fight against governments that allow the killing of whales, bears, seals, wolves, and hundreds of other animals; and to humane society staff and innumerable volunteers who rescue abandoned and abused animals, and who work with them to try to give them a better life.
But most important, courage is all the people who know no matter what obstacles they overcome today, tomorrow will present the same challenges, and that they will never have any hope to be a millionaire or to receive an award for surviving against tremendous odds.
In his comments after being notified of the award, Michael Vick proved himself to be an unworthy spokesman for anything or anyone other than himself.
Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush.
Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.