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July 21st, 2007:

Dog lovers weigh in on Vick

Speaking of Michael Vick, the folks in town for the 30th annual Reliant Park World Series of Dog Shows let him have it.

Former University of Houston football player Chris Tucker, a longtime dog trainer, called Vick “an idiot.”

“What was he thinking?” Tucker asked. “The man had the world in the palm of his hand, and he gets involved in an activity like dogfighting?”

“The cruelty issue turns my stomach. I just can’t believe it. There’s no excuse, no possible rationale,” said Steve Fincher, who was behind the counter at the Invisible Fence Co.

Kim Lawrence — holding a leash attached to her boxer, Frankie — called the charges against Vick “disgusting.” Lawrence was in charge of the Citizens for Animal Protection area.

“Putting two animals together and making one of them try to kill the other — that’s not sport,” she said. “And, because of who he is, it’s multiplied times 10. It’s like he’s lending his name to animal cruelty (by saying), ‘Oh, look, you can grow up and be a professional sports star and kill animals, too.’ It’s gross.”

Susan Vroom of Dallas, the American Kennel Club’s top representative at the show and a trainer of dogs for 36 years, prefaced her comments by conceding, “Yes, Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty.”

She added without hesitation, however, that if he’s convicted, he should be treated “like it was second-degree murder.”

“Bear in mind you’re talking to a dog person here. But I could not have been more devastated if I’d been told he was involved in trafficking in young children,” she said. “No, I’m not nuts. I’m able to differentiate between humans and animals, but I still equate the two. I really see no difference. If you would electrocute a dog (one of the allegations against Vick), what would stop you from beating a child?”

The dogs’ subservient status makes the fights heinous, said Tom Pincus, the Houston Kennel Club’s president.

“The animal can’t defend itself,” Pincus said. “It can’t quit or leave home. It can’t pick up the phone and call the police or dial 911. I think it’s worse than the Pacman Jones situation. If he’s found guilty, he should suffer similar, if not greater, consequences.”

If that attitude is at all prevalent, then the NFL is going to be in a really tough spot. Right now, they’re holding off on taking action until the legal system goes through its motions, but as more information comes to light – especially if some of the other folks charged in this atrocity agree to plea deals and start talking to the press – there’s going to be a lot of pressure to act swiftly. I certainly wouldn’t bet on Vick finishing the season on the Falcons’ active roster, and at this point I’d need some odds before I’d take a bet on him starting the season.

This is the closest anyone came to defending Vick:

J.T. Thomas — representing the event’s sponsor, pet food maker Eukanuba — offered a tempered viewpoint. It’s because of Vick’s own background — suggested Thomas, a younger brother of the 1960s-era Oilers cornerback W.K. Hicks — that people should attempt to understand how the former Virginia Tech star could have become involved.

“Once upon a time dogfighting, just like cockfighting, used to be a part of the fabric of America,” said Thomas, of Pasadena. “Just like with a lot of other things, loopholes have been closed. It sometimes takes people awhile to understand what you used to do and what you can do now aren’t always one in the same. Sometimes you have to learn this the hard way, and that’s happening with him. This was not murder. This was not a capital crime. This was, possibly, a bad error in judgment. We can make a federal case out of it if we want to, but whatever happened, we have to let justice take its course. (Vick’s) argument is that he was not knowledgeable about what was going on.

“I myself am a man of color. But, if a man is wrong, he’s wrong. I’m not going to jump on his bandwagon because he’s Michael Vick. It’s unfortunate people in America tend to worship success and don’t always realize that just because someone is successful financially they may not be successful morally, socially or spiritually.”

It’ll be interesting to see if any there’s any organized constituency that comes out in defense of Vick. I’m not talking about his lawyers, or his teammates, or random fans like the guy in the photo for this story. I mean a public figure, someone with a following – a politician, a civil rights leader, a businessperson – who stands by Vick and goes on the record supporting him and attacking the charges against him. For the time being at least, Vick shouldn’t count on the companies with whom he has endorsement deals for much.

Nike has told retailers it will not release a fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, this summer. Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the four shoe products and three shirts that currently bear Vick’s name will remain in stores.


Stoyer said Nike still has a standing contract with Vick, but declined to speculate on his future with the company.

A statement released by Nike Inc. said the company “is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick, and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen; therefore, we have not terminated our relationship.”

Stoyer, who declined to discuss terms of Vick’s contract, indicated the company has no commercials or documentaries planned with the three-time NFL Pro Bowl selection.

In previous years, Nike has run footage and interviews with Vick on its Web site, but none of the video promotions are currently posted.

“Some of that was shown on a limited run based on rights and usage,” Stoyer said. “There’s nothing new planned.”

That answers John Lopez’s question, at least. That also may be the last we see of Vick on TV, outside of a Falcons game and maybe CNN, for awhile.

Unlike our helicopter-borne moose-shooter, there’s no question about the value of the feds pursuing a case against Michael Vick. But as with that, I hope that at the very least, Vick comes away from this with a heaping helping of shame, both self-induced and imposed on him by the public. Whether he is ever convicted of any of these charges or not, he’s going to have to do a hell of a lot if he ever hopes to rehabilitate his public image.

GHCVB still suffering leadership woes

And here I was thinking I’d only see Jordy Tollett again on some kind of Houston: Where Are They Now? special, preaching the benefits of the three-martini lunch. Perhaps not. According to Kristen Mack, Tollett is hot to get his old job back:

The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has not been able to fill Jordy Tollett’s spectator shoes after six months of searching.

It extended an offer to Stephen Perry, the president and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, last Friday. He turned it down.

Now the search committee must regroup.

There’s at least one person who is interested — Tollett.

“You don’t know what that would mean to me, to be able to return and sell the city,” Tollett said. “It was my life. I lived and breathed it every day for 35 years. It’s all I’ve ever known.”

Mayor Bill White made it clear it was time for Tollett to move on by insisting the board search for new blood when Tollett’s contract expired. Rather than reapply for his job, Tollett stepped down from the position in January.

Tollett, ever the dealmaker, views this week’s events as an opening. And even though he has “no knowledge that they are even interested in me,” he wants back in.

“Jordy wants the job back. Of course he does. He doesn’t like the way everything went down when he lost his job,” said Don Henderson, chairman emeritus of the board, who along with the current chairman Doug Horn, has been running the bureau’s daily operations until a replacement is chosen.

Mayor White didn’t really go one way or the other on this (although we already know how he feels), but it seems like Jordy’s having trouble taking a not-so-subtle hint. All the language being used (“new blood,” “fresh approach”) indicates that they want someone, well, new and fresh. The Chron article also points out that he’s bound by an agreement not to apply for the job, so even though he does have big friends on the council and on the board, I don’t really see this happening. I’m sure there’s a guest-who-won’t-leave-the-party metaphor to be made.

On the other hand, if not Jordy, then who? Stephen Perry was something of a pipe dream, since he’s pretty heavily involved in rebuilding New Orleans. The original goal was to have someone in by April, but now the word is fall. I guess, like Jordy, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Call it something else, please

I’m not a hunter. Compared to me, even Mitt Romney looks like Daniel Boone. I have nothing against hunting, it’s just not my idea of a good time. But I can at least understand the allure, on some level, of matching wits with your prey on even terms, on their turf.

This, however, I don’t understand at all.

Dan Duncan may not have known it was against the law to hunt from a helicopter in Russia, but some say the Houston billionaire should have.

Duncan, 74, appeared before a grand jury in Houston this week to answer questions about a 2002 hunting trip he took in Russia where he shot a moose and a sheep from a helicopter.

Duncan told the Chronicle he believed he was within the law because his Russian guide instructed him to take the shots.

It wasn’t until he was recently contacted by U.S. investigators that he learned the practice was illegal in Russia and that by bringing the trophy heads back to the U.S., he violated a law here known as the Lacey Act.

But some believe the executive with pipeline giant Enterprise Products Partners shouldn’t have used the assistance of the aircraft when making the shot anyhow.

“Hunting from aircraft has long been prohibited in the U.S. So I’d think any experienced hunter from the U.S. would know it’s illegal elsewhere,” said Michael Bean, an attorney and chairman of the wildlife program for Environmental Defense in Washington, D.C.

I’m sorry, but taking a potshot at a moose from a helicopter, I don’t know what you call it, but I don’t call it hunting. It’s not a fair fight. I feel the same way about the “canned” hunts on private ranches, where the game is basically trapped in an enclosed area, and every two-bit Kit Carson who pays for the privilege is guaranteed to kill something. To me, this has more in common with Michael Vick than it does with anything that can reasonably be called a sport. I have no opinion on whether or not the feds should pursue a case against this guy – maybe he really didn’t know it was illegal, and for sure they have better things to be doing – and to some extent, I don’t really care. I’ll settle for him feeling shame for taking part in this. If he’s not ashamed of himself, he should be.

Extreme commuting, Texas style

Remember the concept of extreme commuting? There’s not that much of it here in Texas, at least compared to some other places, but that may change.

“Extreme commutes” — those of an hour or more — are much rarer in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth than in the metro areas of the East Coast.

That could change, a transportation researcher said Thursday, unless Texas cities can keep pace with expected growth in the coming years.

Currently, researcher Alan Pisarski said, 9.7 percent of Houston-area residents and 7.2 percent of Dallas-Fort Worth-area residents have commutes of more than an hour, compared with 18.4 percent of New Yorkers and double-digit shares in some other metro areas.

However, Texas will have a much greater population growth, accounting for 15 percent of the U.S. total, through 2030, he said.

I presume the implication of that is that more people in Texas will be living farther away from where they work. It doesn’t have to be that way, of course – we could do things that encourage mixed-use and transportation-oriented development, thus encouraging more of an urban lifestyle. Since I can’t even type that with a straight face, much less imagine it happening, figure we’ll hear more about folks with 50-mile-plus commutes in the coming years. Eye on Williamson has more on related matters.