December 3, 2010

Go to hell, Nils Lofgren.

If you haven't noticed, I'm one of the biggest Bruce Springsteen fans ever. Best American band in existence, greatest live performers of all time, blah blah blah. But right now, I think Springsteen associate and E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren should shut the hell up.

Lofgren penned a diatribe against Michael Vick for ESPN.com, stating that he's "so disheartened and disappointed" by the sporting community's praise for the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback. It's possibly the worst article that site has ever run, which is saying something about a company that employs Rick Reilly.

First off, Lofgren is upset that Michael Vick didn't realize killing dogs was wrong. Hey, 59-year-old white millionaire musician: Not everyone grew up studying classical music in the suburbs. Things are different where Vick was from, and we have to take that into account. Whether we like it or not, that can be part of the culture in some areas of our country. And when you grow up surrounded by things like that, when all your role models do it, when no one slaps you on the wrist and tells you it's wrong, you might not realize just what you're doing until someone shackles you and throws you in a paddywagon.

How can we justify this to our children, Lofgren wails. Yes, the poor children. God forbid they come to understand the power of redemption, the idea of second and even third chances, the fact that people make mistakes, even horrific ones. I personally hope that my children aren't defined, that they don't define other people, by singular moments and situations. I hope they understand that human beings are nuanced and complex and you should delve beneath a catchy headline or an easy-to-grasp ideal to find out what they're actually all about.

Lofgren believes that Vick does not deserve "a lofty place in our culture." He feels the NFL should ban him permanently. Even though one of the supposed "goals" of imprisonment in this country is rehabilitation, Lofgren apparently doesn't buy into that claptrap. He thinks a man's entire future, the next 40-50 years of his life, should be torched because of something he did when he was young. It sounds to me like Lofgren wants Michael Vick locked up and the key thrown away, which I think is patently absurd.

Look, Michael Vick participated in the killing of dogs. He probably killed a few himself. Heinous? Yes. A crime worth punishing? Absolutely. But Vick served 23 months in federal prison and filed for bankruptcy. For a little while, he was despised by an overwhelming majority of the entire country. He was a shattered shell of a man. Even now, when he's achieving a great deal of success on the football field, he still owes millions of dollars to creditors. And he'll always be known as the athlete who killed dogs, even if he wins six straight Super Bowls. I'd say he's suffered appropriately for what he's done.

Donté Stallworth drunkenly ran a man over with his car and killed him. He served 24 days in prison and paid the family off to avoid further trouble. He's already returned to the NFL with minimal fanfare. Leonard Little drunkenly killed a woman with his car in 1999. He received four years of probation and played in the NFL until 2009, even though he received another DWI in 2004. Ray Lewis was involved in the murder of two people, yet he's become one of the most celebrated defensive players in the history of the league.

But because Michael Vick is a hot topic these days, because the success he's achieving bothers people, he doesn't get those chances. Even though he's saying and doing all the right things, even though he's had several years to examine his life and mature as a person, it's all bullshit to them. Some people aren't buying it, even though they've bought it so many times before from far less deserving athletes and celebrities.

Look, if Michael Vick goes out and kicks a cat in the face tomorrow, I'll be the first to admit that he's a piece of shit. And if he throws three interceptions in a playoff game and costs the Eagles a shot at the Super Bowl, I definitely won't be penning as many loving Vick-centric blog posts. But I think he's the definition of a man who has learned his lesson, who's been given another chance and has taken full advantage.

And he definitely, definitely, doesn't need to be called out by a grandstanding, aging musician. This is the first "hey you kids, get off my lawn" moment I've noticed from the mouth of an E Street Band member; I hope the rest of them learn from it and make it the last. Go sit on your hands and wait for Bruce to call you into the studio, Nils, and let the rehabilitated Mick Vick play football.

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