Thursday, August 27, 2009

An American Redemption Story: Michael Vick

Michael Vick (en), of the Atlanta Falcons (en)...Image via Wikipedia
About seven months ago (1/27/09) I blogged about Michael Vick who was once again being maligned for his participation in a vicious dog fighting ring. The Vick case struck me as especially interesting in two ways: the sometimes over-the-top rhetoric used to describe his actions (many animal rights' activists and sports fans called Vick "another Hitler" -- a bizarre equation by any rational analysis), and the way in which Vick's journey seemed to imitate what psychologist Dan McAdams calls the "redemptive myth."

According to McAdams, the most powerful life stories are narratives of personal redemption, through which people transform pain and suffering into a life designed to benefit the self and others. Listen to the strains of this redemptive story in Vick's press conference announcing his new job with (that most American of birds!) the Eagles.

At the press conference Vick is accompanied by his (Christian) spiritual advisor -- and former NFL Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy -- and quickly they mention Christian forgiveness and the importance of atoning for a "horrible mistake" and the fact that "everyone deserves a second chance." Check it out here:

Is Vick's story redemptive? Does his redemption depend on his success on the field or is it enough that he has "learned his lesson"? Is the redemptive story an especially American story?


Kevin said...

Michael Vick’s story is definitely not redemptive yet because he hasn’t done nearly enough charitable work to atone for his crime. I think that there is reason to be skeptical about his work helping the humane society because of his previous charitable venture, the Michael Vick Foundation. Before being dissolved, his foundation spent just $20,590 (12% of budget) helping poor children in the community and paid Vick’s spokesperson 97,000 (56%). However, I think that the high profile nature of Vick’s story does give himself a chance to draw attention to helping abused animals. He can certainly be a positive force for the Humane Society. If he does follow through and increase the general respect people have for animals he will become a great story of redemption.
In his football career, Vick is setting the precedent when it comes to a second chance. I believe that Vick’s performance at quarterback will influence the NFL and elsewhere in American society. It could have some bearing on whether an employer wants only the cleanest character records or is open to some flaws. At least in the short term, I think Vick’s success could help many people with a blemish on their resume start their own redemption story.

Miles said...

I think it's honestly too early to decide on whether his story is redemptive or not. I think you should separate his football redemption from that of his outside life redemption. His restitution on the field will be easier to determine sooner than off the field. Clearly if he wants to "redeem" himself off the field he will have to be out and about, working with the city of Philadelphia. For me it's enough that he did his time, and I'm a dog owner, but for many citizens of America, it's quite the opposite.
When we talked about the "redemptive arc" last year, many of the stories we cited were those of Americans. For example we talked about George Bush, our last president. He was a son in a rich Texan family and a graduate of Yale, but then he hit the bottle, hard, and had one of the worst low points any man can have in his life. Yet this same man eventually went on to own the Texas Rangers baseball club and be President of the most powerful nation in the world. How about Micky Rourke, previous drug addict, now a newly Oscar nominated actor. The list goes on, but that's for the students of An American Studies to uncover.
So, to answer your question, no, it's not only an American story, but it's a predominantly American story.

Morgan L said...

I agree that it is too early to tell. You can't know if it is redemptive unless he does something, and he hasn't had much time to do that yet. To decide whether his redemption depends on his success on the field, one can look at a regular prisoner who served time for a crime. If they come out of prison and do a good job and work and stay out of trouble can you say that his story is redemptive? Vick's job is to play football, he did his time and now he's going back to do his job. So if one believes the regular prisoners story is redemptive, than shouldn't they also believe Vick's is. If he can have success on the field than he is doing his job. Same as the regular prisoner.

Katie O said...

I don't think what he has done so far is redemptive. All he has done is things that will help himself such as make a video saying sorry to his fans. This is only for his sake because he needs people to like him for him to regain his career and to make money in ads and for people to feel like he has learned his lessons. Also, he has made a come back on the feild but this is also another thing that helps him and his career. Once he does something that isn't all for his own reputation, then i think we could call it a redemtion.

Matt H said...

Michael Vick, in my opinion, will never have a complete redemption story to tell. When a crime involves violence, as we can see with the OJ trials and Maurice Clarett (you know, the old Ohio State running back), you are scarred for life with the public. They hate you. What I am trying to argue, if you haven't figured it out already, is that redemptive stories, in particular the complete redemption ARC, is only open to the select who qualify.
Look at a guy like Josh Hamilton who was addicted to haroine, meth, and alcohol at the same time. He was built for a redemptive story because to not only get off those drugs, but turn your life around and start playing like the All-Time player that he was supposed to be is just incomprehensible. He is the definition of the redemptive article. However, although I do not like it personally, he does give all the credit to Jesus and God for him getting off the drugs and back into baseball, two things that the American people care much about.
Back to Vick. Vick had it all. I'm not sure what it is about being on top of the world that makes people do stupid things, but it was appealing to Vick which is another reason why so many Americans are very unhappy about letting him reenter football. I am a strong believer that Vick had his chance in football and he blew it and now he, instead of putting on an Eagles jersey, should be back here, on Earth, with the rest of us watching the games on Sundays.

MMarin said...

I don't see Vick's story as very redemptive at all. His apology including a spiritual leader I find sort of dubious, somewhat like a heartstring jerk to the predominantly Christian public that may or may not want to forgive him for his abusive actions depending on how much they want him to play football. Rather than redemption, this seems more like an image adjustment, similar to those that we find for famous figures whose flaws seem to disappear once they've died. People want to spend all of their time showboating their emotions for an important person rather than criticize them, or in Vick's case, more people may want an excuse to feel good about their support of Vick if he plays well, as if his athletic prowess somehow makes him a more moral man.

There's not a whole lot you can do to make up for starting an animal-abusive gambling ring when you're already rich for being a football player. I think far more likely than Vick being sorry for harming those animals for personal gain, he probably thinks it's more of a mistake that he got caught.

That said, if Vick served his time for his actions and is now using some of the resources he has to that cause, I don't have a whole lot of complaints about him in his profession. I think he fairly well blew his chances at football, but if people are going to dress him up as a hero for being greedy, I figure there's not a lot that can be done about it once he starts playing ball.

jslovitt4 said...

I agree with majority of these posts so far. And that he did do some awful things and that if will be very hard for him to gain back the respect that people once had for him.
But my main focus is on him redeeming him self on the field. See i dont think that he has to redeem himself on the field. Mike Vick was and still is one of the most athletic players in the NFL, and he did some things on the football field that no other QB in history could do. And that more people will watch Mike Vick because of that amazing things that he can do on the field other than the people that strongly dislike him. No matter what he did off the field he is still one of the best out there. And dont get me wrong i think what he did was very wrong but i still think that a majority of people think he deserves a second chance and that they will cheer for him and continue to watch his greatness on the field.
Mike has to balance his football career and his social status. He needs to continue to work with animal rights and the humane society and continue his efforts to help.
What my main point is that he doesnt need to redeem himself on the field, and he does off the field