In Dave Chappelle’s timeless “Killin’ Them Softly” standup special, he describes his plan for avoiding assassination if he were ever elected President: get a Mexican vice president. It’s funny because it rings so true, that black people in high profile jobs who are subject to the whims and vagaries of public opinion often face added pressure and scrutiny - and rarely have a safety net when it comes to protecting themselves from the type of opposition that seems awfully similar to racism.
To that end, we were a little confused by CBSSPORTS.COM’s recent column saying Michael Vick’s signing by the Eagles was something of either a warning shot or a slap in the face to Donovan McNabb. Considering the language of the deal makes it heavily likely that Vick won’t spend more than a season in Philadelphia, it seems more like Vick was, among other things, insurance for McNabb against his most virulent of haters. Like a, “oh, you hate McNabb for being black? Just wait till you see his backup!” situation.
So while we don’t really know all of McNabb’s underlying motivation, we do know we weren’t terribly surprised to read McNabb’s recent blog entry at YARDBARKER saying he had personally approached the team about signing Vick earlier in the offseason.
From his latest entry, titled “How And Why It Happened”:
Michael and I have known each other since the time I was asked to host him on his visit to Syracuse University. During that time, I had a chance to get to know Michael pretty well. And, although he decided to go to Virginia Tech, we kept in touch and remained friends.
In mid-July before training camp started, I asked Coach [Andy] Reid if we would be interested in having Michael join the Eagles and explained why I thought it would be good for both Michael and the team (Andy and I have an understanding that we will never discuss the details of our private exchanges). There was another time during camp where the subject was brought up again by me. It was not until Kevin Kolb was injured last Monday that I was given any indication that something might happen with Michael.
If McNabb’s sticking his neck out for Vick, that’s a manly thing for him to do. It also means that if the situation goes bad, it reflects negatively on McNabb’s reputation as well. No, if Vick screws up somehow, it’s not going to end the McNabb era in Philly by proxy. But team brass will certainly be less amenable to hearing suggestions from the QB in the future when it comes to running the team.
But at the same time, McNabb’s probably not going to let Vick screw up. It takes a healthy amount of cynicism to assume that’ll happen without McNabb’s intervention - let’s let Vick actually have that second chance first before we start dumping on him - but it certainly seems like the support structure that’ll surround Vick in Philadelphia won’t bear much resemblance to that of his Atlanta days.
And again, it’d be pure, uncut speculation to think that McNabb’s rationale for wanting Vick on his team was anything other than exactly what he wrote:
I wanted Michael to come to Philadelphia and, in any way he can, help bring a Super Bowl championship to the City. There is no doubt he is a uniquely talented player that can add to our offensive weapons. For him personally, I want to see him continue to grow as a person, spend time with his family and re-establish himself as a leader on and off the field. Due to the nature of what happened and the attention it has received, it may not always be easy for him but he seems up for the challenge. Fortunately, with a tremendous individual like Tony Dungy in his corner, he will have the support he needs.
That’s all probably true, because McNabb has historically behaved himself the way an upstanding man ought to. Criticize his play all you’d like, but his off-the-field demeanor is rock-solid.
Buuuut, if he and the Eagles wanted to quiet the disproportionately negative cloud of anger that seems to follow McNabb around way more than typically plagues white quarterbacks of similar talent and resume - we’re not saying all Philly fans hate McNabb for his skin color, but it sure seems like they enjoy putting the microscope on him more than you’d expect - making McNabb’s backup an even bigger magnet for coded racist insults ought to keep a few mouths quiet the next time McNabb can’t hit a receiver on 3rd and 12.