This week two major sports stars have been on the back page more for their actions off the field. Michael Vick the NFL Quarterback has been given a second chance after serving time in prison for running a dog fighting ring. The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a chance on the man who was probably the most talented player in the NFL before his prison time was served.

As a dog owner myself, I found Vick’s actions despicable. Harming defenseless animals is an act of cowardice and Vick served his time for a more than major mistake in his life. However, everyone does deserve a second chance. Vick, seems to be rehabilitated, say those in the NFL. How genuine his remorse is will be the real question that only Vick knows for sure in his heart. Judge for yourself in this 60 Minutes interview with James Brown.

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I think I believe him, I’d like to, but it is hard to say. He looked Brown in the eye and didn’t seem to be lying. Tony Dungy also has nothing to gain by being his mentor and has everything to lose. I’ll keep Vick in my prayers even though I still have a bad taste in my mouth about his past. Again, we are a religion of forgiveness, and I need to remember that. Hearing about him being exposed to dog fighting at 8 years old made me feel sorry for him, even though it’s still not an excuse for his behavior.

The second person in the headlines is Coach Rick Pitino:

The AP tells the story:

In Rick Pitino’s words, his equipment manager’s wife was welcomed into Louisville’s close-knit basketball family. Beneath the surface, however, was an explosive secret.

Pitino and Karen Sypher had sex at a restaurant eight months before she married the coach’s confidant, Tim Sypher. Over the next few years, the three attended the same parties, took basketball trips and tailgated together, despite Pitino’s past affair.
What happened over those years is a he-said, she-said story. Pitino recently denied to police Karen Sypher’s contention that he raped her, and authorities declined to prosecute her claims, citing a lack of evidence.

Pitino acknowledged giving her $3,000 after she said she was pregnant and was getting an abortion, but didn’t have health insurance. Pitino’s lawyer said the money was for insurance and he never paid for an abortion.

I’ve interviewed Rick Pitino duing my days as a sports radio producer and field reporter and always thought he was a stand up guy. However, I’ve also encountered plenty of powerful men in sports who act in the way that Karen Sypher is stating Pitino acted towards her:

Karen Sypher has called Pitino, who has guided Louisville, Kentucky and Providence to the Final Four, a powerful man who “thinks he can do anything he wants to.” She told police that she believes the coach told her future husband to arrange the abortion and accompany her to the procedure. She thinks Pitino paid Tim Sypher to marry her.

Louisville right to lifers believe that Pitino is responsible for a baby that would now be 7 years old had it not been aborted. Pitino, a Catholic, claims that the decision to abort was Sypher’s alone–a contention that I find doubtful or it sounds at least like he was washing his hands of the whole thing.

Pitino may very well lose his job and he very well may deserve it. He’s an excellent coach but a man who allegedly rapes someone or who at the very least has a sexual liaison with a woman (in a restaurant! Yuck! Remind me not to eat there!) and then gets an underling to marry her…that’s pretty disgusting behavior.

I wish that players and coaches would act more responsibly so we can enjoy their antics on the field and not be disgusted by what they do off the field.

Let us pray for the fortitude that athletes need to make the right decisions in their lives. It’s tough when things are offered to you at all turns and temptation is around every corner. May Our Lady help these men and women do the right thing and respect their bodies, other people and the defenseless in our midst whether unborn or a defenseless animal.