Just Win, Baby!

August 31, 2011

We like to give second chances. That’s never more evident than in the world of sports, where our ability to forgive and forget (or look the other way) is directly tied to wins and losses.

As if we needed any more evidence, we got it yesterday when the Philadelphia Eagles signed Michael Vick to a contract worth $100 million. Just a few years ago, Vick was serving 18 months in prison for organizing a dog fighting ring. His $100 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons was torn up and his corporate sponsors, including Nike, had dumped him. He was considered by most to be a despicable person who’d thrown away his career.

Today, he’s got his $100 million back and Nike has returned with a four-year endorsement deal. How could this turnaround happen so quickly?

First, there was much less backlash than expected from organizations like PETA when he returned to the NFL. But most importantly, he proved he could still play. He started 12 games last season and put up the best numbers of his career. He helped the Eagles win their division. He helped people’s fantasy football teams. He helped bring more excitement to the league. And all was forgiven.

Vick is far from the only example. Big time college sports are as corrupt as they’ve ever been – highlighted by the current scandal at the University of Miami – but fans are far more concerned about the consequences than the cheating. And professional sports are riddled with players sporting a criminal record. In fact, Cincinnati Bengals fans were relieved earlier this week when they learned that running back Cedric Benson would be able to avoid missing any games by serving his jail sentence for assault during the team’s bye week.

Many sports fans are so desperate for a winner, they lose all sensibility. I know because I’m one of them.

Brett Favre was my sworn enemy for 16 years and I welcomed him to the Vikings with open arms. I consider the 1997 Golden Gophers run to the Men’s Basketball Final Four one of my most fond sports memories – even though the NCAA wiped it from the record books because of multiple rules infractions. And while I’d never condone cheating, learning about it after the fact doesn’t really change how I think of that team.

If it means more wins for one of my favorite squads, I could probably rationalize just about anything. Does that kind of attitude make me a good sports fan or a bad sports fan? Where do you draw the line?