The thing about digging yourself out of disgrace as a public figure is that, in most cases, it’s not as hard as it might seem. There’s even a set plan, or, in Michael Vick’s case, a playbook. As Stanley Nelson details in the second part of his riveting 30 for 30 documentary on the football star, when Vick was released from prison in 2009 after serving almost two years on charges related to his role in a dog-fighting ring, his route to public rehabilitation was already set. He took full responsibility for what he’d done. He apologized, and expressed sincere contrition. He declared his intention to make amends for funding and participating in dog fighting, which he described as a “terrible thing.” With cases like Vick’s, the crisis-management expert Judy Smith tells Nelson in the film, “it is not just an apology and then everything is okay. There’s a path forward; there’s a journey that Mike had to make. There was a road he had to walk down.”
Smith would know; she, along with six other PR professionals reportedly hired by Vick after his release from prison, charted the way. If Part 1 of 30 for 30: Michael Vick gave deep context into how and why a superstar ended up a pariah, Part 2, which aired on ESPN Thursday night, is an irresistible redemption story. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously decreed that there are no second acts in American lives. Michael Vick, with his diligent work for the Humane Society after prison, his advocacy for stronger laws against dog fighting on Capitol Hill, and his donations to groups for at-risk youth, would seem to disagree. This isn’t even to mention Vick’s brief return to the dazzling talent he’d displayed in 2001, when he was the first black quarterback to be the No. 1 draft pick in the NFL.