Wednesday, December 19, 2007

R.I.P. Riley - 3/19/2000 - 12/16/2007

Warning – Do not read today’s blog if you don’t want to get depressed. I almost didn’t write it, but Riley deserves it.

There are two men in Maine I love like brothers. Don and Tory. We are close, and our families are close. While there have been occasional falling outs between us, as there always are with any family, we have always been able to eventually put them behind us and move on.

This morning I received a call from Don. I was expecting him to ask when we will be arriving in Maine (we go there every Christmas), but instead he hit me with a shocker. Struggling to breathe, Don told me Tory’s 7 year old son, Riley, was killed in a house explosion on Sunday.

Riley lived with his mother, and apparently his mother was visiting friends or relatives (please note: I may not have all the facts straight because I have found precious little info on this other than one or two online articles and Don was too distraught for me to pry, but as updates come in I will be sure to post them) who have a wood stove in an unfinished house. Part of the children’s chores in the house was to light the wood stove. Riley’s cousins went down to do so, and Riley went with them. The oldest child in attendance was 11.

It seems the adults in the house regularly use flammable fluids such as kerosene or diesel fuel to light wood stoves, and the children did the same. It is well-known that you do NOT use flammable liquids to light fires in the enclosed space of a wood stove because of the potential for an explosion. Instead, you are supposed to use kindling and newspaper to get the fire started. Why these people taught their children to use diesel fuel is anyone’s guess, but the ensuing blast cost little Riley his life.

Two other children who were present were also badly burned, and are in the burn unit of the hospital right now. Riley didn’t make it.

Riley was born on a chilly morning in March of 2000. I remember it well because the previous night Tory was at our house when his then wife called him and told him she was going into labor early. He got up and left, and the next day told us of his son’s birth. Riley was the third in an adorable trio of children born to Tory and his ex, and he was always happy and fun to tickle and bounce.

I will miss him a great deal. I can’t imagine what Tory must be going through right now. I have been unable to reach him, but I don’t really know what I could say to him anyway. My wife and I will not even be able to make the funeral.

For those of you who live up north, where woodstoves are common, please keep this in your mind when you go to light it. Don’t use diesel fuel, lighter fluid, kerosene, or any similar accelerant to get your fire going.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Michael Vick Sentenced to 23 Months

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock lately and haven’t heard the news, Michael Vick, the former star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, was sentenced yesterday to 23 months. The judge actually went on the long side of sentencing and gave Vick more time than the prosecution asked for because Vick, apparently, showed a remarkable lack of integrity all through the process. At one point he failed a drug test just days after promising the judge he would stay away from drugs.

This is the same man who was arrested at an airport not long ago for having a secret compartment in his bottle of water with drugs in it. Remember that? Yup. Vick.

While I, personally, could care less about the drug charges (hey, it’s his body, right?), the dog fighting charges needed to be answered for. According to what came out in the trial, Vick not only bankrolled the entire operation (Bad Newz Kennels), but actually killed and/or aided in killing several dogs who, when first brought in for “test fights,” didn’t perform at the high standards set by the Bad Newz Kennel. So of course, these underperforming dogs had to die…you know…since they couldn’t fight well enough in the pit.


More disgusting was the method of execution. Bad enough they killed the poor animals, but how was this accomplished? Euthanization? A needle? Nope. The dogs were drowned and hanged. That’s right. Hanged. As in a rope was tied around their necks and the dogs were dropped so that the neck snapped, like cattle thieves in the old west or Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Which leaves one to wonder…what was the purpose of this method? Why, if you are going to kill a dog, would you do so in such a grotesque manner? I can only guess, though I am tempted to lean towards the idea that Vick and pals must have thought it was “neat” or entertaining in some way.

The part that confuses me the most is this: Michael Vick was the highest paid player in the NFL. Note: not ONE of the highest, but THE highest. He made more than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, or Tony Romo (for those who don’t know…Brady, Manning, Favre, and Romo are the 4 best QBs in the NFL, playing for the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and Dallas Cowboys, respectively). Now, given all that, why would anyone risk losing so much over something as stupid as dog fighting? I just don’t get it. If I were pulling down that kinda salary, I sure wouldn’t risk it all for something like that.

Stupid, if you ask me.

Before I found out some of these details, I felt a little bad for him. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, he was a good man who made a bad mistake. But after reading some of the details; the constant lies to the court, the atrocious acts committed to the dogs, the STUPID drug use when he knew he was being monitored, I no longer feel sympathetic. This is a man who thought he was bigger than the law, and thumbed his nose at the legal system. I do not feel the least bit bad for him anymore. Instead, I feel bad for his family, who has to go through this with him. I feel bad for his mother, who has to watch her son come crashing down from Grace. I feel bad for the dogs who were brutalized in the name of sick entertainment. I feel bad for his teammates, who now have to play without him and have had several starting QBs this year because they have been unable to find someone who can fill Vick’s shoes on the field.

Lastly, I feel bad for the millions of fans who had to watch all this trash unfold, especially the kids who looked up to him as a role model. Let’s hope they all learn from his example.