Like Vick, Jackson was a man with country origins, laid low by a Commissioner who was trying to "send a message." In the Jackson case, however, the hysteria was far more intense, a conspiracy to "fix" the 1919 World Series. Jackson actually hit .373 during the series, but he made some crucial errors, and admitted taking $5,000 from gamblers as part of the conspiracy.
Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis was brought in as Commissioner of Baseball to deal with the mess. The way he dealt with it was to throw Jackson, and the other "Black Sox" out of baseball for life. Without the conspiracy, Jackson was a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. At the height of the furor a kid reportedly begged the outfielder, "say it ain’t so, Joe." Jackson had no reply.
Vick’s case is different. There is no doubt of his guilt. CNN resident legal idiot Jeffrey Toobin said today that "lots of athletes have come back from wife-beating charges," and this is just dogs, but no athlete ever abused a wife as Michael Vick did his dogs, and the breed in general.
Still, Vick was a hero to many. As an Atlantan, I admired him, and
wanted to like him. But just as Joe Jackson had a demon in his soul, a
need for money, to get back at the Sox’ filthy, stinking, no-account
owner, Charles Comiskey, so Michael Vick had a demon, the adrenaline
rush felt when two well-trained athletes go head-to-head in a
life-or-death struggle. He was an adrenaline junkie. He wanted the
Unfortunately his crime came to light just as a new sheriff was
coming to town in the NFL. Where Landis felt a solemn duty to rid
baseball of gambling, so new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to
guarantee that the people who kill one another for our amusement are,
nevertheless, men of impeccable character.
It’s a quixotic quest, much as Landis’ was (Pete Rose proved that).
But it’s a popular quest. Goodell had already come down hard on Adam
"Pacman" Jones for being a thug, even though he hadn’t yet been
convicted of committing a crime. Now he’s going to get a full report
from a federal judge who will have sentenced Vick to, probably, at
least 18 months in jail (with 9 to serve) on a felony rap.
To his credit, Vick yesterday seemed to get a glimmer of what he was
in for, and now pleads for mercy. My guess is Goodell will give him no
more mercy than Vick gave his dogs. Vick will spend his time in jail
and then become a wanderer, trying desperately to get another chance,
and he will be denied, like Jackson, at every turn.
Of course, Vick will also become a legend. He will become an anti-hero, as Jackson was. Maybe someone will make a great movie about him some day. But he’ll be long-dead by then.
Jackson survived for 30 years after his banishment. I give Vick
five. Say it ain’t so, Shoeful Mike. But it is so. And so farewell.