Late Sunday night, walking on 8th Avenue in New York City, I turned to my left and caught a glimpse of a jogger, who just so happened to be a 200+ pound man wearing nothing more than a jock strap and a black and pink polka-dotted piece of negligee. I took notice of this, but wasn’t even going to say anything about it until one of the people walking with me brought it up, at which point I agreed that it was somewhat strange.
Monday morning, walking down
Though under further examination, it became clear that he was in fact squatted down over the top of a manhole cover peeing at point blank range into one of the holes. (Hey, at least he was depositing his waste directly into the sewer.)
My first reaction to this was to mutter to myself “Oh my God,” but I immediately realized that the truth of the matter was that while I was a little perturbed by the fact that I very nearly saw this man’s member, I was far from shocked by the episode and definitely was not appalled.
Now, had either event occurred in a different context (like the main street of an affluent, stuffy suburb), it might have been a different story. But given that this is New York, a place where large men jog in drag and vagrants micturate into manhole covers whenever they damn well please, it’s not such a big deal.
I bring this up because yesterday, after the Falcons lost at home to the Saints, Michael Vick gave the double bird (not to be confused with the celebratory dance known as the Dirty Bird) to a group of heckling fans.
And the reflex response from the media, perhaps not surprisingly, has been one of disapproval. Michael Vick’s actions were not acceptable, says the scornful voice.
But my question is this: Given the context, why weren’t Vick’s actions acceptable?
Consider the following scenarios:
Scenario #1 – You walk into a mall, go into Radio Shack and ask the employee if he has an adapter that will allow you to plug in your kid’s My First Sony cassette recorder. The salesman says he’s sorry but he doesn’t have it, at which point you reach into a pair of invisible holsters, pull out your extended middle fingers, shove them in his face and storm out of the store.
Verdict: Your actions were uncalled for.
Scenario #2 – You just spent three hours playing in a professional football game, running around the field at reckless speeds, risking broken bones or worse on multiple occasions because you’re intensely competitive and it’s the only way you know how to play, and after en extremely frustrating loss (your team’s fourth straight), someone on the sidelines says something that is clearly intended to get your attention and provoke you, at which point, in a moment of physical and mental exhaustion, you take the bait and flick the guy off. (Which, as a side note, most likely made this individual’s day.)
How can anyone rightfully say they might not act the same way? When I’m going across the street and someone (often times a cab driver) nearly hits me, I give him the finger. If someone calls you an asshole, it’s your impulse to yell right back. This is human nature. In the heat of the moment, how can athletes be expected not to occasionally respond to one of the uncountable insults they hear every game?
The fact is, we’re wasting our time on this one. When an athlete goes into the stands to attack a fan, that’s crossing the line. But to the people out there who can’t understand how Michael Vick could give the bird to an unruly fan after a brutal loss, I’ve got two choice words for you that you hopefully will not take out of context: