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. JMM

    Par for the course in Philly. Trashy town puts fourth trashy headlines. I grew up on east Coast and Killadelphia has far bigger problem to worry about than who the Eagles starting QB is next week. Oh and BTW – come week 4 or 5 the headline will be – "Where did McNabb go???" Maybe they will bring on the "situation" to do PR for the team – might work in Philly!

    September 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      That's right, when you have nothing intelligent to say, just trash the city. Well said, you mental midget.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. uiopjkl

    Vick paid his dues, lost tons of money, did his time and never complained about it.

    The dogfighting thing is over as far as I'm concerned and the more the animal rights people keep dredging this up, the more I will support Michael Vick.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      oooh, big man.....I'm gonna support a man who tortured animals!

      September 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Linda: I support a man who made a mistake, paid the price, and is trying to move on with his life. And doing quite well if you ask me. GO EAGLES!!!!

      September 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jon

    For that matter, if they are such animal lovers let them please tell us how many of them have given up eating pork (pigs are very intelligent creatures, smarter than dogs even), beef or even chicken. I mean thos animals have a right to live a ful and happy life, they also have a right to not get their throats sliced, get skinned, disembowled, chopped up and eaten by us humans. I mean I wonde how many of these dog lovers are right now looking at this blog while chomping on their pork chops, hamburgers or chicken wings. I bet a bunch.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    Get over it people, the guys paid his dues.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      He served time for financing a dog fighting ring, he did NOT serve time for animal cruelty. He has NOT paid his dues.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      And how many people spend time in jail for animal cruelty? Those of you who say that he only spent time in prison for financing...do you honestly think that most people who do the same thing serve prison time? Vick was made an example of, and he's back in football form. It seems a lot of you think that he should get a life sentence because he makes millions and you don't. If you want to blame someone or something, blame capitalism. That's why he gets paid what he does. If you can run and throw a football, you're going to be well paid. That's life.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Amp77

      So, because most people don't serve time for animal cruelty, that means no one should? And please don't spout the "you only hate Vick because he makes millions and you don't" crap. I would detest ANYONE who enjoys inflicting pain on those more defenseless than themselves.

      September 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      No, it doesn't mean that at all, it means that he's paid his dues and suffered the penalty, far more so than most people ever do, but that's not good enough for you people because of his fame and money. That's the inherent issue.

      September 22, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • @amp77

      No, it's not good enough for me because anyone who enjoys torturing animals is a sociopath. That cannot be cured by a few months in jail. He will always be who he is.

      September 23, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Big Game James

    I know why all these ladies are commenting against Vick. He represents the star qb they couldn't get in high school because they were too busy putting baby clothes on Mr. Snuffles.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      look in the mirror much? did that cheerleader turn you down?

      September 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ron grimes

    Vick has not had enough time to show real remorse. Whether he is sincire with what little he has done is yet
    to be seen. I am willing to forgive the man for the terrible things he and his his friends did only when he does
    something to show he is truly a changed person. Standing up to the article about "Top Dog" and denouncing
    it would be a small step. I wish him luck. From reading these posts he is gonna need it.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. amp77

    People are mad because ex-cons aren't supposed to be more successful than the rest of us. That's just not fair!! Cry me a river...that's how capitalism works.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Um, no we are mad because he murdered dogs for fun.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      And as I said, if he were bagging groceries somewhere, no one would be giving him a second thought. Therefore, it's NOT the crime that's making you mad. It's his current success.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meep

      Amp77 That really sounds logically to you? If people knew the guy bagging groceries was involved in dogfighting they would have the same reaction, disgust.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      Meep, I challenge that. If Vick were bagging groceries, the though would have been "Good, he got what he deserved." If you found out a grocery bagger was involved in dog-fighting, you'd probably say, "He's a nobody anyway." Unfortunately, you can't say that about Vick. Because of his skill, he's not a nobody, and will never be. At the end of the day, people think he deserves to be a nobody for what he did. In fact, he has spent time in prison, which almost nobody who is involved in dog fighting EVER does, and has made it again in the NFL.

      September 22, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JMM

    Amp77 – I have every right to trash a city I am very familiar with – so it begs the question – you ever been to Philly? If not -then ZIP IT! The thought that the paper should be focused on city issues rather than putting down their starting QB isn't insightful enough for you? What about the keen observation that they will be begging for McNabb's return within the next 3 weeks? Go back to your imaginary friends on facebook.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      Lived in Philly for 25 years and don't miss McNabb AT ALL. And the fact that you think that something else should be on the cover only reveals your utter ignorance about the city and the rabid fan base. And as for your keen observation, no, I don't yearn for the days when we came up short year after year after year after year. I don't yearn for a QB who clearly is incapable of going all the way.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jason

    Put a dog down in an animal shelter and its "humane". Put a dog in fight and its unforgivable. "Ohhh, but dogs are beautiful creatures and great pets". So are cows, rats, and snakes. Look at how we treat them... hell, we even pay people to kill them. For pleasure, food, or entertainment, it makes no difference. Killing is killing. Go. Vick.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      Well, to be fair, the dogs that are "put down" aren't electrocuted or beaten...

      September 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMM

      So, you are saying the Eagles are more relevant that the problems facing Philly each and every day? I love sports, but civility trumps the NFL my friend! Hate to say it, but McNabb will own the Eagles this year and make all your "Rabid Fans" question their desire to see him gone. If you really think that Kolb or Vick will get you back to the big dance, I hope you are holding your breath.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • jennifer

      Actually,, nobody likes when dogs are put down at shelters. It's pretty aweful. But if we found out the guy at the shelter was torturing them first foe his own enjoyment and spectacle, I can guarantee you, everyone would hate that person too. Do you get the distinction? Or are you just playing dumb?

      September 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      At no point did I say that Kolb or Vick will win a super bowl. But, they both have the same number of rings as McNabb does. I'm certain that the Redskins will beat the Eagles at least once this year, but if you think McNabb is going to get a ring in DC, you're fooling yourself. There may be other issues more pressing and pertinent, but Philly fans are insane about their teams. So a change in starting QB is news. That's how it works. If you're so familiar with Philadelphia, you should know that already.

      September 22, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    He can't avoid jailtime but he can sure avoid a blitz.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marine

    America is getting weeker everyday due to soft tree hugging wimps like those complaing about a guy playing football. Are you guys serious!!!!! Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen are dying dailey while you cry about someone trying to move on from a mistake made years ago. Don't worry, we will keep America safe while you use your right to cry about dogs.

    September 22, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JMM

    AMP77 – fair enough and agree with your sentiment. but I think that says something about a town that is far more concerned with starting QB's than cleaning up the streets. Not criticizing, just pointing out. People who live off the Main Line certainly care more about the Eagles.................... You are correct that McNabb won't get DC a ring, but that trade will go down as one of the worst in NFL history!! I actually like Vick (a lot) and Andy Reid.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • amp77

      Philly fans subscribe to the Ricky Bobby line "If you're not first, you're last." McNabb wasn't going to get us a ring. He's also not going to get DC a ring. So ultimately, the trade doesn't hurt us much. On top of that, we got a 2nd round pick out of it, which is what we wanted. Look at last year: the Cowboys beat us senseless two weeks in a row, but they didn't win the Super Bowl, so in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. We both ended the season early.

      September 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. abby

    worst possible headline– how insensitive and stupid - I'm no fan of Vick period - any one who would do what he would do is sick, sick, sick.....

    September 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MikeM

    it sadness me to sit here and read all the different comments about how people still feel on this issue with Vick. Whether if we forgive him or not we have a bigger issue at hand. That is can we forgive ourselves For all the harsh things we have say about our fellow americans? Are we not one nation under God? Are not that same great nation that comes together no matter how different we are? I have made my share of wrongdoing in my life and I probably would make more, but I'm so glad that first that I'm able to forgive myself second that I have a few good people in my life that understands that we fall sometimes and every now and then they would reach down and help me up. Vick forgive yourself, continue to prove that you are sincere about what you done and keep living.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. texdave

    Wonder how many dog loving linebackers there are in the NFL? A dog killing 30 year old running quarterback in the NFL will not last long anyway. I see a torn ACL in the near future.

    September 22, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
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