The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

August 20, 2007

The Lines that Blur and Grrrr

I don't know that it's worldwide news, but I bet there are few North Americans, at least, who haven't heard about this $13-million-a-year player and his transgressions in the past week.

The gentleman below, giving the 1-2 to the media or something in a file picture, is quarterback Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons, the highest-paid player in the National Football League.

In a nutshell, he agreed this week to plead guilty to charges that he operated and funded an illegal dogfighting scheme in the U.S., one in which scores of dogs were killed while fighting or killed afterwards because they failed to win.

People gambled on the outcome of these fights.

Vick is to be sentenced next week, I believe, and he's expected to receive between 12-18 months in prison, although he could face more charges. His pro football career is all but over. He's only 27.

If you need more information on the basics, just Google his name. I believe, though, that's all I need to say. There's a media circus going on about him right now and it's been almost impossible to avoid the cries of outrage.

And I believe outrage is the appropriate reaction to have. But I think a lot of history and context has been missed in all of this, and I think Vick has become a convenient lightning rod for anger that isn't all placed in the right direction.

OK, so you have the basics, if you didn't know them already. This whole thing reeks of the worst of humanity and it makes most peoples' blood boil...or it makes them cry and wonder how people can be so cruel.

There have been books written about dogfighting and the odd movie too.

But for the most part, this is one of those activities that bubble under society's surface, there but not really there, barely acknowledged, something we want to ignore.

My problem with the whole Vick thing is that everyone and their dog, pardon the expression, is screaming all this outrage about this now -- just because of who Michael Vick is and what he is, and that's the way politics and analysts and the media are.

If Joe Blow in Atlanta had been similarly raided and charged, this wouldn't be out there.

Dogfighting would be just as beyond our conscience and our morality as it had been until he was charged.

There's no context being provided, no deeper thought being given to what this is really all about.

Because right now it's all about the feeding frenzy by the justice departments, the police, the animal rights groups and the moralists coming out of the woodwork to feast on a rich, exposed celebrity who dun wrong.

As far as I can tell, dogfighting is a part of some element of American culture, the same as it and many other ugly things are a part of every culture despite their horrid, brutal, unacceptable and in many cases illegal status.

But they still exist, either because the politicians and law enforcement types haven't the resources to put a stop to them or because they know it would be impossible to do so anyway.

And in many cases those things exist for different reasons, usually economic but also based on backwards beliefs or prejudices, and they're usually allowed to exist (even though illegal) and even encouraged, in every culture, race, colour, you name it.

Do any of these things come to mind?

Ku Klux Klan



Drug smuggling

Bullfighting in Spain (this week they announced it would no longer be shown on TV in Spain because it was "too violent for children"; how can anyone condone THIS activity and consider it any different from dogfighting?)

Child porn

Sexual predators (released on bail continually, only to reoffend)

The baby seal hunt off Canada's Newfoundland coast (they club these infant animals to death for their fur, an activity not only supported by Canada but defended by Canada. How gruesome is THAT?)

Japan, Norway and other nations' killing of whales

These are only a few realities of different cultures that are either completely legal in some countries or are illegal but are not nearly as vigorously monitored or enforced by the law as they need to be or, in fact, in abstentia condoned by those governments.

And there are so many more that are part of the underbelly of every society. They exist. People do them, for whatever reasons, even though the general population would never accept them in a civil society if they had the choice.

But here we are, looking at part of the American underbelly, and this thing called dogfighting. And the reason we are is because a man named Michael Vick is involved, it's the only reason, as if it's all on him and we need to hate him.

Here are facts, people. Let's try to look beyond Vick to the issue of dogfighting itself. Let's tear ourselves, for a brief moment, away from the feeding frenzy. Vick should be a target, but not the only target.

The brief history of dogfighting is that it's believed to have started in ancient Rome as a form of entertainment. It became all the rage in England for 600 years -- reaching its apex in the 1600s -- but was outlawed in 1835 in the UK.

Like everything else, though, it migrated with the the U.S. and many other countries. One estimate now pegs the number of people involved in dogfighting in the U.S. alone at 40,000.

Dogfighting is perfectly legal and a popular "sport" in Afghanistan and many other places in the world. It was a popular pastime in Japan and is widespread and popular in several South American countries. It's illegal in Russia but widely practised.

Few places on the planet have not at one time, if not now, condoned it and supported it or done little to curb its growth and popularity.

In the American Deep South, particularly, it seems to flourish under the radar. Most states have outlawed it but some have made dogfighting or attending matches only a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

And my research leads me to wonder how often police and other enforcement agencies pay much attention to it and provide many resources to ensure it doesn't happen or that offenders are caught and punished.

At least, until a perpetrator of Michael Vick's stature shows up. Then they're all over it and it's time to show the world just how the justice system is getting everyone, from the top of the food chain down to the bottom.



  1. If the fall from grace of a few "high-fliers" is what it takes to draw attention to atrocities, so be it.
    As you say, there are many more despicable deeds which go unpunished for lack of a profile.Give the hacks a famous name and stand back!
    It's a sad and sick reflection on the value we place on "news."

    (Any chance your paper would run this post?)

  2. Dinahmow:

    First, kudos for actually reading the entire, long-winded and unspaced, endless paras of this post.

    I don't get the new Google blogger. When I add pix, which I almost always do, I can't space out paras.

    I agree entirely with your first paragraph, that if a high-profile figure has to bite the dust for things to change, then at least things will change.

    I also agree about the sick reflection we place on the "news," but all the media is now is a reactionary reflection of the sensational (with some exceptions).

    The more disturbing thing to me is just how this kind of sh*t is hidden from view until there's no choice, it can't be any more, and then it's like everyone jumping on the bandwagon with all their expressions of shock and outrage and other politically correct bullsh*t that will get them votes or strokes or more money from the public.

    I would never offer anything on this blog to my paper. In fact, they'd likely give me 40 lashes.


  3. Such is the state of our world that it takes a celebrity getting busted for people to take notice.

    I can't stand seeing animals in pain -- the idea that humans violate the trust that animals like dogs put in us.

  4. The dog evolved from wolves who took advantage of dining on our ancestors garbage. Eventually a symbiotic relationship developed and the dogs became sentries, playmates and hunting partners.

    We are surprisingly similar creatures. We are both intensely social beings who thrive on knowing their place in society and rely on others for protection, acquiring food and territory.

    Now that Sports has lost it's special place in our society and become just another form of entertainment, our former heroes have been demystified. Celebrity Athletes are no longer above reproach and their value is simply gauged by their income.

    Michael Vick was at the pinnacle of the Sporting world but he was unaware that the rules have changed. I can just picture him swaggering around all of the other macho assholes as dogs tore each other apart. You can imagine how he threw his money around and showed off as these lowlifes gambled on the 'fight'.

    An equitable punishment would probably be to throw him into a gladiator ring to fight with vicious psychopaths but then we would become what he is...

    so we will have to be satisfied that he will lose all of his status, opportunity, and future income. He has become a pariah in the Entertainment Industry. He is now a public relations nightmare for any NFL team and there are plenty of talented young men in the pipeline...many who will no doubt learn from his mistake.

    You can say that Vick was as reckless and irresponsible with his own life as he was with those poor dogs in his kennel. For those who think that this is not as serious as harming another human being, welcome to the new reality.
    In some ways it is worse.

    Here in the Western World we have a special place in our hearts for Dogs because we are mystified by their loyalty which is all too rare of a commodity in our world.
    Goodbye Mr. Vick, and good riddance.

    On a related note, I noticed on Christiane Amanpour's special series on CNN, God's Warriors, that the militant Islamists forbid their men to shake hands with a woman or pet a dog.

  5. Absolutely horrible to say the least... What gratification could one get from watching two animals pull each other apart. How pathetic would you have to be if that was what got your motor running.

    There is some backlash about this is because he is black, which i find amusing... STupidity knows no boundries, he should be punished the same way that anyone who did something this horendous should be punished.... Will fame penalise him further, i would hope not, how ever the courts seem to be cracking down on celebrity...Not quite sure what to make of it all.... Trying to make a rational decision faced with such monstrous images, is very difficult.


  6. I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said. I agree that we need to pay closer attention to the injustices of the world, but I guess people just have their own priorities and those priorities don't involve fighting injustices. I don't know how to help change that. Any suggestions?

  7. Menchie:

    Sadly, I think you're right on both counts. The trust they put in us is the big thing. And we trample all over them (some of us).


    Sports is quickly becoming just another thing that should be put on Entertainment Tonight, isn't it?

    Still, I think too much of the focus here is on Vick and not enough is on the culture that allows this or is such that stuff like this can happen.

    A whole bunch of things I didn't mention are part of the mentality, it seems to me...

    Like hunting (U.S. hunters pay big bucks to come up here and shoot big game that are penned in and impossible not to find).

    Like the U.S. gun laws. Like ultimate fighting and pro wrestling and other super-aggressive forms of entertainment.

    Like horror movies and blood and gore. Like the Jerry Springer Show. It's all related.

    Societies, it appears, like and need to see blood. This is just another form of it.


    He is black, and there have been rumblings that this is a black/white thing, but I don't see it as that.

    It's probably very convenient for the American justice system that he IS black, because the large perception will then be that this is mostly a black activity, which would fit America's expectations (in general) and be less shocking, even if it isn't true, which I don't believe it is.


    Well I don't know, really. That's just the all appears to rest on peoples' priorities.

    What about OUR priorities as a public? They call this democracy, the power of the people and all that.

    And the pie-in-the-sky concept is that government in a democracy is supposed to represent the majority.

    Certainly the majority must be alienated by this kind of stuff happening in our midst.

    If that's true, then how is it that it's allowed to continue?

  8. do you think boxing is a sport?

  9. Ziggi:

    You always ask the tough questions, and with such brevity!

    I think boxing, properly officiated and in its purest form, IS a sport.

    There's no doubt boxing and dogfighting have some parallels, definitely -- they're both about aggression and strength and blood.

    Olympic boxing is the ultimate. It's there where boxers are forced to wear the most protective headgear. And the point-scoring system awards skill more than power.

    The pro boxing game is all about knockouts and head blows -- at least those are the things that get fans' attention -- while Olympic scoring awards points for any type of blow and for defensive skill.

    But the biggest thing is that boxers are human beings and they can and do make the decision to train at an elite level to do what they do. They're the ones who decide to get in the ring.

    Dogs don't.

    Good question, and it requires reflection. Some of our so-called sports are little more than beastly, but that's partly who we are, I think.

  10. Phew! What a doggy post!

    I finally posted that book review I told you about.

    tuesdays with Morrie

    Feel free to read or not..whatever!!

    PS: sometimes I am kind of too direct. Hope I don't offend you. I wouldn't like to do that.

  11. Gautami:

    Yes, it's definitely doggy...

    I read your review of Tuesday's with Morrie and left a comment. Thanks for telling me about it.

    You are sometimes a bit "direct" in "directing" me to your blog, Gautami, but I'm never offended.

    I guess I'll visit when I want to visit.

    I haven't been getting around to a lot of blogs lately, and that's for a number of reasons.

    My lack of visiting isn't intended to offend you either. :-)

  12. My comment was not about not visiting me. It does not matter at all. I still visit you, don't I?

    I meant it otherwise.

    Well, never mind.

    Am I talking in cicles?


  13. *circles.

    Why do I always misspell on your blog?


  14. Gautami:

    Sorry, obviously I thought that's what you were referring to. Yes, you visit me. And I also visit you.

    Talking in cicles (or circles) is OK with me :-)

  15. Aho Wounded Knee, I read your post about the ant+elephants, the 'let's talk about ... socks', the knee injury and repair, and I can't think of something to say, but I sure enjoyed reading them !!

  16. I haven't done much research but I have done some and I can find no professional or amateur boxer that didn't start the 'sport' as a child.
    Do you believe they made that decision to train without influence or d'you think maybe they were 'encouraged' by their parents? Not much free choice there methinks.

  17. Ziggi:

    OK, put up your dukes!

    More good issues to discuss. I think a lot of these boxers grow up with the "sport" and a lot of them are from poor families.

    They show a little bit of a hankering for it and some talent and they're ingratiated into it, often by their parents, I think, as you said.

    I never took formal boxing training as a kid but I was small for my age and got picked on.

    So I had to fight, and I became quite good at it, although it wasn't something I wanted to do.

    It IS an activity that's largely about testosterone levels and aggression and assertion, even though now you see women doing it.

    I tried to get my son into tae kwon do, which I DID take for a couple of years, but that didn't work.

    It's right to question whether boxing is a "sport." But it's also right to question weightlifting, rugby, all forms of football, Olympic wrestling and "sports" too.

    I think we have this need to let out our aggression and the population, at least a large portion, does seem to demand that they be able to see it.

  18. The anger is not really about Michael Vick as it is about animal abuse. And that is appropriate. He just happened to choose a hobby that most of the entire world seems to find evil and despicable.

    If there is anything good about the Michael Vick story, it is that there is an emerging increased awareness about animal cruelty and animal fighting. There is so much anger about this issue. If we channel it into a positive direction, hopefully, something good can come of it. However...

    I watched Vick's public apology with my little son who USED TO wear Michael Vick jerseys to school. It is disturbing to think a certain percentage of the population is honestly going to be swayed by Michael Vick's "enlightenment" carefully crafted by his overpaid attorneys. Call me a cynic, but I don't believe a man who has been allegedly torturing animals since childhood coincidentally has a religious epiphany as a result of getting caught and losing his job. I hope I am wrong.

    I think it is a sad commentary that we, as a culture, are using the Vick story to compare "What's worse?" "What's worse", we ask, "carelessly fathering illegitimate children, or dogfighting?". "Dogfighting or gambling?" "Dogfighting or rape?" "Dogfighting or racism?" "Dogfighting or hateful nationalism?" "Dogfighting or (fill in the blank)....?" The comparisons to dogfighting have been endless.

    Dogfighting is one more piece of evidence our country is in need of a spiritual transformation (please note I said spiritual and not necessarily religious). Animals are sentient beings - they feel pain, and they suffer, just like we do. They are not more important, or less important than human beings, but like human beings, they are important, too.

    Dogfighting pits one dog against another until one of them dies. The survivor gets his flesh torn off, ears ripped off, eyes pulled out, etc., and the reward for being "a winner" is to writhe in pain until the next fight. Enough said. The pictures make my flesh crawl. The losers are tortured, beaten, starved, electrocuted or drowned. For what? Because these poor creatures were unlucky enough to be born a dog!

    Every major faith teaches its followers to be responsible stewards of animals and the Earth. Please help us get the word out that caring for animals, just like caring for people, is an important part of just being a decent person and citizen. If we make this a priority, there will be no more dogfighting horror stories, and no more pointless comparisons of evils. Let us all rise, together, to be better people than we are today, shall we?

    Chaplain Nancy Cronk

  19. Animal Chaplain:

    Thanks for your comments.

    OK, so I guess we agree that the act of dogfighting or other similar activities is despicable.

    But it seems there are many ways in which our opinions and beliefs differ.

    I went and briefly checked out your blog. And here are a few of my thoughts on your comments here and some other ideas.

    First, I think you missed my main point of this post. I think the furor over Vick right now IS because he's Michael Vick, not anything else.

    Yes, the fact it's him has brought everyone out of hiding to condemn dogfighting and it's brought the whole issue front and centre so groups like yours can thrive, and that's a good thing.

    But what's going to happen when Vick disappears from the scene and this isn't all over the news any more?

    Dogfighting's been around for centuries. Yes, there are laws against it, but there's laws against rape, child porn, racism and many other ugly things...yet they still exist.

    And that's where I'm saying the problem is.

    Your country continually elects right-wing governments that don't enforce the already lax laws on the books, thereby allowing this kind of thing to flourish.

    We've all known about dogfighting and other horrid activities for a long time, but if they're not in the news, they're beneath our radar and we pretend they're not there.

    Maybe groups like yours can turn the tide on public opinion and get people to march on Washington to have things changed, but I doubt it.

    There are at least equally bad things going on in the U.S., Canada and the rest of the world involving human beings.

    We can't or won't even fix those things and put a stop to them, and we're going to put a stop to dogfighting?

    I'm sorry, I don't think so. To me, it's just more of the paying of lip service to an issue that's in the public eye right now.

    But governments know that's what it's all about -- what's in the public eye at any moment -- and this will blow over like everything else that doesn't get resolved.

    And while you make a point on your blog and in this comment you've made to me to differentiate between religious and spiritual, the fact you call yourself a chaplain does reek of religion, I'm sorry.

    It seems to me that religion ALWAYS screws things up. Every dispute on the planet right now is religion-based.

    You use the words faith and things like that on your blog and you ask the point about whether animals have the same kinds of souls we do.

    I'm sorry, I don't think they do.

    I think the bottom line is people just need to look at what's going on around them and what's right and wrong. Throw the religion out and just look at what's right and wrong.

    There shouldn't be an I'm right and you're wrong based on religious beliefs.

    I commend you for taking an active role in this issue, and I agree with the basics of what you're saying, that animals should never be treated in a cruel manner like this.

    I guess I'm just saying that Michael Vick grew up thinking this was OK because society allowed him to do that.

    And THAT'S the big issue that everyone seems to be avoiding.


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