Monday, August 27, 2007
A serious look at Vick v. Henry
In the comment section of the Fanhouse's recent post on Travis Henry, there were more than a few people that wondered who was actually worse - Vick or Henry. It's definitely a fair question. So why don't we try and answer it from two perspectives. First from the NFL's perspective and second from the larger societal perspective.
NFL perspective: Henry's 9 kids by 9 women is certainly a black eye for the NFL, but let's think about this rationally. Athletes, of all colors and ilk, are notorious for having illegitimate kids. Henry is just a bit worse than normal. And by a bit worse, I mean much worse. But still, in reality all Henry does is reinforce the notion that ALL professional athletes are sexually irresponsible with women. Of course for some people, he reinforces the belief that black athletes are more sexually irresponsible with women. But again, if you scour the backgrounds of pro athletes, the brand of illegitimate kids still falls on all races and economic backgrounds. There's also little concern for the NFL, since the NBA is generally considered to be (fairly or unfairly) the predominant league of illegitimate kids. In this sense, there isn't much for the NFL to worry about in regards to Henry, except maybe bailing him out when he needs money for child support that he hasn't paid. It also helps that Henry isn't exactly the face of the NFL.
Vick, from the NFL's perspective, is entirely different. First and foremost, Vick is better known than Henry and Vick was one of the faces of the league. Vick also committed a serious crime (felony) and has now admitted to it. Although what Henry has done is pretty bad, having illegitimate kids isn't yet a crime here in the United States. It's also important to note that serious gambling was involved with Vick's dogfighting ring - something the NFL wants no part of its players doing. Vick's crime is also particularly bad for the NFL because it wasn't something that can be brushed off as accidental or stupid. Vick didn't punch someone who made fun of him or fall asleep drunk at the wheel. He financed, ran, and participated in a dogfighting ring for an extended period time. For a league, and a commissioner, looking to set things straight, the last thing you want to have happen is one of your star players actually running a clearly illegal operation, and actively gambling on it, for an extended period of time. It lends credence to the notion that pro athletes, particularly football players, are thuggish individuals who consider themselves above the law. It's also important to note that crime (in Vick's case dogfighting and illegal gambling) has a bigger impact on the general public than illegitimate kids. Vick's crime is easy for people to condemn given how he broke actual laws. For most people, illegitimate kids are something much less tangible than crime - and much more difficult to openly condemn seeing as they're actual human beings, and not as easily definable as a broken law.
For the NFL, it's clear that Vick is easily the bigger problem thanks to his admission of the crime and his illegal gambling. Henry will likely be a funny story for years, but Vick is a permanent black eye on the NFL.
Societal perspective: Might actually surprise you here -we'll start with Vick. Although both men have done reprehensible things, Vick's impact is much less great. This hinges on one critical point. Vick was dealing with dogs, who despite what PETA-Nazis will tell you, are not actually humans - and remember our legal system says as much as well. And while Vick killed 8 dogs himself, and has condemned another 53 to lethal injection because they were trained to fight, his crime - from a societal perspective - is less bad than Henry's. This is because as great as dogs are, and as much as I loathe what Vick did, a dog's impact on society is essentially minimal at best. They don't peddle drugs, abuse people, and murder people (usually). Nor do they build spaceships, help solve the battle against cancer, or cure AIDS. They essentially offer humans companionship (and sometimes help with drug busts). While what Vick did is terrible, his overall societal impact is minimal. And there's even an argument to be made that what Vick did has actually raised awareness of dogfighting and will get more people attempting to stop it in the future.
While Henry hasn't killed any dogs or kids, his societal impact is actually much worse than Vick's. Let's think about this for a second. He has 9 illegitimate kids by 9 women. That means if we cut his jimmy off today and he settled down with one of these women, there'd still be eight children who'd have minimal contact with their biological father. I'm sure I don't exactly have to hit you with academic study (Population Review) after academic study (Brookings Institution) that suggest that illegitimate children tend to have the odds stacked against them. Not only that, but as the AJC story from the Fanhouse pointed out, Henry is essentially broke from paying for all nine kids. And we all know he won't be playing football until he's 60, so things could get interesting when he retires. The fact is that Henry's incredible lack of foresight, combined with the motivations of these 9 women, could seriously impact these kids' lives in negative ways. So while Henry hasn't drowned any dogs or physically hurt any of his kids - the odds appear to be against these kids thanks to Henry's stupidity. And these kids will grow up to have a bigger societal impact (positive or negative) than any dog ever will.
From a societal perspective, it seems clear that Henry is actually worse than Vick, seeing as he's made decisions that ultimately have a direct impact on human lives, whereas Vick's actions did not.
Conclusion: As was made clear earlier, both guys have done reprehensible things. But it appears that Henry has actually done worse things than Vick. Henry has likely negatively impacted the lives of 9 kids, who in all honesty, are more important than the life of any dog.