Don’t direct all your ire at Falcons’ Vick

Read the details of Michael Vick’s indictment and it won’t take long for your stomach to turn.

As a dog lover and off-and-on pet owner, I had to put down the account and find something else to do. On the occasions when I’ve had to put down my ill pets so they avoid suffering, the feeling hangs around for weeks afterward.

Vick’s cruelty is evident with every word on the indictment, especially electrocution, drowning, shooting — all buzzwords for a sport whose hook is to watch dogs chew each other to pieces.

Dogs are defenseless. Their lives depend on us. We feed them. We play with them. We love them. That’s part of their charm.

We protect the defenseless. That’s part of OUR charm.

That’s why I wonder whether we’ve lost our sense of proportion.

The shock value of the Vick case hasn’t left us and won’t to for some time.

Why is it, then, that we barely shrug when we hear of athletes beating up their wives, girlfriends or acquaintances?

Has a case of domestic abuse sparked the depth of outrage that the Vick episode has?

What defense does a woman have against a 250-pound athlete?

It happens so often, the shock value is almost zero.

The O.J. Simpson case initiated fury, but I would argue that the majority of us were more passionate about Simpson’s guilt or innocence than we were angered about the fate of the victims.

Kobe Bryant is beloved in virtually every NBA city again, even after he merely reached financial agreement with a woman he was charged with sexually assaulting. His case didn’t reach nearly the public outrage that Vick’s did.

Pacman Jones was involved in an incident in a Las Vegas strip club in which three people were shot, including a security guard who is paralyzed from the waist down.

We’ve become accustomed to despicable behavior by NFL players, at least behavior against other humans. Not even that incident carried the public ire of Vick’s case.

Jones will play again. We know because we remember Lawrence Phillips.

It was more than a decade ago that Phillips, a former great Nebraska tailback, pleaded no contest to trespassing and assault after allegedly beating his girlfriend, who said he dragged her by the hair down three flights of stairs.

Yet, the Rams made Phillips their first-round draft pick. And even after they cut him and he got himself involved in a number of other criminal acts, the Dolphins and 49ers gave him chance after chance.

That was because Phillips’ talent outweighed his character. And when a team wants to win, character doesn’t get in the way.

It won’t for Vick, either. Some owner won’t be able to resist Vick’s obvious talent, even after a jail term and subsequent but temporary suspension from the NFL. League commissioner Roger Goodell is rightly cracking down on player behavior, but not even he will slap Vick with a lifetime ban.

Like Jones, Vick will play again.

But that’s not the point here. The point is that Vick’s crimes are revolting and he deserves the reaction he’s received from the media and general public.

So why don’t we have the same reaction when an athlete beats up a woman?

Ask yourself that the next time you see news of another assault on SportsCenter.

We shouldn’t have to wait long for the next one.

Sports columnist John Sleeper: sleeper@heraldnet.com

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