"People are going to start looking at me saying, 'That's just stupidity. That's stupid.'" -- Michael Vick, April 29, 2007
I have a cousin who made a bet with me a few years ago.
The bet was this: "I'll bet you [an undisclosed amount] that Kobe Bryant doesn't go to jail."
Haraz N. Ghanbari-Pool/Getty Images
Fighting dogs is wrong. Risking everything you've ever worked for to fight dogs is just plain stupid.
My cousin laughed. I didn't. "He should be locked up for even putting himself in that position. That was stupid."
So here we are again: The stage of stupidity.
The guilty plea, the guilt-ridden public statement, the acceptance of apology by Arthur Blank, the future sentencing of Michael Vick all only tell part of the story. They tell that Michael Vick is really two different people, they tell that he can be very calculating and deceiving and might not be the person we all thought that he was, they tell that he lied to a lot of people, they tell that possible years in the federal pen and his time away from the NFL might give him the time needed to "rethink" his life.
What will remain invisible will be the truths that go undisturbed in so many cases like this, particularly in this disturbing exodus of man and dog. Not his involvement in an illegal activity and the "cruelty" that he was involved in and what that says about him as a human being. Not the fact that we should all read into why the people he associated with turned on him so quickly and what that says about Michael Vick -- not them -- as a person. (Think: If friendship is the great judge of someone's character, what does it say about Vick's character that his friends did what they did, while "a friend" is in jail to protect Barry Bonds?) No, what will remain unseen and unsaid in the Vick saga is something different, the one thing he said would be the conclusion we'd all jump to if what was being said about him was true: the stupidity.
What I'm saying is that it has reached the point where cats -- guilty or innocent -- need to start getting locked up for doing dumb-ass stuff. The things that are so avoidable that it looks like they went out of their way to get caught; things that in the process of being done make us all think that if we saw them on the streets we'd say, "Dude, at any point did you ever think, 'Maybe this ain't worth it?'" or "Brah, what in the hell were you thinking are you really that stupid?"
Win $30,000 in a dog fight, lose a $130 million contract. $30K minus $130M = stupid.
And anyway you break this entire Vick episode down, whether you think he was contrite or embarrassed, upset or shook at the podium during his public apology, whether you think he's been persecuted instead of prosecuted, the "stupid factor" is the end-all-be-all paradigm as the cause of it.
But Vick is not alone. Far from it. If there were a Rikers Island for the dumb things people in sports have done just in the past few years (not necessarily the illegal or corrupt or wrong things), each one of them/us would serve less time than Paris Hilton because the facilities would be too overcrowded.
Ricky Williams: chose weed over football. He'd be in there. Jayson Williams: in an attempt to cover up his accidental shooting of Gus Christofi, telling the cops the man committed suicide with a shotgun. Floyd Landis: the "Jack Daniels in my system" excuse alone. He'd be there, too. Adam Jones: being seen at a strip club after he was allegedly involved at a shooting at a strip club. He might be greeting people at the entrance.
Cell mates: Mike Tyson, Terrell Owens, Rick Tocchet, Tank Johnson, Ron Artest and John Daly.
It's the stupidity of getting caught and caught up. The stupidity that professional athletes, superstars, entertainers and politicians seem to be making the rule as opposed to the exception. The stupidity that makes us not even consider if what they did was worth the risk because from the beginning we all know that it wasn't. Wasn't even close.
The stupidity of Vick is what is at the center of this. Vick was the one in this that had something substantial to lose. All of his boys, his fam, his crew, the ones who flipped on him and were about to flip harder if Vick hadn't decided to cop that plea, had nothing close to what Vick had established. Vick's position from the minute he signed that new contract in 2004 (maybe before that, but I'm giving fam the benefit of some doubt), should have been, "I gotta step. But I'm sitting on about $200 million right now, and fighting dogs illegally on the side ain't worth me losing this grip."
But just like sense ain't common, wisdom ain't conventional.
Not that we expect all athletes to be angels, heroes, role models or "smarter than the average Joe, Jim or Jamal," but we do -- when broken down to the lowest common demon -- expect them to not do things that Peter Griffin wouldn't even do. We expect them to be smarter than your average Family Guy.
Vick once said in an interview, "It's all about judgments. Making good decisions, good judgments." Probably the smartest thing he's ever said, the best advice he never followed. The problem with this whole culture of stupidity is that even with everything that's about to go down with Michael Vick, there will be another Michael Vick next year.
And the year after that and the year after that and another year after that. Just keep counting.
"Stupid is as stupid does" are the words of one of last century's great philosophers. Damned if sports hasn't proved that exact theory lately. Vick pleaded guilty to committing acts that were wrong. But his risking a $130 million contract was just plain stupid.
I talked to my cousin the other day. We talked about Vick. In the conversation, he made a great point. He said. " 'Member, cuz, in the end we won't be judged by our friends, we'll be judged by our enemies."
And in a world where people like Michael Vick will have more enemies than friends, a smart brotha can't afford to be a victim of his own circumstance.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Scoop here.