Sunday, August 14, 2011


When the jail cell door slammed shut behind Michael Vick in 2007,
it put an exclamation point on the greatest fall from grace of any athlete
in the history of professional sports. No one had ever napalmed a
career, financial empire, and reputation like Michael Vick did.

Then came Tiger Woods.

When the most recognizable athlete in the world outside of Muhammad
Ali ran over that fire hydrant in an ambien-fueled haze three years ago, a
lot more than hundreds of gallons of water came out it. Sordid details
of Tiger's romps with porn stars, pin-ups, prostitutes, and just about
anything with a pulse, came spewing out. His squeaky-clean, family man
image was gone quicker than a shot of Jack Daniels in front of Lindsay

Woods and Vick fell from the highest of walls and broke apart in
far more pieces than Humpty Dumpty ever did. But we are a nation
that loves to forgive, hand out second chances, and become engrossed
in a great comeback story.

Despite their despicable acts, Woods and Vicks both got a chance
to put themselves back together. To this point, the Philadelphia Eagles
QB has done a much better job than Tiger in resurrecting his career
and re-habbing his image. Both of these incredibly talented athletes
had money, intellectual resources, and a good support systems at their
disposal, but it's been Vick who has made much better choices
and decisions than Woods.

Vick's first move on his comeback trail was, perhaps, his most
important one. He called on Tony Dungy, the former NFL coach, to
be his adviser. Forget about coaches, Dungy is one of the most respected
and well-liked men in the history of professional sports. He is intelligent,
well-spoken, and a devout Christian. Dungy has endured and overcome
incredible hardships, like losing one of his children to suicide several years ago.
This move by Vick was universally praised throughout the country
and a sign that Vick was serious about atoning for his actions.

Woods was managed by IMG, the most powerful marketing and
representation agency in the world. They were responsible for making
Tiger a marketing machine and hundreds of millions of dollars, but crisis
management and image rehab are far from their expertise. For that,
they hired Ari Fliescher, the former press secretary of George Bush, who
is well-connected at IMG with super-agent Sandy Montag. Fleischer was
good at putting out fires within the Bush Administration, but he was clearly
out of his league when it came to sports, and out of touch when it came
to taking the pulse of a skeptical nation.

Vick initially lied to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about his involvement
in a dog fighting ring and tried to rinse his hands of it. But once Vick got
out of prison, perhaps with the guidance of Dungy, he owned up to everything
and put the blame squarely on his shoulders. Vick didn't point fingers at
his posse, the one who was bilking his fortune and acting like thugs while
they rode his coat tails in Atlanta. Vick accepted responsibility for everything.

That was in sharp contrast to Woods' carefully orchestrated apology where
he came out from behind a blue curtain and read from neatly scripted notes,
and acted as if he had been coached by Fleischer for a presidential address.
What came out of Tiger's mouth reverberated around the country, leaving
viewers shaking their heads and shouting obscenities at their televisions.

When talking about his philandering, Woods said, he "felt entitled...normal
rules did not apply."  To paraphrase Forest Gump, I'm not a smart man,
but I do know what stone-cold arrogance looks like. That statement was one
of the dumbest I've ever heard from someone trying to gain forgiveness.
One thing our country can't stand is utter arrogance. Fleischer and his
"advisers" were soon no longer working for Tiger. I wonder why. How
that was allowed to pass the mustard test is beyond me.

Since getting out of sex re-hab, another bad decision by Team Tiger,
because it left himself open for more lampooning and criticism, El Tigre
didn't treat his "inner circle" very well. He left his long-time
swing coach, Hank Hanney, twisting in the wind, he cut ties with IMG,
and fired his caddy, Stevie Williams. Tiger had total disregard for
the people who supported and helped him along the way. Firing
many of his people, was in a way, blaming them, and for a guy who
people had come to  really despise, this was not helping his
image at all.

Michael Vick praised everyone once he got out of prison and signed
with the Eagles. He thanked the owners, coach, Tony Dungy, and all of
his teammates. Vick was especially thankful to then-QB Donovan
McNabb, who went to bat for Vick and encouraged management
to sign a player who would eventually take his job.

In his second year, when he took over for an injured Kevin Kolb,
Vick downplayed any thoughts of a controversy and said Kolb was
still the starting QB, which earned him big points in the locker room.
When Vick was in Atlanta, he'd be the last one to practice and the
first to leave. He did a 180 in Philadelphia, becoming the most
committed and dedicated member of the team.

There are people who will never forgive Michael Vick. We are
a nation of dog lovers and killing them was a reprehensible act.
Some owners treat their canines better than their kids. But Vick,
in his tough road to recovery has,  in many ways, become likable,
or at least more likable than Woods. He has clearly been humbled
by going to prison and losing everything.

But his career is back on track and even the endorsement contracts
are starting to return.  Nike, who abandoned Vick when he went
to prison, came back with a nice contract in hand. Vick is respected
by his teammates, opponents, and a majority of fans in Philadelphia
and around the NFL. Vick hasn't been perfect, but he and Dungy
carved out a solid game plan for his comeback and Mr. Electric has
followed it brilliantly.

Tiger Woods has become more unlikeable with every pink slip he
hands outs and every club he slams to the ground.  He remains defiant,
somewhat petulant, and unrepentant. Woods seems to be working a
snowball that just seems to be getting bigger with his bad decisions and
choices. For a guy who seemed to do everything right on his way to
mega-stardom, Woods has made an awfully lot of bad moves.

The only thing that needs more polish than Woods' swing, is his image.
Perhaps, it's like his mechanics with the club. It's going to get worse,
before it gets better. Woods has a long way to go in his image rehabilitation
and now might be a good time to consult with Vick on how to improve it.

No comments:

Post a Comment