Michael Vick is dealing with this dog fighting controversy all wrong. Stop distancing yourself from it, Mike, stop issuing all the "no comment"s, and wrap your arms around this thing. You're not saving face by hiding, you're missing a tremendous marketing opportunity.
Hire some PR people, design a snazzy NDFF (National Dog Fighting Federation) logo, get a championship belt to fit a pitbull, and get it a TV deal on NBC. Because if animal violence is televised and enjoyed with a mint julep, then it's perfectly acceptable.
I'd also recommend taking one particularly charismatic pitbull, grooming it as a noble and magnificent champion (name it something like "Marmaro," maybe), and then have it brutally mauled to death during a nationally-televised pit fight. You'd be surprised at how much people love that stuff.
If you strip away the pretty silks, the pristine race tracks, the women in their pretty hats, and the multi-million dollar TV deal ... are horse racing and dog fighting that much different? Is there no irony to be found in the fact that sports pages everywhere paint Vick as a pariah for his alleged involvement in dog fighting, while at the same time lionizing the jockey who whipped Curlin into a first-place finish at the Preakness? The only difference is that when the dogs are injured, Vick isn't sitting on top of them with a leather instrument of pain.
Animal cruelty is animal cruelty ... it shouldn't matter if it takes place in Michael Vick's parlor, a dirty back alley, or at the neatly manicured grounds of Pimlico.
And before we go any further, let me make this clear: I am not defending Michael Vick. If the dog fighting allegations are true, Vick absolutely is a scumbag. I abhor dog fighting. It's a sick, sick thing. I'd never defend anyone involved in it, let alone Michael Vick. The following is a brief list of things I will do before I defend Michael Vick: give John Daly a spongebath, buy WNBA season tickets, give Chuck Liddell a purple nurple, accept golf swing tips from Charles Barkley, order the "Ed Orgeron Teaches Diction" tapes, hit on Charles Oakley's girlfriend, and stand between Don Nelson and a case of Bud Light. So I hope we're clear on that. This is not a defense of Michael Vick.
I just want to know why horse racing is acceptable if dog fighting is evil. Do both take advantage of animals solely for the entertainment of humans? Yes. Are both responsible for the premature deaths of thousands of animals? Yes. Do both cause immeasurable suffering and injuries to the animals involved? Yes. Do human beings profit off of this pain and death? In both cases, yes. What other standards are there?
When a horse is forced to run before its skeletal system is fully developed, he's not thinking, "That really was a stirring rendition of 'My Old Kentucky Home.'" He's thinking, "Dammit, my hoof hurts like a bastard."
When a horse is pumped full of painkillers and anti-inflammatories so he can run through an injury, he's not thinking, "This is inconvenient and dangerous, but it's worth it, because the running of the urinals is such a grand tradition." He's thinking, "Hey, this feels pretty good," right up until he snaps his leg because the ground's too hard and he never should have been running to begin with.
And when he's in a truck being shipped to the slaughterhouse, the horse isn't thinking, "Well, I've had a great run, but I feel like since I helped Elroy Ryerson hit that exacta and buy himself an extra bottle of Thunderbird, I can go out on top." He's thinking, "I DON'T WANT TO DIE, GET ME THE HELL OUT OF THIS TRUCK."
I'm not arguing that horse racing and dog fighting are exactly the same; there are obviously varying degrees of animal abuse. If it's up to me, I'll take an 80 pound man sitting on my back whaling on me with a leather whip over a rabid pitbull sinking his incisors into my chest cavity. Horse racing might be a few degrees less inhumane than dog fighting, but that feels like splitting hairs. The dogs found on Michael Vick's property might not have had neat names like Swingin' Harry, Show Me Somethin', or Uncle Freddy's Unfortunately Weak Bladder, but then again ... Michael Vick's probably not selling off weaker dogs for human consumption in Europe or Asia, either.
People see Seabiscuit and have this romanticized notion of how well horses are treated, but very few horses get the Seabiscuit suite. Not every race horse gets the immaculate stable, the company of numerous female horses, and a feast of oats and carrots everyday. Not every horse gets to develop a close, personal relationship with Tobey Maguire.
And Barbaro, had he lived, would've probably enjoyed a higher quality of life than 30 or 40% of Americans. The amount of money spent on medical care for Barbaro was greater than the gross national product of a few African nations.
But most horses aren't in Barbaro's tax bracket. If a horse can't make money, or stops making money, he'll soon be holding together your child's next arts-and-crafts project. You know how much money would've been spent on Barbaro if he finished out of the money in the Kentucky Derby? About enough to buy a bullet and a ride in a dump truck. There's not enough time and space here to go over all the ways in which horse racing is cruel, but if you don't want to take my word for it, try here, here, here or here.
Presumably, people take the time to castigate Vick and his alleged filthy habit because they love animals and they care about their safety and protection. And that's good, we should all care about the humane treatment of animals. And judging from the outrage the Vick has generated, a lot of people care about animals.
But let's see if we can't extend that care to all animals, even to ones who might not be as cute and accessible as dogs, and even to ones who might not be fast enough to win some races.
|For the Scrapbook|
AC Milan's Filippo Inzaghi celebrates in front of a group of people to whom he'd never want to be closer than he is right now. Milan beat Liverpool 2-1 yesterday in the Champions League Final. I'd congratulate them, but I sort of hate them.
I like the little commercial campaign that the NBA has going, "Inside the Playoff Mind." The Chauncey Billups spot is very cool, and LeBron's spot is neat (even if he isn't yet an authority on the subject). From the idea to the execution to the production, this all seems like something the NFL would do. Which is a compliment for the NBA.
However ... "Inside the Playoff Mind of Damon Jones?" Is that ... are they serious about that? I saw the title on YouTube, and I thought "Wow, someone got a spoof of that thing up really quickly." But it's not a spoof, it's real. For some reason, it is real.
"Inside the Playoff Mind of Damon Jones." I love that. I can't wait for next week when they come out with "Inside the Playoff Mind of Ronald Dupree" or "Inside the Playoff Mind of The Stubby Guy Selling Hot Dogs in Section 152."
|Sticking and Moving|
|It Gave It Away When He Called Himself "Zab Sr." ...
Zab Judah, I applaud your ingenuity. Zab was supposed to be on a conference call yesterday to promote his upcoming June 9th fight with Miguel Cotto. But Zab thought to himself, "Talking about how awesome I am, how I'm going to win, how the other guy is a chump ... do I really need to be there for that?" And he wasn't. He had his dad do the interview for him.
Bravo. I don't know if it was Zab's intention to make a grand statement about how lame and uneventful these teleconferences are, or if he just wanted to go see Georgia Rule and get a facial. But the end result is that the media's mad, they'll get the real Zab in for a phone interview, and he will say the exact same things.
|Get Down With the Longform ...
For more on the importance of this year's NBA lottery, check out this excellent Bethlehem Shoals column. I hate to turn into one of those guys who's more interested in the things surrounding the game than the game itself ... but I can't deny that I was more excited about the lottery than I was for Spurs/Jazz Game 2. I don't know what it is about him, but the magnetic presence of NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver just gets me all kinds of jacked up.
|You Want Savagery? Michael Vick Will Show You Savagery ...
I like Tony Kornheiser (when he's not doing Monday Night Football) but saying that the UFC "celebrates savagery" is just downright goofy. They talk about boxing on PTI, yes? They've shown hockey fights? Those are okay, and UFC is savagery?
I'm not a UFC fan myself, but it's no more harmful than boxing. A UFC fighter might go through his career having a few bones snapped, getting choked out a few times, etc. But when he retires, he'll still be better off than a boxer who got punched in the head tens of thousands of times. And while the UFC world doesn't consist of 100% saintly people, it can't be any more crooked than boxing.
|Those Yankee Boys Are SO Nice ...
The Yankees seem 20% less evil today than they did yesterday. The organization made a million-dollar contribution to Virginia Tech's "Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund" before last night's game against the Red Sox. Karma was paying attention, too, rewarding the Yankees with an 8-3 win over the Sox and a six-runs-in-six-innings pounding of Curt Schilling.
|Then Again, Maybe They Should've Made it $2 Million ...
Roger Clemens didn't fare that well for the Trenton Thunder last night. He gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
|Roy Hibbert Would Like to Be Next Year's Greg Oden ...
At first, I was confused by Roy Hibbert's decision to stay at Georgetown another year. Chances were he'd be a late-to-mid lottery pick, and when guys are locks for the lottery, they usually come out.
Now that I think about it, though, this could end up being pretty smart financially for Hibbert. He's improved dramatically in his three years at Georgetown, and if he gets in better shape and adds another year of post moves, polish, and touch on his jumper, he could end up being the premier guy who the Celtics fail to get next year.
|I Hope They're Not Paying Him by the Word ...
Congratulations to Keyshawn Johnson on his retirement, although I'm not sure if congratulations are really in order when you retire because no team values you nearly as much as you value yourself. Pro Football Talk is reporting that Keyshawn wanted a two-year deal for $12 million, which would be perfectly reasonable if Keyshawn was a power forward for the New York Knicks or 24 years old.
Anyway, Key retires and signs on immediately with ESPN, where he'll work on Sunday NFL Countdown. I caught a little bit of Keyshawn's first gig at the NFL Draft, and the best two words to describe him would be "kinda boring."
Filippo Inzaghi. I pretty much have to go with Filippo. I know he's not the sexiest choice, and I know that roughly seven of you have heard of him, but ... he did score two goals in yesterday's biggest sporting event. The first one was sort of accidental, but the second one was nice. But I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that this is the last time Filippo Inzaghi will ever occupy this space.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Church (3-for-5, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs for the Nationals against in a 12-7 win over the Reds) and Magglio Ordonez (2 HRs for the Tigers in an 8-7 win against the Angels).
|Yesterday's Sad Sack|
Cliff Lee. Giving up three home runs in 4 and 1/3 innings is one thing. Giving them up to the Royals, though ... well, this is not Cliff Lee's proudest day. The final tally included 10 hits and eight earned runs, and, of course, the loss.
|The Evening's Agenda|
7:00, ESPN2. MLS Soccer. Chicago Fire @ New York Red Bulls.
7:30, TBS. MLB. New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves.
8:30, ESPN. NBA Playoffs. Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons.
9:30, NBC. Scrubs. It's a repeat, but it's the musical episode from the season opener, which was fantastic.