Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Going to the dogs

It's been a good week for canines. Michael Vick plead guilty to some pretty sickening charges related to dogfighting. He faces up to five years in prison where, presumably, he won't be able to murder any more animals. If nothing else, the case raised the spotlight on a savage 'sport.' And money too. Nearly two dozen Michael Vick football cards that were drooled on and chewed up by two Missouri dogs sold on eBay for $7400, with the proceeds apparently going to the Humane Society. The success of that auction inspired others to do the same.

Leona Helmsley's dog fared even better. The recently deceased Queen of Mean left $12 million to her white maltese, appropriately named Trouble. The figure is $12 million more than two of Helmsley's grandchildren were left.

Vick's case was pretty nauseating. According to the statement of facts he signed, he agreed to the killing dogs "by various methods, including hanging and drowning.”

I'd talk more about the case but I just ate. Just search for Michael Vick at Google News if you really want to know more.

But the public reaction to the case interested me. There was the predictable hysteria over any such case.

Vick is one of the top players in the country's most popular sport so this was always going to be a big story. But media outlets have been giving ridiculous amounts of coverage to this story.

ESPN was the worst offender because when it comes to grotesquely overhyping a sports-related story, good or bad, ESPN is always the worst offender. It's why SportsCenter and the network's talk shows have become unwatchable. The Vick story should've been covered, but ESPN's saturation bombing was and remains beyond the pale.

On the other hand, you have the folks going on about how Vick is a nice innocent boy* who just made a little mistake and that the media is picking on him because he's black. Any time a black athlete is accused of doing something bad, there is a segment of the population that inevitably downplays the act and denounces the media coverage as racist.

(*-like his younger brother Marcus, who was arrested for pulling a gun on three teenagers during an altercation in a restaurant parking lot and has had more than his fair share of legal problems.)

Contrast this to the treatment of the Duke lacrosse players. These were white athletes accused of doing something bad. They were presumed guilty in the media and many quarters of society simply because they were white and their alleged victim was black. There was a rush to condemn these college students. Though not guilty (I won't call them innocent because while their behavior wasn't criminal, it wasn't particularly admirable), the Duke lacrosse players had their reputations dragged through the mud and the Duke coach was forced to quit. Even though the prosecutor has admitted misconduct in the case, the genie can't be put back into the bottle. Were the lacrosse players racist? Or was presumption of guilt simply because they were white and the alleged victim black a racist assumption?

The other big difference is that the Duke lacrosse players mistake was a (stupid, if not criminal) misjudgement on a single night. Vick's engaged in a persistent pattern of criminal (and disgusting) conduct over a prolonged period of time. But among those who demand Vick be treated with kid gloves by the NFL and the media are many of the same folks who wanted the Duke students be tarred and feathered.

Some are quick to use a racially charged word 'lynching' in reference to the media's treatment of Vick. But let's have a little intellectual honesty here. All you need to do is look at the facts of the case as Vick himself admits to realize that Vick is not the lynchee but the lyncher.

It's also worth remembering that among those who are demanding the NFL let Michael Vick return when his prison sentence is up are many of the same folks who demanded that yap show host Don Imus be fired for uttering one stupid phrase. In some people's eyes, saying 'nappy head ho' worse than lynching a half dozen dogs.

Let's a little sense of proportion here.

That said, Vick did make a public apology after his plea. Not everyone was impressed by it, including this NBC sports columnist and this fellow from The National Post.

I watched a little bit of his apology on TV and it seemed sincere. I'm not naive. He might be a good actor. He probably has a good lawyer and a PR man advising him. In such cases, I always wonder if he's sorry for what he did or sorry that he got caught.

I wasn't impressed by the fact that he acted like his misdeeds were the result of a single moment of madness, rather than a consistent pattern of behavior. But I did notice favorably that he appeared to making his apology without notes. I also recognize that for some people, it's hard to come across as sincere in front of cameras, even if you really are, and that too much self-flagellation in an apology can be counterproductive.

At the end of the day, it's moot. If he's honest with himself, recognizes the twisted mentality that led to his actions and uses the prison time to try to make himself a better person, then it doesn't matter what I or anyone else thinks of his apology.

Whether sincere or for PR, at least Vick had the guts to hold his hand up, say I screwed up and apologize. Contrast that with the weasel behavior of Republican Sen. Larry Craig.

The US senator from Idaho was caught with his pants down, literally, in a Minnesota airport. In June, Craig was arrested in a Minneapolis airport men’s room by an undercover officer who said Craig was sending signals that he wanted to have sex.

Most damningly, Craig plead guilty to charges of disorderly conduct.

He says that he shouldn't have pled guilty, that his actions were misconstrued and that he only did so to try to keep the matter quiet.

Because admitting something that will become part of the public record is a great way to hush up a story.

While Vick accepted responsibility and blamed himself, Craig blamed everyone else.

It probably didn't help that Craig began his newsconference clumisly. "Thank you all very much for coming out today" probably isn't the best phrase to begin a statement denying rumors that you're gay.

The main target of the senator's vitriol was, surprise surprise, the media. He sniffed that he and his family "had been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman" newspaper.

In fact, he offered a novel defense for his activity: 'The newspaper made me do it!'

He said, "Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, the Statesman has engaged in this witch hunt. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman's investigation and the rumors it has fueled around Idaho..." rumors that Craig is gay. The senator has angrily denied that he was gay, though one wonders if that doesn't preclude him from being bisexual.

The Statesman heaped scorn on Craig's blatherings, pointing out that the clouds surrounding him are entirely of his own making.

Craig has come under attack from liberals and conservatives alike.

Conservatives are attacking him because of his now presumed non-heterosexuality, certain to enrage theocrats. Some of his GOP colleagues have called for his resignation because both his guilty plea and his presumed non-heterosexuality makes him a political liability. And let's face it, I don't care about his orientation but sex in the public toilet stall is a pretty tawdry thing. But it's too bad he wasn't involved in corruption or fraud. Then conservatives might've given him a break.

Liberals are attacking him not about whatever his sexual orientation might be but for being yet another conservative hypocrite. Craig voted for the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defined marriage in federal law as being only between a man and a woman.

According to Craig, allowing two men to have their loving, committed relationship recognized by the federal law is an abomination but receiving (or giving) fellatio in an airport toilet stall is perfectly dignified.

Gay rights groups laughed at the senator's statements. Sen. Larry Craig’s “I’m not gay” declaration met with disdain today from gay activists, many of whom knew for nearly a year — long before his recent arrest — of allegations that the conservative Idaho Republican solicited sex from men in public bathrooms.

On CNN last night, syndicated columnist Dan Savage noted the irony that cruising bathrooms for gay sex is now an activity primarily perpetrated not by openly gay men but by men who are publicly straight.

Savage is in a committed, long-term relationship with a male partner and, I believe, a son. Precisely the sort of decent, clean relationship to which Cruiser Craig would deny legitimacy.

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

At another blog, someone was attacking making light of Craig's situation, because what is wrong with consentual sex in a bathroom? The answer is that Craig is the one who made the attack against it.

At Sonia's blog, someone was comparing Vick's killing dogs, to fetuses killed in that local area.