Philadelphia Media Refuses To Roll Over For Vick

Today, the day after Michael Vick’s bizarre return as starting Eagles quarterback, the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS featured a large photo of Vick with the headline, “TOP DOG: In a Shocking Turnabout, Reid Names Vick Starter.

Michael Vick Top Dog Philadelphia Daily News Headline

(Inset: Aug. 14, 2009 - Day after Vick signed with Eagles)

Obviously Vick’s past mistreatment of dogs has zero to do with his current football fortune, so was the Daily News headline inappropriate?

If the NFL was only about football, yes.

But if the NFL was only about football, the Super Bowl wouldn’t feature the Black Eyed Peas playing halftime this February.  And we wouldn’t be inundated with commercials featuring the delightful personalities of countless NFL players.

No, the NFL wants us to pay attention to its players year-round, and it markets its off-field product every bit as aggressively as what happens between the lines. But that message is a pre-packaged, relentlessly positive portrayal of NFL players - something that is now impossible with a guy like Vick.

The league can’t have it both ways. If the NFL wants us to care about what a player does off the field, no matter how contrived it might be, then it has to accept the consequences of mind-boggling irresponsibility of Vick.

What the Daily News printed today will in no way reignite significant public discourse over Vick’s mistreatment of dogs - the majority of the public thinks that the quarterback has paid his debt to society for his crimes.

But in the midst of the NFL’s constant myth-making, it was refreshing today that the Daily News offered rabid Eagles - and all sports fans - a reality check.