Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Covering Vick

We'll be following the Michael Vick-dogfighting situation closely throughout (here's the Fanhouse with the latest). We'll also be following media reaction to the Vick story. So far, there have been three main reactions we've seen which, conveniently enough, show up in three different NFL writers for Sports Illustrated.

1. Vick is an entitled, reckless troublemaker: this dogfighting scandal is just the biggest mistake that shows the deeper problems of Vick's character.

This is the angle suggested in Don Banks' big story on Vick:

"The portrait of Vick that sources painted was of a "rock star'' athlete who believes the rules don't apply to him and who seems to have little awareness of how his actions and lack of judgment reflect so poorly on the franchise that has made him its public face and paid him millions of dollars in the process."

In the Banks story, it's not that dog fighting is a heinous crime: it's that Vick makes poor decisions and has no accountability. This is partly to blame on Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons, partly to blame on Vick's choice of friends, and of course partly to blame on Vick. But the story isn't the dog fighting, but what the dog fighting may reveal about Vick's character and his flaws as a franchise QB.

2. Will Commissioner Roger Goodell suspend Vick, and how will this affect the Falcons?

This is the angle Peter King takes in this week's MMQB. King includes a quote by Vick as one of his quotes of the week (about the lecture he got from Arthur Blank), and King mentions that Vick is denying the story to the Falcon organization (so the story is how Vick and the organization are responding). And King adds:

"I also hear the Falcons have a legitimate fear that even if a scintilla of this story is true, that the commissioner will suspend him a game or four this fall. As would I."

Right now, the mainstream reaction isn't "Are we ready for Joey Harrington?" Not yet. Right now it's still "this could lead to suspension. The story isn't about Vick's character and it's not about Vick's dog fighting; the story is about how Vick will respond, how the organization will respond, what consequences Vick may face, and whether this story could end up affecting the Falcons on the field.

3. Dog fighting is a torturous, heinous act.

And here we come to the Dr. Z's mailbag. Dr. Z does mention that Vick may be suspended if it is proven he's involved, and goes on:

"Personally I feel that there is something sacred about animals, and something decidedly evil about people who take pleasure in killing and torturing them. "

Dr. Z goes on to provide a lengthy quote about respecting animals.

Reporters and columnists are much more comfortable with responses #1 and #2. Sportswriters are frequently speculating on and criticizing the character of the athletes they cover, and they are very comfortable predicting and speculating on how teams and leagues and players will act. Not so many journalists, I think, have been as comfortable with #3. Sportswriters frequently moralize (especially King), but they also often (attempt to) act as objective reporters. They don't seem quite so comfortable condemning the actual behavior as reprehensible. At SI, Don Banks reports and speculates on Vick's character. Peter King provides some inside information on communication between Vick and the Falcons, and speculates on what the league will do in response. But the always unpredictable Dr. Z talks about "decidedly evil" behavior.

We'll continue to see how mainstream reporters and columnists respond to the story.

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