This title could refer to the Calabrese family, on trial in Chicago this summer (and ably written about by our very own Barb D'Amato in Sunday's Tribune). It could even refer to the legions of long-suffering Cub fans. But I was thinking more particularly of Michael Vick.
Disclaimer: I am a football fan. Pro football goes against all my deepest principles, but I love it anyway. One of my cousins, Chip Edwards, played defensive end for Duke. He was recruited by the Chiefs and the Cowboys. I respected his decision to turn his back on football--too many times waking up and not knowing if it was blue sky or blue grass he was looking at--but I had regrets--I imagined myself, cousin of the star, with 50 yardline tickets.
Michael Vick said in federal court today that his five years of dog torture and dog fighting were an "aberration." He apologized to the children who idolize him.
Liza Cody (whose books should be on everyone's nightstand--no one writes her beautiful, economic prose) says that despite the many different ways humans have suffered and/or died in her books, the only time she got an angry letter from a reader was when she killed a cat. Is this what we're seeing with Michael Vick? He's not such a bad guy, just that he liked the thrills and bills you get with dog fighting? But because all of us liberals like Fifi and Rover, we can't deal with a man who himself is trained to fight running a dog-fighting ring?
Six years ago, a Chicago police sergeant visited me with a pit dog he was having to put down. He'd rescued her from a torture chamber on the south side, but she'd been punished too much to be redeemed. the ASPCA says only about 10 percent of fighting dogs can be rehabilitated; the rest have to be euthanized. The sergeant wanted me to write a book about dog fighting, but the photographs he had were too shocking. I couldn't take it and had to say no. The sergeant said he used to be a laughingstock in the Chicago Police Department for caring about animals. That was before FBI profiles began showing that the torture of animals is usually a first step for sociopaths on the road to torturing and murdering humans. So is Vick a sociopath, or just a misguided young man, who also smuggled (allegedly) dope onto a plane last January?
Still, as Rick Morrissey in the Chicago Tribune and Errol Louis in the New York Post both pointed out, there's a collective yawn when NFL stars abuse women. Guys do these things, let's not get derailed from a cheer and a beer. "Three years ago Michael Pittman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced assault charges after his fourth domestic-violence arrest," Louis wrote on August 23. "He'd rammed his Hummer into a car carrying his wife and infant son and their son's baby-sitter. The penalty was a three-game suspension. Lionel Gates, another Bucs player, was arrested and charged with beating a pregnant woman. The team made him take an anger-management course. Lamar Thomas, a former Miami Dolphins player, smashed his pregnant fiancée's head through a window. He was allowed to keep playing."
Adds Louis, "It's not just a football thing. Brett Myers of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball club allegedly dragged his wife around by the hair on a public street. The team gave him a paid leave of absence. Bobby Chouinard of the Colorado Rockies was sentenced to a year in jail for holding a loaded pistol to his wife's head - but was allowed to serve the penalty three months at a time. During the off-season."
I listened on Saturday to WaitWait Don't Tell Me--the NPR news quiz, which I also enjoy, along with football. Bob Saget was a guest contestant. Talking about one movie, in response to a question from Peter Segal, he said, "The hookers were played by actresses, which means they were played by real hookers." Everyone laughed and applauded. Is that the difference in how we view the abuse of dogs and the abuse of women? Dogs are real, important--women are just hookers?
Okay, now I'm starting to feel just plain stupid.
by Sara Paretsky