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Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Michael Vick and The Influence of Adult Heroes

Professor James Sonne of Ave Maria School of Law has an excellent op-ed in today's Detroit News on what Michael Vick's litigation teaches us about role models and how role models influence the behavior of not only children, but of adults like ourselves. Here is an excerpt from Jim's piece:
There is a hero crisis in America, and Monday's guilty plea announcement by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for his alleged dog-fighting shenanigans is but the latest example.

Sure, culture experts and parents have been grappling with a seeming decline in role models for years. And yet, one key aspect of the crisis has been ignored. Someone please tell Mr. Vick and his colleagues, grown-ups need heroes, too.

From Barry Bonds' dubious home run kingship to guilty pleas by basketball referee Tim Donaghy in connection with a gambling ring, and now Vick, few would dispute that this summer has been tough for sports. Although many have been harmed, much of the outrage has focused -- as it has in the steroid saga -- on "protecting the children." Unfortunately, the kids are not the only ones in need of protection.

There is no doubt adults have a solemn duty not to lead "the little ones astray." And yet, what happens when they (we) grow up? Do we cease to be subjected to bad influences?

One need only consider common phrases used in response to acts by our world's "grown-ups" to see the point. "She was a consenting adult." "All he did was lie." "That music's just not for kids." Even our language is distorted by messages like "mature audiences only," which often raise more questions than they answer.

The retort is that, unlike children, adults can choose for themselves what is appropriate. In light of moral theories in vogue from college classrooms to the Supreme Court, this has some support. But is such relativism the stuff of which heroes are made?

Much of the inattentiveness to the effect of bad adult behavior on other adults can be seen in a misunderstanding of scandal. In modern usage, the word describes a wrongful or salacious act that places the relevant actors in a bad light. When such events involve higher-profile people, this bad light is then beamed by our media to millions in an effort to shock, disgust and entertain.

The classical understanding is quite different. The Greek word skandalon was used to suggest a "stumbling block," while according to Thomas Aquinas, scandal is "something less rightly done or said, that occasions another's spiritual downfall." In other words, though the light cast on athletes, entertainers or politicians is a factor, the core problem is the impact on others, and in its effect there is no maximum age.

The opposite of scandal is heroism. It is the stuff of legends, champions and saints. As Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield notes in his provocative book "Manliness," there may be dispute as to who heroes are and what makes one a hero. But, in the end, there is no mistaking the differential impact on our culture of qualities like virtue over vice, courage over cowardice, humility over pride. If you doubt this, ask your kids.

For the rest of this great piece, which also ran in the Naple Daily News, click here. We look forward to Jim guest blogging in the future.


Excellent excerpt. I think this can be extended to include all types of age restrictions that are placed on kids. Cigarettes untill 18, where it is ok, Porn is ok when your 18, drinking at 21, strip clubs and gambling 18 or 21. It is as if we build them up for young kids to want when they are older, and then adults can get away with it becuase they are 18, and kids cant wait to do these things until they reach that age. Something needs to be done.

Anon. 9: 17

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 6:31 PM  

Well said. I read an AP article earlier today on CBS sportsline concerning Stephon Marbury's opinion of the Michael Vick situation. According to the article, Marbury defended Michael Vick and stated that dogfighting is a sport and compared it to hunting. Is he serious? The last time I checked, hunting was not illegal (unless out of season - and then one must face the legal consequences).

I believe that Marbury's view indicates just how accurate Professor Sonne's op-ed actually is. Additionally, if adult "role-models" support or defend the dubious behavior, be it criminal or simply in bad judgment, of other adult "role-models," what does this teach children who idolize these individuals?

Anonymous Paul Williams -- 8/22/2007 6:54 PM  

I don't think Marbury was speaking to the legality or punishment when he compared it to hunting, but rather the act itself. Many people within the black community believe that laws are created and implemented with a race bias. Other than legality, the actions are very similar ethically. They both involve killing animals for fun and sport. It isn't the type of animals, because vicious dogs are routinely put to sleep. I know of no better analogy. I despise what Vick did, but I also feel the same way about hunters who kill animals for fun and sport. Marbury happens to be right about this one.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/22/2007 7:24 PM  

Regardless of Marbury's rationale, dogfighting and hunting are quite different. While I do agree with your point that vicious dogs are routinely put to sleep, you fail to take into consideration that the individuals who participate in this activity intentionally breed the dogs to be vicious. For example, in England, earlier this year, a 5-year-old was mauled to death at her grandmother's home by a pit bull which was bred by her uncle for the dog fighting ring. This is not a sport, it is a criminal activity that poses a threat to public safety.

Additionally, while there are some hunters who participate solely for fun and sport, the vast majority hunt for food. If you are a hunter, you know that one of the first lessons you learn is "if your no going to eat it, do not kill it." I doubt that Michael Vick or others who participate in dogfighting are planning on eating their "game."

Anonymous Paul Williams -- 8/22/2007 8:27 PM  

Interesting op-ed, though I don't quite see how the Donaghy case fits in with the rest. People may respect sports officials but don't consider them heroes or role models.

Anonymous Peter -- 8/22/2007 11:14 PM  

If one is to argue that dog fighting is more dangerous than hunting, meta data must be used rather than 1 case - due to the overwhelming number of deaths and injuries that occur either while hunting or while family members misuse hunting equipment.
I doubt a 'vast majority' of hunters hunt mainly for food, even if they did end up eating what they kill. I think the laws reflect 2 things: the class difference, and the popular opinion that the constitution supports individual gun ownership and use.
I still do not see any reason to believe that typical recreational hunting is ethically superior to dog fighting. Both are shameful acts.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 8/23/2007 11:21 AM  

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