Friday, January 14, 2011

ESPN comes to Atlanta for...something

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2011 at 11:28 AM

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, the worldwide tyrant leader in sports (ESPN) will pay a visit to the Ebenezer Church tonight for a town hall meeting to discuss the image of the black athlete.

Co-hosted by ESPN personality Bob Ley and Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America", the meeting will feature a discussion of how the world of sports views African-Americans.

Guest panelists will include ESPN's Michael Wilbon, former Miami Hurricanes head football coach Randy Shannon and, my personal favorite, Spike Lee.

The hosts will present research data from an ESPN fan survey as well as a player survey that will provide insight into the way people view racial progression within the country's most popular sports.

The event is open to the public and will be televised live on ESPN from 6-8 p.m.

While there hasn't been any indication of the specific topics that the panelists will discuss, one can only imagine that being in Atlanta, the conversation will likely turn to someone in particular.

Especially when you consider what occurred three-and-a-half years ago during ESPN's last town hall event here in Atlanta.

Our city's views on former Falcons QB Michael Vick, one of the most polarizing sports figures in Atlanta history, remains divided—with the general consensus being that this division coincides with race.

But is that really the case? Are the majority of Caucasian sports fans anti-Vick? Are there African-American sports fans in Atlanta who don't support him?

I'd love to find out.

I know that a discussion surrounding an athlete who hasn't suited up in Atlanta since 2006 is a little bit of a stretch, but a colleague of mine—one who knows his stuff—recently hypothesized that if Vick had returned to the Georgia Dome for the NFC Championship next week against the Falcons and won, he would be cheered off the field...by Atlanta fans.

While we won't be able to see that scenario play out—the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs last Sunday—the thought of Vick being cheered inside the Georgia Dome really got me thinking.

Personally, I would have had a hard time restraining myself from chucking a handful of 9-volts Vick's way if he had rerouted the Falcons' journey to the Super Bowl, but that doesn't mean that I have anger management issues have always been a Vick hater.

In fact, following Vick's 2005 Pro Bowl season, I was sitting first-class on the Michael Vick bandwagon. However, after the 2006 campaign, I realized it was time for the Falcons to divorce themselves from Vick.

Career highs in touchdown passes (20), rushing yards (1,039) and games started (16) were all good signs for Vick, but the team's 7-9 record meant that the Falcons needed a more conventional QB if they wanted to win on a consistent basis.

Unfortunately, Vick's commercial appeal and popularity within the city—and that 10-year, $130 million contract he inked in 2004—prevented the team from getting rid of their "franchise" quarterback.

Ultimately, the only thing that got Vick out of a Falcon jersey (and into a prison uniform) was his ignorance towards the law. But by the time Vick was charged, convicted and incarcerated, I had already been looking for an excuse to move on.

So my proclivity to root against Vick today doesn't stem from any of his legal transgressions. I've simply grown to view him as yet another privileged athlete who failed to live up to the expectations of an absurdly lucrative contract and for that, I have learned to dislike Michael Vick over the past four years.

All you really need to know is that I'm a Caucasian sports fan who is 100 percent apathetic towards Vick. Unless, of course, he ever comes into the Dome wearing another team's colors or flips us off again—which he did in Falcons black and red.

I'm heading to Ebenezer tonight and want to take the true voice of Atlanta sports fans with me. So let me know what your feelings are about Vick and your justification for them. If Vick's name arises tonight, I want to have as many opinions as possible—besides my own—regarding the city's image of Michael Vick so that these "experts" don't put words into our collective mouths.

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