A morning linkapalooza now that the local pro football collective's star quarterback has been indicted:
Lester Munson at ESPN.com has a solid description of the legal challenges that Vick faces. His story jibes with a conversation I had last night with a friend who is a criminal defense attorney (and a very good one, at that). The initial thought I had after hearing the allegations against Vick was that "sure, that sounds bad, but the evidence against OJ sounded a lot worse and he walked." That isn't an applicable analogy because federal prosecutors are a different class altogether from Chris Darden and Marcia Clark, not to mention the fact that the FBI is a lot better at assembling evidence than Mark Furman. I left the conversation thinking that Vick was cooked once the feds got tired of the Surry County prosecutor and launched into their own investigation.
Munson also references the fact that Vick is in the Fourth Circuit rocket docket, which means that Vick might stand trial during or shortly after the season. In terms of the Falcons' perspective, that isn't a bad thing because it means that Vick's legal situation will be resolved relatively quickly.
I don't think that Bobby Petrino knew it when he took the job, but he's now Terry Bowden. He's stepped into the equivalent of a team on probation, which means he'll get mulligans for the first year or two in Atlanta and no one can blame him if the team doesn't do well. I was mildly optimistic about Joey Harrington until I looked at his numbers and realized that the change of venue to Miami did nothing to improve his stats. Just like multiple witnesses testifying against Vick are going to be more difficult to beat than one or two, sucking for two NFL teams makes it harder for me to play the "Harrington sucked because the Lions suck" card. And as for Vick, it's hard to imagine that he'll be able to put a looming criminal trial with significant prison time at stake out of his mind and focus on playing football. The million dollar question is whether the rest of the team will be affected. I'm generally not a big fan of the line of reasoning that any off-the-field issues prevent other players from doing their jobs, as that reasoning treats players like emotionally immature children. The Falcons' players still have every individual incentive to play well. That said, they now have a built-in excuse not to succeed and that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Both George Dohrman and Mark Bradley focus on the lurid nature of the allegations in the indictment against Ookie and Friends. The widespread dissemination and discussion of the indictment is a major, major problem for Vick. It was one thing for Vick to vaguely be associated with dogfighting. I could rationalize his role as being that of a passive investor who was culpable in the sense that he let his friends commit terrible acts, but he wasn't involved himself. Now, there are very specific allegations that allow anyone who reads the indictment to paint a truly disturbing mental picture of what Vick allegedly did on the property. It is hard for me to escape the conclusion that the allegations are more likely than not to be true, given the level of specificity and the fact that it is not just based on one eye-witness. Moreover, it is very hard for me to paint the mental picture that the indictment invites me to paint and then root for a Falcons offense with Michael Vick under center. As time passes, the impact of reading the indictment will fade somewhat, but is that a good thing?
One other note on the media coverage of the indictment: 790 the Zone did a terrific job this morning at lining up quality guests and having an intelligent discussion of the impact of the indictment. That said, the one thing that bothered me was Steak Shapiro repeatedly discussing the fact that the indictment was going to lead to further polarization, with white racists on one side and African-Americans apologizing for the indefensible on the other. (For instance, one gentleman called in this morning alleging that Vick was being indicted as part of some sort of cover-up for the Feds' failure to "get" Scooter Libby [then what was that whole commutation about?] and investigate voter fraud.) Steak admitted that most people fall in the middle, but that the extreme voices are the ones who end up on the radio. The inescapable conclusion from his admission is that sports talk radio increases the level of polarization by highlighting the extremists and giving them a platform such that their opinions seem far more common than they are. Then again, I listen, so I'm contributing to the process as well. And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society?