As the details of Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting began to leak out, I became increasingly disgusted at what I read. After following this story, anyone who has a family pet ought to have a tough time cheering for Vick any time in this century.
Some might consider jail time and the loss of millions might be sufficient penalty for his actions, but his current status as a backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles puts him in a better financial position than the vast majority of law-abiding Americans.
Recent rumors over big-time endorsement deals for Vick, even if untrue, suggest that some dope will eventually toss even more money his way in a twisted, sad attempt to gain publicity.
While channel surfing the other day, I was exposed to something that reactivated similar feelings of disgust. In this case, however, I appear to be swimming against the tide of public opinion.
Mixed Martial Arts is now so ever-present that it is quickly recognized as MMA, and its top athletes are widely known by most young adults. Kimbo Slice, a legend in MMA, is a huge star and has been booked as a guest on network talk shows.
CBS has aired this sport in prime time, and during its first broadcast, drew in a 271 percent increase of the coveted 18-34 male demographic when compared to more family-friendly fare.
Forbes magazine has estimated that just one MMA organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will rake in $250 million this year alone. Regional MMA matches are drawing large crowds, too, and the sport is likely to do well when it rolls into Altoona this evening.
However, I found watching the sport exceedingly painful, and don't plan to watch it again any time soon.
Senator John McCain, someone who is certainly familiar with man's inhumanity to man, called MMA bouts "human cockfighting," and I would agree. USA Today media critic Michael Hiestand described the first prime time CBS broadcast as one in which a fighter was left with a "grotesquely swollen ear" and had blood spurting out of his head "like a turned on faucet."
Biting and weaponry might not be allowed, but every other form of brutality seems acceptable.
I suspect that a great deal of training and hard work are needed to be a top MMA performer, but to me it seems like we've applied the rules of dog fighting to humans, allowing athletes to pummel themselves in ways that make out-of-control hockey fights look tame. That might draw a big crowd both locally and nationally, but, other than dog fighting, I can't think of a sport that I would like to see fail more than this one.
To prevent the horrible consequences of dog fighting, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett was in Philadelphia, of all places, just days ago to announce a plan to reward informants with $5,000 for tips that lead to arrests. Perhaps the goal was to send a message to Michael Vick and his cronies, but political intent is always difficult to determine.
Unfortunately, with politics as it is now, I don't see anyone getting in line to ban the human version of this barbaric sport any time soon.
Bob Trumpbour is communicators professor at Penn State Altoona and a frequent contributor to Voice of the Fan.