This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Two terrific football players, brothers, came out of Newport News, Virginia, in recent years. The shame was that the younger brother, Marcus, always seemed hell-bent on wasting his talent. He followed his older brother Michael to Virginia Tech and, although he had some big brother shoes to fill on campus, Marcus showed his special stuff, too. Trouble was, Marcus was trouble. He was arrested and disciplined often. Drugs, weapons, unsportsmanlike conduct.
Big brother Michael, by then a famous face in the NFL, kept a steady stream of mentoring flowing to baby brother, trying to enlighten him as to how he was on the brink of throwing away a great future. But baby brother, it seems, couldn't help himself. He was thrown off the Virginia Tech team before his senior year. His character in question but his football ability solid, he managed to land a spot with the Miami Dolphins last year. This spring the Dolphins cut Marcus and it is doubtful he will play another down of professional football.
All through their parallel careers, the family, the press, their respective teams have lamented the fact that Marcus couldn't measure up to big brother Michael's off-field standards. It's the classic Greek story of brothers, one virtuous, one dark. But, in classic Greek fashion, irony now sweeps in as the virtuous brother is charged with far more egregious crimes than were ever committed by the troubled brother.
Police went out to a rural home on Moonlight Road in Smithfield, Virginia, a few months ago to slap a young man named Davon Boddie with drug charges. Boddie quickly revealed to the officers that the home was owned by his cousin, Michael Vick. The next quick discovery was that vicious, to-the-death dog fights were being conducted on the property.
When the allegations against the Atlanta Falcons quarterback as being responsible for these organized dogfights first surfaced about a month ago, I declared on this program that, unfair as it may seem to judge a man not yet proven guilty, I would never watch Michael Vick perform again. The chorus of response from YOU listeners was loud. And it was vehement.
At that time, the investigation in Virginia had uncovered considerable evidence of blood-spattered walls, buried pit bull carcasses, sadistic equipment used to inflict pain on the animals. There was no doubt as to whether violent dogfights transpired at 1915 Moonlight Road. The doubt swirled around Michael Vick's knowledge or involvement of the bloodshed. He has claimed, by way of friends' statements, that he is an innocent property owner, that he can't be apprised of how tenants comport themselves on a property he never visits.
Well, a grand jury evidently thinks there is a mountain of physical evidence to prove that these inhumane fights have been transpiring on Moonlight Road since Vick purchased the house in 2001. The formal indictment came down this week. And the evidence is far more, devastatingly more, heinous than originally reported. Honestly, the details of abject cruelty are so disturbing that I can't bring myself to verbalize them here. And, along with the physical evidence, there are evidently both neighbors and eyewitnesses to the fights that place Vick front and center, and as more than a voyeur, but as one of four individuals who have repeatedly inflicted both horrible pain and even death on dogs who didn't win in the ring.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated…the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man." By the letter of the law, Vick is as of today an innocent man. But the Falcons are scrambling to put another quarterback option in place. Nike is distancing itself by withholding the release of the new Vick sneaker. And in Ghandi's terms, in the eyes of our nation, Vick is a man who makes helpless creatures suffer. He's a man who impedes moral progress. He's no longer a man even his younger brother can look up to.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images