Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why special treatment for athletes?

Today will not be a good day at my senior fitness session. I feel O.K., but this heat and humidity does not work very well with my old body. I suspect it isn’t exactly welcome even to younger ones. I’m not sure just how much it will help, except possibly make the air even moister, but we do have some possible showers or thunder showers in the forecast. They’re mostly a long way from my home in Southern Maine, but sometimes they drive away the humid weather.

I expect my unofficial thermometer will hit the 90 mark again today making it four in a row on the Gator homestead. Officially, we haven’t met the requirements for a heat wave, but my yard certainly has. I don’t think I like it. A heat wave is three or more consecutive days with the temperature above 90.

I find myself in a rather contradictory situation concerning my opinion of Michael Vick. Vick committed a crime. I can make that statement because he was convicted in a court of law and has served a sentence in a prison.

You may wonder why that last sentence is important. I have always believed in the maxim that proclaims a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I still believe that.

It was back in the early 1970s that the news media proclaimed themselves to be the determiners of guilt. Probably the perceived role of the press began earlier than that during the Vietnam War, and possibly the true roots can date back to the Korean Conflict.

It was, however, in 1974 when the big change was completed. The news media led the public in proclaiming President Richard Nixon guilty of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex. He had not been arrested. He had not faced a jury, in a President’s case Congress, he had not been found guilty.

But Guilty he was, said the news media and then echoed by the public.

Whenever anyone attempted to discuss the situation with me, I took the stand I wasn’t there and didn’t know. I had not heard a formal presentation of the facts and as far as I was concerned, Nixon was innocent until proven guilty in formal circumstances.

He changed that for me by his admissions and resignation. I was then able to accept the guilt of his involvement.

I continued my beliefs and still believe a person is innocent until proven guilty. I found myself in the same defensive position in the O.J. Simpson situation in the 1990s. Even today I would point out that he was found Not Guilty in a court of law. I wasn’t there to know the facts, only the facts that the news media wanted me to know.

There have been many trials right here in Maine where a person was convicted by the media. I’ve never changed my stance of not having been present when the crime was committed so as far as I’ve been concerned, innocent until proven guilty.

And that brings me back to Michael Vick. He was charged and found guilty by a court of law and he did pay the penalty society decided was fitting for his crime. He did it; he paid for it; and now he should be able to resume his life.

And that’s where my conflict comes. I think of the hundreds, yea thousands, of doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, coaches, administrators, ordinary folk, and the list goes on and on, who society has said can no longer can work in their chosen profession or way of life, either legally or by innuendo. Some of those people still haven’t faced a jury of their peers, yet the conviction stands.

Why, then, do we accept, cheer, the return of Vick to professional football as a potential hero? My initial reaction was in line with my beliefs. He was convicted and paid his penalty so his life should resume. Then Gator Wife reminded me of a couple of people we’ve known over the years who also were convicted of a crime and not allowed to return to their former lives. For most, it was not law that prevented their return to normal life.

The trust had been broken. The positive role model had been broken. The reputation has been lost. It would take a very long time and a lot of very hard work to regain their former lives. Even then the questions would be there.

Why do we let a professional athlete off that hook? And we all know Michael Vick isn’t alone.


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