“I was just poppin’ dude’s ACL’s left and right. I feel bad ‘cause a couple of those guys would be high draft picks and end up not going as high ‘cause of the injuries they sustained in that game, but when you put me on that turf man I was dangerous. Really dangerous”Michael Vick on his performance in the 2000 National Championship via ESPN 30 for 30 Films: Vick
On Thursday night, ESPN debuted the latest installment from their 30 for 30 documentary series titled Vick. The film is the first of a two-part series directed by Stanley Nelson, and explores the events of former National Football League quarterback Michael Vick’s rise from poverty-stricken Newport News, Virginia to his early days as a superstar with the Atlanta Falcons, while ultimately laying a foundation to explore the circumstances surrounding his illegal dog-fighting controversy.
The controversy eventually led to federal felony charges for Vick, as well as a prison term which will be further explored in Part II, which the network will air next Thursday, Feb 6, at 9 pm ET.
Nelson’s film traces back to Vick’s origins as a youth growing up in the Hampton Roads area along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. From there, it then divulges into his uncomfortable experience playing college football as Virginia Tech’s quarterback before transcending to the NFL and becoming the first player selected in the 2001 Draft.
Much like fellow Hamptons-born NBA Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson, Vick’s incredible talent stems from his upbringing in the highly-competitive Virginia Metropolitan area. He establishes identity as a local football star by pairing an effortless, cannon-like left throwing arm with speed and agility never-before-seen at the quarterback position.
The youngster’s unique talent is attractive and impressive to the point he garners national attention from a handful of major college football programs as a recruit with the ability to revolutionize the view of “athletic” African-American born quarterbacks.
Upon arriving in Blacksburg, Virginia to play for legendary Head Coach Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech., the sheltered Vick quickly finds himself in an uncomfortable situation where a majority of his coaches, peers, and surroundings bridge his introduction into an unfamiliar “White America”. Seeking refuge on the field, the star finds solace and eventually leads his school to a National Championship victory.
Establishing himself as a highly-touted prospect for the professional ranks, Vick manages to forever change the way football is played after landing in Atlanta as the Falcons’ franchise quarterback.
After starting his first professional game in November of his rookie season, it becomes quite clear that Vick’s natural abilities are enough to carry him to a level of stardom never-before-seen for a black signal-caller in the NFL. Those abilities put him on par with some of the best athletes in the sport, and eventually change the way football is played forever on both offense and defense.
Beneath the surface, his impact is strong enough to dissect cultural differences between urban and privileged demographics. Vick stays true to his roots and surrounds himself with many questionable individuals from his Newport News past, while also capitalizing on his star-power and becoming commercialized as football’s first “Hip-Hop Influenced” athlete.
Much like Iverson, the naive Vick finds himself in an environment that blends cultural norms from his upbringing and the unknown lifestyle of young, wealthy superstar athletes. As a result, he finds himself in a situation that draws serious attention from both police and federal authorities. Facing serious consequences and repercussions from those activities, his playing career is threatened while being incarcerated due to pleading guilty to felony charges.
Michael Vick’s rise and fall is a cautionary tale blended with a hint of redemption. Although he failed to reach the heights he ascended to prior to the dogfighting scandal, the quarterback’s misfortune was pivotal in providing a lifestyle change for a young man that ultimately suffered as a product of his environment.
Although he doesn’t directly provide his upbringing as an excuse in Part 1 of Nelson’s documentary, the troubled Vick provides context into the situation and cites the people surrounding him that may have negatively influenced his decision making early on in his career.
From rather simple beginnings, it’s easy to understand that Vick experienced culture shock upon leaving Newport News to embark on a career in football. Despite his self-imposed obligations to the community that raised him in the absence of a consistent-father, he is unaware of the negative stigmas and influence that exist in our world today.
The simple fact that he seemed to never take football seriously from a developmental or dedication standpoint (Vick didn’t even work out or prepare for the NFL combine, before running a 4.33 second 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day. The fastest-ever time for a QB) suggests that he lacked the proper support system or maturity necessary to succeed in the world of professional sports, where athletes are monetized and targeted often at their own expense.
His downfall and resurrection will be explored in Part 2 next week, as ESPN has set the stage to continue the debate of whether or not the superstar should be forgiven for his disgusting, inhumane crimes.
This initial installment goes deep to help society understand how Michael Vick’s fall from being the most-talented NFL quarterback of all-time resulted in him being not only its most-controversial but its most infamous.