Friday, July 20, 2007

Tricky Vick is not a crook ... yet

So Roger Goodell has apparently decided not to suspend Michael Vick for a felony indictment, meaning Falcons fans can relax, and Colts fans can rest assured that Peyton Manning won't miss any time if his inability to recite the alphabet either backward or forward gets him a bogus DUI charge at a roadblock.

First offenses won't hurt you until you're convicted, even if you're charged with spiking dogs like they were footballs. The only way Vick could have gotten into immediate trouble with the league for that is if he scored a touchdown, was handed a dog by one of his associates standing on the end zone, and then spiked it. That would merit a 15-yard penalty and a stiff fine for excessive celebration.

The acceptance of accused felons by a sports league is nothing new. Some are, in fact, embraced and beloved, even after their convictions. No case is more notorious than that of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who pleaded guilty in 1974 to making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign.

In 1989 Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner (Can we revoke this needless Oval Office privilege, please?), and why not? People who attempt to undermine presidential elections, the most high-profile function of the democracy, ought to be free to own baseball teams and swaddle themselves in the flag while everyone stops in the middle of the seventh inning to sing "God Bless America."

Certainly, even before the pardon, the crime never affected Steinbrenner's freedom to own a baseball team, at least until he was banned for life in 1990 by baseball commissioner Fay Vincent for hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on outfielder/punching bag Dave Winfield. Vincent, who apparently believes in reincarnation or was suffering from a case of temporary Alzheimer's Disease, determined that The Boss was fit to be reinstated in 1993, and since then no team has won more World Series than the one owned by the man who tried to rig a presidential election. God Bless America, indeed.

So while Falcons owner GM Rich McKay and coach Bobby Petrino need not worry about finding a new quarterback, they should perhaps be wary of anyone in the field of '08 hopefuls who, like Richard Nixon, fashions themselves a football genius capable of calling a few slant passes at opportune times.

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