Yesterday came the confirmation that Michael Vick will indeed plead guilty to at least one of the charges in the Federal indictment against him. Rumors to that effect had been circulating for several days and those rumors turned out to be correct. On the assumption that he does indeed plead guilty to something in the near future, I think there are two important lessons one can derive from this matter:
1. It is never appropriate to take the statements in an indictment as absolutely and unalterably true; to do so negates the concept of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” At the same time, it is rarely appropriate to take the statements of defense attorneys on behalf of their clients as absolutely and unalterably true. Compare the statement of Vick’s legal team when he was indicted [We look forward to a trial where we can clear Michael Vick’s name and show these charges are baseless. The indictment contains mere allegations.] to the statements from the legal team now, [We’re proud that Michael has taken responsibility for his actions and he’s ready to move on with the rest of his life.] Lesson: Everyone involved in situations such as these has a motive for shading the truth; when you hear any of them speak, try to recognize what those motivations are and put the remarks in the context of those motivations.
2. Comparisons between the Michael Vick matter and the Duke Lacrosse fiasco are irrelevant. The charges in the Duke Lacrosse matter started out as a “he said/she said case” and the physical evidence never advanced the matter beyond that point. The charges in this case rested on physical evidence of dog carcasses that had been buried. Any hypothesis that the charges in this case were baseless would have to explain how those dog carcasses buried themselves. Lesson: Testimony of witnesses and charges by victims are important when corroborated by other evidence. Physical evidence stands for what it is and must be accounted for as it exists in any theory of what actually happened in a case.
All of the reporting that I heard on this matter has said that Michael Vick will probably spend some time in jail as a result of his pleading implies to me that whatever additional charges/evidence might have been in the supplemental indictment that prosecutors said they would file in the case have to be pretty awful. Note, I didn’t say they were true; I said they were awful. The idea that a pro athlete would agree to a course of action that would put him in jail during what ought to be a prime part of his career – and his earning power – is staggering unless the other likely options are even worse for him. And I’ll leave this question to the attorneys who read these essays:
Might the admission(s) in this Federal matter be used as evidence against Michael Vick in state court since dogfighting is indeed a crime in the Commonwealth of Virginia? Or might the Federal plea agreement contain some kind of immunity from state prosecution?
In any event, I believe that it is fair to say about Michael Vick at the moment that:
The former Hokie is going to the pokey.
So what are the Falcons to do with regard to their quarterback situation? They have Joey Harrington on board and they have Chris Redmond on the squad. I know that teams have made it to the Super Bowl with QBs who merely “manage the game”, but this doesn’t seem to be a team poised to succeed in that fashion. I think part of the problem the Falcons will encounter is that they do not have a strong corps of wide receivers who can make life a bit easier for whoever is their QB. One could make the argument that with Michael Vick playing QB, there wasn’t much of an incentive for a top-shelf free agent wide receiver to consider playing in Atlanta. Vick was never an accurate passer and ran the ball more than he threw it to wide receivers. Last year, the Falcons’ leading WR was Michael Jenkins with 39 catches; all of the WRs on the team caught a total of 93 passes; Vick ran the ball 123 times. So, without an incentive for WRs to sign with Atlanta, they find themselves now in a situation where they have a pedestrian crew of players at that position and a QB who does not like to run. This could be a big time problem…
However, even if Joey Harrington has a stupendously horrible season at QB for the Falcons, it would be totally out of line for anyone to imply that he was “dogging it”.
Joey Harrington was the third overall pick in the draft in the year he came out of college. A few years before that, Akili Smith was also the third overall pick in the draft. Let’s just say that if Harrington doesn’t work out for Atlanta, the team should not spend a lot of time looking for Akili Smith. At the moment, Akili Smith is the backup QB for the Calgary Stampeders; he’s thrown 25 passes this year and completed 12 of them. That’s not very good. What’s worse is that he has thrown zero touchdown passes and four interceptions. His QB rating – however the CFL calculates such a thing – is “minus 2.6” as of this morning.
Because I had missed what happened in the Steve McNair DUI case, I went looking to see if it had been resolved and what I found caused me to call a friend for some explanation. Steve McNair was arrested on DUI charges even though he was not driving the car because it was his car and the driver was drunk and McNair had given him the keys. That amounts to something called “DUI by consent” and that is a very confusing concept to me. Obviously, if McNair’s driving buddy were so drunk that he could not lie on the floor without holding on, then McNair would be wrong to allow the driving buddy to pilot the vehicle. But if McNair felt that he was impaired and sought the driving services of another person, this charge assumes that he was in some kind of position to determine if the driving buddy was legally sober or not. Excuse me? Even police officers who make traffic stops all the time and who have been trained in these kinds of observations/determinations cannot make those judgments infallibly. So, how is an untrained individual who is self-admittedly impaired supposed to make that determination? But that’s the law where Steve McNair was arrested and indeed he pled guilty to “DUI by consent”.
I watched MNF last night even though it was an Exhibition Game. I doubt that I need to remind anyone here of the level of disdain I have for NFL Exhibition Games but I watched last night to see how the new announcing crew might work together. This year’s crew is better than last year’s crew already. I’m not ready to compare this group with the top announcing teams of all time; Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski still have a long way to go to become Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith. But I do believe that MNF will be easier to watch this year – actually easier to listen to – because Joe Theismann is out of the booth. Now, if ESPN can only stifle its innate need to promote anything and everything in the “World of Disney” and keep the C-List celebrities out of the booth for most of the second quarter of the games …
Finally, a note from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“An 81-year old woman pleaded guilty of trying to extort $2 million from former Packers quarterback Bart Starr by threatening to reveal their mid-1950s affair. The woman could have saved herself the possible jail time by understanding that nobody on Earth cares what Bart Starr did 50 years ago.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…