September 22nd, 2010
12:47 PM ET

Newspaper tackles Vick story with 'Top Dog' headline

The Philadelphia Daily News went with a tongue-in-cheek headline Wednesday.

Michael Vick is sure to be the subject of controversy again, but this time it's not the fleet-footed Eagles quarterback's fault.

On the front cover of Wednesday's Philadelphia Daily News, Vick is featured - rolling out of the pocket, pigskin in hand - alongside the caption, "Top Dog." The story details a "shocking turnabout" in which Eagles coach Andy Reid named Vick the team's starting quarterback.

In case you've been in a sports vacuum on one of Neptune's moons for the last two years, Vick returned to the gridiron last season after serving an NFL suspension and prison time for a felony dogfighting conviction.

The Eagles' decision to sign Vick to a modest contract was met with mixed reaction from animal-rights activists, and this week's announcement was no different. The founder of the animal-welfare organization DogPAC told The Philadelphia Inquirer the move was "disappointing," However, Wayne Pacell, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said Vick was committed to his group's anti-dogfighting initiative and that Vick told him he'd be available Tuesdays to talk to at-risk youth about dogfighting.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals news release said only, "As long as he's throwing a football and not electrocuting a dog, PETA is pleased he is focused on his game."

Josh Barnett, the paper's executive sports editor, said the Daily News had received "a few calls and some e-mails" about the headline, "almost all being from people who are animal lovers."

"The general consensus is they feel like the issue's been covered and he's paid his debt to society with prison time, and the story should be more focused on football," he said.

Barnett defended the paper's coverage of the issue, saying it was balanced and that several sources addressed Vick's remarkable comeback and how the 30-year-old had made the most of his second chance.

As for the headline, Barnett said it is "reflective of our personality." He said there was no intention to offend anyone, only to "write the best, most reflective headline out there."

"It really is not a stark departure from what we do and what we've always done," Barnett said.

August 2009 cover after Vick's signing.

This, after all, is a newspaper that warned "Hide Your Dogs" on its front page when the Eagles signed Vick. When the Eagles banned outside food in their new stadium the paper decried "Hoagies of Mass Destruction." It has also skewered non-sports figures: When in 2000 then-Mayor John Street announced his support for Police Chief John Timoney following a nationally televised police beating, the Daily News depicted the pair as Jackie Gleason and Art Carney under the headline, "The Honeymooners."

Several blogs promised Wednesday's Vick cover would yield controversy. But Philadelphia is a rabid sports town, a place where Santa Claus was once pelted with snowballs, where fans cheered after Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury, where hometown hoopster Kobe Bryant was booed during the just-for-show NBA All-Star Game. Here, the controversy seemed to lie in Reid's decision more than the newspaper's front page.

Reid has repeatedly said - as recently as Monday - that Kevin Kolb would remain the Eagles' starting quarterback and there was "no indication there was any wiggle room in that," said Barnett, explaining why the story carries such weight in the City of Brotherly Love. The Vick announcement, essentially, "is uncharacteristic of Andy Reid," he said.

While most of those commenting on the newspaper's website attacked Reid's credibility and a handful defended "Con-Vick," there were a few commenters who took issue with the paper's headline, describing it as tasteless and tacky.

Asked one: "does anyone know where the editor of the [Daily News], Andy Reid, and Vick the "dog Killer" live? We can get a pumpkin tosser and toss bags of meadow muffins at their houses!"

"Top Dog?" asked another. "You have reached a new low. How about animals protect their young, he's nothing more than a savage, you insult dogs everywhere."

Some took a lighter approach, though, and went along with the gag. A blog post on SB Nation added a few puns of its own, including jokes about how Vick treats "underdogs" and about an upcoming game turning into a "dogfight."

"Sure, a wide swath of America can't talk about Vick without making a dog joke," Andrew Sharp blogged. "But guess what? Two years after one of the more startling falls from grace we've seen in pro sports, we're all talking about Vick again. All jokes aside, that's pretty amazing."

Daily News Assistant Managing Editor Michelle Bjork said "Top Dog" was a "true Daily News headline." Bjork said the newspaper had many talented headline writers and she was not surprised by Wednesday's front page.

Asked if the newspaper - whose parent company filed for bankruptcy last year - was attempting to draw attention ahead of the Daily News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and philly.com being placed on the auction block Thursday, Bjork said the headline was purely an editorial decision.

"This is the sort of thing we would cover anyway because we're such a big sports town," she said.

Indeed, the back cover for Wednesday's paper bore the headline "Roy Wonder!," lauding Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay's 20th win Tuesday night. He is the first Philly pitcher to achieve 20 wins since Steve Carlton in 1982.

Asked which he thought was a bigger story, Barnett said "sports is so much a part of Philadelphia" that both stories were enormous because Vick and Halladay are "major entities on the sports landscape." Vick edged out Halladay out because the announcement was such a surprise and because Vick has a history of being big news - and not just in Philly.

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Filed under: Dogs • Football • Pennsylvania • Sports
soundoff (311 Responses)
  1. holtram

    He's served his time? Not by me and I don't give a dddd what society says. My team is the Lions (I know, sorry) but last week I refused to watch them play the Eagles and their dog-killer. Do what we can. Boycott Eagles games and and any other team that would employ this low-life. He'll never be done serving his time as far as I'm concerned. Just looking at this waste of good oxygen makes me want to throw up.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sam

    All of you haters are just jealous. You are mad because here is a man that grew up poor and now is making millions doing somthing that you wish you could do. Making money just for staying in shape, practicing and playing a game every Sunday! He even went to jail and paid his debt to society but he still can't get a break. If I we him I would say F...you all ! Well, I'm sure that he is doing just that while he's sitting in his multi-million dollar mansion and driving around in $100,00 cars. While you stress out about how you're going to pay your bills and what to write on these message boards like this one.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. holtram

    Jealous – right. What a moron.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Bet you have a laundry list rap sheet, and no one ever forgave you or gave you a break. Now you're an angry hater, miserable wretch. Good luck with that.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • holtram

      Ehhhh – sorry Dave nice try, no rap sheet but thanks for playing. I'm a hater all right – Vick and all his sick apologists. Boycott Eagle football!

      September 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      If a person is convicted, pays his/her debt to society and is still considered guilty, how is that justice? I hope the Eagles jam to at least a division victory. Whiners and haters like you can scream and holler all the way.

      September 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • holtram

      You're right dave – justice will be when vick breaks both his legs and his collarbone, or worse. Maybe the best way for that to happen is for him to play football! Gosh you're a pretty smart guy after all.

      Boycott Eagle football!

      September 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Can't say you seem very smart, but I could be wrong. So... injuries in the NFL are karmic justice for wrong doings? Really. What did Bush do to deserve his leg breaking? Do tell.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Metallica

    How long will Vick have to serve his sentence in the court of stoopid people's opinion. He paid for his crimes, let's move on. I thought the paper was pretty clever...Top Dog...pretty clever.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    So, Vick has not only paid his time but he now has a charity and does work to stop animal cruelty. I'd say that's a pretty good start. Also, this guy pays taxes just like the rest of us. But he gets paid a lot by a private company, which means he pays a lot in taxes. The more money he makes, the more I get in tax refunds. So, please, let the ex-convict make all the money he can...

    September 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Patricia517

    Disgusting. They care nothing about the animals. As long as he can throw a football he's a hero. A new book just came out about the recovery of Vick's dog-fighting dogs that survived and were rehabilitated. – The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jenny

    Are people serious. "its an animal & not a human" ignorance I tell ya. Nobody is putting animals above humans. What people are saying is that those "animals" feel pain just like the rest of us. It was something that NEVER should have happened. The only reason Vick owned up to it was because he was caught and the only reason Vick helps out with animal shelters now is because he was told he wouldn't play football if he didn't. he doesn't care. He wanted to get his life back. I'm a dog lover myself, and believe 100% in an eye for an eye no matter what the crime. A crime is a crime. Look up the statistics 80% of MEN that abuse animals are likely to abuse there wives & Children. Those of you that think its ok to harm an animals as long as its not a humane...have a lot to learn about compassion. I feel for your children. To be raised with that kind of mind set.

    Mark, I feel sorry for you. I do. I wish you nothing but pain for smal fraction of time. Just to get a feel for what these dogs went through. If Vick doesn't like animals thats fine, he doesn't have to own one.....but why touture?

    September 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Big Game James

    @Patricia517 So someone else is making money off the dogs? And you promoted it? What does that say about you?

    September 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. PhillyBob

    Santa Claus incident was over 40 years ago, let it go!!!

    September 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Meep

    The only people defending Vick are racists or idiots, who cares what they think. The majority of people in America think Vick is trash, nothing is going to change. Vick didn't spend a day in jail for abusing those dogs, only for FINANCING dogfights. He tortured and beat one to death because she wouldn't fight. So boohoo if America doesn't accept the psycho back with open arms....

    September 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMM

      And Bush financed a fake war that killed thousands of young American troops, mamed well over 50K more and over 200K Iraqis lost their lives because he and Rummie didn't have enough targets to bomb in Afghanistan!!!! Do you hold Bush in the same regard as Vick. Of course not, Bush is White and white people in America get forgiveness – blacks do not. BTW I am white as can be....

      September 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rich

    I look forward to the day when an animal-loving defensive lineman plows him over and he spends his remaining days in a wheelchair. Maybe then he should be beaten to death for not performing.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jenny

    Big Game James – More then Likley the proceeds from the book sales will go to funding for abused animals.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Big Game James

    @Jenny Are you 100% sure about that? I don't think the author can pay rent with kibbles n bits!

    September 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Abby

    To those who say that Vick paid for his crime, please remember that he only served time for dogfighting, not animal cruelty. Justice was not completely served.

    September 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patricia517

    Big Game James -you're a pinhead. Why don't you read the book and learn about something other than football

    September 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
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