If we can credit the ESPN The Magazine essay “What if Michael Vick were white?” for anything other than spawning one of the more memorable images ever posted on the Intertubes, it’ll be the 40,000 fantasy football leagues this year that include a “White Mike Vick” team.
Even the phrase “White Mike Vick” has a certain lyrical quality to it, enough that it’s bound to carry into three-beer arguments now till Vick’s next run at MVP. I can see it now …
“Would we have given this guy more of a break if he were white?”
It’s not an uninteresting question, but the author, Touré, sucks most of the marrow out of it by undercutting the premise throughout. He points out that for Vick to have been white he would have necessarily been born of different parents, raised in a different household, kept different friends, had perhaps a non-dumbass cousin who wouldn’t get busted for possession and wouldn’t lead the fuzz straight to Bad Newz Kennels where Real Mike Vick — or as we all know him best, Black Mike Vick — was running a sociopathic dog-fighting/torturing/executing/raping operation.
In fact, in the author’s estimation, White Mike Vick’s life would be just about unrecognizable to Black Mike Vick’s. Hell, his name probably wouldn’t even be Mike Vick! So, to summarize, our original two-martini argument has by now been redefined as, “Would we have treated this guy differently if he were a completely different person who because of these changed circumstances would be unlikely to have committed his crimes in the first place?” The short answer is, yes. The slightly longer answer is, we’re no longer talking about Vick at all.
Perhaps Touré’s argument is that race has little to do with how Vick has succeeded in his NFL return but everything to do with how he came to be Black Mike Vick in the first place. That’s an interesting discussion if you care to know Vick; mostly, I just want to watch the guy play football, so this business of nudging football out of the discussion takes most of the fun out, for me. But it does make you wonder. What if a butterfly flapped its wings in China and somehow we’d had a
… male Williams sibling? Let’s say Serena was a Sergio. Venus dominates the women’s side, fueling speculation that her brother may do the same on the men’s side — and then up comes Serge, pushing Federer and then Nadal through one of the strongest eras ever for men’s tennis.
… black Larry Bird? The whole modern history of the NBA gets rewritten.
… fully healthy Bo Jackson? The whole modern history of highlights gets rewritten.
… puritanical John Daly? Minus the vices he becomes one of the most brilliant players of his era, but no one names a cocktail after him.
… gay Brett Favre? Same grit, same stats, same talent, same Mississippi twang. Only thing different is, he comes out after winning his first MVP award in Green Bay.
… female Adam Vinatieri?
… Texan Arvydas Sabonis?
… Mexican Dale Earnhardt?
… human Secretariat?
… or Cablanasian Michael Vick?