My time in chess tournaments and in the rag trade exposed me to rudimentary Yiddish, and one of my favorite words is mishegas, or “craziness”. Maybe it is the way you can get your teeth into it, maybe the word is real close to the word “mess”, for some reason it comes to mind when a situation goes crazy to convoluted to unbelievable to ridiculous.
So much has been written about the situation that it seems unnecessary to recount the basic facts. However, there are a few things I just have to touch on.
1. Who in the world endangers hundreds of millions of dollars in salary, bonuses, endorsements-not just in the present, but in the future-to engage in felonious behavior? My goodness, how much money does Michael Vick stand to lose? Probably more than I will make in this or in several lifetimes. Yet he went blithely about his business, choosing to engage in a violent and illegal activity, certain he was bulletproof. Well, as my sister in law is fond of saying, “not so much”.
1a. I guess it is the same type of person who labels his conduct a “mistake”:
“I’m totally responsible, and those things just didn’t have to happen,” said Vick…“I feel like we all make mistakes. It’s just I made a mistake in using bad judgment and making bad decisions.
Ri-iiight. A mistake is not paying a bill on time, or causing an accident through a one time action like not paying attention. A mistake is not something that carries on year after year. Bad judgement? Absolutely. But to call it a mistake is not owning up to what happened, and suggests his only real regret is that he was busted.
2. When will we reach the time when an African-American celebrity breaks the law–and since he has plead guilty, it is fair to say Vick is guilty of breaking the law–and they are not greeted with civil rights era demonstrations? As Vick plead guilty, groups of supporters stood outside the courthouse singing “We Shall Overcome”. As Michael Wilbon writes:
This went down in the former capital of the Confederacy, people singing abolitionist songs in support of a 27-year-old black man who of his own free will made outrageously stupid decisions despite advice to the contrary. Talk about a historical twist.
When I was a child that song was sung as a battle cry for civil rights…as an adult it has been sung in support of Jesse Jackson for his “Hymietown” comment, or when his second family was discovered…when Al Sharpton took up the cudgels for the lies of Tawanna Brawley, and now for a supremely spoiled athlete. A song that represented bravery and struggle and courage now becomes a punchline and a rationalization.
3. How long will the “new” NFL stay on the line? For all the horror we express about Vick and his involvement in dogfighting, I have a hunch the real NFL concern is that he was involved in gambling. In fact, I imagine that if Vick’s involvement was limited to say renting the facility to others operating a dogfighting operation, and knowing what it was used for, then the NFL indignation would be more muted. A cynical thing to say? How else do we account for wife beaters and drug users and felons making the Football Hall of Fame, accompanied by a corporal guard of sportwriters chanting “doesn’t count, didn’t happen on the field”? Why does the NFL go hog wild over cruelty to animals while turning a blind eye to countless incidents of player on human violence over the years? Again going to Wilbon:
The volume of the debate wouldn’t bother me much if there was as much outrage over other celebrity misbehavior. I’m sorry, but I don’t recall the anywhere near this much outrage when Lawrence Phillips was dragging a woman by the hair down the steps while at Nebraska. I love dogs — and grew up with one wonderful German Shepherd from 4 to 18. But I wouldn’t value his life above that of a human being.
Oh, he’s just getting started…
Drunk driving? No problem, put the guy back on the field. Wouldn’t want him to miss a snap or be a distraction. Batter a woman? No problem, trot him right back out there. Please don’t tell me battering a dog, sick as that is, is worthy of more outrage than battering a spouse or girlfriend, which we seem to dismiss now with frightening casualness.
The Michael Vick situation can only be called a mishegas. What else can you call it when an ethnic/racial group assumes anyone of their group is being mistreated no matter how outrageous the behavior PLUS a major corporation reacting with all its vigor after turning a blind eye to terrible conduct for so long PLUS a gifted athlete who tries to excuse a long running crimial practice as a “mistake”?
Other words do apply…
But for now, mishegas will have to do.