Friday, August 14, 2009

Unnecessary Roughness


There are days when I feel like LIFE has decided it’s exam time.

I look around hopefully for a referee who’ll toss a flag and blow his whistle after I’ve been hit and call an “Unnecessary Roughness” penalty.

But referees only manage the violence in organized sports. LIFE gets to say, “Gee, Jim seems relatively content lately. Let’s see what we can do to shake things up. How about some of those friends he’s stuck with through tough times.  Let’s try him on that!”

And like all LIFE tests (and well written jokes – even when they’re on us) these pop quizzes come in threes.

Test #1.

I’m lining up a film cast and have breakfast with an actor who’s great, difficult, but a long time friend. She needs the work and “loves” the part. I need her talents and am willing to pay some of the Karmic debt I know it will cost to shepherd her through the shoot. But instead of a “Yes” or “Thanks for thinking of me”, I get a list of actors and directors who are the only people she’ll work with.

As the cherry on that Sundae, I learn she has already forwarded the script to most of them for comments or consideration and “They’ll be calling you".

Now being a Producer, I know I can find ways to blow off most of those people without upsetting anybody. But it’s work I don’t need and my first thought is to avoid all this and contact my second choice for the role, knowing I’m already settling for less at the wrong point in the process and maybe jeopardizing a decades long friendship to boot.

Test #2.

I have a producer pal who is trying to sell a show to a Canadian network and getting far more than a nibble. But they (being a Canadian network) won’t or don’t have any money to pay for development – and specifically for the budgets and breakdowns and other financial ephemera that gives networks confidence – or at least something thick enough to cover their tender behinds.

I agree to help, on the understanding that I’ve got my own “paying” priorities and I’ll get his documents to him by the end of the month. He calls the network to let them know the stuff is on the way.

And then -- hanging up the phone from fending off one of the actress’s friends last night, I get an email from the network exec who really needs the material before he goes on vacation --- this weekend. 

I wrote back with a list of books he might want to pick up for the beach and copied the Producer buddy a much shorter list of people who can accomplish the task by that deadline, although probably not as a favor.

And those emails went out as my sports ticker BEEPED with…

Test #3.

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed Michael Vick to a two year $7 Million contract.

Now, I can’t remember how long I’ve been an Eagle fan. But it’s certainly been as long as I’ve been a dog lover.

And for those who don’t know that connection, Michael Vick was the eminently talented and highlight reel quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons until he was convicted of running a dog fighting ring and personally dispatching those animals who “wouldn’t compete”.

And Michael didn’t just take his passivist pooches down to the Vet for a “humane” departure. He personally drowned them, or electrocuted them or hung them from trees and in one case flailed the poor animal against the ground until he beat its brains in.

Even the dogs who managed to please his blood lust ended up being chained up and raped or left to languish in cages looking like this…


Yeah, that’s the kind of guy I want to cheer on a football field. That’s a guy who epitomizes the “Character” football is supposed to build.

Apparently, the news leaked out during last night’s Philadelphia/New England pre-season game. Veteran sportscasters and reporters covering the event were stunned to see spectators deserting the stands en masse as their iPhones and Blackberries instant messaged or tweeted them the news. One reported fans roaming the concourses in shock, trying to make sure this wasn’t some sick joke and gathering in small groups to consider what this meant to their team, their city and perhaps what they themselves might have to deal with on future Sunday afternoons.

The sports world is one that thrives on redemption stories, on Cinderella stories and on tales of the benighted loser who finally puts it all together and wins the big game. The Philadelphia Eagles recently even had one of their own, “Invincible” the story of Vince Papale, that just might be one of the finest Sports movies ever made.

And let’s not forget that Philadelphia is synonymous with “Rocky”, the greatest underdog (sorry) movie ever made.

To the people handling Michael Vick’s career and PR, Philadelphia probably looked like the perfect place for his ”comeback tale” to begin.

The Sports nets, notably ESPN, appeared less stunned than Eagle’s fans at the Vick signing. The Jock meat puppets immediately directed the discussion off what Michael had done and onto the Eagles need for a dependable back-up to Donovan McNabb and how Vick might enliven the Wildcat formation and Blahdy-Blahdy-Blah.

They also played right into the “He’s paid his debt to society”, “deserves a second chance” etc. And they were quick to point out that Coach Andy Reid might have a redemptive need to help Vick since he couldn’t keep his own kids from being arrested for drug crimes and armed robbery and also backed the hiring on the recommendation of former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who may be dealing with his own redemption issues following the suicide of his son.

Mostly you could see them gleefully spinning all the potential storylines that could pop up in future sportscasts. Michael Vick had become their very own Michael Jackson deathwatch in the making.

I wonder how far most of these guys and the Philly fans willing to look beyond Vick’s past if it means a Super Bowl win are really ready to take that “deserves a second chance” thing to its ultimate conclusion.

I mean, if Michael Vick deserves a second chance to play NFL football, do we need to make sure that Priests who molest kids get their pulpits back, that crooked cops are returned to the police force and anybody else who breaks the law gets to go right back to what they were doing before they got caught?

Does Conrad Black deserve another newspaper empire? Does Garth Drabinsky deserve Public funding for another Broadway play?

If you’re a member of the Canadian establishment, I know your answer to that, I read it every day in the columns of your main stream media.

But how do you think sensible people living in the real world feel?

In an interesting insight into the public forgiveness the Philadelphia Eagles are offering Michael Vick, a commenter on one of their forums was left wondering why they have not shown the same mercy to a disabled ticket taker they are refusing to rehire because of some past indiscretion.

I’m a big believer in second chances (and have been more than thankful for the couple I’ve received). But “Second Chance” doesn’t necessary mean getting to enjoy exactly the same set of conditions that existed when you first screwed up.

If you’re a Teacher who likes sleeping with teenage girls, you don’t have an automatic right to go back into that kind of classroom. If you’re a financial advisor who absconded with funds, you don’t get to pitch your services in an old folks’ home.

Michael Vick brutalized creatures in no position to defend themselves, get out of his way or cry out for help. He violently dispatched those who couldn’t play by his rules. So he doesn’t get to earn a multi-million dollar salary playing in a league that protects him from enduring “unnecessary roughness” and mostly – he doesn’t get to have me for a fan.

For me, one of the best, and most balanced takes on this whole sad affair came last week from Dennis Miller, SNL’s best news anchor before Tina Fey came along, former Monday Night Football Commentator and current Conservative Talk Radio Host. You’ll find it at 4:05 on the clip below for those of you who are uncomfortable with Bill O’Reilly, Fox News and that whole “Fair and Balanced” thing.

Although, I gotta say, tasting a different opinion now and then might benefit a few of you. 



Anyway, that was all yesterday. Pencils went down and Jim shambled off to bed still hurting from the contest.

By this morning, Philly sports columnists were weighing in on the team’s decision. Thousands had already joined Facebook groups to Boycott the Eagles and their corporate sponsors, PETA was on the march and a couple of people had commented on my own past musings on the subject.

Therefore, in the cold light of a too soon Dawn, Jim made some decisions. Decisions which will cost me two friends and a beloved football team.

But there you have it. Good-bye actress. So long producer buddy. Adios Philadelphia Eagles. It’s been fun. But I'm flagging you all for illegal hits.

Maybe some day I’ll give you a second chance.

But not today.

And as for you, LIFE…

I just passed your test.


Racicot said...


Vanessa Meadows said...

I like the way you think :) Poor dogs. As for the actress: I'm an actress in Baltimore and would kill for the connection your friend has with you. Hopefully she has grown since you posted this.