The most extraordinary sports story of the new year is the rise and rapid fall of Marcus Vick, the younger brother of Michael, the star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. I don't know if we can say "the troubled Marcus Vick," but we can certainly say that Vick is in deep, deep trouble.
Vick was charged Monday with three misdemeanor counts of brandishing a firearm. According to a report in he Richmond Times-Dispatch, a warrant for Vick's arrest was issued after the parent of a 17-year-old said that Vick, the former Virginia Tech quarterback, pointed a weapon at her son and two others after an altercation in a restaurant parking lot.
This is only an allegation, but where there is smoke there is usually fire, and there has been far too much smoke during Vick's career.
The episode came two days after Vick was dismissed from the team for the cumulative effects of numerous legal problems and unsportsmanlike conduct at the Gator Bowl. During that game, Vick stomped on the leg of Louisville defensive lineman Elvis Dumervil while he was on the ground.
I called Gloucester (Virginia) High School on Tuesday to speak with Tommy Reamon, who coached Vick at Warwick High in Newport News, Virginia. A secretary said, "Coach Reamon will have no comment until he speaks with Marcus."
I am always amused at the reactions of coaches when their former players do wrong. When things are good, you can't get them to stop talking about the players their program produced. Now, mum's the word.
Everybody, beginning with his high school coaches and extending to Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer -- all of those who may have looked the other way at Vick's reckless, spoiled-brat persona -- should be looking in the mirror today and asking: How did the career of a young, bright player like Marcus Vick end up in shambles? One minute he is being compared to his brother, the next he is the butt of jokes that put him in an all-criminal backfield with Maurice Clarett, the former Ohio State running back.
One of the first people who came to mind when I heard the latest news about young Vick was Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist who has written 28 books dealing primarily with parenting and family dynamics. My favorite, The Birth Order Book, argues that birth order influences behavior and family dynamics. Leman felt that the big brother-little brother relationship between Michael and Marcus -- aggravated by football celebrity -- might have led to some of Marcus' problems at Virginia Tech.
We agreed that Marcus' first step toward disaster was choosing Virginia Tech, where his older brother was all-universe. In fact, Vick's family was stunned when Marcus decided to follow Michael.
"That was probably the wrong thing to do," Leman said Tuesday during a telephone interview. "It's too bad that he did because you're setting yourself up for failure. It doubles the ante.
"He's walking into it saying, `I'll show you, I'm Michael incarnate."'
In Leman's birth order theory, firstborns almost always do well.
"They are the stars," he said. "Presidents of the United States are firstborn children in huge numbers, followed by middles. But only five babies made it to the White House. The babies are the attention getters and the attention seekers. I think what you got in young Mr. Vick is: `I'm the best at being the worst.' That's sort of what his life says."