Hey, athletes, walk away when it’s about Vick | NevadaAppeal.com

Hey, athletes, walk away when it’s about Vick

by Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Some people — sportswriters, ex-wives, that guy who calls every night at dinnertime asking you to buy insurance for your cell phone — just don’t know when to keep quiet. Professional athletes also fall into this category. New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury believes dogfighting is a sport. The only difference between dogfighting and hunting, Marbury says, is that dogfighting is done behind closed doors. Memo to all professional athletes: When someone with a notepad, tape recorder, microphone or camera asks you about Michael Vick, walk away. Make some faint choking sounds, excuse yourself and leave the room. There is absolutely nothing you can say about Michael Vick right now that will benefit your career.

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The problem with athletes is that they believe everything is a sport. That’s understandable. Their whole life, ever since they were 5-years-old, has been a sport. So, to them, dogfighting is indeed a sport. Going to strip clubs is a sport. Shooting at someone in said strip club is a sport. Fighting with the police officer who has just arrested you for shooting at someone in said strip club is a sport. Having six babies with six different women is a sport. Hiring six lawyers to handle your six lawsuits with those six different women is a sport. Second memo to all professional athletes: Calling something a sport doesn’t justify its existence. Have you seen the X Games?

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What should the NFL do to Vick? Well, a two-year suspension is a good place to start. A million dollar donation to animal shelters all across the country would be another positive step in the right direction. It should also toss Vick in the ring with two of those pit bulls and ask him after its over whether he thinks dogfighting is still a sport.

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Don’t feel sorry for Vick. The guy has already made more money than any of our families will see for five generations combined. He’ll just go up to Canada and play for a year or two, win a couple Grey Cups and become a national hero. ESPN will show his highlights every night. After the Falcons release him, Vick will be a free agent and a goofball like Jerry Jones will give him more money than ever.

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The Falcons? Don’t feel sorry for them, either. In fact, this whole dogfighting mess is just what they needed to rid themselves of the most overrated (yes, even more than Ryan Leaf) quarterback in NFL history. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons score more points this year with Joey Harrington than they did with Vick. With Vick, they were a seven-win team. Without him, they are a seven-win team.

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Don’t you love all of the national sports columns lately about how our image of athletes as role models has been totally destroyed by the likes of Vick, NBA referees who gamble, Barry Bonds, cheating cyclists, Pacman Jones and steroid-crazy pro wrestlers? Where have all these columnists been the last 15 years or so? Nobody looks up to professional athletes anymore. Vick, Bonds, NBA refs, pro wrestlers and Tour de France cyclists are looked up to in much the same way we admire Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and the American Idol winner. Like Marbury says, it’s just sports, folks.

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Athletes at all levels get in trouble. One of the best Wolf Pack football players has just been suspended for violating team policy and will miss one of the greatest games in school history at Nebraska. Athletes make mistakes like the rest of us. Some, like Vick, make more serious mistakes than others. But stuff happens. Society will survive.

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Does the Wolf Pack football team have a chance at Nebraska? Well, they will be playing in one of the toughest environments in college football, using a rookie starting quarterback and without one of its best defensive players. Pack 21, Nebraska 20. Hey, it’s August. Think positive, Pack fans. There will be plenty of time for that negative talk later on in the season.

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The Baltimore Orioles announced early Wednesday that interim manager Dave Trembley will stick around at least through the 2008 season. And then they go out later that day and get blasted 30-3 by the mighty Texas Rangers. Nice, huh? Oh, did we say 2008? We meant September 8. Sorry for the confusion.

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Everything you need to know about why closers have such a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame despite their fancy save statistics, can be found in that 30-3 Rangers victory. Rangers reliever Wes Littleton actually earned a save in that 27-run win. Honest. It got a little tense but Littleton actually closed the door on the Orioles and got the save. It’s time the save stat goes the way of the game-winning RBI.

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Remember when Leo Mazzone was a good pitching coach? Well, then he went to the Baltimore Orioles. When Mazzone was in Atlanta with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, the Braves would give up 30 runs in a month. Not one game. Maybe American League umpires aren’t giving Orioles pitchers that strike four inches outside the way National League umpires gave it to Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz.

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The Arizona Cardinals will be the most improved team in the NFL this year.

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We were wondering why Randy Moss’ first training camp with the New England Patriots was going so quietly. Well, Moss hasn’t practiced in a month because he’s been hurt (so he says). That’s why it’s been a smooth camp for Moss. OK, Moss didn’t practice for two years with the Raiders, so nothing is new there. But at least the Patriots don’t have to look at him.

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JaMarcus Russell is a smart guy. The Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback is holding out this summer. Smart move. The more Daunte Culpepper plays this summer, the better Russell looks. Brilliant strategy by the young man.

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I donít want to hear about the FIBA America’s Tournament. I don’t want to read about Leandro Barbosa lighting up Canada for 30 points for Brazil. The NBA needs to get all of its players out of all these Olympic-wannabe off-season tournaments. The league has nothing to gain by allowing its stars to play in these meaningless exhibitions. Nobody cares about the FIBA or whatever-it’s-called tournament. Just go get ready for the season. And tell Starbury to keep quiet.

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Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Freddy Sanchez has nine home runs this season. Has anybody checked the size of that guy’s head lately?

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Nice to see Chris Ault get a three-year contract extension. Those contract extensions actually accomplish more for the program than they do for the coach. The best thing a program can sell to a recruit is stability and Ault is clearly the poster boy for stability. The guy knows how to win football games, too. Sometime next year he will go over the 200-victory mark. Who knows? He might even stick around for 300. The first home game after he wins 200, they need to rename the stadium in his honor. How about Ault Field at Mackay Stadium?

Joe Santoro’s column appears in the Appeal every Friday. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com.