Bird on a wire

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

These days, an awful lot of people are upset with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, and frankly, I just don’t understand why.

Following a blowout loss to the visiting New Orleans Saints last Sunday afternoon, Vick responded to the home crowd’s taunts by flipping them off with both hands, giving them a contemporary version of Jamal Anderson’s “Dirty Bird.”

Although Vick issued an apology immediately after the game, the media have spent the last few days condemning him for his inappropriate display of frustration. With all the negative press that he has received since Sunday, you’d swear he had pushed his own mother down the stairs, or worse.

For example, Kevin Hench of FOXSports.com criticized Vick’s obscene gesture, saying that “(Vick) can’t flip off the people that pay (his) bloated salary, especially when he and his team have gone above and beyond to deserve their derision.”

First of all, local fans don’t pay Vick’s “bloated salary.” They may purchase tickets to see him play, but only a miniscule amount of the revenue from the Falcons’ ticket sales ends up in Vick’s pocket. His salary comes from a league-wide revenue-sharing program that pays commissioners, coaches and players alike.

Even if the people of Atlanta did sign Vick’s paychecks, they would hardly have the right to hurl insults at him with impunity. Everyone knows that bosses who berate their employees run the risk of mutiny; hell, if I had a nickel for every time that I’ve flipped off Chris Bellamy, I wouldn’t be writing cheesy articles for $27 a pop.

Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. That Atlanta fans thought they could push Vick without him pushing back is infinitely more amazing to me than the inappropriate nature of his response.

The media have blown this incident entirely out of proportion. In the grand scheme of things, giving someone the finger isn’t that big a deal. I probably flipped off three or four people on my way to campus today, and I highly doubt that any of my victims thought twice about it.

Furthermore, Falcons fans should be grateful that Vick’s worst crime to date involved only his middle finger. In a day and age where players wind up in jail as often as they do the end zone, obscene gestures are kids’ stuff.

All things considered, Atlanta’s $130 million investment in Vick has been fairly profitable. He hasn’t lost nearly as much time to injury as Donovan McNabb, he has been easier to get along with than Terrell Owens and he hasn’t been exiled to Canada a la Ricky Williams.

Compared with the NFL’s other misfits, Vick isn’t such a bad guy. Granted, his demonstration last weekend was both childish and classless, but there is no denying that he could have done a lot worse.

Finally, I was truly happy to see a professional athlete upset after a loss. Sometimes I get the feeling that players in the NFL, NBA and MLB are merely going through the motions, that they don’t care about wins or losses as long as they get paid at the end of the day. Frankly, I’d be worried if Vick wasn’t upset after losing badly at home to a division rival.