Michael Vick is a starting quarterback once again.
Andy Reid did a 180 and tabbed Vick to go in Week 3, replacing hard-luck Kevin Kolb.
The Eagles instantly become must-watch television from this point forward, and – more importantly – Michael Vick once again becomes one of the most popular players in the NFL.
Wait a minute, why are we pulling for Michael Vick again?
Vick was incarcerated for the inhumane treatment and murder of fight dogs. He’s been linked with (allegedly) shootings and drug busts, and has treated fans and the press poorly. By any intellectual measure, one would conclude that Vick should draw ire and venom from the public. One would think.
But here we are this season, watching Michael Vick do what only Michael Vick does. It’s a flooring and enrapturing display of marvel and remembrance. We missed Michael Vick.
We missed him escaping, juking and outrunning defenders. We missed him firing (with that wobbly slinging motion) slithering 60-yard spirals downfield. We missed having fun watching a quarterback play quarterback.
Peyton Manning’s too surgical. Tom Brady’s too predictable. Tony Romo’s too arrogant. Vince Young’s too inconsistent. Brett Favre’s too old. Kurt Warner’s too retired.
Michael Vick’s unparalleled athleticism and creativity were novel in Atlanta, and downright nostalgic now. The NFL is a better place with Michael Vick under center.
But why? It certainly doesn’t stem from his character.
And it’s not like Vick piles up incredible stats. His passer rating is middling, his yardage is pedestrian and he’s never come close to setting accuracy or touchdown records. He also has a bit of a track-record of throwing ill-advised interceptions.
But despite what the numbers tell you, you’re rather sold on his astonishing talent. It’s because you trust your senses before you trust your smarts.
Philosopher Dennis Dutton once proclaimed the “Aesthetic Universals” as:
1. Expertise / Virtuousity
2. Nonutilitarian pleasure
6. Special focus
There is no doubt as to Vick’s expertise and virtuosity in the art of playing quarterback. We don’t demand that Vick’s play keep us clothed or fed. His style is signature and instantly recognizable. We can discuss and critique and marvel at Vick in social settings and to ourselves. Vick’s jaw-dropping escapes from defenders have a raw, instinctual feel to them which reflect us actually running away from threatening entities. Finally, when we watch Vick play quarterback on Sundays, it is given our own undivided attention, as we ritualize and set aside time to be entertained and engaged.
Michael Vick’s ability to play quarterback is the most aesthetically sublime our world has yet known. His slinging motion is unorthodox and unique, but the finesse and symmetry with which the ball spirals out of his hand is nearly perfect and breathtaking. His stupefying escapes and wild scampers through traffic and down the sidelines know no parallel.
Revered athletic feats are often deemed so by satisfying innate human cravings for beauty. An upper-deck home run’s long arch, a powerhouse 360 windmill dunk, a between-the-legs deke in hockey. Soccer, our world’s most popular sport, is often referred to as “The Beautiful Game.”
Witness Secretariat’s “He is moving like an incredible machine!” in the Belmont, or Barry Sanders spinning off tacklers, or Ken Griffey Jr.’s sweet swing. These are tremendously beautiful visual stimuli to which we are engaged reflexively. We don’t need to intellectually process these events to appreciate and be awed by them.
During the Masters, the highest-rated golf telecast each year, the viewer is bombarded with still shots and video of azaleas in their full magenta bloom, of the crystal blue waters of Rae’s Creek, and of the gentle rolling pastures of green grass mixed with perfectly proportioned pockets of white sand. The commentators note this and remark of it constantly. Augusta always hosts the Masters, and is the only major held at the same course each year.
When one sees a sublime landscape, or a breathtaking vista, the pulse quickens, the eyes widen and the face perks up. These are innate reactions that preempt intellectual assessment.
The Primary Visual Cortex, which processes these events, are located in the lower rear of the brain, just slightly removed from where the brain stem meets the spinal cord. It’s in the primal portion of our brain close to where reflexive responses occur.
It’s also close to the Limbic System, our brain’s center for pleasure and satisfaction. The two systems share common neural pathways. All events experienced by the eyes reach this segment of the brain first, before they ever have a chance to reach our frontal lobes, which regulate assessment and judgment.
Michael Vick’s ability to play the game of football is an otherworldly beautiful and entrancing work of art – one which satisfies aesthetic universals and stimulates our senses on an almost sub-conscious level, and on a level we react to long before we remember, “This jerk killed innocent animals.”
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Vick may have said and done some awful things, but how does it feel to watch him play?
Electric. Invigorating. Mesmerizing. Ecstatic. Michael Vick tickles all the right neurons in our pre-frontal cortex.
We’re wired to be astonished; we don’t care by whom.
We’ll see you tomorrow.