This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
I don't know how you reacted to Michael Vick's public apology statement on Monday. For me, a vital element was missing. Vick, his contrition seemingly sincere in his words, his facial expression, even his body language, never even came close to recognizing the cruelty of his crimes.
Most criminals say they're sorry when they're caught. Faced with certain prison time, the possible forfeiture of up to $22 million, the revulsion of his former fans--many of whom have emailed the Falcons to state that they will never wear the once-popular #7 jersey again---as well as fearing the outside chance that he may never play professional football again, Vick said most of the right things on Monday. He is ashamed of his behavior. He is disappointed in his immaturity. He regrets he has been a poor role model for kids. He is sorry he's let down his teammates and the Falcons owner who not only gave him a $130 million contract but treated him like a trusted son.
Those were most of the right words, albeit words that spilled forth suspiciously late, only after the truth of his role as organizer of vicious dog fights became inevitable.
The justice system will take its steps, sentencing to come on December 10, but I suspect the court of public opinion is waiting to hear what I wanted to hear on Monday.
I need to hear Michael Vick voice the realization that the murders, murders by unspeakably torturous means, are a burden on his conscience. He says he "just made a mistake." That's where his words fall dismally short. We the public are known for collective empathy. We all make mistakes and it is our human nature to forgive mistakes. We tend to forgive even egregious errors in judgment. An individual kills someone while driving intoxicated. If we witness his tears, his gut-wrenching apology to the deceased's family, his sincerity in telling the judge that no sentence would measure up to the life sentence of gripping remorse he will feel in his heart, we feel compassion for his suffering soul. We've all made mistakes we deeply regret.
Michael Vick drowned, hanged, and electrocuted helpless animals with his own hands over a six-year period. If he could hold a struggling dog under water until the breath left its body and feel no empathy, if he could tie a noose around a dog's neck and coldly stand by as he watched it writhe to its death, how and when will Michael Vick come full circle to despising such acts as inhumane and intolerable, not simply "immature?"
As of Monday, he's sorry he committed a crime by the terms of both Federal and Virginia State law. He's sorry he was arrogant enough and imagined himself famous enough to operate easily and indefinitely below the radar of the law. But what about the laws of human decency? When will Michael Vick admit that he is as disturbed as we are by his despicable and uncivilized behavior? Those are the words I believe many of us, including the judge on the case, are waiting to hear.
Monday was a dark day for the sports world, but come Monday night, a ray of light shined back on the sports stage. The US Tennis Association kicked off the US Open with a tribute to the late, great Althea Gibson. It was 50 years ago that the elegant Ms. Gibson became the first African American, male or female, to win the national tennis title. I've always wondered why, as a black woman before Wilma Rudolph, as a black person before Arthur Ashe, that Althea Gibson was never catapulted onto a world-renowned pedestal as a maverick hero. Monday was her day. Way too late but her day nevertheless.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Photo: Jonathan Fickies/usopen.org