8.25.2007

Weekend Mea Culpa



I'm positive this will make me lose some credibility out in the yard, but not as much as my forthcoming article on why I'm glad I don't play basketball. You all brought it on yourselves by reviving the "our culture values dogs" line in the comments section. Also, I just slept eleven hours, and am either pissed at myself or grossly complacent about my right to speak.

First, let's get it settled: I could give a fuck less about dogs. They are needy, fulsome, smelly, loud, inane, and a poor excuse for stupid children. There's exactly one dog I like on this earth and ironically, he's a pit bull. Here he is, doing his finest:



Thus, for some time, I have been tempted to play devil's voicebox and brush aside all this Vick stuff. He's a major disappointment on the field, but I still like seeing him run around on SportsCenter. While I'm not in favor of slaughtering puppies, I can't say it would forever damn a human being in my eyes. It's just not that clearly a sin in my moral parlor. And unlike any number of other internet sports fans, I always knew full well that dogfighting existed in mass quantities, that it was in many ways a culture that could swamp individual agency, and that, like it or not, there are probably other athletes caught up in this same pastime. In my eyes, Vick was neither a scapegoat nor a devil in need of ritual torching.

When he decided to turn state's evidence, though, something clicked in my head, something that I'm a little red-faced over right now. See, like many of you, I'd been hung up on the valence of the act itself: whether or not being mean to animals is the end of the world. The whole conspiracy aspect of it seemed like a fancy way to make a monster pay. How naive I was, much like those scoundrels who believed, at the other end of the spectrum, that Vick was without peer in this kind of activity.



You can have a rational debate over whether or not gambling should be legal all over. The same goes for drugs, as Wire fans know well. Since they are illegal, though, there's a whole infrastructure of human evil that springs up around them. Bookies beat the shit out of dads. Crews shoot at each other over territory. It's called "the game," and it's the ruthless system of checks and balances that takes the place of rational regulation. Putting things outside the law not only raises the amount of money involved: it leaves appetites unchecked on both sides of the consumer equation, and means that only power and intimidation can erect some semblance of a stable market. But you all knew that already.

(Sidenote: How the fuck is this "illegal gambling" if it's on an illegal operation? Whether it's redundant or contradictory I'm not sure, but it has some logical flaw in it.)



I'm now seeing that the "criminal" part of this might not just be about its being illegal to lynch puppies. We can argue over how much the public should or shouldn't care that dogs died. That's akin to the problem of government-sponsored junk. What I couldn't or wouldn't see is that, duh, this is a highly-profitable network of unsavory dudes making money; there's a ton of unsightly human-on-human shit involved in this—if not on Vick's end, than with the people he's got information on. I don't think I'm being hysterical or sensationalist here, any more than it's paranoid to suggest that gambling and dope slangin' operations might not be the most stable, safe places of employment.

For some reason, I'd always believed that dogfighting was laid-back because of how easy drug money was to come by. Thousands were changing hands in casual pet wars the same way teenagers buy a nicer car than me. That was stupid of me; if dogfighting involves a lot of the same humans as the street wars, why wouldn't it take on a similar form? If only the state had emphasized this more—that Vick is A CRIMINAL EXEMPLAR, not just a twisted dude—it would have fully vaccinated itself against cries of a witch hunt.

27 Comments:

At 8/25/2007 7:07 PM, Anonymous Berts said...

I guess what we all, as sort of hybrid sport/personality fans, try to do with these situations is figure out where and with what measure to apply culpability--to the system, to the athlete's moral failings (if you are a columnist for a local paper), to some idea of the public cult of personality we are projecting on these athletes (if you're FD). If I'm reading correctly, you are saying Vick's culpability lies not in the act of dog brutatlity, but in whatever impulses drive him to associate with criminality, with "unsavory dudes making money."

And of course, this all makes one wish that our cultural assessment of an athlete's culpability wasn't always in the hands of the shril...

 
At 8/25/2007 7:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

let's be very clear on something here: there's nothing wrong with knowing or associating with criminals. the point here is that, if vick bankrolls and presides over an illegal enterprise, he is "an unsavory dude making money." that makes it a lot harder to rehabilitate your opinion of him, since there's really no stock "crazy life of athletes" explanation for that.

 
At 8/25/2007 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we are all ready for professional basketball to resume.

 
At 8/25/2007 8:29 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I'm mostly with Shoals on this one. I grew up in a house with two cats we made sleep outside (still cried when they died, but I was 6) and multiple goldfish I named after the "steak" and "no salsa" labels the local taqueria put on my burritos. So while I don't mind dogs, I also don't think they're necessarily greater than any other kind of animal, and my allegiance to pets is not exactly the strongest thing in the world. When the Vick news came out, I thought it was awful, obviously, but I didn't start to see at as a major story until the dogfight kingpin angle started coming up. That seems like a much bigger issue to me for the reasons that Shoals describes. Mentioning involvement in dogfighting makes me think of Cheese agonizing over killing his favorite dog, not the unseen ringleader organizing the whole operation.

However, I disagree with the statement that emphasizing the criminal exemplar angle would have "fully vaccinated" anyone from anything. We'd still see arguments about how hunting organizations engage in similar activities and that Vick's activity is being singled out because of his race. It would certainly be harder to sympathize with Vick, though, and those arguments would probably focus more on the activities that are legal as opposed to those that are illegal.

 
At 8/25/2007 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you thought "dog fighting was laid back" because of how "easy drug money is to come by?"

REALLY?

 
At 8/25/2007 10:21 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

cash comes in, people throw it around. "easy" probably wasn't the best choice of words. or i guess i could've said "cash" instead of "money."

 
At 8/25/2007 11:17 PM, Anonymous Josh said...

who doesn't love David Wingo's dog?

 
At 8/26/2007 10:34 AM, Blogger PeteJayhawk said...

If only the state had emphasized this more

It's not the job of the federal prosecutors to frame Vick's misdeeds in manner more to your liking.

 
At 8/26/2007 11:50 AM, Anonymous Hate said...

...but it is the pleasure of federal prosecutors to frame Vick's misdeeds in a manner that will best further their careers.

 
At 8/26/2007 2:39 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Nobody in the last comments section, especially saltbagel or I, took the the stance that "dogs are the end all and be all". The only thing being pointed out was that much of the hyper-reaction was understandable given the nature of the relationship many people have with dogs. You don't like dogs? Fine. No one really cares.

Both the gambling and the dog abuse were illegal and he'll be law-smacked for both.

The media chose to focus on one more than the other, but it's "the media" and cash rules everything around them. Dead puppies sell more than dead presidents.

Despite that, don't pretend that the gambling wasn't an brought up as an issue. The state and the NFL emphasized this from the beginning and re-emphasized it when the Donaghy brouhaha was 24-7 news. It was pointedly defined as the act that would bring about the most aggressive prosecution and the most potential for a ban form the NFL.

Where was your cypher then???

PS And the entire serial killers and race issue has more to do with urban v rural, i.e hard to kill bushels of peeps in high-density population areas.

 
At 8/26/2007 2:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

you're missing my point. it's not about the gambling itself, just as it's not about the dog-violence, really. it's about what spring up around these things because they're underground activities.

i don't care if no one cares that i don't like dogs. the post was in part about my own foolishness vis a vis the case, so i thought my lack of empath for dogs was relevant. oh and also, it was directly related to the dogs/drugs analogy, as both are far from moral absolutes.

urban vs. rural my ass. my new home city is serial killer central, and it's a major city. jeffrey dahmer was in a major city. and last i checked, not all urban areas were chokingly "high density". or, for that matter, the subject of intense cop attention.

this is exactly why people shouldn't comment on their own blogs.

 
At 8/26/2007 4:45 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Completely agree. The gambling itself may bring on the most severe legal and professional consequences but I think that's besides the point. If we're talking about moral outrage, it's the enterprise that surrounds the gambling that perpetuates all sorts of human misery that deserves attention even if you care more about dogs than the "unsavory dudes" living in the projects.

 
At 8/26/2007 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man I was gonna post the stupidest shit, good thing I refreshed and saw Tom's post.

 
At 8/26/2007 10:02 PM, Blogger Tim said...

I think the point should be, like Shoals said, not that he hung out with criminals but that he was in an illegal business with them. Its one thing to know dudes from the neighborhood who have done dirt. Its another thing to take these same dudes along with you and help them out whether its money or homes or whatnot. But it is altogether scary thing that he seemed to backtrack and is now the same kind of criminal he shoundn't have to be.

 
At 8/27/2007 4:12 AM, Blogger T. said...

And the entire serial killers and race issue has more to do with urban v rural, i.e hard to kill bushels of peeps in high-density population areas.

I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with that one. Starting from Jack the Ripper and that guy at the Chicago's World Fair (HH Holmes) through the Night Stalker (LA), the Zodiac Killer (Ess Eff), Son of Sam (NY), Boston Stangler (not Andrew Toney) - serial killers have been a pretty urban phenomenon. I mean sure Ed Gein was in the boonies, and Gacy was suburban, but still.

Um, now back to your regularily scheduled basketball discussions.

 
At 8/27/2007 4:21 AM, Blogger Martin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8/27/2007 6:25 AM, Blogger Martin said...

Great points as always Shoals- your post has definitely given me a new perspective on the Vick case. My apathy on dog-fighting eclipses even that put forth by Shoals. I could care less about dog-fighting, hunting or any type of brutal treatment to animals. My disdain for cruelty to animals is solely based on my opinion that being cruel to animals demeans us as humans. Therefore any cruel action we subject an animal to, is really an act of cruelty to ourselves because it reduces in inherent humanity making us no different from beasts.

Don’t get me wrong, pets are cool and shit – and I did at one point have a cat. That said; call me ruthlessly pragmatic or even an asshole, but I was initially pretty galled by the appropriation of tax-payer money towards funding DA sanctioned pooch crusades or “re-election campaigns”. I don’t see that as a priority, when we still have humans starving to death, homeless, unable to afford decent health care or trapped in poverty-stricken environments without access to vehicles of social mobility such as a decent education. This is before even getting into the hypocrisy of criminalizing dog-fighting on grounds of cruelty while turning a blind eye on other forms of animal persecution that are either profit driven like gruesome slaughterhouse killings, Or popular among the “voting majority” thus socially acceptable- such as hunting, or the rodeo (www.RodeoCruelty.com) – the American derivative of Spanish bullfighting(a terribly morbid spectator sport- a trip to Madrid in 2004 opened my eyes to just how gory the practice is- nothing like the WB cartoon portrayal’s).

Even if I hold a strictly utilitarian regard for animal welfare (we need them as food!), I do posses a moral compass that is vigilant for assaults on humanity. Shoals brings out a very good point in his post- that our personal views about cruelty to animals be they righteous indignation or callous indifference, can easily cause us to ignore the fundamental abhorrence in Vick’s acts- the fact that Vick bank-rolled and presided over an underworld enterprise. And even though we don’t have granular details on Vick’s operation, it is reasonable to assume that it embodied characteristics common to all underworld organizations from whiskey bootlegging to arms dealing - i.e. the propagation of human misery and sorrow. Occurrences such as "bookies beating up indebted dads", suspected snitches silenced by threats of violence or death. Vick’s cash-rich enterprise may not have resorted to such depths of violence (against people), but in all likelihood Vick was in cahoots with or indirectly supported by pitting his dogs against those from other operations ran by seedy individuals who regularly resorted to violence to keep their operation secret or collect on bad-debts.

 
At 8/27/2007 10:01 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

From the Humane Society's Dogfighting Fact Sheet, which I'm sure has been quoted a billion team this month:

"Illegal gambling is the norm at dogfights. Dog owners and spectators wager thousands of dollars on their favorites. Firearms and other weapons have been found at dogfights because of the large amounts of cash present. And dogfighting has been connected to other kinds of violence—even homicide, according to newspaper reports. In addition, illegal drugs are often sold and used at dogfights."

 
At 8/27/2007 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff this weekend Shoals, 'specially on the fanhouse.

 
At 8/27/2007 12:21 PM, Blogger Tim said...

This is sort of tangental, but related in that I think the outrage is slightly misdirected here. Killing the dogs was actually bizarrely the right thing to do. Turning the dogs into deeply dangerous animals was the sin here. Letting them go would have been worse than killing them. Having fun while killing them is a little unseemly, but it did need to be done. This would be why I don't buy the analogy to legalized drugs or gambling myself. It's not a victimless crime if it produces monsters as a byproduct.

 
At 8/27/2007 12:37 PM, Anonymous John said...

"yes, serial killer mutilate pets. when they're 12, and in ritualistic ways. also, everyone knows there are no black serial killers."

First off, I disagree with Ben's urban vs. rural explanation for serial killers and race. Also, the serial killer/dog torture comparison in the Vick case is probably a stretch.

However, saying that "there are no black serial killers" or pointing out that serial killers are predominantly white is a common way of implying that there is something inherently skewed about whites and white culture. In the same vein, when disproportionate murder rates among Blacks are casually cited in a heavily opinionated peice, a red flag goes off in my mind.

Obviously, there are serial killers of all races and ethnicities in America, including African Americans(John Allen Muhammed and John Lee Malvo, perpetrators of the D.C area sniper killings, Wayne Williams of Atlanta, Ferguson in NYC, etc). Pointing out racial trends in crime in this context is rarely done without malevolence or some kind of agenda.

While the above comment by Shoals was probably written in response to an over-reaching characterization of Vick as serial killer, it was irresponsible nonetheless.

 
At 8/27/2007 1:14 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Is Colin Ferguson considered a serial killer? All his murders occured in one incident, so to speak. If he's a serial killer, then so is every high school Columbine-type episode, and every post worker gone bad. "Serial killer" refered to planning and orchestrating multiple murders over a period of time... in fact, according to Wikipedia, it requires three seperate incidents. Just FYI.

 
At 8/27/2007 3:59 PM, Anonymous John said...

sml,
O.K. point taken regarding Ferguson, I suppose that he was a spree killer as opposed to a serial killer. Seems kind of like nitpicking though.

 
At 8/27/2007 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to be of the "they're F-ing dogs" philosphy, but after reading the posts, Dahmer probably thought "they're F-ing homos," Son of Sam thought "they're F-ing sluts," and BTK "they're F-ing unholy."
When Tyson was jailed he was quoted as saying "I didn't rape the bitch, but there are 6 or 7 other things I've done in my life where I deserved to go to jail." That's Michael Vick. On the flip side, before this case came out, I would've thought that breeding/fighting/profiting from dogs would be a slap on the wrist misdamenor, maybe $500. I'm guessing the majority of the FD crowd have/do smoke greens, it's illegal but not really, I'm not harming anyone.

 
At 8/27/2007 6:36 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

John, sorry about that - it wasn't nitpicking, it was pure curiousity. I was wondering about it myself, which is why I looked it up on Wikipedia.

 
At 9/03/2007 12:08 PM, Blogger don said...

keep your head mike, we support you and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors whether that involves the nfl or not.

 
At 9/07/2007 2:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shoals, How about we allow Vick to hang you by a rope around the neck and electrocute you if you dont die from the hanging.

 

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