Friday, October 1, 2010

Wit Or Wit-Out: On Michael Vick, Ethical Hurdles and Barf Monsters In Brian Dawkins Jerseys

Ordinarily I'm happy to tuck the links to Kicked Off, my NFL column at The Awl, over into the right hand corner. And while I've done that with this week's column, which deals with Michael Vick, Philadelphia monsterfans and the moral and (as usual) ethical quandaries of NFL fandom -- assiduous site maintenance being my hallmark, here -- I thought it worthy of a miniature post, as well. Not just because I'm kind of proud of it (I am, but I love all my adjectivally unbalanced creations equally) (Not really), but because... well, because I had that great picture of a dog in a Redskins jersey gnawing on a Michael Vick figurine, and wanted to use it.

But mostly I'm proud of the piece. It's not perfect, obviously, but I really did want to get it right, and I think hours of fussing over it helped me come pretty close to that. (Also helpful were the near-invisible edits of The Awl's Alex Balk, who manages to cut down the shag on these columns with real grace; I barely notice, and it doesn't hurt at all) There's a tendency for me to fall back into the same harangue every week with these -- said harangue being, in short, that the NFL demands an unseemly ethical quiescence from its fans because of its singular brutality and exploitiveness. While I didn't feel that any less acutely this week than I did last, or the week before that, or back in like 2008 when I was moaning about the Patriots and the end of everything good in the universe. The tough part to remember, and the thing I can't forget if I actually want these pieces to be any fun to read, is that I actually do kind of enjoy watching football. This means that, because players like Michael Vick are so transcendently gifted and what they can do so unique and remarkable, I need to kind of re-examine the NFL fan's ethical bargain every week knowing that 1) I'm going to come down on the "buy" side every week and 2) my livelihood at WSJ (and elsewhere) depends to a great degree on sucking it up and dealing with the squeamishness.

It helps that Vick is fascinating, and a beautiful player and vexingly complex subject. But while I can't write this particular column every week, I'm feeling pretty good, at the moment, about the challenge of writing something like it for another few months. I'm sure it won't be easy, because if past experience holds I'm going to be sick to death of the whole dumb thing by Week 13. But I imagine it will be interesting, and there's always room in my workday for something like that. Or... well, there's not actually room in my workday. But I look forward to trying to fit it in anyway, is what I'm saying.

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