I was appalled by Zirin’s attempt to shift focus away from Vick to “the self-righteousness of the media” and the hypocrisy of “American culture” which “celebrates violent sports — especially football — and is insensitive to the consequences that the weekly scrum has on the bodies and minds of its players” like Earl Campbell and Andre Waters and other middle-aged ex-footballers who suffered long-term damage from old injuries. Like the accusations of racism, this sounds like a rather desperate bid to change the subject. Why should one concern displace the other? Can’t one both feel revulsion at animal torture and want the game to be safer? At least the the players were volunteers, richly rewarded for the risks they took. Nobody asked the dogs if they wanted to have their throats ripped out….
As human beings go, Michael Vick had more freedom of action than most. Nobody claims he electrocuted dogs to put food on the table. If — note I said if — he’s found guilty, he should get the same sentence other people get who are convicted of the same crimes. Increased sensitivity to animal welfare may have its annoying pieties and hypocrisies but it marks a true contemporary moral advance and it’s not as if we humans have so many of those to show for ourselves. It’s good that dog fighting is banned. And if football is really as morally destructive as Zirin claims — if it really turns ordinary men into sadists through a culture of “trickle-down violence” — then maybe we should ban it too.
And yes, I would already like to apologize for that headline.