I love football and I can prove that. I had season tickets for the Chicago Bears for two years when Bobby Douglass was the QB and Abe Gibron coached the team. The Bears’ performance at that time gave new meaning to the hope that we Chicagoans held that the Cubs would win the World Series.
I would brave the winds to make my way to the east stands – a third of the way up –wearing my six layers of clothing, my little flask in my pocket. I figured I could use the alcohol for self-immolation in order to defrost myself from the west wind which blasted my face and through my clothing – if only I could light a match.
A typical half-time score would be Them – 42 – Us – 3. Two years of this abuse and I gave up my tickets. At least at home. where I was able to move my fingers, I could change the channel.
So I did the Bears and myself a favor. I gave up my tickets – two years before they won the Super Bowl. Maybe I was the jinx hanging over their heads. I guess it’s true – timing is everything.
So having said that I enjoy football, allow me to explain why I haven’t watched a game – pre-season, regular season, playoff or Super Bowl for more than two years. That is because of the way the NFL handled the case of QB Michael Vick.
Mr. Vick was convicted in 2007 for helping organize and participate in an interstate dog fighting ring. He spent twenty-one months in jail for his felony conviction and a subsequent short period in home confinement. I sincerely hope that he truly was rehabilitated during the time of his incarceration.
Most Americans would agree with me that watching two dogs fight each other is an expression of our most base instincts. I have never been to one of these fights and never will go to one. My stomach seizes up at the very thought of it. There is a very simple reason – and that is the animal you see at the top of this post – a German shepherd mix named Dusty.
I found Dusty when he was about an eight-month old puppy. He had been tied with heavy wire by his throat and legs and dumped in an abandoned building. I just happened to be walking by when I heard him crying – got into the building, freed him from the wire and rescued him. At the point I made my way to him, he was trying to chew his left front leg off to get out of the wire. There was a lot of blood.
I brought him to my vet where he was treated for his injuries and held for observation while he was on intravenous solutions. We weren’t sure he would make it. But ten days after I found him my vet called and said that he could go home.
As I waited for one of the attendants to bring Dusty from the kennel I remember thinking, “What kind of mind could think up this sort of abuse – let alone do it? If this were as far as we had evolved – we had a very long way to go. A very long way.”
My vet, Bill explained that Dusty was probably going to be used as a “bait dog” for a dog fight. The way people “trained” these dogs was to commit extreme acts of cruelty on the animals – in order to toughen them up. Bill had seen this before.
The “treatment” included external physical abuse. In addition, they would starve the animal and deprive it of water. Then, after a few days of food deprivation, they would put a large bowl of food in front of their victim which was loaded with cayenne pepper.
At that point I couldn’t listen to any further description. I wanted to vomit. I paid for the hospital’s services and took Dusty home with me.
It took about two years before Dusty really trusted me. Considering his treatment as a young dog I thought that we had made very fast progress. But when he finally came to believe that I wouldn’t hurt him, he was the most faithful and devoted canine companion with whom I have had the privilege to share my life.
Dusty and I lived together for over sixteen years. He died a month short of what would have been his seventeenth birthday – or at least that was the date we established based on the day I found him and my vet’s estimate of his age. I will never forget this wonderful animal.
I am a strong proponent of business – including the business of football. The NFL, as with all professional sports leagues has, however, a special responsibility to its fans and the public. Its players are icons and role models for our children.. When one of those players behaves badly it is the league’s responsibility to send a strong message that they will not tolerate that kind of behavior.
If a person working in the much-maligned financial services industry is convicted of a felony, as with Mr. Vick they are sentenced to time in jail. In addition, they are banished from any further involvement in the industry for life. That would have been the appropriate punishment for Mr. Vick. The NFL chose to follow a lesser path and re-instate him.
As we have all seen so many times and in so many situations, money usually trumps morality.
So I have been on my boycott of the NFL for two years. I know that it won’t make a difference to their bottom line – and I know that they won’t lose any advertisers because of my absence.
But it’s the least I can do to express my continuing love for my wonderful friend, Dusty.