We live in a society that loves stories of recovery.
Forget the guy who has lived his life without ever getting into trouble and lives in his nice neighborhood with his nice family and goes golfing on Saturdays with his fellow middle-class buddies.
That guy is boring.
We want to like the guy who tried crack for the first time at age 13 and needed six trips to the emergency room and 18 months in prison before he got clean.
That’s a fun guy, right?
Let’s look at Michael Vick, one of two finalists to be on the cover of this year’s Madden 2012, the newest edition of one of the best-selling video-game franchises of all time.
A video game that is popular among all ages — especially children, from elementary age through high school.
We all know Vick’s history.
He brutally murdered dogs when they didn’t perform well in the dog fighting ring he helped fund, has been involved in multiple legal incidents involving marijuana, including a failed drug test while awaiting trial, and threw up dual middle fingers when his fans booed him.
(If they didn’t want to see him put on a lackluster performance, they shouldn’t have bought tickets, right?)
His 30th birthday party, which took place less than a year ago, gained national media attention because during the event there was a shooting.
You would think a convicted felon who is constantly in the national spotlight would have enough common sense to keep better company.
Vick was in jail less than two years ago, is still on probation and now it’s possible that he will grace the cover of a video game that millions of children will either buy or be exposed to?
We’re going to celebrate the guy who was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2001 NFL draft and needed 23 months in jail to get his head on halfway straight enough to continue having one of the most envied jobs in the world?
The other finalist has a different background.
Peyton Hillis was a seventh-round draft pick who worked his tail off to get recognized when playing for Arkansas. He played fullback there, and saw two of the guys he blocked for, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, get drafted in the first round. Hillis watched 226 players get picked before him in the 2008 NFL draft.
Hillis got traded to the Cleveland Browns before last season started and he was listed at the bottom of the depth chart and had to wait for Jerome Harrison and James Davis to get injured before he got a shot at carrying the ball on Sundays.
When he did, he ran all over the Baltimore Ravens, who have been consistently shutting down nearly every running back they’ve faced for the past decade.
Hillis is the textbook example of the phrase “take advantage of your opportunities.” He’s proven that hard work and preparedness will ultimately lead to positive happenings.
Vick has proven that if you have the natural talent to be a star athlete, you can still be an inexcusable person and get away with it.
Just because a guy is on the cover of a video game doesn’t mean every child who plays the game will want to emulate him. But if you don’t think the “bad boy” image Vick has given himself won’t rub off on some of the Madden-loving youth, you’ve more than likely not spent a lot of time around children.
And vice versa.
Hillis is a role model on and off the field. He has a blue-collar reputation in a blue-collar city that has endured a series of heartbreaking incidents over the past, well, lifetime.
Hillis’ life will probably never be made into a Hollywood movie — maybe a book deal in the future at best. But it will be something kids read on his Madden biography or the back of his trading card that reminds them if they keep trying, the hard work will eventually pay off.
ESPN’s “SportsNation” will announce who the fans have elected to grace the Madden cover on its show at 4 p.m. Wednesday.