The rise and fall of Michael Vick has been covered in many ways by many different writers. Stories of Vick can generally be broken down into three distinct eras. Before Vick’s arrest and conviction on dogfighting charges, the stories about the Falcons QB were almost universally fawning and positive. After Vick’s arrest and up until a few months ago, the stories focused on Vick as villain and criminal - his dogfighting operation, his bankruptcy, and his life in federal prison. Recently, as Vick’s release from prison has drawn closer, the media has focused on Vick’s future: what will he do after prison? Will he ever make it back to the NFL? Will he ever pay his creditors? Will the American public ever forgive him? Will he end up a reality TV star?
Today, attorney and frequent ESPN commentator Lester Munson blew up the accepted three-act storyline of Vick’s life with an exhaustive account of the poor decisions and impending financial disaster that preceded Vick’s public disgracing. Dogfighting or no dogfighting, Michael Vick had been on a collision course with disaster for many years and ironically, Vick’s jail sentence may end up being the very thing that saves him.
Michael Vick might never have had a chance to succeed, even if he’d never owned a dog in his life. He was surrounded by two of society’s least favorite people, a crooked drug dealer and a crooked attorney. ESPN.COM:
Two names are mentioned quickly and automatically in discussions with several people who have knowledge of Vick’s life and his problems — “Whoop” and “Woody.”
“Whoop” is Anthony Harris, a reputed drug dealer from the projects in Newport News who, although several years older, grew close to Vick as he left Virginia Tech and succeeded in the NFL, eventually signing a 10-year, $130 million contract — then the biggest contract in league history. “Woody” is attorney Lawrence Woodward, 51, of the law firm of Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock, P.C., in Virginia Beach, Va.
Whoop and Woody. Two men whose backgrounds couldn’t be any more disparate, united for the common cause of bleeding out an NFL superstar athlete. These men combined to push out all positive and rational influences on Vick. Whoop took care of Vick’s more grounded friends from the hood in Newport News, VA, Vick’s hometown. Woody took care of the professionals who had Vick’s interests at heart - the agents, financial advisors, and business associates who might’ve actually taken Vick’s considerable fortunes and grown it, rather than take it all for themselves:
Even before the April 2007 raid that led to the dogfighting charges, Woodward was heavily involved with Vick. According to financial records obtained by ESPN.com, Woodward billed Vick $223,548 for the first year of his representation of the quarterback, a monthly expense for Vick of $18,629.
For an athlete with no legal problems (at the time), paying almost $19,000 a month for legal representation is what some might call highway robbery. Whatever Woody was doing, it wasn’t representing Vick’s interests. The article talks with a virtual parade of former Vick associates who were blown off and ignored, including boyhood friend and fellow former NFL quarterback Aaron Brooks.
The story of Michael Vick has been made two dimensional and easily digestible by sports media catering to the lowest common denominator of fan, fans looking for heroes and villians to cheer and jeer. Unfortunately, the tale of Michael Vick isn’t quite so tidy as we’ve all made it out to be. Vick doesn’t have to be forgiven for his actions, and they certainly shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten, but he should be pitied. It’s not a popular position to take, but after reading the Greek tragedy of Vick’s wasted life, it may even be the right one.