The headline: “New Eagle Has Landed,” words that had nothing to do Thursday night with a moon landing.
The words referred to a much-anticipated event, one that, while significant in its own way, could never measure up to a more historic occasion decades ago.
The new Eagle was Michael Vick, a convicted felon who was trying to resurrect an NFL career that unraveled like a spool of thread because of Vick’s fascination with fighting – and then lying about -- pit bulls.
His return didn’t draw the public outrage many people had expected. Animal rights activists who criticized the team’s decision to bring in someone guilty of so ghastly a crime had talked of massive picketing and of boycotts. But nothing like that occurred in Philadelphia – not inside the stadium and, apparently, not outside of it either.
Philadelphians stayed focused on Vick’s football and not on his criminal past. They showed a side of themselves that is … well, not all-too common among the hypercritical people who call the “City of Brotherly Love” their home. They showed compassion.
In the end, Vick’s debut was just a footnote in a 33-32 win over the Jaguars. His role in it wasn’t much: six plays in the first half, one as a slot receiver. He looked rusty, but he was back after more than two years, which likely meant more to him than it did to anybody else.
“It felt the same,” Vick said of getting on the field. “It’s almost like riding a bike, you know. You never forget how to do it.”
For him, this was one small step, a step that might bring Vick the glory and the adulation he once enjoyed before he went to prison. He’s a long way from reclaiming that glory, but at least his journey won’t be interrupted because people refuse to accept the fact that Vick, repentant about his past, had paid his debt to society.