"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster." -- Henry Hill at the beginning of Goodfellas, when it was all about greed, excess, and privilege
"Today, everything is different. There's no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook." -- Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, after cutting a deal with the federal government and going into the Witness Protection Program
Ultimately, what will decide Michael Vick's fate -- as a quarterback, as a citizen -- will be his ability (or as recent evidence indicates, inability) to transition from gangster to schnook. To tolerate boredom and say "No" to friends. To blend in.
For those who haven't seen Goodfellas, Henry Hill is the main character (in a true story), a career mobster who eventually ratted out his entire mafia family and was sent to live in Witness Protection obscurity in some sub-development in a small house with a bunch of suburbanites under a fake name. The visual during Hill's saying the final "schnook" line is of his picking up the newspaper at the end of his driveway in a robe and slippers in front of a tiny home -- basically, like the rest of us 30- to 60-somethings do every day, all of us schnooks.
For Henry, gone were the days of playing cards all night in underground casinos, front row seats at the Copa, partying with bevies of women into the wee hours drunk or coked up or whatever. It just had to be that way. For Vick, who is now about a year removed from prison and still swimming in red ink from his bankruptcy case, it now has to be that way, too.
Apparently, Vick needs someone to remind him of this. I don't think Tony Dungy totally got through to him.
If you've been able to sidestep "All LeBron, all the time" talk (I know, I know...I'm as guilty as anyone of feeding that beast) then you know that Michael Vick has managed to brush up against trouble yet AGAIN when shots were fired outside a Virginia restaurant that was the venue for Vick's birthday party, an event publicized on Facebook and Twitter with a $30 cover charge and a VIP list. The victim of the shooting reportedly was Quanis Phillips, a co-defendant of Vick's in the dogfighting scandal and a regular in his entourage for most of Vick's transgressions the last decade or so -- sort of the Scottie Pippen to the Michael Jordan that is Vick's social deviance.
Vick's attorney, Larry Woodward, claims the quarterback was "long gone" before the shots were fired. Video surveillance indicates Vick actually left about three minutes before the shots were fired, so if three minutes is Woodward's definition of "long gone" then let's just say that Mrs. Woodward must feel perpetually unsatisfied.
So notice I didn't say Vick was a suspect, a victim, or even a silent co-conspirator. At this point, what has he done wrong? Legally, nothing. (And of course, I can't find a font size big enough for the word "YET".) But he is guilty of finding his name mixed up with violent foolishness that was completely avoidable, and unfortunately for Vick, what the legal system can't seem to legislate (common sense, intelligence, buffoonery), Roger Goodell can and will.
It's why he's "The Goodfather."
Ben Roethlisberger got a six-game suspension dropped on him largely due to a police report that ultimately indicated an inability to reasonably prove criminal activity. (Ben is also an unlikable douche bag, too. That helps.) Big Ben became Little Ben, took his medicine meekly and apologetically with his tail between his legs (presumably after having to remove some drunk coed from between his legs to make room). Vince Young's immediate reaction after a fight in a Dallas strip club (caught on video, but netting a citation that equated to nothing more than a speeding ticket) was outright fear of how hard the commissioner's bitch slap on him was going to be -- why? Because he was doing something stupid.
The Goodfather doesn't like stupid.
I've never had an entourage, never had serious wealth, and didn't grow up in the same environment as Michael Vick -- so rather than tell him what to do, I will ask him "Why?" and sit around hoping someone forwards this to him so he can answer these questions for me:
Mike, you just got out of prison -- why do you ever leave your house for anything other than to go to the grocery store, go to practice, go to games, and get a haircut? Seriously, Mike, did you know that you can get a shitload of movies over the internet via Netflix, that you can have workout equipment delivered to your home, that you can still afford to live somewhere that the chances of being within a mile radius of a gun are about as remote as the Rams' playoff hopes this year?
Why do you have an entourage, Mike? I guess I understand wanting to take care of your buddies out of loyalty (if that's the answer), but haven't they proven they're not a great influence? Do they bring any value to you? Why do you let your brother hang around with you? He seems to be an even bigger turd than you. Eventually, don't you have to start thinking selfishly?
Why would you throw a party, Mike? For your birthday, for your kid's birthday, for your dog's birthd...sorry, bad example. But why would you? Seriously, a party at a club that all of your old buddies are either invited to or can get into by paying a cover charge? Did you put metal detectors at the front door of the party? Why not? For your birthday, is it really that hard to just have someone privately cater a small event at your home for you? You can't just do what the rest of us schnooks do and order the Carvel Fudgie The Whale ice cream cake and watch The Hangover on DVD? Mike Tyson is hilarious in that movie, Mike! You know, you make Mike Tyson look like Sir Isaac Newton right about now, Mike.
Why do you lie, Mike? Why did you lie to Arthur Blank? Why did you lie to Roger Goodell? Why does it appear we're already starting to see a fuzzy timeline with the latest rash of bullshit that your complete and utter dumb-assery hath brought forth? Why, Mike? Why?
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Have fun with the commissioner, Mike. I'm sure there's a plausible explanation for why you just had to have a birthday party with a VIP list at a nightclub in Virginia Beach. I'd love to hear it.
Ultimately, did Henry Hill have to live his life like a regular schnook? Well, seeing as the real Henry Hill (on whom Goodfellas is based) was arrested several more times over the past twenty years, is engaged to be remarried, and just friended me on Facebook this week...well, that's about as schnookish as it gets. No one's asking Michael Vick to make a run at NFL Man of the Year or even friend me on Facebook; just stay away from gunshots.
Just accept your life sentence of schnookishness, Mike. It beats the alternative.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.