Guy thing: What to do when your team signs that guy

08/26/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

1985. That was the first year I started to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was 9 years old and at the age where I started to follow professional sports with a passion. For the first time though in these past 30 years I feel conflicted to be a part of Steelers Nation. Because the Steelers have done what I've ripped other franchises for. They signed "that guy". The guy with the stigma and the controversy and the criminal record and the distraction factor that comes with it. The Steelers signed Michael Vick.
This is where I'm torn at. I love the Steelers. I'm as passionate a fan of the Black and Gold that there is. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of it not just because of the six Super Bowls or the numerous NFL Hall of Famers. I'm proud to be a Steelers fan because I'm proud of the way the organization has handled things and how the Rooney family's moral requirements have outweighed what a player can do on the field. It's hard to find that in professional sports today, a franchise that weighs character more than talent. "The Cowboys and the Raiders and the Bengals and the Ravens can have all the convicts they want", us Steeler fans have said. "Those kinds of guys don't play in Pittsburgh for the Rooney's. We are happy to not have "them" in our teams uniforms. But now one of "them"is a member of our beloved Steelers.
First things first, Michael Vick has served his time. He committed a heinous crime, went to prison, and claims to be reformed. Nothing he has done since getting out of jail has shown he isn't reformed. He has the same right to make a living in his profession as a drug dealer who cleaned up his act in jail and deserves a second chance to work as a truck driver again or whatever his line of work may have been. You don't have to like him. You don't have to respect him. You can outright hate him if you want. But Michael Vick did his time the way our legal system is set up and is trying to live his life in his profession as an ex convict. Except unlike driving a truck, his profession is playing football in the NFL. Which draws a lot more attention and a lot more judgment than the guy who's driving a truck and not in the public eye.

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With that being said, I think Michael Vick is a despicable person. I don't care that he served his time or that he is reformed, what he did is reprehensible. To willingly torture, maim, and kill dogs for your own amusement is disgusting. Reformed or not, prison time served or not, to me Michael Vick is still that same guy who chose to do that. He wasn't suckered into it. He wasn't an outsider. He wasn't just the money behind it. He was the ring leader. He was a grown man making millions of dollars playing professional football and living a dream and he still willingly decided to have animals killed for his enjoyment. In my eyes you're a scum bag for doing that. And believe me, my words would be a lot stronger if you wanted my true opinion of Michael Vick, but those words can't be printed. However, that's my opinion. And my opinion isn't the law.
People deserve a second chance. And whether we like it or not, we all make mistakes. Sometimes we really mess up. I know men who have served prison time. I've worked with others in the past who I always wished the best for. I've seen good men get passed up for jobs and opportunities that they would have been great at because of the ex con stigma that was associated with them. I thought that was unfair, because they served their time and deserved a second chance. They deserved an opportunity to live life again. I'm also a Christian. I believe in forgiveness. I believe that it's not our place to judge others. I believe we should look for the good in others and encourage our fellow man to be better. But that's a hard pill to swallow right now for the Steelers fan in me.
Pittsburgh is abuzz right now regarding Michael Vick being a Steeler. Most of the opinion has been negative. Very negative. And honestly, I don't like it either. But I'm going to take my opinion of Michael Vick the person out of it and explain why I don't like it. Michael Vick is mediocre at best. He couldn't beat out Geno Smith in New York last year. He didn't do much more the season before in Philadelphia. And in his last year as a starter with the Eagles in 2013, fans were calling for his benching and the team finished with a 4 and 12 record. And there are several other NFL teams in need of an upgrade or depth at the QB position. Yet none of those teams chose to bring in Michael Vick. Why not? Because for no other reason, he's not that good, that's why.
As a football fan taking the opinion of Vick's person out of the equation, this isn't a good move for the Steelers. They could have waited a couple of weeks and seen who's available as teams make their roster cuts. A quarterback at least close to what Vick brings skill wise would more than likely be available. And that player would come without the controversy and baggage that Michael Vick has. The Steelers don't need the distraction factor Vick has already brought to Pittsburgh before even his first practice. The negativity and the distractions aren't worth it because honestly, Michael Vick just isn't that good. He's probably still good enough to be a back up. But you don't need distractions and the majority of your own fan base angered for a reserve player. The move was made by the Steelers to help the team after back up quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was lost for the season. Other than Landry Jones, who has been less than impressive during his tenure, the Steelers have nobody behind Ben Roethlisberger. But with the backlash that has already happened, this move could end up doing more harm than good. Vick may be the best backup quarterback available now, but that might not be the case in a few weeks when teams have to make their final roster cuts. And that backup quarterback would come with no negativity associated with them and no distraction factor. The only time that backup QB's name would be mentioned is if he actually had to play during the season. Otherwise you would hear nothing of him. And that's the way it's supposed to be when you're talking about backup players.
So what do you do now? What do you do when that guy comes to your team? Do you walk away from it? This same feeling will be in the air somewhere else when Ray Rice gets signed. And trust me, he will play in the NFL again. Somebody is going to get injured and some team is going to be desperate for help at running back this season. And they'll call Ray Rice. What are those teams fans going to say? How are they going to feel? The same confliction Steelers fans are feeling now. I've heard a lot of Steelers fans threaten that they're done being fans and won't watch or support the team, but honestly, most of them will be behind the Steelers when the season starts. They won't burn their Terrible Towels or throw away their jerseys like has been threatened more than once that I've read, heard, or seen. And I won't stop being a Steelers fan either. I'll still root for the team with the same passion I always have. I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so I cheer and support the logo on the helmet first, not the name on the back of the jersey.
But this feeling of confliction is one I've never experienced. As a football fan I don't want Michael Vick because I think the negative that comes with him outweighs any benefits he'll bring to the Steelers. As a Christian I believe everyone deserves forgiveness if they repent. And with that being said, Vick deserves the chance to make a living in his profession. But as a person I also wish he was making that living on another team. With all of the talk of pre season football being unnecessary and leading to more and more serious injuries to significant players, see Pittsburgh versus Green Bay pre season game last weekend, maybe the answer lies there. I keep telling myself all of the things I've stated above, but is it wrong for me to wish Michael Vick is the next to sustain a serious injury in one of the Steelers remaining exhibition games?
I remember when watching football was simpler. But unfortunately, part of today's NFL is that the off the field stuff is as much of the game day story as the game itself. I just want to watch football and cheer for my team. Without being conflicted.

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