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That story, today, is a piece by the single-named Touré in the upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine.

The piece, titled “What if Michael Vick were white?” is beyond bad. Beyond offensive. Beyond simple.

It is, at its core, stupid.

I don’t know Touré, but I know he should be ashamed, as should a magazine that would run such drivel. The premise for the piece—the reason it is being written—comes at the end of the third paragraph, when the writer says, “But after his arrest for dogfighting, so many people asked: Would a white football player have gotten nearly two years in prison for what Vick did to dogs?”

Uh … what? After his arrest for dogfighting, so many people asked:

A. What sort of human tortures dogs?

B. Will Michael Vick ever play football again?

Nobody—and I mean this for blacks and whites—asked whether a white football player would have gotten the time Vick did. I don’t even mean to say such is a bad question or a good one … merely that it was a nonexistent one. Literally, it did not exist (in his defense, Touré is a music guy. Maybe he just doesn’t get it. But the editors—they need to).

I’ve worked as a journalist for a long time, and I know—too well—contrived bullshit when I see it. Back when I was at SI, the editors decided to do a cover story on Whatever Became of the White Athlete? It was a severely flawed premise … an terrible moment for the publication that caused many staffers to cringe and hide. Around that same time, SI did a lengthy piece on why the University of Miami should kill its football program. That, on the other hand, was brilliant; a genuine issue addressed in a smart, detailed, insightful manner.

ESPN’s Vick story is, quite simply, attention-seeking nonsense—complete with a horrifically offensive illustration of Vick if he were white.

And yet, it’s a precise indicator of what we’re about to receive, RE: Michael Vick. Because we are a predictable people with predictable behaviors, the coverage here is pretty easy to grasp. Initially, there was condemnation. Then, fascination. Now we are all, by cliched journalistic law, supposed to embrace the comeback. Wait—The Comeback. We are required to marvel at Vick; to nod glowingly and knowingly as he talks about lessons learned. The endorsements will follow (they already have), until his transgressions are all but forgotten.

Which, I suppose, is OK. I guess.

 

Jeff Pearlman is a writer.