Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tribune Make a Profound Misstep

During a brief respite from Swine, sorry H1N1, Flu Terror, I read this story about who the Chicago Tribune 'pre-tested' some stories on readers and surveyed them for opinions about those stories.

That may not sound like a big deal. Television and movie producers frequently pre-test on audiences. The purpose of that testing ? To determine if changes need to be made to please audiences.

That might be a great idea if your concern is box office receipts, but it kind of runs afoul of well, every tenant of journalism, basically.

Obviously newspapers are in deep trouble and are willing to try a lot of ideas that would formerly been rejected out of hand. They need revenue- advertising and circulation. Advertisers want to see circulation. Happy readers mean better circulation.

When it comes to issues like timely delivery, the design format of the newspaper, the quality of the paper and the printing, these are all areas where customer feedback should be tantamount to the paper's effort.

When it comes to the stories that are in development however, the customer can't be involved in that process while the paper maintaining any hope of journalistic integrity. It's one thing to to poll readers about stories they have already read as long as that is done in the proper way (even that can be problematic). It's quite another to collect their feedback about yet to be published material because it at the very least creates the possibility that reader input will affect the way that stories, or even which stories, are developed.

That may be fine for the internet, where news is much more viral and interactive- although I'll argue (not here and now) that there is a place for old-school journalistic process even on the web, alongside the free-range version- but in the newsroom the consumer should be just that, an end-user that interacts with the news by reading it, not by determining what t will be or how it will be presented. Even the suggestion of that sort of impropriety is...

...unfortunate at best.

Is journalistic integrity really that important ? If pre-polling readers can save a newspaper, shouldn't they do it ?

In a word, no. I would really like to see the big dailies get their heads out of their asses and figure out how to deliver the news 21st century style- and I have my ideas on that and it isn't cutting staff. But if it comes down to not printing the news, or printing the news people want to read the way they want to read it, then better to stop printing it all together. There's no point to having a sycophantic press.

Of course, the Tribune's misstep was a just a test, and there's no hard evidence that it actually affected stories as published. The problem that there's even one single nitwit (and this wasn't a case of one single nitwit) who would actually think this was a valid idea...

Sunday Racing

I'm looking forward to getting in another real race on Sunday- I'll be at Marty Schaivone's Duit Duathon. I believe registration is still open here.

I'm hoping Marty gets a good turn out. I'll miss the Greenwich race- hopefully these two races will be on different weekend next year. I'm also looking forward to racing with some friends, including Charlie Hornak, another Force 5 Sports team member.

The Chores of April

I mowed the lawn after work today, starting at ten before seven and rushing to get it done in an hour before it went dark. I think this is as early as I've ever done a first mowing.

I don't keep track of this sort of thing, but hey, now with my blog, I can. That said, I find it odd to be mowing the lawn in April, and it wasn't as though the lawn didn't really need it and I decided to get one in early. The grass was long enough that it was close to already being too long. With two days of rain coming and a race this weekend, I needed to be out there.

It was worth it though. The same weather that had me skipping a spin to cut the lawn has given me the chance to get in some of the best April riding I've ever had. So no complaints...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama's First 100 Days ?

Really ? We're going to take a snapshot at 100 days ? In this always on, 24-7 what have you done for me in the last five minutes world, we're going to actually stop and grade President Obama on what he did in about 14 weeks of work. This is the same country that needs a Google Map of Swine Flu cases updated every five minutes, like there's a little googlite in every hospital...

It's really a little mind-boggling. No, I mean it. We have some major and serious problems right now, like the economy, unemployment, two wars, global warming, health care, plus all the stuff that the government has already said it doesn't really have time for right now because of the list I just mentioned.

Let's step back here. Why is the economy in such bad shape ? Simple. Short-term gains have trumped long-term growth. When people indict Wall Street for causing 'the economic meltdown' you have to remember that for many of us, our 401K managers were pushing for the same ridiculously high short-term returns that individual investors and day-traders were pushing for. I'm not saying I ever called up TIA-CREF and said 'hey, where's my 10% return this quarter', but it's like when everyone screams about the bank bailouts- the money you may be protecting might just be your own, if you have any investments left, that is.

But let's not go there and talk about who's at fault and who isn't and who is hurt and who isn't by what's going on, although I'll posit this: if the economy deteriorates enough, it doesn't really matter who is at fault, you, I and everyone else is going to suffer.

My point is this. We've gotten where we are in so many ways by being unable to look past the end of our noses. Sub-prime mortgages, Iraq, pyramid schemes, torture, steroids in baseball... and then we turn around and we have this ridiculous discussion about 100 days.

100 days ?

We elected Mr. Obama to be President for 4 years. The opportunity for further landscape shifts in politics is minimal until the mid-term elections- although perhaps with Senator Specter changing parties that's less true than otherwise. Regardless, he's about 7-8% through his first term, so grading him is a little silly.

No, it's just plain stupid.

Let's worry about how we're doing as a country and leave it at that.

Besides, how did the major news outlets have time to break away from the swine flu to cover the 100 days benchmark ? I'm just asking...

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Considering is one of those words that I like to pull out when I'm talking to other people, and like to put away when I'm talking to myself.

I had one of those considering moments Sunday running a 5K. I was on the fence about the race. I'm always on the fence about running short road races these days. Sunday is long run day. A 5k is not a long run, and historically, I'm not good at going to a race, running my heart out, and then putting in another 30-40 minutes running. Either I'm too gassed after the race, or I'm too pressed for time. Either way, I don't usually get it done, and Monday turns into long run day.

Margit was at a swimming clinic, so I needed to hire a babysitter to go to the race at all. Because a friend was asking all of us on Force 5 Sports to be at the race, I felt it was the right thing to do, to go and run the 5K. But I determined that for once I was really going to make it part of a 'long' run- at least 15k.

So I drove to the race in Guilford, which is about 15 minutes from my house, signed up quickly, put my number on, and pretty soon I was out running the course. Except for registration going a little too quickly and being ahead of schedule, everything was great. I got in a 4 mile warm-up, and while I felt bad for not talking to anyone, it was good to have the 1st 3rd of my workout done,

Next was the race. I'm not the type of guy that goes to a race and thinks he's going to win it, but evaluating the runners there, I realised I should be thinking about it- and then I saw Jesse Efrom. Winning the race went right out the window...

The race started with an unannounced 3-2-1.

I think Jesse had 50 yards on me at 100 yards. We took it out, me not really hanging on to Jesse, and a couple guys trailing me. We got to about a 1/3rd of a mile and the footsteps behind me became a runner passing me. I evaluated the guy's gait, decided that I should pass him right back, and that was all the excitement the race would have.

Not much else to say. Because there was a turn-around at something over a mile, I had no choice but to know exactly where I was- getting crushed by Jesse and having 60 yards on the guy behind me.

I was never catching Jesse. I ran hard, but maybe not all out. I wasn't going to catch anyone or be caught by anyone.

Still, when I could finally see the clock and it was over 18 minutes I was disappointed. When I crossed the line at 18:40, a slow time, I was a little bummed. Still, I grabbed a water and headed back out. Three minutes after I finished I was was back on the road- and that was the best part of the day. It was hot, I was using the water bottle I'd gotten at the finish more to keep my head cool than to drink and about a mile and a half into that last 5K, I was feeling the way I'll be feeling in Arizona at the Ironman this November, hot and a little spent, but still running, working on hydration and body temperature and yes, it hit me. This is why you do this kind of training. To suffer and be used to it, and yes while it's suffering it's not bad. you're not bonking or distressed. You're tired, you're hot, and you deal.

So it was great workout and when I got done it was right back in the car and home to let the babysitter go, and it was just what I needed.

All things considered, the 18:40, in perspective in the middle of the workout- not so bad.

Still, 18:40 ? Oh well...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No, I'm not Old (athletically anyway)

That post earlier this month was a placeholder.

It's hard to be an endurance athlete who races and never think about age. You are defined by your age. Every race, you can see it in the results (possibly in more ways than one). In triathlon, they write your age on your body, and no, it's not to make identification easier if something happens.

And I am, let's face it, by the societal conventions, an old man. I'm definitely in the back half of my existence on this planet. If you believe the GPs and podiatrists I've seen, I developed arthritis when I was in my mid-twenties (just a big toe, but still, arthritis ?) I've got parts of my scalp that used to have hair that don't. That hair has migrated to places I have no need for or want of hair. I have the scars and wrinkles and other bang-ups guys my age that have been in sport their whole adult lives wear.

So there's the calendar, and the birth certificate and just this damnable ticking of the clock that never stops. My dad has been dead five years for every one I knew him and those memories are so tenuous I'm not sure they are real anymore.

But, I only admit these things in order to dismiss them. They have nothing to do with my self-perception of my age.

And honestly, I don't think about it that much. Except when I run road races.

That's right. Triathlon is so heavily age-group segmented- even to starting with your age group, not in mass starts- that you don't have the same sense in many races of competing against people a lot younger than you. And then there's the fact that in most races, my age group and the two age groups on either side mine make up the bulk of the men in the race, and also most of the top finishers- and no, I'm not dissing younger triathletes here- we just need more of them.

But road races ? Look at the Shamrock 5K in New Haven. I ran a pretty slow time for me, but not unusual for my first 5K of the season. I finished 18th and got beat by 14 runners under age 25.

That's my competition. Sure, there's a list as long as my arm of guys in their 30s and 40s that can beat me down just as easily. But I'm competing, when I run road races, with guys in their teens and early twenties just as much, and some of them beat me. Heck, some of them are college runners, which almost by default means they can skunk me. Some of them don't- maybe most of them in most races.

The ironic thing about it is that part of that keeps me from feeling old is the fact that I go out and compete with people half my age as well as people my own age, and once the race starts, I'm not 43, I'm not the old guy. I'm just a guy.

And that's a nice feeling. I'm just another guy, who's going to run as hard as he can. I get right on the starting line at just about every race I do, and no, I don't feel old when the race starts. I have that same desire everyone on that line has- to win, or at least give it a good shot.

I may be old, but feel old ? As an athlete ? Not yet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Equipment, New Year, Same Me ?

Along with the new bike- new with just enough transplanted parts from my old bike to maintain a tenuous link backwards that brings a smile to my face because I am very fond of that first Elite- I got a new time time trial helmet for Easter, the Louis Garneau Superleggera Bike Helmet 2009.

I'm not much a gear guy. That is, I find something I like, and I wear/use/ride it until (or after) it is no longer serviceable and then I move on. I mean, a bike is one thing. I tested the Elite T-Class before I committed to buying one, spent time talking to Dave and other people who had Elites, but with helmets, like most of my gear, I want something light, easy to use, that doesn't require a lot of time to research, understand, set up, program, and so on.

Take shoes. I run in Mizunos. If I absolutely can't get something Mizuno, I'll try an Asics. I can no longer get Mizuno racing shoes, so I buy Asics or Brooks. If someone tells me I should try something else and I trust them, I'll try it. And usually then I'll go buy another pair of Mizunos (although I do like the Zoot TT or whatever it is called).

But this helmet, now that I look at it online, is a better helmet than anything I've previously had, and I've had two very high-end non-TT Specialized helmets.

I went out Wednesday and did a time-trial on the bike- two loops of the Hammerfest course. On Friday, I rode the bike to Madison and back. Both days, I used my race wheels and the time-trial helmet because I have races coming up and need to get used to the gear I'll use to race.

I'm heavy for a guy my size, and my bike has gotten quite a bit lighter. I have a high-cadence style of riding that's developed after a lot of time forcing myself not to grind. I find myself much better able to quickly recover from cadence work than grinding and because I'm a crotchety, someone old guy, am not likely to change my style again, not matter what I'm hearing is 'the new thinking'. The high-cadence though, does not feel as smooth for holding a sharp line. Hey, I never said I was any good on a bike...

I went out and found myself wearing a helmet that is an awesome, comfortable piece of headgear, on a bike that is light and scary-fast.

I also found myself on a much twitchier ride and somewhat unable to hear because my ears are covered.

The joy of flying down the road on the first bike I can ever really call truly my own- custom made to fit me, and even, not that it matters, custom-painted for me- was somewhat dampened by the nagging fear that was brought on by the combination of aural claustrophobia and an inability to to keep the bike right on the white line the way I like. The wind was blowing sideways and I was motoring, but also fighting the bike's urge to sail with the wind.

Make no mistake. This is not the flaw of the bike, or of the Zipp wheels, and certainly does not reflect any mistakes Dave Greenfield made. In fact, Dave's paid me a possibly undeserved compliment by putting me on a bike this good, setting it up as aggressively as he did- with my input.

I am not- yet - quite up to the bike.

I'm confident that this will pass though. For one thing, I've never wanted to feel 'safe' on a bike I'll be racing. I just don't want to feel unsafe.

For another, I remember feeling kind of the same way when I went headfirst over the handlebars of my Lightspeed and landed on my left eye last April (?). I'd already been taken out once at that point in time last year and suddenly I found myself-unsure. Unsure on a bike is not a place you want to be. I went through a month of that, including one race, during which it finally passed.

Or I can think about Lake Placid. Although I hate admitting it, those downhills going to Keene have at times scared me so badly I haven't been sure I want to race there. I'm over that, and after riding harder down those hills in the pouring rain than the people around me last year, I'm not sure I could muster up all of that fear if I tried.

It's April, and I'm outside, riding in the wind, not my basement. And everything is turned up a notch because I don't have the familiar weight of the bike to help me hold the line any more, because I need to attune my senses a little bit differently to hear. The T-Class was a fraction the weight of the larger Lightspeed, the Zipp race wheels a fraction of the weight of the training wheels I'd been racing on, my first TT helmet was a big adjustment from a typical helmet.

All of this has happened before, and in this case, I hope all of it happens again.

I just need some time. And maybe I'll even finally cultivate some genuine skill on the bike now. Anything is possible, but I won't hold my breath on that last part. I do know one thing.

This new bike is fun...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Avril Lavigne Saves My Run

Last Monday, the day after Brians, I had a two hour run on my schedule. Monday runs are very doable for me, but there are a certain set of conditions on a two-hour Monday run.

They have to start by 5:30 PM at the latest, and preferably earlier. I have to be flexible about the route and be reachable by cell phone, in case there is an accident on 95 or something that will prevent Margit from picking up Ian at day care.

So that means doing a two-loop run, assuming the weather cooperates.

Last Monday it did not. I skipped lunch so I could leave work early. Standing in my office, I told myself that no matter what, regardless of how bad the rain was, I was going outside. Ironic, because my coach posted a few days later about how people needed to stop complaining about bad weather and get outside.

The drive home completely quashed, or rather washed out, that idea. It wasn't raining. It was pouring. The old man was snoring. The ducks were looking for a place to hide. So I pulled into the garage, grabbed the house phone, the cell phone, two hammer gels and a gatorade endurance and started running on the treadmill. Our treadmill only goes to 99 minutes, so I set the treadmill to, well 99 minutes. I then jacked up the volume on the Apple TV, which has some 40.00 speakers hooked up to it and started listening to Evanescence.

This worked for the first 40 minutes or so. When the treadmill got to 69 minutes, I reset it to 90 minutes and kept going. Running two hours on a treadmill is tough. I'd raced the day before and wasn't fresh and I was pounding along on the tread, kind of looking outside to see if it was going to stop raining.

Finally, as much as I love Evanescence, it wasn't doing it for me. The videos, which are more engaging than the songs as just audio when you are on the treadmill, don't play loudly enough. I started browsing and came up with the Boys of Summer by the Ataris. Great song, but it's not 50 minutes long.

So I decided to try something different. I have two Avril albums, Under My Skin and Best Damn Thing. Under My Skin I know inside out. It's a darker, brooding album that critics didn't like because it was uh, dark and brooding. Under My Skin I'm not sure I'd ever listened to. I only ever found out because iTunes gave away Girlfriend (from Best Damn Thing) as a free download and I found myself listening to it while waiting for the port-a-let at Eagleman two years ago and so the song stuck with me.

I turned on Best Damn Thing and yeah, it's pop-ish and silly and totally commercial. It's also about a mile away from the usual stuff I listen to, and it's probably age and gender inappropriate for me as well. When it comes to getting through a workout though, I could care less. I'll admit to the most embarrassing music I listen to- yeah, I think William Shatner's Has Been is awesome- because there isn't anything I listen to I'm ashamed of. Or I can take the abuse. My best friend from U of R beat all the shame out of me with his constant (and sometimes valid) criticism of the music I was listening to in the early 1980s.

The bottom line ? This isn't your typical bubble-gum pop. It's not just Avril's R-rated lyrics. The riffs and digs of the music were just what I needed to distract me from the last 50 minutes or so of a run that was never going to be easy.

I think the sun came out after about 60-65 minutes, when I was just getting on the back half of the run, at that point where I was no longer getting off the treadmill for anything. It had become a test of wills, and although I hated the treadmill with a passion when I got done, and felt beat down, I'd beaten it. And the music, that had been a big, no a huge help. When Best Dam Thing Ended, it went right to Under My Skin, reminding me of races Eagleman and another race in Rochester two years ago, and I was set.

I'll take that two hours on the treadmill. Just don't make me do it again...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Brian's Beachside Boogie

I'd run my warm-up with Charlie Hornak and I was in transition, listening to Snow Patrol and thinking about what Straz had written in his article for Eric's website (read it here) about the role genetics play in endurance and multisport. I'm the guy genetics left behind if you read that, and to an extent, I agree. I'm short, oddly stocky. I think I'm built for reading or maybe physical comedy. Then again, my body recovers from training well, which allows me to train a lot, so what's to complain about ? Since I'm not likely to grow tall or thin in the near future it's best to roll with it.

And mostly, when I'm not reading about sport, I don't think about it except at one time, and I think I've written about this before.

Standing in transition. Looking at all these people who look like athletes, it's intimidating. I'd marked four or five guys in my head that had the right build, the right gear, who'd looked skilled warming up. I had a pedal wrench in my hand. I was looking at these guys and they were scattered around in transition and the common theme was bike shoes, or cleated running shoes.

I'd discussed this with my coach Eric- he knows I prefer toe clips, and John Hirsch, who beat me last year and told me I'd lost time in the woods to him because I didn't have cleats.

So I'm looking at these guys. Tall, thin, genetically gifted looking athletes. With cleats. So I decided. I might be short, maybe a little stocky, but hey, I have an idea about the bike. What if I could combine the 360 degree efficiency of the cleat and bike shoe with the speed in transition and ability to control the bike in the woods with a quick foot down of the toe clips ?

I put the shimano pedal on the right crank. I put my bike shoe on and I tested it. I liked it.

We lined up and Ron Meneo started us off. I believe it was David Booth I was telling after the race about how I hate the start of a duathlon. We ran for the opening in the woods at the end of the short field and I looked over and there was Rafael Martinez next to me. Rafael is a great guy and a super athlete, but probably not someone who is going to run 2 miles under 12 minutes. There were 8 or 9 guys ahead of me as we broke through and this is where the panic tries to set in.

I should be trying to win this race after all. I'm not saying I am good enough to win, but that's what I should be shooting for, a win. We turned the corner and we were running hard into the wind- the hardest part of the run, out in the open, a 15-20 mile an hour wind in our face. I started moving up but there were two guys that clearly were pulling away. Eric had told me to stay up there in the first run, and I was, but I decided those two guys were probably going to get away by 20-30 seconds and that was going to have to be okay.

The first mile was not bad. Things settled down pretty quickly and there were about six or seven of us out in front. The two top guys had not really bolted yet. As we wound our way around the back of the run course, still running into the wind, I started to wonder if I was giving too much ground to those top two guys. But I didn't want to blow out my top gear by cooking the first run because I know that my only chance to win this race involves establishing myself on the bike, which is funny, sort of.

I was hoping I was splitting the difference between not destroying myself and not leaving more time than I could make up between transition and the ride out to Meigs Point.

I came off the first run 5th, with two guys right on me. The single shoe switch went really well and I was out on the bike and chasing.

I got passed- on the right, very early.

I've been either the fastest bike split or first off the bike 3-4 other times besides this year, so being passed was not good. It put a little extra something in my effort to get out to Meigs point. I wanted to get on the road and get into the wind.

That's right, I wanted to get into the wind. My whole goal in this race is to get to Meigs Point in contact with the lead group, then find a way to get out in front and just hammer that section.

Five of us went into the roundabout in pretty close order, but no one was drafting. Don Gustavson, who had a really great race and finished second, was the guy who'd passed me and he was working on getting into a dominant top three position during the bike. We came out of the teardrop and I started my passes. Before I knew it I was in front. I was down on my aerobars on my wife's mountain bike (yes, I'm still riding it), the fat knobs making all kinds of noise, but in a really aero position. I know I'm going to lose time in the woods, so I'm really focused on extending my advantage. But again, without over-extending myself.

I never looked back. I don't. It's a rule. I reached the end of the road section of the ride and got on the biggest hill on the course, a grass roller. My aerobar pads (old-school) are bouncing up and down, the springs long gone. The noise is unbelievable. I crest the hill and I'm still on grass but I'm back in aero position. Next thing I know I'm in real woods and as I get to the end of that, I have two guys bearing down on me, the second and third place guys, Don and Dave.

They pass me. I pass them back and try to use the lines of the course to seal them off behind me. They get by again and Dave starts pulling away although I pass Don again.

The second ride out to Meigs Point is tough. I have to really school myself. I'm behind, I'm not picking up any ground, I have a guy that is basically getting away and yet I know, when we hit the tear drop and then go into the wind, it's going to be me that has the advantage. So I don't push. I just wait.

I'm rewarded for that. I make the pass again with plenty of in the wind on the road riding left and now I'm in the lead on the second loop of the bike and this is what's important. I'm not trying to win the race. I'm trying to make the two guys behind me that seem like the main threat work so hard that when we get off the bikes, I can run, and they will be beat. That's my hope. So I'm going hard, but I'm not going all out- just race pace. I even drink some Heed.

This time the gap in the woods evaporates but only Dave catches me. We jockey a bit, I hold him off longer and use my lead to try and out position him in a pair of turns but in the end he passes me about a 1/4 mile from the transition (?) and gets in first. But I only have one shoe to change so I'm out of transition first.

I start running and a lot of the self-doubt and the worry, the franticness I felt at times when I was not controlling the bike on the back of the two-loops the way I'd like, all left. I had a good stride going and I knew that I'd hit the worst part of the run very early in the run and if I could get through that I would have a huge advantage. I turned the corner and I was running into that harsh wind, back towards the pavilion parking lot but on the road, the same road the turkey trot finishes on and I kept telling myself if I could just get to the right-hand turn, I have a really shot. If I can just get out of the wind.

I eat three cliff shot block pieces as soon as I get out of the wind. I start running on this course I know so well, through the grass, and as the yards click off, I know that I'm in the lead and it might just all be over soon.

I wasn't challenged on the second run. The sun was out, the day was beautiful, and I was running with a lead. Except for when Margit told me with half a mile to go that they were catching up, I was able to run hard- within about 10 seconds of my first run- and never feel any panic.

I crossed the finish line with no reaction, but after I took off my chip with no one looking I raised my fists and pumped them. I really wanted this win. Wanted it for five years since the last time I won.

Don and Dave both had great races and chances are that if Peter Daly's wife hadn't been called into work he'd have repeated as champion, not me. Jean, and Ron and Margit put on a great race that's a lot of fun and deserve a lot of credit for looking at the park and seeing a great duathlon course as well as raising money for a great cause- the Myelin Project.

I learned something too. I have to go back and work on the woods part of the course. I take it for granted that I'm going to lose time in there. But there's no good reason for that. i know the course, I have a bike I'm comfortable with. So that's my goal for next year. Ride that part of the course better.

Still, I'm happy. It was a sweet win, because it's a race I love.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Fallacy of Michael Vick

It's been a tough week for Michael Vick. The judge looking at his bankruptcy rejected his plan, if you could call it that, for emerging from bankruptcy.

The real problem is this- the only way that Vick can ever hope to pay off his debts is not only to return to the NFL, but return as a marquee quarterback making 10 million dollars a year, the unrealistic figure his agent recently floated.

It's not just about talent. That 10M number wouldn't be realistic even if Vick could prove today that he was in the best shape of life. The problem is that Michael Vick is much more of a risk than a commodity. Assuming he is reinstated by the NFL- act of contrition withstanding, of course- he still will be on a razor's thin edge both with the NFL and the legal system. One misstep could lead to a suspension or even more jail time. And Vick has not, to date, shown that he has either the maturity or judgment to avoid further mistakes.

While it's true a team could structure a contract that took these possibilities into account with a morals clause or a behaviours clause, the real risk is that you'd be risking building your offense around a guy that might not be there for you. Vick has already demonstrated how he can damage a football team, and his absence ironically demonstrated that the Falcons were a quarterback (and a head coach) away from being a very good football team.

And that's Vick's other problem. He was never a very good quarterback. He was never a winner in the intangible way that certain quarterback who achieve greatness (and 10M a season payouts) are.

Oh, the NFL hype machine, and the networks hype machines, were in top gear right up until the very end about Vick. He was going to transform the NFL, and the way the position was played. Every network had a Vick watcher glued to the Falcons feed, waiting for the supposedly inevitable highlight reel play. And when those plays happened, they were force-fed over and over again to the football-watching masses.

Make no mistake. No one was saying Michael Vick the person was going to transform the NFL. They were saying Michael Vick as an archetype for the new quarterback was as a style of athlete, defining the direction the position should take. There's a theory that conventional football, where the quarterback hands off or drop backs and throws the ball, is too predictable, too staid. Your father's football. The NFL has a certain lust, as do many of the network announcers, for the perceived excitement of the college game, with its option quarterbacks and stunt offenses.

So let's look forward in history as we can now, to see how the game was transformed by Vick. What was the state of the offensive game in 2009 and what was the biggest innovation ?

Hands down, the Dolphins Wildcat. The announcers ? Ecstatic. And the quarterback running it ? A superhuman athlete. One of the most mobile QBs in the game. A transformative superstar. A guy best known for his accuracy and quite frankly, his pop-gun arm. Chad Pennington. Now to be fair, Pennington isn't even executing the Wildcat. And for all the attention it got, the Dolphins got into the playoffs with sound offensive fundamentals more than freakish wildcat plays. Pennington showed once again that an accurate quarterback who is facile with the intricacies of the playbook beats a strong-arm every time.

The position, it turns out, was not changed by Vick, or the idea of Vick, or the difference between the way the position operates at the pro and college levels. The reason the college archetype isn't successful at the pro level is because at the pro level the defensive talent and coaching talent both are so much greater that order trumps chaos. And that is a good thing. While many TV announcers have a clear if unspoken affection for the more free-flowing college style, the NFL is a highly scripted and coached environment. The game is no less exciting for that, and the Vick style of play was something that was latched onto as a solution for a problem that did not exist.

Vick's other barrier to riches (or at least solvency) is that he is just not, as the NFL defines it, a very good quarterback.

Two comparisons.

The greatest running quarterback of all time ? Steve Young. What ? No, not Tarkenton or Bobby Douglas, not Randall Cunningham. No, not Steve Grogan (2164 rushing yards, a 4.9 average and 35 TDs). Young ran for 4200 yards on a solid 5.9 yard rushing average and holds the career TD record for a QB with 43. Now, Steve Young the scrambler for the 49ers was the best of all time. That guy with the pirate on his helmet. Let's forget that guy. What really makes Young the greatest rushing QB is the Super Bowl rings. Young is greatest of all-time because he could throw the ball anywhere on the field and deliver it to his receivers- the best in the game.

At the end of the day Young was a great rushing quarterback because he was a great quarterback on a great team. No sane defensive coordinator ever said 'Let's make Young beat us in the air'. So he was able to run out of the pro-set against defenses that had to respect his ability to throw the ball.

Who was the hand-down best rushing quarterback of 2009 ? Matt Cassel. While he ran for just 270 yards and a pair of TDs, he consistently came up with a scramble or two every game that kept the chains moving. He ran for 23 first downs, more than one a game. He also did it without being a great runner. He played in a disciplined offense that defenses feared for its passing game. Cassel will have a hard time finding the same success in Kansas City, which has less talent at the offensive line, the receiving corps, or the coaching staff.

Michael Vick's numbers simply don't merit the big payday, even if his legal problems and behavioural missteps (the double bird ?) weren't issues. His career rating is around 75. His completion percentage is around 53%. Now, he doesn't need to be the greatest statistical QB of all time- again, Steve Young slots in with a 96.6 rating and a completion percentage of around 64. But to make 10M a year you had better be able to deliver the rock on target, on time, every time, and you had better be able to win big games. Poise in the huddle, on the sidelines, and in the locker room would all help as well.

I'll admit, I never saw Michael Vick as one of the most exciting athletes in all of sports. And I'm admittedly old school. I think the most exciting thing about football is when your team has more points than the other team when the clock hits 00:00 as long as you didn't cheat getting there. And playoff wins are more exciting, and Super Bowl wins even more so.

I wish Vick all the luck in the world. I hope he gets his life together. I hope, if its appropriate, that he plays again. But I'm not hoping he ever makes 10 million dollars a year for playing the game that, quite frankly, he didn't respect the first time around.