Back in early June Bleacher Report revealed they had produced a documentary chronicling the story of Virginia Tech quarterback, and NFL Pro Bowl player, Michael Vick. Simply titled, Vick, the film is being released this week in episodic format – one chapter every week day. Each one of the five-part documentary focuses on a specific period of the troubled athlete’s life. The viewer can gain immediate access to all five parts by downloading the Bleacher Report mobile application, Team Stream. If that is not an option for you, click here, and you will be able to watch the documentary on the Bleacher Report website, as the episodes are released.
Professional sports overflow with polarizing figures. Unquestionably, there is no shortage of controversy surrounding the alleged, and actual, criminal activity of professional athletes. The drama surrounding the events that occurred in Newport News, VA and Bad Newz Kennels resulted in, arguably, the largest public uproar ever witnessed due to the actions of a modern athlete. Protestors and animal rights advocates filled the streets, in the thousands, around Atlanta, Hampton Roads, and around the United States.
To this day, Michael Vick, remains one of the most reviled people in the country. One would be hard pressed to find a hated athletes list without Vick being firmly entrenched. In Bleacher Report’s own article he was ranked the 24th hated athlete of all time. Even as recent as 2015, when Vick was battling Landry Jones for the backup QB role with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was considered the most hated man in the city. Last year The Richest website posted a list collecting the ten most hated athletes of all time, and they ranked Vick third. Michael Vick is one of the most electrifying and famous athletes in collegiate and professional sports. He was instrumental in the evolution of, not only how a position is played, but how offense and defense is executed in the modern game of football. Regardless of that impact, his legacy will always be besmirched, and many would argue, overwhelmed, by the unfortunate decision to involve himself with dog fighting.
Before getting into the content of the film, it must be stated that the production value of the documentary is truly fantastic. Johnny Sweet wrote, directed, and produced the documentary, and he did an excellent job. The documentary looks and feels like a construction from NFL Films or ESPN’s 30 for 30. I was particularly impressed with the associated sound track. There are several portions of the film where the statements of the interviewees, coupled with the music, gave me chills. This is a very well-made film.
The actual content of the movie is commanding. I learned a tremendous amount about Michael, his background, and the events of his life. It is surprising to see how many well-known and famous individuals were involved or influenced by Vick. In the documentary you will hear from those you expect – his coaches, Tommy Reamon and Frank Beamer. I was surprised to learn how involved former Philadelphia Eagles QB, Donovan McNabb, was with Michael, during his days of being recruited to a college all the way through his return to the NFL, after prison. McNabb’s inputs I found particularly illuminating. Vick’s influence in the hip-hop culture and how the Atlanta rap scene latched onto Mike Vick, during his time with the Falcons, is a fact that I was previously unaware of. Hip Hop A-listers Lil Wayne, N.O.R.E. (formerly Noreaga), Scarface, and others discuss how they first heard about Vick, his influence on their music, and how Mike reminded young African Americans of themselves, and represented a hope that they too could do what Mike Vick did.
After discussing the rapid rise and incredible fame Vick reached the story turns dark. The film is candid, and doesn’t pull punches. This movie is not, in any way, a Vick apology. It paints the brutal realities of Michael’s indiscretions. There are graphic videos of the dog fights in the film. One of the most tragic narrations, I feel, is when Vick recounts how, as a boy he kept a dog and cared for it, and now he found himself fighting dogs. Bleacher Report’s interview of Jim Knorr, one of the investigators of Bad Newz Kennels, is particularly sobering.
Reporter: "To your knowledge, with the investigation, what other NFL or professional athletes were known to be frequent members at these dog fights?"
Mr. Jim Knorr: "I can’t comment on that."
It seems that Michael Vick genuinely recognizes that the wrong that he has done cannot be undone. During the press conference following his conviction, Vick said, "I will redeem myself. I have to." The documentary details what Mike has done to make up for his sins. He is acutely aware that there are those that will never forgive him, and in his own words stated, "I understand it. I don’t blame them." Beyond his moral recompense, the film documents his astounding return to the field, and how he had one of his best years, as a player, after spending two years in prison, earning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Back in June, almost 700 readers participated in a Gobbler Country poll asking, "Will you be watching the Vick documentary?" Almost half of the participants (48% - 333 votes) stated, no. 23% of you (159 votes) said, maybe. I implore you, watch this documentary. I am not here to change your mind about Michael Vick or plead with you, one way or another, about his character. Regardless of anyone’s perceptions of his character, he is the most famous and simultaneously utmost polarizing figure to ever emerge from Virginia Tech. All Hokies, VPI fans, or supporters owe it to themselves to watch this documentary, to know the whole story, and see the events unfold from other points of view.
Perhaps, I am biased. I also grew up in Hampton Roads. My first year at Virginia Tech was Michael Vick’s last. He was a known force on campus, and every interaction I ever witnessed or heard of was positive. We loved him. Everyone hoped for a glimpse of him at the dining halls, or at the New River Mall in Christiansburg. I know that I will never experience an athletic event that even comes close to watching Vick live, at Virginia Tech. That environment is a one off. It will never be captured again. There are those that are angry at Vick, and for good reason. There are those that feel that there is no recourse for Michael. But, me? I think one can change his or her progression. I think one should be afforded the opportunity to make amends. I recognize his sins. I don’t condone them. I think they’re despicable. But, I believe in redemption.
For me, Michael Vick will always be No. 7, wrapped in maroon, streaking down Worsham Field at Lane Stadium on a chilly Thursday night. Always.