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Vick's schtick

I haven’t forgotten the reason Michael Vick was one of the most despised athletes – heck, people – in America just a couple of years ago.

But I’m sure and heck on the path to forgive him, and it’s not just because he has won the starting quarterback job for the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s because Vick has been a perfect team player since joining the Eagles before the 2009 season. He’s never complained. He’s gone about trying to re-establish himself as an NFL player and has never looked for short cuts.

He understood his role last season was to back up Donovan McNabb and to get a few snaps here and there. He understood he was rusty, unfamiliar with what it took to be a professional football player.

This season, he accepted being an emergency plan if Kevin Kolb got hurt or didn’t pan out. Well, Kolb went down with a concussion in Week 1 and Vick nearly led an Eagles comeback against Green Bay. He was fantastic in a Week 2 win over Detroit. And he’ll get the start for the Eagles on Sunday in Jacksonville, looking even better than the Vick of old, the troubled Vick whose life off the field could not have helped him prosper on the field.

Vick has a clear mind these days. He’s served time for his transgressions and emerged from the darkness as a better man and, less importantly, a better football player.

Who doesn’t root for that?

There should be no one among us who doesn’t forgive a man for doing wrong, provided he doesn’t repeat his mistakes. Vick has gone from being Public Enemy No. 1 because of his terrible mistreatment of dogs to being someone many of us can root for.

Not all of us, mind you. Some will never forgive Vick for the cruel nature of his crimes. It’s a hard line, but one I can understand.

I tend to be more open to the notion that people can change for the better. I don’t think it’s easy, and I’m not totally convinced Vick has seen the error of his ways. But judging from his soft-spoken manner and frequently-expressed humility, I take him at his word.

And I root for him to be successful. I think his message is a powerful one, especially because he is so beloved. I believe Vick can be a game-changer in life, far from the football field. His message has to resonate strongly with kids – especially black kids who used to gobble up his replica jerseys when he played for the Atlanta Falcons.

You wonder why other athletes who have broken the law or been in trouble don’t follow Vick’s lead. He could write a book on redemption. Meanwhile, people like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds struggle to find empathy.

I always appreciated Vick’s talents when he played at Virginia Tech and later with the Falcons, but I was never a fan. He came off then as a brash, spoiled athlete who had been given everything but returned nothing.

He has changed my mind. I hope he plays well this week and on into the rest of the season. I can watch Vick work his magic now and know that when the game is over, he’ll say the right things and act the right way.

Vick has won me over. Only a small slice of suspicion remains. And it’s getting smaller all the time.

I don’t see anyone beating the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League playoffs.  Not only does Philly have the best offense in the NL, they have Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to throw in the first three games of a series.

By the way, when’s the last time a team had two ace pitchers named “Roy?”

The Reds’ pitching doesn’t match up. The Giants and Padres could be factors because of their pitching, but neither team can hit with the Phillies. The Rockies are a dangerous offensive team, but play a lot better at home than on the road. And the Braves showed earlier this week how they’ll do against Philadelphia.

In the American League, I’m for the Minnesota Twins. Their manager, Ron Gardenhire, married a Wichita girl and they used to live in town during the offseason until about 10 years ago.

The Yankees will be the favorite in the AL, but I think Tampa Bay has the best team in the league.

“American Idol” announced its judges lineup for the 2011 season Wednesday and I’m intrigued.

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler is one of the new judges, along with Jennifer Lopez. They’ll join old stand-by Randy Jackson as AI returns to a three-judge panel, which is good.

It seems as if I’m constantly apologizing for being a fan of “American Idol,” and I’m sick of it. It’s a singing competition, for crying out loud, and I enjoy singers. And I get caught up in the competition and the competitors. So there.

It’s kind of pathetic to admit, but as I’m writing this blog entry I’m also keeping track of the St. Louis Cardinals’ game against Pittsburgh. The Cardinals have fallen off the face of the earth, but lead 6-0 today. Albert Pujols has hit his 40th homer and Matt Holliday has driven in his 100th run. And even though this team has disgusted me for more than a month, I’m happier when they’re winning.

Memories of a sports writer

In 1977, I won the Oscar Stauffer award, given out by the Kansas State High School Activities Association to the person they deem to be worthy of recognition.

I was 22 at the time, so awards were new to me. Since then, I’ve won thousands (he says, sarcastically).

Anyway, I accepted the award (pictured here)  at Kansas City Kansas Community College during the Class 5A state basketball tournament. As I was ready to walk onto the court during halftime of a game to receive a plaque, the public address announcer mispronounced by name, saying “Luhtz” into of “Lootz.”

I’m not proud of my reaction. I yelled at the guy and said: “It’s Lootz, (expletive).” Remember, please, that I was young and, admittedly, clueless. And I don’t think he heard me.