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July-25-2007,
Ron Mexico, Why Have You Forsaken Us?...By Jay Graziani

As they say, "You can take the Vick out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Vick". At least that's what Marcus tells me.

Mike Vick might have pushed his luck one too many times, with a federal indictment in his lap and the Falcons looking to suspend him the maximum allowed four games. The repercussions from the NFL and, more importantly, law enforcement, have yet to be felt.

Of course, this isn't his first brush with the law. Mike had a lawsuit against him, back in 2005, claiming he gave a woman genital herpes under the clever alias "Ron Mexico". A minor brush with the law, and not taken seriously by most. After all, when you're a groupie for NFL players, sexually transmitted diseases are just part of the territory.

Not content to let that rest, Mike flipped off his own fans in November after a loss in the Georgia Dome. With both hands. Not a great idea from someone making $7 million in endorsements a year.

But good ole' Mike didn't stop there. He was caught trying to smuggle a water bottle with a hidden compartment through Miami International Airport security in January. The compartment contained a "small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana" that Vick later identified as jewelry. You would think that a superstar like Mike would have some better "bling-bling" than a couple of old roaches.

After being under the media microscope, an intelligent player would lay low, not start up a pit bull fighting operation in rural Virginia. But intelligence evidently doesn't run in the Vick family.

This latest transgression will be a lot harder to overcome than the "Ron Mexico" incident. Right now I can imagine Roger Goodell, doing his best Simon and Garfunkle imitation, singing, "Where have you gone, Ron Mexico?" Spinning PR on a herpes outbreak is worlds easier than dealing with dozens of dog carcasses in a pit down in Virginia. I wonder if Mr. Goodell will ban sales of #7 jerseys saying "Okie"?

What a summer of sports integrity going down the drain. First we have steroid-laden MLB, who can't muster water-cooler talk even though its most sacred record is about to be broken. Of course, the NFL had its own motley crew of felons even before the Vick incident. There have been over 300 arrests and citations of NFL players since 2000, an image problem to say the least. While "The Linc" in Philly has a jail to house unruly fans, Cincinnati should start thinking about investing in a jail to hold their scrimmages. With 10 players arrested in the last 14 months, the Bengals just have to hope enough players get paroled to keep their roster full all season.

For once, the NBA started to look like the good guys (huh?). But, almost on cue, the NBA came back with what might be the biggest sports integrity scandal since the Black Sox, with allegations of referees fixing games. Surprisingly, the NHL is looking like the model of good public image in the sports world nowadays. They could easily spin this to their advantage -- that is, if anyone were watching.

According to Sports Illustrated, Mike Vick is the 24th highest paid American athlete, making a cool $20 million this year. For someone whose livelihood depends on his public image, you would think one close call would be enough. But, no; "The Ron Mexico Files" weren't enough; the marijuana-smelling water-bottle-slash-secret-contraband-smuggling-device wasn't enough. In a time of 24/7 media coverage and YouTube, any one of those incidents alone is enough to kill a public image. Hell, Mike has already crossed the line so many times, he may as well just break out "The Whizzinator" for his next urine test.

For someone who was, at best, a mid-grade NFL quarterback, pushing the limits seems a bit arrogant. He is often named among the most overrated players in the league, and hasn't even broken an 80 quarterback rating for the season since his sophomore year. Last season, he ranked below both Cleo Lemon and Jason Campbell in QB rating. His only redeeming quality is charisma, flashiness, image. And for some reason he is determined to kill that.

More disappointing to me is how the whole sports industry has seemed to just hit rock bottom. Integrity is absent in the new era. Commissioners are going to need to take a stand and, if Mike Vick is proven guilty, I hope it begins with him. A lifetime ban from the NFL would be a good starting point. Someone needs to be made an example of if our sports leagues want to dig themselves out of the gutter.

What happened to the days when top athletes were heroes, someone the kids could look up to? Too often we forget the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings, guys who quietly do their jobs (and do them well), maybe do a few hokey commercials, but generally don't rock the boat. They realize that image is everything in professional sports. It's a shame that the sports commissioners don't realize the same.

07-25-07
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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