Jonah Goldberg

One of the best things I read all year came in a magazine I don't read, about a subject I don't follow, by an author I don't agree with on nearly anything. But Matt Taibbi's "The Jock's Guide to Getting Arrested" in the August 2010 Men's Journal was simply a great piece of writing.

I bring it up because Michael Vick is in the news, and Taibbi's rule No. 1 for athletes who get arrested is "Don't Suck."

"Before you go out and start committing crimes," Taibbi writes, "it's important to first make sure you're at least slightly better than the 30 or 40 guys the team's assistant GM could instantly pull off some practice squad to replace you. Otherwise you will become fodder for the team's zero-tolerance discipline policy. Conversely, if you're awesome, the line will be, 'There've been some bumps in the road, but hopefully he's learned from that.'"

Enter Vick, a star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons until he was caught, tried and convicted for dog fighting and animal cruelty. Vick had been warned to abandon the hobby he loved, but he just couldn't resist brutalizing dogs for sport and drowning the losers.

He went to jail for 21 months, lost a vast amount of money, and was publicly shamed for his misdeeds.

As a dog lover of the first order, I can sympathize with the sentiment behind pundit Tucker Carlson's hyperbole about wanting Vick executed for his crimes. But at the end of the day, nearly two years in jail, personal bankruptcy and the loss of some prime playing years is a reasonable punishment. Though I think lifetime banishments should be more common in professional sports. (Why is betting on, say, basketball more of a reason to ban someone than betting on dogfights? No one drowns the Celtics when they lose.)

Anyway, because Vick is a close student of Taibbi's First Rule, he doesn't suck. Which is why he was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles. Fine, one more reason not to root for the Eagles.

But the story leapt from the sports pages to the editorial pages because the president called the team's owner, Jeffrey Lurie, to congratulate him for giving Vick another shot in the NFL.

"So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance." He reportedly told Lurie. "It's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail."

Obama is surely right that ex-cons face a lot of hurdles in life. But is Vick really a good example?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.