As you might have read, Michael Vick expects, “to get a great reaction from the crowd. It’s going to be a standing ovation,” when he returns to Atlanta next Sunday with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Well, I will agree with him to this point. He will get a reaction.
When Vick was at the top of his game, he united this city more than any other athlete. But when he declined and then train-wrecked his career and the Falcons’ franchise with his off-field issues, he divided Atlanta. Those hard-core Vick fans who bought Falcons season tickets, more to see him than the team, have defended him throughout and blamed others for his faults, even when he admitted guilt. Others have refused to let go of their hatred, saying Vick should never have been allowed back in the NFL.
Neither group should surprise anybody. This is sports. Sports is emotional. Emotion often clouds judgment and objectivity.
A divide still exists and Sunday’s Falcons-Eagles game will illustrate that. Some will stand and cheer their hero’s return. Some will stand and hurl insults at the man they’ll never forgive. Others will ignore the whole thing and spend more time on the hot-dog-or-nachos debate.
Of all the “returns” sports has experienced, this will be one of the strangest. Vick has been a non-factor for the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid has struggled to work the “wildcat” offense into the game plan, and Vick has admitted he’s not thrilled with it anyway. He makes cameo appearances in games. He’s only 3-for-9 as a passer and has rushed for 65 yards, with 34 coming on one carry against Chicago two weeks ago.
When Vick returns to the Georgia Dome Sunday, he’ll mostly watch Donovan McNabb run the Philadelphia offense. He’s an afterthought for Reid. I’m guessing once the game begins, he’ll become an afterthought for most fans — at least until he makes an appearance. Then there will be noise. Lots of noise. We’ll hear and see the division.
How will you react? I realize any Michael Vick blog is combustible. But I’ve got a poll up asking which side of Vick fence you stand on (boo, cheer, don’t care), and feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.
One final request: It’s OK to be passionate with your debate. But please keep commenting clean and free of obscenities and racial overtones, otherwise I will quickly close the forum. Thanks.