After all the fanfare has died down, and the confetti was cleaned up, the greatest event of this NFL’s season is still in progress. And it has little to do with touchdowns.
I’ve been following Michael Vick ever since he was the quaterback at Virginia Tech. I can’t say I’ve always liked the teams he’s played on (especially Philly), but I’ve always liked him. He’s a phenom on the football field, with that rare combination of speed to evade the rush, but with also the ability to make some difficult throws. But like most people these days with extra-ordinary talents, there was some dangerous stuff lurking just beneath the surface.
And in 2007 it came crashing down on him.
Now, I’m no Public relations expert but it seems like making money off of dogs killing each other has got to be one of the stupidest things someone can do for their image. I grew up on a farm, have always had and loved dogs, and while I’m not about to join PETA, I like millions of others were angry and disappointed by what this Multi-millionare was doing with his spare time.
But I have a friend who saw this whole thing differently. He grew up in the projects too, and as soon as he heard about Vick’s conviction he took it personally. He saw it as more a snapshot of the human condition than just a stupid mistake.
Because here is a guy who seems to have everything, and now in a moment he is losing all of it.
Vick epitomized the tug of war that all of us feel inside of us. He later admitted that he knew he was making a series of mistakes, but he felt a profound sense of loyalty to these friends he had known forever.
It was inevitable that Michael Vick’s career was over. If Vegas was placing odds on a comeback it would have been up there with the Montreal Expos’ winning the World Series…next year.
But nobody counted on Andy Reid.
Because Andy Reid, one of the best active coaches in the league, saw something in Vick that no one else did. He saw something redeemable. Some might argue it’s because Reid is a devout Mormon, others might say that it’s because Reid was desperate to shake things up on his team that was stagnant. But I think it’s because Andy Reid has been wounded himself.
Mr. Reid knows what it’s like to see something you love slip away from you. He’s got a couple of sons who have made some poor decisions. They’ve gotten into drugs, served some jail time, and almost ruined their lives. Reid has watched people he love throw away their opportunity too. So Reid took a gamble.
And it paid off.
One of the biggerst principles of the Kingdom of God is that what we have received we must pass on. And nowhere is this more true than with second chances. Think about the stories Jesus tells, or the prayer he taught his followers. Central to the Christian faith is to remember our own story. To remember where we were when God met us, and pass that grace on to others.
And that’s exactly what Reid did.
I care about this because I’ve done jail ministry for about 3 years now, and one of the most surprising things for me, in that time, is the power of second chances. I’m not talking about a lack of justice, or people being set free who deserve to be behind bars. I’m talking about redemption.
I’ve seen murders discover their ministry. I’ve seen gang-bangers discover that they were leaders, and find something worth leading people toward. I’ve seen violent offenders discover that they could teach and preach. All because of people willing to give them second chances.
Which brings me back to this year’s NFL season. Scandals came and went. Like every year, teams fought to make the playoffs. And like every year, the Cowboys didn’t come close to the Superbowl. Neither did the Eagles.
But I bet that’s okay this year for Michael Vick. He started last season as a 3rd string quarterback, and now he’s Philadelphia’s main guy. He was mentored by ex-Indy coach Tony Dungee. He’s got potential to be one of the best (this year he became the only QB to throw for three touchdowns and run for two…in the first half). He won several offensive player awards, and he carried the Eagles to the playoffs. But I bet none of what he gave coach Andy Reid was as important, as what Reid gave him.
A second chance.