You remember Fran Tarkenton from such hits as “taking the Vikings to three Super Bowls and losing all of them,” and “That former Green Bay quarterback is the devil.” Having established his NFL traditionalist status with the latter, you might be surprised when you learn his take on the Eagles’ signing of Michael Vick.
He loves it. In fact, it’s not often that you hear an ex-NFL player use the term “ticked to death,” but that’s how Tarkenton described his feelings when he learned that Philadelphia snapped up Vick last week. Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance, aka PETA, is planning their next move against the City of Philadelphia, Vick, and anyone who wears fur. R2, I have a bad feeling about this.
Tarkenton, a self-professed dog lover, talked with 790 The Zone radio in Atlanta today to discuss America’s topic du jour:
“I am tickled to death that the Philadelphia Eagles have signed him. This young man is an extraordinary talent. He made mistakes that all of us do. What player, in the history of any sport, has had to spend two years in prison for what he did? None! And he’s paid his dues. He has every right, and I’m pulling for him to go back and get his career back going.
“He’s an extraordinary athlete. He’s going to a great, stable organization. An organization that has ownership stability, the coach is a terrific coach and stable. Players, leaders, playing with Donovan McNabb. I just think it gives him the greatest opportunity. I think he will knock the cover off the ball with Philadelphia and I’m pulling for him.
“Now for all the PETA people and so forth, let me share my dog experience. I’m a dog lover. That Shepherd is all my life. Up until four weeks ago I had three Shepherds. I have a thirteen year old Shepherd, two one year old Shepherds and a Tea Cup Chihuahua. I lost my thirteen year old Shepherd and the people here who are close to me, I cried for four days. It was the worse loss I’ve ever had in my life. So I love animals and I am just appealing to people, this young man has paid his dues. He does not deserve to burn in hell for the rest of his life.”
Now we head over to XX Radio in San Diego, where PETA spokesman Dan Shannon is apparently unmoved by Tarkenton’s Teacup Chihuahua story.
“The message, I guess, depends on what people take from it. The message I hope people don’t take from it, you know, is that if you’re rich and famous, and a talented football player, you can get away with this sort of thing. And certainly you can look at other guys in the league like Donte Stallworth and Ray Lewis and wonder the same thing on a number of different issues. He served his sentence and his debt to society — and we respect that part of it — but guys, I think if you or I … well certainly me … but I think if most people were convicted of a federal charge and spent 23 months in prison, they would probably have a hard time getting their job back.
“We certainly don’t think Vick should be blackballed from gainful employment for the rest of his life, but I don’t know, it’s one thing to kind of go out and lay bricks for a living, it’s another thing to be put in a situation where your poster’s going to be on kids’ walls, you’re going to be on the cover of Madden, your jerseys are going to be sold in malls across the country. I think that puts much more importance on it.”
Tarkenton, though, thinks all of the negative feelings toward Vick will blow over quickly, especially in Philadelphia.
“I think you have a big firestorm today, but it will blow over and he will be accepted by his teammates, he’s already accepted by the management and Donovan McNabb and the city of Philadelphia will accept him and embrace him. Philadelphia is a great sports town, and they also booed Santa Claus. This town is passionate about its sports and football and they will embrace him and he will make them a better football team.”
When Vick was introduced to the press by the Eagles on Friday, one of the people you probably didn’t see was Jennifer Utley, a board member of the Philadelphia SPCA and wife of the Phillies’ Chase Utley. Jennifer Utley and a group of protesters showed up, but were barred from the press conference by the Eagles.
Utley and other SPCA leaders say they’re dumbfounded no one from the Eagles contacted them before dropping the Vick bombshell.
“We fight animal cruelty every single day in this city. I think if you’re planning on being conscious of a very sensitive issue it might be positive to do that.”
And Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal Rescue in the Philadelphia suburbs, said the group will be renting three billboards near the Eagles’ stadium blasting the signing of Vick. So that should be fun.
Smith said he was stunned while listening to Vick at the news conference.
“I’m really shocked that he’s coming to Philadelphia,” Smith said. “He kept talking about second chances. His dogs didn’t have a second chance. … There are a lot of people out there who deserve second chances more than Michael Vick.”