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Vick's sorry situation

I began my first reporting job in Roanoke, Va., in the fall of 1999. About 45 minutes south on Interstate 81, Michael Vick began his career as quarterback at Virginia Tech.

I covered politics, not sports, at the time. That made it all the more fun to follow Vick's rise because I could do so purely as a fan. Hokie football is the biggest sports entity by far out there and though Frank Beamer had already built a solid program, the fans had never seen anything like Vick.

No one had.

Football isn't an easy sport for an individual to dominate. But when Vick took off with the ball that autumn, we felt he could outmaneuver all 11 defenders on any given play. He was like Michael Jordan on a scoring streak or, more appropriately, like that one kid at middle school recess who scored every time he got the ball (it was Jamie Biddison in my class, but every school has one).

As Virginia Tech kept winning, I watched the young man's talent unite and electrify a region. The Hokies were outgunned against Florida State in that year's national championship game, but as long as Vick stayed on the field, they seemed to have a chance. He made fellow NFL prospects look like the aforementioned helpless middle schoolers in one of the great individual performances I've seen.

It was an exciting season and I always rooted for Vick after that, even when his talents did not translate easily to the pros. 

Now, he seems headed for prison and that makes me sad, not just for the animals and animal lovers hurt by his alleged actions but for all the people who shared that innocent experience of watching him play back in 1999.

I won't draw any greater conclusions about humanity from it. It's just sad.

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