Michael Vick Has a Lot to Learn About Losing
Sunday was one of the most gut-wrenching, soul-stomping, hope-shattering days in recent Philadelphia sports history. It wasn’t as crushing as game six against the San Francisco Giants last year, or the playoff loss at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, if only because both defeats this week lacked a greater finality. Yet there’s still a sense that the destiny-bound Phillies could be in real trouble. Worse, the Eagles have not only dug themselves into a deep hole—few teams make the playoffs after starting the season with a 1-3 record—but appear to have more hype than heart, a whole that’s far less than the sum of its player salaries.
Success is a wonderful perfume, and in its absence, all sorts of foul-smelling questions arise. One of the more troubling trends to surface during the Eagles losing streak is the reaction of their on-field general, quarterback Michael Vick. If you were at Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Philly last night, you expected number seven to show up for WIP’s weekly “Player’s Lounge” program with hosts Anthony Gargano and Ike Reese. The station promoted Vick as the show’s star when the season began and there’s no Eagle—and perhaps no other athlete in town—who could draw a bigger crowd. For the third week in a row, the quarterback was a no-show. Few would expect Vick to appear the day after suffering a nasty concussion against the Falcons. Even when it was clear his hand wasn’t broken against the Giants, most folks probably gave him a pass for lying low. All due respect to Clay Harbor, but no one showed up on a Monday night to hear the backup tight end take heat for the loss. Short of a medical emergency or a natural disaster, the $80 million leader of the team should have sucked it up and endured the postmortem.
His radio disappearing acts compounded with some of his attitude during post-game press conferences have taken some of the shine off his otherwise excellent play (including Sunday’s career day, which he miraculously accomplished with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand). That’s a shame, but it’s Vick’s own behavior that deflects attention away from his jaw-dropping ability and growth as a complete QB. Last week, he whined about a perceived lack of penalties against him for late hits, even though other passers around the league have been punished without penalty this season, including Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan (in his game against the Eagles, no less). In his media address yesterday, Vick stared down a reporter in disbelief when asked how it feels to have one win at this point in the season. “My feeling?” he shot back. “Do I really have to explain that? Do I really have to explain how I’m feeling right now sitting at one and three? You want me to explain that to everybody in here?”
Yes, Michael, you do have to explain that. The fans want to know if you still think you’re being unfairly roughed up, or if you’re still confident, or if you’re so damn pissed off that you’re ready to strap on the pads and play another four quarters right now. In many ways, Vick has said all the right things since being anointed the leader of the Eagles for the foreseeable future. Lately, though, it seems his maturity off the field hasn’t quite caught up to the growth he’s shown between the lines. With plenty of time left in what could be a very ugly season, Vick’s true tests are likely yet to come.