"So, De, what you think about the whole Vick thing?”

I guess friends and family kept asking because they know I've been a Falcons fan since Jeff George was raising Atlantans blood pressure as the inconsistent QB in the mid 90s. Hell, I was cheering when Brett Favre was wearing black and red on the sidelines. Needless to say, when most hopped on the Michael Vick bandwagon back in '02, I already had my window seat. And like a kid with that new Harry Potter book in his hands, I got giddy as hell when then-head coach Dan Reeves officially handed No. 7 the reigns as the starter. That was five seasons, two playoff appearances and one messy, image-shattering dogfighting controversy ago.

Mike already had a challenging, make-or-break year ahead of him on the football field, what with a new coach, new system and New Orleans to contend with. Now, with word from NFL commish Roger Goodell on July 24 that the league was keeping the troubled 27-year-old talent away from training camp (and any other Falcons-connected activity, for that matter) until the case is settled, things have gotten even crazier.

My heart kinda goes out for Vick, because over the past four or five years, I've chatted with dude on a couple of occasions and he seemed like a decent enough guy each time. Before the hate mail comes flooding into the Harris offices, I'm not saying the stuff Vick and his Bad Newz Kennels homies are accused of doing (electrocuting dogs is some really, really ill shit) is right. It just seems like some of these pro-animal supporters, should be equally repulsed when athletes do all this senseless duck- and deer-hunting for sport… But I digress.

For me, the animal injustices aren't even the biggest thing. What is, and what seems to be getting overlooked a lot in this fiasco, is the damage done to Atlanta Falcons fans. With exciting, offensive-minded coach Bobby Petrino and veteran wideout Joe Horn in the picture, the Falcons' offense was to soar in '07. Optimism was apparent. The Georgia Dome had sold 92% of season tickets. We're playing the Colts on Thanksgiving and have home Monday Nighters against the Giants and Saints. This was supposed to be the year the Falcons at least contended for the city's only pro championship beyond the Braves' '95 World Series.

With Vick trying to clear his name (and avoid a six-year jail sentence) in a VA courtroom, the dreams of season ticket holders like myself have shattered. And though I kinda regret paying the money I did for my seats now, I feel super bad for the cat who broke off $5500 for club seats, only to watch backup Joey Harrington and the Birds go 6-10 or 5-11. And just think about the pee-wee league boy who copied Vick's moves, Vick's braids and Vick's addiction to Chapstick. How does a parent tell him that his favorite athlete might never put on another helmet because he let pits fight to the death? That's a tough one I don't have an answer to. I just know this whole, ugly ordeal has put a scar on my hometown and has broken the hearts of many… mainly those who've supported Michael Vick and the prospect of change.