- The Washington Times
Saturday, August 15, 2009

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was upset last year because Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino said one of his favorite foods is Spam.

This Michael Vick thing is going to be interesting.

Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and Friday morning was introduced at a news conference, sending the city of brotherly bashing into a frenzy of confusion. Fans don’t know if they love it or hate it, based on the pulse of sports-talk radio in that passionate town.

It’s a tough spot for Philly fans.

When they love, they embrace like no other city in America. But when they hate, their bile can be as distasteful as the details of Vick’s methods for disposing of dogs that lose fights.

Right now, they are conflicted. That will pass if Vick helps the Eagles win. There won’t be any conflicted emotions then.

“Hide your dogs,” the headline on the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News declared.

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie has two dogs - the team’s media guide lists the owner’s favorite breeds - a Bernese mountain dog and a wheaten terrier.

You’ve got to put your money on the Bernese mountain dog in that match.

The news of Vick’s deal was a welcome distraction from the dog of a game between the Ravens and Redskins on Thursday, which I think ended in a 23-0 Washington defeat. That’s what they tell me, at any rate - at that point, I wasn’t quite paying attention.

At that point, I was wondering how the heck Redskins defensive boss Greg Blache is going to deal with an offense that might include Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Vick on the field at the same time.

The Redskins play the Eagles on Oct. 26 at FedEx Field - a Monday night game that could be Vick’s second with Philadelphia. (Vick could be reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier, though.)

Vick couldn’t have picked a tougher town than Philadelphia for his comeback given the intense passion and media scrutiny that comes with that city’s turf. The city might pose even greater problems for one group - animal rights advocates - than it does for Vick.

If they are smart, protesters will stay away from Eagles games in Philadelphia. Fans there won’t think twice about pummeling them. I’m not kidding. Fans get accosted at Phillies games for wearing jerseys of opposing teams.

Vick said all the right things at the news conference and made one particularly important point: People deserve a second chance, but there is no more room for error.

Error for Vick does not mean getting caught in another dogfighting ring. Error could mean anything from being stopped driving 100 mph to being caught with drunken friends in a nightclub brawl.

His life must go from gangster to monk. Prison forces some people to make that change. Many don’t.

Lurie told reporters, “There’s no third chances, and we know that.”

It was interesting to watch the two men who spoke about Vick on Friday: Eagles coach Andy Reid and former Colts coach and Vick adviser Tony Dungy.

Both spoke about young men and character and choices - deeply personal subjects for each.

Dungy’s son James committed suicide nearly four years ago. Two of Reid’s sons fell deep into drug addiction and criminal activity that landed them in trouble. One of them, Garrett, recently was sent to prison for violating probation.

Reid and Dungy have a stake in Vick that goes beyond the success or failure of a football player. So do the innocent people who depend on Vick - his three children and other family members. And so do all the ex-cons coming out of prison looking for a real second chance to change their lives. Vick’s plight calls attention to all of them.

Reid said he believes that while there will be some protest, most people will be rooting for Vick to succeed. I believe he is right. I’m rooting for him.

But he is a long shot in a fight that many before him have lost.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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