I am a traitor.
I am the worst kind of person, one who will turn her back on an entire group of people who once meant the world to her, inviting their scorn and animosity.
Yes, I have abandoned my football team.
I have walked away from the Philadelphia Eagles, the team I have rooted for my whole life — through the awful years, the more frequent so-so years and a few nearly brilliant seasons. I have hung up my pink jersey because of one man.
Any guesses who?
I suppose it should go without saying that electrocuting and drowning dogs is bad and that dog fighting is a heinous activity, but I guess it bears repeating since there seems to be collective amnesia that Michael Vick, quarterback of my once-beloved Eagles and former QB of the insanely popular Virginia Tech Hokies, did all of that.
Yes, he "paid his debt to society," as people love to say, by spending 18 months in federal prison and two more on house arrest. And yes, he has spoken to children about the horrors of dog-fighting. For me, this is where the very long road to redemption begins and ends, not on the football field.
But ... As a fan, I have the right to hate the idea of a dog abuser leading my football team. I was disgusted when Vick was signed in 2009, but he was just the third-string quarterback then. Fast-forward to Donovan McNabb getting traded to the Redskins, Kevin Kolb going down with an injury, and suddenly Vick was, as the Philadelphia Daily News declared him, "Top Dog." Classy.
The night back in November when the Eagles bulldozed the Redskins, 59-28, on Monday Night Football should have been a glorious one for any Eagles fan. But with every laser pass Vick threw, every scramble for more yardage, every TD he scored, I just felt sick — sicker perhaps than even the Redskins fans. Like the character Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange , who was forced to watch horrific images mixed with the music he worshiped, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, I suddenly knew what it was like to have something you loved turn your stomach.
I would feel the same way if I were a Steelers fan and my quarterback were an accused sexual abuser. What's more, I have the right to stop buying someone's CDs if he beats up his girlfriend, or stop going to his movies if he hurls racial slurs as well as beats up his girlfriend. What's so awful about pulling your support if the actions of a public figure make you sick? It's funny that people feel it's OK to vote the bums out or boycott the store, but when you turn your back on your sports team in protest, you suddenly become the worst kind of garbage.
When I posted on a website that I could no longer root for the Eagles because of Vick, I was accused repeatedly of being un-Christian in my inability to forgive. (I find it interesting that people get religion when their team is winning.) I was called a "crappy person."
And it got much worse.
"What is it that you can't forgive?" a commenter replied. "Humans have done worse than what he did to their fellow humans."
"Oh, please!" wrote another one. "Folks like you are such hypocrits [sic]! You treat humans worse than animals, so get off of your high horse. ... Please! He paid his dues, so let it go! yes, he did a terrible thing, but to keep harping on this is stupid! No one cares that you can't watch the Eagles! You're always welcome to find another team. What bull!"
A third: "Who made you God? I bet you approve of the war in Iraq where thousands of innocent people were killed over a lie."
And my personal favorite: "People like you usually have very dark secrets that have yet to be exposed … but when they are you will receive the exact hatred you have given out."
I never considered myself perfect or above anyone else. But I will admit to being mildly surprised to learn that on the scale of scum-bucketry, an animal abuser still rates better than a hateful, heartless, war-mongering hypocrite with skeletons in the closet and a very tall horse in the barn.
Such as myself.