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Irreparable damage? (cont.)

Posted: Monday May 14, 2007 4:38PM; Updated: Tuesday May 15, 2007 9:01AM
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KJ never won a title, was never an MVP, but most importantly, he never let me down. He certainly had no idea there was a kid in Atlanta studying his every move, but he comported himself as though he knew there was someone who would be crushed if he was implicated in a dog-fighting ring or was caught carrying a bottle capable of concealing a dark particulate.

Charles Barkley came out and directly warned the world that he was not a role model, but he was and he is, whether he likes it or not. The same goes for Vick. Barkley's point was that kids should look up to people they actually have access to for guidance and advice, like teachers or parents. While there are a lot of kids who don't have that luxury, I was raised in a two-parent home with parents who were always there for me. But I still looked up to KJ.


The thing is -- and this is a lesson we only learn through experience -- the let down is a part of the deal that we have to accept. When we invest our hopes in somebody we've never met, we're opening ourselves to the good as well as the bad. We just hope there ends up being more good than bad.

When the Falcons drafted Vick, I didn't have much choice but to buy in completely. As soon as Vick slipped on that Falcons cap and shook hands with Paul Tagliabue, he became the most athletically gifted player the Falcons have ever had. OK, so he still hasn't become the quarterback we'd hoped he become, but he's provided some mind-bending moments that Falcons fans will never forget. Unfortunately, a lot of those moments have occurred off the field.

New NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems to be like a new principal intent on establishing himself as a stern disciplinarian before his students take advantage of him. As if in response before the iron hand of the NFL comes down on him, Vick has spent the off-season promising us that he's going to take a hard look at his life (at the urging of Falcons owner Arthur Blank) and that things will be different from here on. "Just don't plan on talking about me anymore unless it's about football," Vick said last week.

I just wonder if it's too late. Vick could give all his money to the poor, win five straight Super Bowls and stumble across a cure for cancer by haphazardly mixing flavors of Gatorade, but he'll always be known as Ron Mexico. I suppose it's important to remember that Vick hasn't actually been found guilty in any of these incidents. As a Falcons fan, I hope none of this stuff shakes out, yet as a realist, if you subscribe to the "where there's smoke there's fire" theory, Vick's created a veritable raging inferno around him.

We've seen him escape from plenty of improbable situations before. But if he keeps this up, he's eventually going to find an impasse from which even his fleet feet can't carry him far, far away.

Game Of The Week

While Gold Miner has now become one of the great games in the history of the Internets, Reel Gold seems to be a pretty intriguing variant.

Lang Whitaker is the executive editor of SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.

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