After serving time in federal prison for dog fighting, quarterback Michael Vick gets a second chance to start for the Philadelphia Eagles. Currently topping the list for pro-sports’ most-hated athlete, fans and critics are still curious to see whether Vick still has his QB mojo.
Vick has a lot to prove, with his last starting game back on Dec. 31, 2006. Last week, Vick came close to a win against the Super Bowl-contending Green Bay Packers after starting quarterback Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion. Vick held his own, completing 16 of his 24 passes for 175 yards with a touchdown, and 103 yards on 11 carries.
Michael Vick isn’t the only pro to be offered another shot. Here’s a brief glance at three other pros granted a shot at redemption, and how well each fared.
The Cincinnati Bengals
Okay, it’s more than one, but it’s hard to ignore how the Bengals have become the punch line to so many jokes. It started in 2006-2007, when 10 team members were arrested. Bengals owner Mike Brown was criticized for his team’s criminal record; Brown turned this valuable lesson into a shopportunity.
Now, instead of signing potential problems at a premium, Brown bargain-shops for troublemakers after no one else wants the risk. Players include Adam “Pacman” (or shall I say “Rain Man”) Jones, Matt Jones, Cedric Benson, Rey Maualuga, and Tank Johnson. So far it seems to be working for the Bengals.
Three strikes… you’re in? For the Dodgers’ last 1994 exhibition game, Darryl Strawberry was a no-show. When found the next day, he packed a bag for Betty Ford. The Dodgers told him to keep packing. (Puma 2007)
In 1999, he was arrested for possession and sentenced to probation and 120-day suspension. A parole violation in 2000 earned him another stint in rehab. Did he learn from this? Nope. Failure to abide by the program’s rules earned him 18 months in a Florida prison. And this is the short, short version.
But that’s not all. Strawberry was back with the Yankees in 2003 as an instructor during spring training. What, I wonder, was he instructing? Not much; he quit after a mere three months.
Arrested in May of 2005, drug addiction diminished Hamilton’s pro hopes. In June 2006, he was reinstated by MLB, and the proverbial genie granted his third wish — the Cincinnati Reds picked him up in the Rule 5 draft.
When he spoke to Tim Keown for ESPN: The Magazine in 2007, Hamilton surprised fans: He wouldn’t change a thing about his long, difficult road, not even his 26 tattoos.
“I’ve been given this platform to talk about the hell I’ve been through, so it’s almost like I need to do well, like I don’t have a choice.”
Hamilton’s statement is supported by his hard work and success. Just check out his record-setting 28 runs in the 2008 Home Run Derby. Hamilton was awarded the AL RBI Leader in 2008 and chosen to play in the last three All-Star games. Now buzzing has commenced regarding his 2010 MVP-worthiness.
When it comes to whether Michael Vick can polish his tarnished reputation, performance may only be part of the answer. Can fans separate his skill as a player from his lack of judgment as a human?
While Kevin Kolb is predicted to start game three, Vick didn’t disappoint fans with a win over Detroit. According to ESPN stats, what yards he missed in rushing this week, Vick made up for in passing, while being credited with two touchdowns. With critics’ focus on questioning his passing game, Vick appears headed toward professional redemption. With his debt to society paid, the final question is whether his character is salvageable. Is he shopping for volunteer ops?
ESPN. (2010). Michael Vick Player Statistics. Retrieved Sunday, September 19, 2010, from http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=2549
Hamilton, Josh as told to Tim Keown. (2007, July 5). “I’m Proof that Hope is Never Lost”, ESPN: The Magazine [online]. Retrieved September 19, 2010, from http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2926447
Puma, Mike. (2007). Strawberry’s Story One of Unfulfilled Potential, ESPN Classic [online]. Retrieved Sunday, September 19, 2010, from http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Strawberry_Darryl.html