As bad as things seem for Michael Vick today, fans have a long history of forgiving athletes. It's hard to imagine, but the passion stirred up by the dogfighting story will dissipate. It frequently does when it comes to emotional legal cases involving star athletes
Who would have thought the Ravens' Ray Lewis would have recovered from murder charges in 2000, which he later pleaded down to obstruction of justice, to become the poster boy for EA Sports and Reebok a few years later.
In 2005, Jamal Lewis spent four months in prison for being involved in a drug deal. He was on the field for the Ravens in '05 and '06, and when the Browns signed him this offseason, his conviction was barely a footnote.
Packers legend Paul Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season for gambling on football and after he apologized he quickly returned to living legend status in the NFL. Unlike Pete Rose, Hornung's bust sits in Canton next to other great running backs likes of Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson ... well, maybe not the best example, but you get the point.
Even though they've never been involved with felonies, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, the NFL's two most polarizing players, seem to be able to build up and tear apart their images on a monthly basis. Just wait 'til the Moss lovefest at Pats camp begins tomorrow. If Moss keeps his mouth shut in New England, a lifetime of controversy could be substantially wiped out in one season.
In a broader sports universe, Kobe Bryant's career seems just fine after he faced rape charges in Colorado. Marv Albert is behnd the mike after biting his way into infamy. And maybe it's just me, but the public seems to be softening on Barry Bonds, despite steroid accusations.
The Falcons will likely cut Vick and he'll be out of football for at least a year, maybe more. But as long as Roger Goodell doesn't give him a lifetime ban, Vick will be back. Even if he serves prison time.
All it takes is for one owner to decide he's worth the risk. Al Davis immediately comes to mind. The Pats seem to think they can rehabilitate players with tarnished images. And you know Jerry Jones isn't afraid to sign players with questionable characters - he won three Super Bowls with a team full of them.
Vick is at the eye of the storm right now. And things are going to get worse. But there's a chance things will get better. Maybe in three years, when he is 30, enough time will have passed for him to get another chance. Or maybe even sooner, depending on the course of the litigation.
This a country and league of second chances. Vick's career is not done yet, no matter what we might hear in court over the next several months.