Redeeming social value

It appears we’re going through a slow news cycle in Washington this week. Given all the excitement of the past two weeks over the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the sellout concerning tax cuts for the rich, the big news now is President Obama’s remarks on the rehabilitation of Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.

As noted a while back, Michael Vick has been showered with adulation just three years after being convicted of running a horrific dog fighting ring. The adulation comes not because he’s done great things to help the poor or to right social injustices, but because he’s winning with the Eagles. The team is in the playoffs.

With the Atlanta Falcons loss to the New Orleans Saints last night, Philadelphia is in a position (remotely) where it could have the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The scenarios are pretty well spelled out at Bleacher Report. This wasn’t supposed to happen this year. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Eagles. Then Vick came along and overwhelmed the opposition.

So Obama has called Jeff Lurie, the owner of the Eagles, to commend him for giving the convicted felon a second chance, according to the Washington Post.

“He said, ‘So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance,’ ” said Lurie, who did not indicate when the call occurred. “He said, ‘It’s never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.’ And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.”

Of course, it’s never a level playing field for convicts when most of the released prison population doesn’t have what Michael Vick has to offer: exceptional talent. But think about former disgraced Wall Street bankers to end up as felons, then resume their lives of wealth after their release. Anybody remember Michael Milken? He’s now a big time philanthropist, but back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, he was evil-incarnate with his shady junk-bond trading activities.

So, as Vick and Milken show, adulation and redemption for ex-cons follow when they get out of jail and make someone a lot of money. Milken at least is doing something to save people’s lives.

As for Vick, he doesn’t kill dogs anymore. But he still is a marvel on the football field. The big game to watch will be if his Eagles meet his former Falcons, the team that didn’t stand by him, in the playoffs. That will be a ratings bonanza for the television network carrying the game, and if he wins, even more adulation.

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