Michael Vick

This week Forbes released another top 10 list based on surveys by E-Poll Market Research -- this one touting (of all things) the NFL's Most-Disliked Players and crowning Eagles' starting quarterback, Michael Vick, as number one.

To be sure, Michael Vick has made some mistakes -- some serious mistakes. Being promoted as the "next big thing" can go to the head of any young athlete. That seems to have been the case with Mr. Vick. However, I am flummoxed that after four years on the straight and narrow he would top the list of the NFL's most disliked players.

I happen to love stories of redemption. One of the hallmarks of Christianity is the message of redemption. In the broad sense, the Bible is largely a collection of one redemptive story after another. If one gets nothing else from reading the Bible they cannot miss the overarching theme that there is always hope no matter how far a person has fallen.

Consider Judah, for example, son number four of the patriarch Jacob. According to patriarchal practices a man's firstborn son is privileged with a double inheritance and priority in rank over younger siblings. Judah is outraged when his father Jacob flagrantly violates ancient patriarchal protocol and bypasses ten older sons in favor of Joseph, son of his second wife Rachel. Judah comes unhinged and actually sells his younger half-brother to slave traders. We call that human trafficking today.

Then there is the Apostle Paul who in his pre-apostolic days was a religious terrorist--tracking down, terrorizing, and persecuting Christians, then agreeing to their murders.

Compose a list of the "Most Disliked Men in the Bible" and Judah and Paul are both in the running -- significantly outdistancing any NFL player considered by Forbes.

But God's redemptive powers are at work in both stories, and both men make dramatic U-turns. Judah later puts his own life on the line to rescue the youngest of Jacob's sons. Paul becomes the great apostle of the Christian gospel and will eventually suffer martyrdom in the movement he once fought to crush.

The reversals are staggering, but much needed reminders that no one is beyond hope.

Redemptive powers are at work in the Michael Vick story too. Animal lovers (who presumably are well-represented among the 1,100 fans polled) may have a long memory, but the lovers of redemptive stories will find much to celebrate here.

I don't think it's overstating things to say Michael Vick's story is possibly the most significant story playing out in the NFL today.

Naming Vick as the most disliked NFL player of 2013 serves no useful purpose and cheats us all of the kind of hope his story offers -- the kind of hope we need to hear when there is so much in the news to dishearten.

Vick's U-turn sends a message of hope to countless young men who have gotten off-track and need a story like this to remind them there is hope for them too. The beautiful father-son relationship between Vick and the highly esteemed Super Bowl winning coach, Tony Dungy, is a welcome breath of fresh air in our father-hungry culture. The Philadelphia Eagles' offer of a second chance to a gifted athlete underscores the possibility that there can be new beginnings. With God's help, Vick is turning his life around. Four years and counting, he is moving steadily forward.

Rather than pointing to the past, wouldn't we all be better served to be cheering him on? For that matter, maybe Forbes could use a little redemption too -- a polling U-turn by throwing out the "Most Disliked NFL Players" poll to consider polling the "Most Redemptive Stories of 2013."

*Note: This article was originally posted to The Huffington Post.

About the Author:

Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn is a national and international conference speaker for churches, colleges, seminaries and other Christian organizations. She is president of WhitbyForum, a ministry dedicated to addressing the deeper needs which confront both women and men as they endeavor to extend God's kingdom together in a messy and complicated world.


-1 # Patrick Rita 2013-11-12 11:05
I am not sure I would apply the word redemption to Vick's case. Outside of fulfilling his prison term I am unaware of any body of work reflecting change besides not dog fighting. As for the Apostle Paul, there is at least a body of work to reflect his change.
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+2 # Carolyn Custis james 2013-11-12 20:44
Patrick, Thanks for your comment. You aren't alone in questioning the validity of applying "redemption" to Michael Vick's story. Those closer to the situation with Vick believe the discipling influence of Tony Dungy has had and is having a profound effect. And there are other signs, although my guess is much of what happens is out of the reach of the media, as it should be. I guess we all have to wrestle with whether we’re going to be naysayers or those who celebrate signs of progress and change in Vick, ourselves, and others, and are encouraged that God remains the business of redeeming broken lives. I want to celebrate that and pull for him rather than continue to condemn him for his past. Isn't this what the gospel of Jesus is about?

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0 # Patrick Rita 2013-11-25 14:33
I agree we should be pulling for Vick, praying for him and encouraging him along.
To be honest I don't follow the Vick story very closely so if there are evidences of Godly change I am not aware of them.
I think most people (include myself) think Vick has simply ceased in participating in an ugly activity. If Tony D. is involved than I think good mentoring and disciplining are happening.
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+1 # Tom Pirrone 2013-11-27 16:39
May I humbly disagree with the conclusion that there is no "body of work" reflecting change? I've been following the Vick story since it first broke while he was in Atlanta and as a lifelong football fan know quite a lot about him. I'm also a dyed in the wool Eagles fan, so I watched him even more closely after he was given his second chance at football by former Eagles coach Andy Reid. It's much easier to do good deeds that can be seen by others and then claim that change has occurred than it is to change the way one speaks, acts, engages with others, and represents the community he is a part of.

Whereas, the old Michael Vick was an arrogant, self-centered punk, who would not hesitate to put himself in front of his friends and teammates in Atlanta, this Michael Vick is much different. I did not like that Michael Vick one bit, not as a man nor as an NFL player.

However, I was curious enough about this that I watched each and every one of his press conferences as an Eagles quarterback, and I read almost every article I could find that was written about him, both positive and negative. Of course, no one can really know what is inside of a person's heart and head, other than the Lord. But, the Michael Vick I have seen in Philadelphia is not the same man he was in Atlanta. He has taken his punishment like a man and has only presented himself as remorseful, humble, considerate, polite, thoughtful, and grateful to have another chance. Clearly he has been influenced by Tony Dungy and Michael himself has spoken of his love for Jesus Christ. I wonder what more some folks would like to see from him.
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