No charges have yet been filed linking Michael Vick to dogfighting, a felony in Virginia, which is where a drug raid on a house Vick owns turned up 66 dogs -- 55 of them pit bulls -- and one pry bar, a tool used to open a dog's jaws should it attach itself to flesh, or something equally sensitive.
While this is the sensational framework of an excellent piece by Don Banks on SportsIllustrated.com, I would caution you that the presence of 55 pit bulls and a pry bar does not an organized dogfighting operation make. It's possible Vick and his house-sitting associates merely have 66 dogs around in the event they decide to enter a couple of sleds in the next Idita-rod. As for the pry bar, well obviously, if I've got 55 pit bulls, I'm gonna have a pry bar.
But in the category of ridiculous reactions, this is the NFL story of the year to this point, at least in the non-porn e-mailing division.
In a highly competitive field of misspeaking on the Vick matter, Falcons owner Arthur Blank won the unofficial you-gotta-be-kiddin'-me trophy when, advised of the dogfighting allegations, said that Vick has long understood that he was being kept "on a short leash."
You can't get quotes like that just anywhere, but you'd give yourself a dogfighting chance by going to Clinton Portis, running back, Washington Redskins.
"You want to hunt down Michael Vick over fighting some dogs?" Portis said in an interview with WATV in Virginia. "I think people should mind their own business. I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property; it's his dog. If that's what he wants to do, do it."
Advised that dogfighting is a felony, Portis said, "It can't be too bad of a crime."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell almost immediately released a statement saying, in effect, "D'oh!"
Verbatim, it went like this: "I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed for Clinton Portis. This does not reflect the sentiments of the Redskins, the NFL or NFL players."
I'm sure that's true, or at least pretty sure, but when Portis says he knows "a lot of back roads that have the dogfighting if you want to see it," you have to wonder what else is going on in the Clinton Portis outback that doesn't rise to the felonious level in his judgment.
Not since Steve Martin introduced a grainy bootleg film purported to expose cat juggling on Saturday Night Live have many of us been forced to think in these terms, but really, what else is going on out there if dogfighting is no big deal?
What about Penguin stomping? (Oh sorry, got some of my notes from the NHL playoffs mixed in there.)
With sincere pre-emptive apologies to PETA, some animals are just so goofy they're asking for it, aren't they? Turkey bowling, lest we be reminded, attained cult status and was on the verge of sprouting its own fantasy league among bored supermarket employees on the overnight shift. Tastefully done with carefully selected frozen Butterballs, turkey bowling thrilled thousands of fans with access to the video of some slacker spinning a big bird down the frozen food isle toward an arrangement of petrified Pringles cans.
It was only because someone from the Future Felons of America thought it would be better with live turkeys that turkey bowling descended into notoriety.
And what of the discus fish? Don't tell me no one's out there spinning in a circle, unfurling the occasional symphysodon discus, a South American fish that would otherwise be trolling its laterally compressed seven-inch body through the Amazon, feeding on the slime secreted by another discus fish's skin.
If they didn't want people to throw the discus fish, why did they name it that?
Are there javelin eels?
Tell 'em to watch out.
The point is -- and yeah, I was starting to wonder myself -- most people don't want to see dogs get hurt, even by other dogs, and especially for the entertainment of the mindless.
Whether or not the Vick situation metastasizes over the next several months, the NFL commissioner has a tremendous opportunity right now in one of what are sometimes annoyingly called teachable moments. Goodell should issue an edict today that no matter who is speaking to what media outlet between now and the start of the NFL season, let no person describe the upcoming game with "it's gonna be a dogfight."
Special emphasis -- Atlanta at Minnesota, 1 p.m. Sept. 9.
Gene Collier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1283.