I was running around the track on Tuesday morning. I like running in the morning, it gives me a chance to reflect. It was damp and foggy with little visibility. Another guy was on the track. He had a dog with him. It wasn’t on a leash. I’m not sure what breed it was. It looked like a cross between a boxer and pit bull. It had a dark brown coat with light yellow speckles. It seemed okay, temperament wise, but how can one be sure? Anything with a mouth full of teeth, without a leash, sets me on edge.
While I was running, the dog ran with its owner. It turned around to stare at me a few times. It made me nervous, so I decided to concentrate on other things.
I reflected on the events of this summer. It’s been a good summer. I thought about our trip to New York last month. You never know who you’re going to run into there. Like that one night, my wife and daughter and I were at the Boat House in Central Park. I found myself seated next to John Sampson from the 19th district of the New York Senate.
Sampson and the others at the table talked about health care and women’s issues. Sampson said there was a war on women. The others agreed and discussed ways to rectify the problem.
When the topic turned to sports, Sampson asked me if I had written anything about Michael Vick’s return to football. I told him no, and I paused. Sampson picked up on my pause and pursued it.
“Why not?” asked Sampson.
“Because a lot of people still really hate him,” I said.
“So?” said Sampson.
“So, I don’t hate him,” I said. “But in my industry, when you look like me, there’s this expectation to demonize those athletes who resemble you.”
Sampson stared at me.
“It’s like in your community,” I said. “Any black political writer is expected to routinely denigrate Obama—even cartoonishly so— in order to prove himself and more importantly, the publication for which he works, objective.”
Sampson laughed and shook his head. He mumbled something inaudible. It was “something, something…. media.”
I laughed at the recollection. I had run a couple of miles and a few sprints when suddenly that dog came rushing up behind me, slowing to an ominous trot in my blind spot. I was briefly startled.
For some reason the dog’s presence in my personal space reminded me of another conversation I had, this one in the newsroom. The World Wide Leader had come out with its top 50 athletes of all time. At #35 was Secretariat. I told a colleague that this was odd. She said Secretariat was the greatest race horse of all time. I didn’t dispute that. I just found it odd that the entry at #35 belonged to a different species than everyone else on the list. Her expression, which could only be described as offended, confirmed for me that for some folks, animals and humans are interchangeable, on any list.
Perhaps that dog’s owner felt that way, too. The owner must have seen my confusion because he called out to his dog: “Mae, come here!” Mae dutifully obeyed and ran back to him.
I laughed and continued to run. My conversation with Sampson reminded me that I hadn’t written anything about Michael Vick in quite a while.
I got home late this past Monday night so I missed the first part of the Eagles-Patriots game. It seems Vick had taken a shot from a lineman and bruised his ribs. By the time I turned on the game he had already left. It was the second time this preseason that had happened.
Actually Vick’s been hurt a lot. After that one year, 2010—the year of redemption—he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. But when he has been healthy, wow. That one game against the Redskins is one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. In those first three series, Vick did everything a quarterback can do.
On the game’s opening play, he made that lazy rollout and the flick-of-the-wrist deep ball to DeSean Jackson for an 88-yard score; in the red zone, he calmly surveyed the scene before spilling out to the flat and nonchalantly evading an on-coming defensive tackle, two linebackers, and the safety before slithering into the end zone.
But the last play, the one that made it 21-0 was the best. Vick eased back into the pocket, and dished a little shovel pass to LeSean McCoy. It was a quick, sure toss that floated neatly into McCoy’s palms. He threw it with his right hand. Vick is left handed.
I thought of this as I rounded the track. Then, I made out a figure in the distance. It was Mae. She was running full speed, piercing the fog, on a dead run, fangs bared, eyes set, headed right towards me. Her owner was nowhere to be found. My heart stopped and my skin grew cold…
My impending doom had interrupted another thought. I’d been wondering if those who hate Michael Vick were happy to see him struggle, pleased to see him in pain. I wondered if they feel this is what he deserves for his awful crimes of years past.
Vick’s life has changed since those unspeakable days. He’s gotten married, found religion, and committed himself to his craft. I wonder if that matters in the spiritual realm. The Buddha says that “all living beings have actions as their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.”
Mae the dog ran right past me. I breathed a deep sigh of relief.
Alan Grant was a four-year starter and all-conference player for Stanford University. He played five years in the National Football League with the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco Forty Niners, Cincinnati Bengals, and Washington Redskins. He has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Postgame, and appears frequently on radio and television.
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