I *Was* a Lifelong Steelers Fan...

I hope Michael Vick is worth it to the Pittsburgh Steelers, I really do. Signing him has upset a lot of fans, a lot of rescues, and has a lot of people trying to justify how he's "turned his life around," or "done his time."

I've been a lifelong Steelers fan. I'm 37, and some of my earliest memories are watching games with my father and going to training camp every year, as a Daddy-Daughter day. I remember the One for the Thumb t-shirt that was huge on me, as a child, but that I proudly wore. Steelers football days were Daddy-Daughter days, and the Steelers were always something that my father and I could discuss, a tie to bind even as I was looking to find my own way. One year, on Christmas Eve, when I was maybe 8, my father slipped on ice and broke his leg. A few days later, I remember watching a Steelers game with him sitting in his recliner, me on the couch. They started showing a replay of the Immaculate Reception, and as Franco Harris somehow found the football, my father made a leap from recliner to floor, and started pounding the floor and yelling, "Go Franco, go! Go Franco, go!" That's how I knew my father would be fine.

Recently, I've made the pilgrimage from across the state to at least one game each year. Some years, we've been lucky, and have managed to snag tickets for a second game, but most years, we know we'll be able to attend one game. We make a weekend out of it, visiting my parents taking Monday off of work, making the trip for breakfast or lunch at Primanti Bros., tailgating, and watching the game.

Now, with this signing, I will not support the Steelers. This breaks my heart, but in good conscience, I cannot support the Steelers. It breaks my heart that, with all of the outcry over Michael Vick, the Steelers chose to tell so many of their fans that they value winning over the lives of so many innocent dogs. The dogs he fought usually didn't want to fight, but only wanted to please their owners. Unfortunately, the owners, like Vick, didn't want the dogs to be dogs. Rather, they wanted the dogs to fight, and were willing to kill them if they wouldn't fight or if they lost.

Yes, I understand that Michael Vick went to prison, and "did his time," except that he didn't do time for dog fighting. He did time for sponsoring dog fighting. He also didn't even receive the average sentence for one count of dog fighting. He received less than that, even though he could have been charged with several counts. He didn't do time for hanging dogs, slamming dogs to the ground repeatedly, or for connecting jumper cables to dogs' ears and batteries, and then throwing the dogs in a pool, electrocuting them. His pool had claw marks from dogs frantically clawing, trying to escape the death that awaited them. For those who say this was part of his culture, and he didn't know better, what sort of sick, twisted human being needs someone to tell them that electrocuting dogs is wrong? This was not a mistake, or a one-time slip, this was a cold, calculated, life choice. Michael Vick chose to fight dogs over a course of years. He chose to hang dogs, to slam them to the ground until they died, to use them as jump ropes until they died, and he chose to connect jumper cables to dogs, with the other ends connected to batteries, and chose to throw them into his swimming pool. Think about how long it takes to connect jumper cables. At any point, he could have stopped. He CHOSE not to stop. It wasn't a one-time mistake.

What sort of role model is Michael Vick to the children of Pittsburgh? What sort of message does he send to children? If the message the Steelers want children of Pittsburgh to know is that it's acceptable to kill numerous dogs, in all sorts of horrible, inhumane ways, and still be rewarded with lots of money, then the Steelers have achieved that goal, and are currently sending that message to the children. I choose to send the message that hurting innocent animals by fighting dogs, and then killing them by slamming them to the ground like a great James Harrison play, or hanging them, or electrocuting them is NEVER acceptable, and those who do should only earn what they can from working in prison, and not a football contract.

Until Michael Vick is no longer a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I will be funneling the money I would give to supporting the Steelers through NFL Sunday Ticket, merchandise, tickets, and concessions, to animal rescues, particularly those that deal with saving the dogs who have lived through the horrors of dog fighting.

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