Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sunday will never be the same

Well, a new NFL season begins Thursday night with a game between the New England Patriots and the representatives of my city, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And I don’t care.

That’s right. Maybe I’ll have it on if the Pirates aren’t playing that night or if I’m not working my way through season five of “Breaking Bad,” but, unlike in past years, I won’t be waving my Terrible Towel or throwing a foam brick at the TV screen as the referees blow another call. I won’t be playing a song on YouTube that lists a bunch of Steelers who retired when I was in high school. 

The reason is simple—they signed Michael Vick.

Jamie and I have not taken this decision lightly. She has bled black and gold her whole life, and I have done so since I moved here in 2002. Following the Steelers has been a big part of our lives every fall. 

By signing Vick, the Steelers are paying millions of dollars, and, in a way, giving approval to a dog killer. We all heard the scandal when it first happened. We know about Bad Newz Kennels and Vick’s plea bargain to racketeering charges. Since he signed with the Steelers, I’ve heard many people talk about how he’s done his time. He showed promise in the preseason, so people are acting as if he’d been caught with a bag of weed. 

I think some people need to have their memories refreshed. Here is the official USDA report on Bad Newz Kennels, which shows that not only was Vick involved with the operation, but actually killed quite a few dogs. And all this to win bets that were a fraction of what he was making as an NFL player. It was clearly not the money that motivated him. He would not have been involved in dogfighting if he didn’t enjoy it. This is not someone who has been rehabilitated by a short prison sentence. 

The decision to sign Vick represents an all-time low for an organization that I had come to admire for its moral high ground. The Steelers, in the past, seemed to shun controversy and not take any crap. Remember that, just a few years ago, they traded away a Super Bowl MVP because he liked to "wake n bake."

Now this looks less like a moral high ground than a symptom of a generally twisted NFL culture. Kill people, rape women, smash dogs against the ground, it’s all OK—just as long as you’re not stoned while you do it. Perhaps the real problem is not with the Steelers, but with a league where anything goes and a sport that’s violent to begin with, and getting worse. 

I’m not sure what I’ll do once Vick is off the team, but for now, it’s hockey season once the Pirates are done.