Fourth and Long

Published 4:55 pm Wednesday, September 29, 2010

While sports are a popular and common topic in my house, inevitably every conversation regarding Michael Vick becomes a debate.

You have to keep in mind that my wife is a veterinary surgical technician. When dogs fight, the loser and oftentimes even the winner becomes a patient.

She is the one who has to calm an ill-tamed, muscle-bound biting machine so that she can attempt to help repair the damage done by another mistrained muscle-bound biting machine. To use a bad pun badly…she has a dog in the fight. Dog fighting directly affects her life.

I too am a lifelong lover of animals. I don’t even have it in me to hunt (that doesn’t mean I won’t eat it, back straps are delicious).  Don’t think I am comparing hunting and dog fighting, however. Nothing positive comes from dog fighting.

Regardless of the fact that I appalled by everything about it, I know dog fighting is much more common than the rest of society is ready to admit. This is the point where I drive my wife crazy.

You see, I know where Michael and his little brother, Marcus, grew up. I know the area well because I used to live near Newport News and have spent quite a bit of time there since with friends I still have in the area.

Locals call the area Bad Newz (ironically Bad Newz also became the name of the kennel for which Vick was arrested) and it earned its nickname.

The Hampton Roads area, like many regions in the south (that includes the Roanoke-Chowan area) includes a part of society for whom dog fighting is the norm.  I’m willing to bet that Vick, like many people I have known, was not raised to think that dog fighting was a bad thing.

As a matter of fact, in many areas dog fighting is as much a part of society as football and baseball games are in others.

I am not telling you all of this in an attempt to defend Michael Vick’s actions. He was wrong for what he did and as he got older and traveled I refuse to believe that at some point he didn’t realize that dog fighting was not acceptable. He should have been punished. He should also be forgiven.

We all know elderly people that are racist. It took me a while, but I came to realize that many of these people were “good folk,” they were simply raised in a different society than I was. I don’t judge their ignorance the same way I do when I meet a racist my age. It’s still wrong, but it’s not the same when you were reared that way.

Because I know where Vick is from (until you have played spades in an neighborhood where the sound of gunfire in the not so distance doesn’t even phase you anymore, you don’t know), I can’t judge him the same as I would someone raised Cleveland.

My opinion isn’t a popular one and I know most of my readers won’t agree with it. That’s ok, my wife doesn’t either. Regardless of this I still can’t get past the fact that he, like all of us, is a product of his environment.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at