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My final word on Clinton Portis and dog-fighting

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And then we're moving on.

Per Hog Heaven, Running Redskins, AOL Fanhouse, and Covering the Redskins, Portis is on partial damage control over comments made earlier in the week to the effect of: What Vick does on his own property is his business, dog fighting is no big deal, etc.

To that end, Clinton apparently went on the NFL Network to clarify those comments. Hog Heaven and others have provided partial transcripts of that interview, and I am indebted to them for that material. Here is what I subjectively decided was the most relevant portion of that:

"I wasn't saying that it's OK to fight dogs. I think there are bigger issues in life than what Michael Vick is doing. I think Michael Vick is a positive person in the community and I think you want to take him away for something that, I mean, in life isn't the biggest situation in the world. I think there are bigger things in going on in life than [to be] worried about what Michael Vick do...

I mean, hunting is legal. You got spearing sharks on TV; The World's Greatest Catch on TV. All of those are animals. But, it's OK to do all that. What I'm saying is I don't think that issue is as big as they made it for the jail time and for the consequences he's going to end up facing if he's proven guilty."

No doubt that some reader(s) may be compelled by parts of this reasoning, namely the comparison of dog fighting to hunting. (Although, as Master4Caster points out, hunting Redskins fans likely outnumber animal rights organization members who would appreciate the above equivocation.) And perhaps a discussion on animal treatment in general is warranted from this specific instance. Additional dialogue is a good thing.

What I personally think Portis is still missing is his insistence that it isn't a big deal. Of course he's right; in the grand scheme of things dog fighting is not the most perilous cultural ill nor will it lead to the collapse of society any time soon. Even those of us (me, for instance) who find dog fighting morally reprehensible can admit that it pales in comparison to other social dilemnas.

Then Portis argues, given the relative triviality of dog fighting -- which many won't grant, nor should they be asked to -- to homicide, for example, that Mike Vick is being treated unfairly. Implicitly what he's saying is that it would be unfair if a rich athlete is sent to jail, a conclusion I vehemently oppose. If dog fighting ain't no big deal, then Vick going to jail isn't either. If I were found with dogs on my property my fate would not be in question. I lack the financial resources to defend myself as adequately as Mike Vick in a court of law, and would face severe punishment for that. Portis' insistence that there are bigger things to worry about than dog fighting suggests that Mike Vick's professional career is one of them.

I could give a flying shit about Mike Vick's career, as if he had a right to fight dogs in virtue of the fact that he's rich and athletically gifted. Whatever good he does for the society could just as easily be accomplished by his future replacement. In the salary cap era, money spent on players is redistributive in that X dollars spent on Y guy is X dollars you can't spend on Z guy. If Mike Vick is proven guilty of a crime, throw the book at him for all I care. Certainly take into consideration his positive contributions to society in sentencing, but let's not pretend that being charitable and athletic are mutually exclusive with guilt.

To sum up: Even if I'm willing to grant that dog fighting isn't what we should be spending our time writing about, why on earth does that exonerate Mike Vick? Is his professional football career that important to society? Is his personal freedom something I should bother about if he's proven to have abetted in a felonious act? From where I'm sitting, what really isn't a big deal is Mike Vick's NFL career or personal well-being, so long as he is minimally treated to a fair and speedy trial should charges be pressed. Given his financial resources, I have little doubt that he'll get just that.

Now, let's talk about sports.

DC Sports Bog, Lectures on Portis, Perlozzo and the Mystics
Washington Times, Portis clarifies view on Vick, dogfighting
Washington Post, Goodell Slams Remarks By Portis
Washington Examiner, Players sorry for ‘mess’ they made
Cincy Jungle, Did people simply over-react to Clinton Portis' comments?