Thursday, August 30, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Mike!

When the Falcons traded Tim Dwight, their 1st round and 3rd round picks in 2001, and 2nd round pick in 2002 to the San Diego Chargers, they acquired the first overall pick in the 2001 NFL entry draft and used it on stand-out sophomore Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick. He was the chosen one. He was supposed to bring the Falcons to the promised land of Super Bowl victory. He was supposed to bring credibility and respect to the team.

In his rookie season, Vick seemed destined for great things. He passed for nearly 3000 yards, broke NFL records for rushing by a quarterback, and upset the heavily favoured Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. After missing 11 games of the 2003 season with a broken leg, Vick returned to win 4 of his 5 starts. In the 2004 season, Vick led the team to an 11-4 record as a starter, good enough for 2nd in the NFC. They easily beat the Rams but lost to the Eagles in the NFC Final. Still, he had legions of fans and could seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of Falcons fans. The expectations grew higher.

Well, Vick got himself into a bit of trouble in 2005, when a woman sued Vick claiming he gave her herpes, under the alias of Ron Mexico. The lawsuit was settled out of court. Chump change to Vick, though. He was bringing in money by the dump truck, having earlier signed the richest contract in NFL history: 10 years, $130 million including bonuses, and was bringing in good money through his endorsements.

Then, his on-field performance began to taper off. Vick's QB rating dropped in the 2005 season and admitted to "not giving his all" in the meaningless last game of the season. The Falcons finished at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The first sign that the boy's cheese was sliding off his cracker was when he gave the sold-out Georgia Dome crowd two middle fingers following a loss to the New Orleans Saints in 2006. Vick was fined $10,000 and apologized for the incident. In January 2007, his water bottle was confiscated at Miami International Airport prior to his boarding a flight, and security officials smelled a substance in it that smelled very much like marijuana. Drug tests later came back negative and no charges were filed.

And then, the whole dog fighting thing came to light. Vick first denied that he was ever at the property and blamed his family for taking advantage of his generosity. 4 months later, after his co-defendants sold him up the river, he finally admitted to the whole sleazy story.

I don't need to point out the obvious. It's been constrained by every sports pundit that he threw away the richest contract in the NFL for his illegal hobby, so we'll just leave it at that. On top of that, the Falcons have every right to pursue the $22 million paid to him in bonuses. I have been a big supporter of team owner Arthur Blank ever since he bought the team. Vick looked him in the face and lied to him about everything and he deserves better than that. Vick has devastated a team that already had 40 years worth of failure and embarrassment under its belt. It also means that despite receiving a $6 million salary cap credit this season due to his suspension, the Falcons are still on the hook for future cap penalties, depending on what the league decides. Ergo, Vick has damaged this team not only this season, but for a further six seasons!

Not only did he let down his entire NFL team, he has damaged a campus community already devastated by the worst act of school violence in the history of the United States. As a former Hokie, Vick could have done so much to help the healing of the whole Virginia Tech campus. Much as the suddenly-winning New Orleans Saints did much to lift the spirits of that hurricane-ravaged city, Vick could have done so much as the predominant VA Tech alumnus in the NFL.

To make matters much worse, he has let down an entire generation of underprivileged children looking for role models. Vick grew up in a housing project in Newport News, VA, and now the children currently living in that neighbourhood (note that not much has changed there since Vick left) will watch yet another former resident go from the poor house to the big house. As the highest paid player in the NFL, he could have motivated so many troubled or at-risk youth to get their lives back on track, but now that would seem pretty hypocritical of him, yes?

In all this, I blame his upbringing, and that's not a knock at anyone who lives below the poverty line. Mike started life at a marked disadvantage, born to 16 and 17 year old parents, but there are so many kids who are raised in the projects under similar circumstances who have never felt compelled to do shit like this. The truth is there's something screwy with that whole family. Case in point: Mike's brother Marcus, whose rap sheet is actually much longer than Mike's; the difference being that Marcus has been charged with misdemeanors as opposed to felonies.

I anticipate the NFL will do the right thing and never reinstate him, thus making Mr. Vick one of the biggest losers to ever disgrace the already tarnished name of professional football.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Requiem for a beer factory

Molson Edmonton closes.

I haven't worked there for a few years now, but I thought I'd pay it a tribute because it's the place where I got my first job. It's also the place that my dad used to work at when I was a kid. When he'd have to go in on Saturdays, I used to terrorize his office, eat cookies from a drawer in his file cabinet and dick around on his computer.

I loved working that job and was incredibly disappointed when they told me they weren't hiring a summer student for the lab anymore. But that kind of led me to where I am now, so I suppose you can file that one under "Stuff happens for a reason." Picture it like this: it was like growing up an Oilers fan, and then getting signed by the Oilers and playing a season for them. The next season, I got cut from the Oilers and signed with the Flames, where I've been ever since. This has been the key joke of my career working in the brewing industry thus far.

There were several key differences between the two companies. Molson's lab did a lot more leg work because everything was so damn far apart. The plant was pieced together in various additions over the last 100 years or so. When I got to Labatt, I was impressed at the layout of the plant, and the efficient European style of management and operation. It had its problems too, but compared to Molson, it was a well-oiled machine. The lab used more up to date technology and the union guys actually brought down samples for us. Molson's union was far more militant and I used to have to get everything myself.

So, to the Molson union, I say, well done, ladies and gentlemen, you killed the golden goose, over your new hires making $22 an hour. I make slightly more than that now, but after three years of temp work, I would have killed for $22. Maybe that's just me. I guess you guys needed those three extra sick days too.