Michael Vick as a Falcon: Some brief shining moments …

I remember how it was that Saturday in 2001. I remember so many folks descending on Falcons headquarters for a scheduled draft-day celebration that traffic backed up for miles and even Hall County police couldn’t sort it out. I remember what Dan Reeves said about driving to work that giddy day: “People were pulling up beside me and giving me the thumbs-up. Usually they give me some other sign.”

I remember how thrilled we all were that Michael Vick was a Falcon. I remember Jamal Anderson — not Jamaal, but Jamal — saying how heady it felt to be part of an organization that traded up to make such a wonderful thing happen. I remember the feeling that a door to the future had been flung wide open, and that ahead was nothing but seashells and balloons.

I remember waiting for his apprenticeship to end, and I remember the giddiness over the opening game of the 2002 season and how splendid he was in an overtime loss at Lambeau Field. (He would soon revisit the scene to even greater effect.) I remember watching him grow week by week, from the breathless tie forged in Pittsburgh to the overtime wonder wrought in the Metrodome, and I remember thinking Jeff Hullinger said it perfectly on Falcons radio, that this was indeed “the incomparable Michael Vick.”

I remember the thrall in which we approached the 2003 season, with Vick and the Falcons coming off the playoff win in Green Bay and a Super Bowl seeming near at hand, and the utter deflation that accompanied his broken leg that Saturday night against Baltimore. And even then what I remember about that season isn’t all those Vick-less losses but the moment in Houston when he trotted on the field and even the opposing Texans were yelling to one another: “Vick’s in the game! Vick’s in the game!”

I remember 2004, the apex of his career, the DVD backfield and the stomping of the Rams on a Saturday night in the playoffs, and how headed for Philadelphia and the NFC title game it seemed fully possible Vick could contrive to beat a better team in the chill and the snow. And when he couldn’t quite, it figured to be no big deal. He and his team would be back soon enough.

But they weren’t. And what I remember about those next few years is of a career unraveling and a franchise imploding and the layers of a famous person being peeled back until we weren’t sure this was the same guy. We don’t need a recitation of all the incidents at this late date, for we know them all by heart. And indeed, that’s what the decline and fall of Michael Dwayne Vick did to us all: It hit us in the heart. It broke our hearts.

And now he’s a Falcon no longer. We’ve known for almost two years the day was coming, but still it arrived with a thud. He was once the best reason, often the only reason, to watch the Atlanta Falcons play, and it wasn’t only Atlantans who felt that way. I remember the Christmas when my wife had to go find a No. 7 jersey to take back to Northern Kentucky because our little niece had asked Santa for one.

I remember seeing him in his glory, orchestrating the fourth-quarter comeback against San Diego in 2004 and throwing the ball so expertly in Cincinnati in 2006, and I remember talking with him and feeling — every single time I walked away — that he was a good guy with a good heart. And now, when I remember the sobering spring of 2007 and everything thereafter, I feel only sadness.

He was the biggest athlete this city has ever seen. As much happiness as he brought us, he could and should have done so much more.

258 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

June 12th, 2009
10:59 am

Nice article.

Not surprisingly, the Falcons weren’t able to find any takers for his contract. Don’t let that fool anyone into thinking teams won’t pick him up on the cheap when he is reinstated.

Curious George

June 12th, 2009
11:00 am

What will all the criminals in this town do on Sunday afternoons during the NFL Season now?

Why does it make me feel SO very proud right now to be a FALCONS fan once more?

Michael

June 12th, 2009
11:00 am

Sad but true! Well said Mark Bradley.

Marcus

June 12th, 2009
11:02 am

MB,
Hopefully his time for reflection and repentance will give him the opportunity to do so much more. Perhaps those lessons and mistakes will forge in him (and purge him of any traits/perspectives)of any that would comproimise his willingness and ability to do so much more.
I am pulling for him, and not only limited to his gridiron exploits, but for his remaining days.

What!!!

June 12th, 2009
11:08 am

I remember feeling sick when the true Vick came to surface and it almost destroyed this team!

Bye bye and good luck with the UFL.

PMC

June 12th, 2009
11:08 am

Nice article Mark. A reminder that there hasn’t been one Baltimore Raven that has ever done a good thing in this city. They should enter and leave with a police escort.

mryan

June 12th, 2009
11:11 am

One of the happiest days as a Falcons fan. I’ve been waiting for this for too long. Let’s move on, Falcon Nation. We have nothing but positive leadership from the top down and it will continue as long as Thomas Dimitroff is in charge.

Mark Bradley

June 12th, 2009
11:13 am

Thanks, folks. And I’m including myself when I say it’s a sad day. I continue to have great affection Michael Vick. I wish him the best.

Mr. Obvious

June 12th, 2009
11:15 am

Mike Vick may no longer be a Falcon, but he is will always be a F E L O N !

mryan

June 12th, 2009
11:17 am

Sad day? Go sulk in the corner. I can hear the “Happy Days” theme running through my skull as I type.

Elbow Macaroni

June 12th, 2009
11:18 am

Dear Former-Falcon & FOREVER-FELON Mr. Vick:

Enjoy Dallas, Goofball !

Just like with my cheating EX-girlfriend, I say: “GOOD RIDDANCE, LOSER !”

azcat225

June 12th, 2009
11:26 am

You’re going to be busy deleting comments today, Mark (as I just said over on Jeff’s blog—nothing personal, just came upon his first).

Two different perspectives, both excellent opinion pieces.

The best thing every one involved can do, and I do mean every one, including Michael Vick, is to turn and walk away. Case closed, matter concluded, that’s a wrap.

Oh, if that were really the case…

Blindog

June 12th, 2009
11:27 am

Biggest athlete this city has ever seen ??? Hank Aaron, ever hear of him? Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine ??? Shame on you for putting the likes of Vick ahead of these hall of famers! Only when we got a real Q.B. did we see the talent Roddy White has.Vick was a fast runner who could throw a little…very little! He was not even the best Q.B. to come through this city, get real!!

Spacemountain

June 12th, 2009
11:29 am

Nothing worse than potential unfulfilled.

What!!!

June 12th, 2009
11:30 am

Blindog…….couldn’t agree more!!

Darth Hater

June 12th, 2009
11:33 am

I wish Mike Vick would be released…..

….. from the cargo bay of a helicopter and into the mouth of an ACTIVE VOLCANO !!!

Burn, Vick !

For how you have disgraced and humiliated our city and football team, BURN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Otto

June 12th, 2009
11:34 am

Mark, My memories of Vick are strikingly different from yours. Sure he had some great moments and as you said “Vick could contrive to beat a better team in the chill and the snow”. The most striking words are “He had” and “Vick could” It was all about him as it was in college. He didn’t win the BCS title game and he didn’t win the Super Bowl because it was not about the team. Vick was a selfishly good player which is good enough for 2nd best. I remember it became very clear the team was about Vick waking up to the radio alarm set to Z93 just in time for their news report that Vick had signed a large multi year contract. Any chances of the coaches teaching him to mature were highly unlikely. Hopefully Blank has learned alot. I like the current team much better than any Falcon team of the past.

NCFalconFan

June 12th, 2009
11:34 am

This is why I love you Bradley!!! Great article… I always tell people if it was not for Michael vick, I would not be a NFL Fan.

I have so many mixed emotions about this case. I can angry at Vick for making bad decisions. However I don’t believe he would have made those bad decisions if someone in his inner circle cared about Michael Vick the person, instead of Michael Vick the millionaire football player.

Hallmark

June 12th, 2009
11:39 am

Happy ILLEGITIMATE FATHERS Day , MIke Vick!

chc4

June 12th, 2009
11:40 am

Yeah… another Mike Vick timeline.

Steve

June 12th, 2009
11:40 am

I can’t say I am sad and I think Vick hates that he’s lost all the money and contracts. If he had never been caught he’d still be hanging out with the low-lifes he surronded himself with and he’d still be fighting dogs and he’d still be the single most overpaid, overhyped player in the NFL. He’s just sad he got caught, but most convicted felons are. To the kids out there who look to Vick as a role model, you’ll end up in prison just like him if you don’t have yoiur goals set a helluva lot higher than Vick. Kids, you can do way better than Vick as a role model.

SCN

June 12th, 2009
11:43 am

Mark you summed it up pretty well except for, as Blindog mentions, the “biggest athlete ever” part … unless “biggest” means most hyped … Vick no doubt beats Aaron, Chipper, ‘Nique, et al., and probably even Deion “Primetime” Sanders, on the Hype-O-Meter, but none of them if we’re talking performance. And there’s no doubt Vick will always be “incomparable” in this town as far as being a polarizing sports personality. Good luck and good riddance!

Joshua

June 12th, 2009
11:44 am

I feel the same way as you do, Mark. I wish him the best. We know this day was an inevitable necessity, and now starts, hopefully, a new chapter. I don’t think it arrived “with a thud,” as you said. On the contrary, I think it’s an event that hopefully allows new life to be brought to this situation. So, possibly, the measuring stick of interest from other teams can start now (rather than hearing things like “we cannot comment due to the fact that he’s still under contract with the Falcons.”) I think it’ll be quite interesting. I’m still going to root for him, wherever he goes. And, for what it’s worth, I’m one of the few people who never threw away my No. 7 jersey. Thanks for the article.

rob

June 12th, 2009
11:45 am

GOOD..now maybe we dont have to endure any more articles about MV7

Nostradamus

June 12th, 2009
11:45 am

Michael Vick will be back behind bars before he is ever back in a football uniform.

You can take that to the bank, DOG.

Biscuit

June 12th, 2009
11:46 am

Before the arguing starts, those were good memories of Vick and im really pi$$ed off that he started down the path that got us here. Forget the horrendous act of dogfighting for a second; it was giving the fans the bird that severed his ties with Atlanta, and for that I say good luck and f*ck off Mike Vick.

Sam

June 12th, 2009
11:48 am

Man, that was some exciting sh$%. And frustrating too. Oh well. At least we have a bright future again. Unless Matty Ice cooks up ice in his backyard shed. Could it happen again?

f leghorn

June 12th, 2009
11:48 am

Good article, Mr. Bradley. . .one thing is certain, this whole episode has revealed that there are still lots of haters in this city on both sides of the “color aisle”. . .shame.

Joey

June 12th, 2009
11:49 am

Great job, Mark – one of your best. I hope so much that his prison time has really changed him and that we can see the change, so we pull for him on the field again.

Optimist Prime

June 12th, 2009
11:51 am

Aw, Nuts!

I was hoping this was an obituary column.

Maybe tomorrow…

Darrin "The Vent King"

June 12th, 2009
11:51 am

I remember once saying when we drafted Vick (I was a fan of his when he was in college) that “man, this city will never be the same now!”, only to not know how that would end up being true for all the wrong reasons. I’ve seen this city go from being completely one in celebrating Vick to being the most polarized city in the history of professional sports in his downfall and now it truly won’t be the same. This scar will last for a very long time for some (small) people will always use this incident to hurl insults and degrade others, while others will just be saddened from it. It is a shame, it could have and should have been so much more and the blame really lies on #7 shoulders himself, not the fans. He had it all, the world in his hands and let it slip through his fingers. MB, you are right it is a sad day in a sense cause of all the hopes, dreams, and excitement people had in this town for him, BUT a new day is upon us as far as the Falcons are concerned and I am now focusing in on that. I was a Falcon fan before Vick, was a fan of Vick’s when he was a part of the Falcons, and will continue to be a fan of the Falcons now that he is gone. I know what sense you are saying this in, but for me the only way to depart from the ugliness of all that went down concerning MV7 and to let those scars heal is to smile and look at the possible good times watching the team we have now. I hope other fans do the same for there is nothing no one can do about what happened, we can only move on and we have something pretty good to move on with in Coach Mike Smith, Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and now Tony Gonzalez. These guys are our future (a bright one at that!) and nothing unfortunately can be done about the past…

GO FALCONS!

What!!!

June 12th, 2009
11:53 am

NCFalconFan…………..stop making excuses for Vick. He did it to himself. He had the 130 million and could have very easily walked away and he didn’t.

mountain_jim

June 12th, 2009
11:54 am

I loved watching Vick play. At this point, I hope he plays again and does have the sense and the morality adjustment to reclaim his life.
I do wish the Falcons could have got something for his rights, but understand how unlikely that was.
Oh -I hope the hypocracy of PETA gets them what they deserve as well – saying they need a brain scan to see if he’s changed. MV was poorly represented and made an example of by the FEDS in a process that was way more policized than it should have been. Not excusing anything he did, but anyone without his fame would never have gotten 2 years in the Fed Penn for this, while war-criminals and torturers get away with murder in the name of ‘national security’.

What!!!

June 12th, 2009
12:05 pm

Mountain-jim are my friend are just plain stupid.

Ted Striker

June 12th, 2009
12:10 pm

If you think Hall County police couldn’t sort traffic then, you ought to see Athens-Clarke County cops on a normal day.

Madden NFL online gamers are just waiting for Vick to be added to a roster, any roster. (You should see my patented McNabb double reverse bootleg that makes opponents pull their hips out of the socket).

Fred

June 12th, 2009
12:11 pm

Vick gave this franchise way more than he got in return from it. Dont be fooled like this franchise was a victim, get real. Before the Vick era, who gave a dayum what the Falcons did? This city didn’t even sell out the 1999 season that came after a super bowl run! That’s just how irrelevant this team was and sadly, is on its way to being again. When the best selling item from the Falcons store is D.Hall’s jersey, you can best believe this franchise is on its way back to 2 decades ago.

CDawg42

June 12th, 2009
12:11 pm

To all you hypocrites, how soon we forget. Look in the mirror. You know who I’m talking about. Mark…quite simply some of your best work, sir.

Marie

June 12th, 2009
12:14 pm

The Minnesota run with Jeff Hullinger’s call is an unforgettable memory that makes me sad. A remarkable moment and there should have been many more with Vick in a Falcons uniform.

Jimv

June 12th, 2009
12:22 pm

The biggest athlete this town ever saw was Hank Aaron, especially on the night he hit the shot heard ’round the world. Aaron is so much bigger, in so many ways, than Vick will ever be.

JM

June 12th, 2009
12:25 pm

GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE

2001-2009

Beautiful Monte

June 12th, 2009
12:27 pm

Michael Vick was involved in a dog-fighting operation that included the torture of animals.

Then there’s the middle finger in the Dome incident, the Ron Mexico incident, the airport water bottle incident, etc.

And yet, Mark Bradley continues to have “great affection” for this piece of human garbage? You’ve got to be kidding me!

Evidently, Mr. Bradley is one of those guilt-ridden white libs who believes that it is unfair to expect minorities to obey the rules of civilized society.

I guess Vick has just been “keepin’ it real”, huh, Mr. Bradley?

Ted Striker

June 12th, 2009
12:27 pm

Marie — I can’t handle anything with Jeff Hullinger. I’ll never forget watching a segment he was broadcasting about the Braves upcoming World Series berth. Rather than discussing the Braves, he broadcast footage of himself in a dental chair receiving emergency dental work and discussing his treatment. At the very end of the segment, he rolled some canned Braves footage and casually mentioned that the Braves were excited about the upcoming opportunity. End of segment.

Shortly thereafter a friend of mine was at WAGA studios and needed an ink pen. Hullinger told him to open his desk drawer and get one. My friend did — but he also spotted what must have been 2 dozen hairbrushes and 3 cans of hairspray.

Vick Supporter

June 12th, 2009
12:30 pm

To me, it’s a sad day for the city of Atlanta who really apreciate the player that Vick was/is. He single handedly resurected the franchise and the city. We haven’t had anything like that sense and we won’t have that kind of excitement again. Vick was a good QB regardless what you people think, and I think its good for him to have a fresh start and he can come back and dominate again. I wish he wouldn’t have been involved in dogfighting, we would have been a better team if he was still here….Roddy would have been developed (which is the ONLY REASON he’s playing well with Ryan), and have a RB that can carry the load like Turner.

This time, he’ll go to a better franchise, better city, and have better fans that all the mess he had to go through here….I remember all of the racial taunts…which is why he gave them the finger and deservedly so. The Falcons will never be the same. People are latching onto Ryan so fast, and maybe he can get it done, but I doubt it. This franchise has made mistake after mistake during the Vick Era as far as personnel decisions, yet you people can’t even remember that. You people wanted Roddy ran out of town just 2 years ago, and now you love him. What a hypocrite sports city. They would never do that in Pitsburgh or any real NFL City/fans like those. ATL sucks as a sports city, and yes, Vick did all of this to himself, but the heart of the falcons is now gone. It is truly a sad day, but redemption is near for Vick. He can’t go anywhere but up from now on. When Vick comes back with his new team, the dome will be electric again, not some place where you can fall asleep in 10 minutes. We miss you Vick. ATL is still your city.

Vick 09

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

June 12th, 2009
12:33 pm

MIKE VICK: The Failure of Affirmative Action at the Quarterback Position in the National Football League

Curious George

June 12th, 2009
12:39 pm

RE: “This time, he’ll go to a better franchise, better city, and have better fans that all the mess he had to go through here….I remember all of the racial taunts…which is why he gave them the finger and deservedly so.” – Blogger Known as “VICK SUPPORTER” @ 12:30 pm

——–

Gee, VICK SUPPORTER, why don’t you go with Vick to that “better city,” get out of all our lives and make Atlanta a better place for everyone else in the process?

OldTimer

June 12th, 2009
12:41 pm

A dancing village idiot is still a village idiot.

Vick Supporter

June 12th, 2009
12:46 pm

@Curious George

First of all, I like the city of Atlanta, I just think it sucks as a sports city.

Second, I say a better franchise/city, because he won’t have to carry the entire load like he did during his time here. If you can’t admit that it was a one man team you really don’t know football. It’s funny how the Falcons get Ryan, and all of a sudden, they’re a “team”. Vick carried the Falcons after Dan Reeves left or I should say unfairly fired. Deep down in your pure hatred of people, you know its true.

The Great Mike Vick Has Returned

f leghorn

June 12th, 2009
12:47 pm

Vick Supporter. There were no “racial taunts” that day Vick “fingered” the fans. .that’s my section. .I was there. They were booing a poor performance. .again. .by your hero that cost us a game. .again. Quit making stuff up to support your own racist view. Dope.

lawton

June 12th, 2009
12:47 pm

reminds you of when dominique wilkins left, the REALITY that the omni would never be the same. i am all for matt ryan and the falcons, but the ELECTRICITY inside the dome will never be the same. NOTHING short of a superbowl championship will get the stain of this out of TRUE falcon fans minds, athletes like vick dont fall from the tree everyday.

Coldwell Banker

June 12th, 2009
12:47 pm

Maybe ex-QBs MIKE VICK and VINCE YOUNG can get an apartment together here in Midtown and “mentor” one another…

…on the DOWN-LOW.