Michael Vick(notes) has been getting support from all sides during his road to redemption. He's now getting it from the leader of the free world.
NBC's Peter King reports that Barack Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie earlier this week to congratulate him for giving Vick a second chance after his release from prison. According to King, the president said that released prisoners rarely receive a level playing field and that Vick's story could begin to change that.
Forget your political allegiances or feelings about Michael Vick and take a step back to think about this. The sitting president of the United States went out of his way to publicly praise a man who, 3 1/2 years ago, many thought would never play again in the NFL. Even the most ardent believers in Vick couldn't have fathomed a turn-around like this.
In retrospect it seems obvious that Vick would get a second chance in the NFL, but it wasn't so clear-cut back when he was lying to the commissioner, getting sternly admonished in federal court and serving out a sentence at Leavenworth. We tend to take for granted unbelievable events when they slowly unfold before our eyes. The step-by-step nature of these sorts of tales tend to minimize the shock when taken in over a long process. So though it now seems like it was all pre-destined to work out like this, it wasn't: Vick's rise and fall and rise is a truly stunning tale. He went from star to pariah to inmate to backup to MVP candidate to political prop for the leader of the free world all in a span of a couple years.
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For Obama to praise Vick now shows a number of things, namely that uttering the quarterback's name is thought to be a safe political move. He's playing the best football of his life for a playoff team and was the second-leading vote getter for the Pro Bowl. At the moment, he's the model of redemption, someone worthy of praise.
Because, if you think about it, Vick got that "second chance" from Lurie 16 months ago. There was no phone call from the president then. Praising Vick at that time would have been a political third rail. But now that Vick is playing great and most people seem to have either forgiven him or stopped caring about his transgressions, it's a shrewd political move. After what could be termed a rough two years in office, the president is looking for a second chance from the people who have turned against him over the past two years. Supporting a huge star like Vick could help with the president's recent image problems. It may not register much nationally, but it couldn't hurt in Pennsylvania. After all, it's a swing state and 2012 is just around the corner.