Vick’s Sin: Americans Love Animals

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 08, 2007
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One of the most frequently asked questions around the water coolers in Hawaii last week was about Atlanta Falcon quarterback Michael Vick’s alleged sick hobby - gambling on the outcome of dogfighting. “Why would a professional superstar who just signed a $140 million long-term contract be involved with gambling on dogfighting?”

The latest word is he may have been bankrolling the gambling on dogfights since he signed with the Falcons.

The wagers on the outcome of a dogfight were reported to be around $3,500 a contest for the owners of the winning dog, and death for the losing canine.

This is really a question for a trained psychologist. Let’s face it, when the ordinary person is confronted with any kind of cruelty to any kind of animal, it is revolting. It is such a hot-button issue with the majority of the population, there is a very popular television series that shows the heroic efforts of animal police busting individuals who are cruel to animals. It is very hard to watch and mind boggling to see actual video of just how cruelly people can treat animals. They are starved, beaten, unattended and their basic needs disregarded routinely. Watching the program will make just about anyone’s blood boil. So much for the topic of animal cruelty.

Vick’s fighting dog of choice is the pit bull. It is a breed brought from England in the late 1800s. By the 1900s American breeders developed a dog taller and heavier than its British ancestors. It was once used in vicious dogfights in pits, hence its name. Many people blame the natural aggressiveness of pit bulls for their attacks on humans. Most animal experts fault irresponsible owners who may have abused the dogs or raised them to attack.

It is also a popular notion that certain fish and chickens are born to fight. Some people also believe that natural aggressiveness is genetic, and to explain use the argument of families with criminal activity. Again, psychologist fault that argument and point to irresponsible parenting.

Then there is superstar millionaire Michael Vick. It will be interesting to listen to his explanation and/or rationalization of what caused him to participate in a dogfighting ring. He has pleaded not guilty; however, if he doesn’t testify in open court, then we may never know. Rest assured, professional football players are not naturally aggressive. They are coached to be like that when they first start practicing for Pop Warner Football.

If you wanted to understand Vick’s deviant behavior, you might want to read the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition-Text Revision. One of the manifesting behaviors of conduct disorder is physically cruelty to animals. Pathological gambling behaviors can be manifested in 1) a need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement; and 2) an individual who gambles as a way of escaping from problems or reliving a dysphoric mood (e.g. feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression).

These symptoms and resulting behaviors could explain the reason Vick participated in the vile and repulsive act of dogfighting. And while his actions seem to exhibit some of the behaviors mentioned above, they by no means demonstrate all of them.

Many of our superstars enjoy gambling in casinos around the world for everyone to see, because they need the thrill of a contest. To them, the possibility of losing a great deal of money is not a concern since they have an excess of money to begin with. They need the “rush.”

It is a good bet that Vick will never play for the Atlanta Falcons again, but it also a good bet he will play for some other professional football team. The reason is simple. There are many places in the United States where cockfighting and dog-fighting are cultural hobbies and accepted with the shrug of the shoulders.

It’s worth pointing out how the public reacts to these kinds of stories. By comparison, there was very little outrage expressed when a very successful and wealthy professional wrestler, after a long use of steroids, murdered his wife and son and committed suicide. It’s a stern warning for all wealthy individuals, because while they can sometimes get away with murder, no one can get away with kicking a dog.

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