Barry Saunders

Saunders: In the end, weather - not protests - canceled Michael Vick

Who do you think prayed harder for snow – some kid who didn’t complete the school book report on ruminant mammals that was due today or Harvey Schmitt and the executives at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce?

Just as that kid is glad school was canceled, dog lovers and the self-righteous Raleighites among us can breathe easy knowing that what they consider Michael Vick’s atmosphere-befouling appearance in our fair city Wednesday was canceled.

There is bound to be debate over whether the chamber’s decision to reschedule its Evening of Champions event to a date coincidentally inconvenient for Vick was a result of that white stuff lying around on the ground or the supposedly thousands of people who signed petitions opposing his appearance.

Yeah, I said “supposedly,” because when you see a petition signed by “Foghorn Leghorn” – as someone told me they saw – it’s only natural that you’d question how many legitimate signatures it contains.

Even though it’s impossible to tell how many of the signatures were for real people, there was undoubtedly a lot of opposition to the Greater Raleigh Sports Council’s selection of Vick.

‘The bottom line’

I asked Schmitt, president and CEO of the chamber, if he was, deep down, glad that the snow arrived and forced the cancellation. “The bottom line is,” he said, laughing at the notion, “we were headed for the program and the weather intervened. I have no control over the weather.”

Notice he still didn’t answer whether he was glad for the snow, though.

No one could blame him if was, because the snow that is causing the rest of us headaches just relieved Schmitt of one – namely, how to get inside the PNC Arena with 500 anti-Vickers, the maximum number of protesters organizers were allowed, chanting and carrying signs, possibly obstructing entrances.

Did he expect the level of virulence that greeted the chamber’s choice? I asked. I also wondered if any thought were given to canceling for non-weather relations, because of the virulence of the opposition.

Important storyline

Schmitt was succinct: “No. ... The steering committee presumed a certain level of disagreement” with their choice, he said, “but felt Mr. Vick’s storyline” was important enough to be heard despite the opposition.

With masterly understatement, Schmitt added, “Obviously, there are some people who are not prepared to give Mr. Vick a second chance or to believe in his sincerity.”

Right on. Whether it was the climatological storm or the public relations one that caused the event to be postponed, one business owner said in a News & Observer story Wednesday, she refuses to “look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Yet, many of Vick’s critics can and apparently did look into his soul.

Vick, their soothsaying reasoning goes, is not truly repentant but is merely speaking out against dogfighting and supporting criminal charges against spectators of it as part of his court-ordered community service. The truly cynical among his detractors claim he is simply trying to re-endear himself to the advertisers who fled him when he was first arrested.

Here’s a question about his motives: Who cares?

Whether Vick’s heart is now as pure as the snow outside or he is the same bloodthirsty person who bankrolled deadly dogfights and killed dogs is, ultimately, irrelevant.

What matters is that he no longer brutalize dogs or any other animals. Let us leave the condition of his soul to his maker. While we’re at it, let us leave the condition of the souls of those who are so unforgiving of his transgressions to their maker, too.

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