Every time a celebrity does something egregious (and only when they get caught doing it), they appear on Letterman (or previously on Leno) or some network morning show to self-flagellate as a method for gaining sympathy. It’s a rather standard public relations maneuver, and I usually find it to be an example of false contrition.
There’s a big difference between having remorse because you were caught, as opposed to before you were caught. Most people just say “Sorry,” because they were caught, and not because they have actual remorse for doing something wrong. In other words, their “Sorry,” actually means “Geez, I’m soooo sorry I was caught,” which is vastly different from “Oh, I’m soooo sorry I hurt someone.”
This brings me to Michael Vick, who, with his own hands, perpetrated some of the most horrific torture of fighting dogs that I have ever heard about. Frankly, it was hard to imagine the kind of dissociation from all compassion and emotion that goes into looking into the eyes of suffering animals, and enjoying watching the pain and enjoying having that much power over an agonized, terrified animal. To me, that is sociopathic which is over the top in cruelty. I would not like to see that person on the streets ever again.
Vick is now out of jail, and has been on 60 Minutes to explain his behavior and to make the case for his repentance. Repentance has four parts: 1) taking responsibility for your actions (owning what you’ve done and giving no excuses or blaming others for your own actions), 2) feeling remorse (i.e., being truly regretful for the hurt caused), 3) repair (for example, going to the Humane Society and/or giving talks to change people’s minds and hearts about how they treat animals – and, by the way, Vick has been doing that), and 4) no repeat behavior. Those are the Four R’s of Repentance.
On 60 Minutes, Vick took total responsibility for his actions. He was even pushed by James Brown, who asked: “Who do you blame for all of this?” Vick said, “I blame me.” He didn’t use the words “but…” or “it’s just…” which I hear all too often on my radio program. Instead, he just took responsibility. He talked about his first experience watching dog fights at age 8, and, as a boy of 8, thought it was cool, fun, and exciting. It was something a lot of men friends did together.
It was poignant when he pointed out that it was time for him to pay the price with jail time, he did that alone, because all his so-called “friends” were gone. He said, “I deserve to lose the $130 million.” He also admitted to being lazy and arrogant while at the Atlanta Falcons. It seems he took his prison time to really assess his own moral character and his life. He spent 2 years in jail, and was suspended from playing football, and he lost all his sponsorship dollars and his reputation.
None of that really impresses me…not at all. What does impress me is his statement that “football doesn’t matter at all,” because “…I should have [taken] the initiative to stop it all. I didn’t. I didn’t stop it at all.”
So, I’m okay with the Philadelphia Eagles giving him a job. I think he’s taken a right-hand turn onto the correct road toward being a decent human being. I’m willing to stand out of his way and let him do just that.