A Product of Tradition

Michael Barone offers a somewhat different take on Michael Vick, dogfighting and Virginia history:

It’s astonishing and saddening that a man would risk his $130 million football contract to engage in such behavior, which seems barbaric to almost all of us. Where did he even get the idea of doing this?

I got an answer, or rather clues to an answer, while rereading David Hackett Fischer’s superb Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. In his chapter on how the original settlers of Virginia brought with them folkways from their home territory in Wessex (southwestern England), Fischer notes another striking characteristic of Virginians—their obsession with gambling. Virginians were observed to be constantly making wagers with one another on almost any imaginable outcome. The more uncertain the result, the more likely they were to gamble. They made bets not only on horses, cards, cockfighting, and backgammon but also on crops, prices, women, and the weather. “They are all professional gamesters,” a French traveler observed of Virginia’s gentry.”… Colonel Byrd is never happy but when he has the box and dice in his hand.”

The rest of the entry is worth reading, if only to get a sense of our blood-soaked past…which, like so many things in this Commonwealth, seems like only yesterday.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


8 responses to “A Product of Tradition”

  1. Groveton Avatar

    Mr. Leahy:

    Michael Vick, A True Virginian

    As you know, that was the actual title of Mr. Barone’s article.

    In my humble opinion, Mr. Barone’s article was the single stupidest thing I have ever read.

    In the article, Michael Barone wants to impress us all with his intellectual credentials. He wants us to know he is rereading Albion’s Seed.

    However, he also knows that nobody cares about him, his intellectual credentials or the fact he is rereading Albion’s Seed.

    So, he sticks in a few sentences at the begining and end of the article about Michael Vick. Now, when people put “Michael Vick” into a search engine they will get to read about what a genius Michael Barone considers himself.

    Barone is such a self-styled genius that he finds “clues to an answer” to why Michael Vick did something so idiotic it defies description. Vick set up illegal dog fights and an illegal gambling ring because the original settlers of Virginia (from England) bet a lot and sometimes bet on “blood sports”.

    We, in America, are truly blessed to have private school and Ivy League educated geniuses like Michael Barone amongst us. They see that “Multi-millionaires Gone Bad” like Michael Vick are really just expressing a socio-genetic flaw going back to the evil people who founded Virginia.

    How clever. How intellectual.

    However, Mr. Barone forgets to remind us that the character flaw that is (in his mind) being a Virginian must skip generations. In fact, a lot of generations:

    1. Moses Malone – Petersburg, VA
    2. Alonzo Mourning – Chesapeake, VA
    3. Willie Lanier – Clover, VA
    4. Bruce Smith – Norfolk, VA
    5. Fran Tarkenton – Richmond, VA
    6. Pat Toomay – Fairfax County, VA
    7. Sam Snead – Hot Springs, VA
    8. Arthur Ashe – Richmond, VA
    9. Aaron Brooks – Norfolk, VA (and Vick’s own cousin)

    The list goes on.

    I guess these guys never got the e-mail telling them to set up illegal dogfights and gambling operations because they grew up in Virginia.

    And where did Mr. Barone grow up?

    Detroit, MI.

    I guess he did all the good he could there before turning his brilliant intellect on Virginia.

    And you guy wonder why the conservative agenda is in trouble?

  2. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I enjoyed our perspective and agree.

    Perhaps Mr. Barone would do better to explore why Capt. Smith and his ilk so misrepresented those who were here before Virginia was “settled” as depicted in today’s WaPo coverage of the current archelogical digs in Tidewater.


  3. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    This whole obsession with Michael Vick and his abuse of dogs amazes me. I’m reposting here my thoughts from a previous post on another blog on a related subject.

    It disgusts me to see that liberals will picket this football player for abusing and torturing dogs (a heinous thing mind-you). Meanwhile major newspapers will attack our Constitutional right to bear arms and blame guns for the 100,000 murders in the last six years, but who is picketing celebrities who pay their mistresses to get abortions, and where are the major newspaper stories about the literally multiple millions of innocent human beings who have had their lives grotesquely ended by abortion in the last six years?

    I am disgusted with the hypocrisy of some who put the welfare of dogs over human beings. To quote one fairly senile Senator (the words are apropriate in this case): “…simply barbaric… Barbaric! Hear me!”

  4. Groveton Avatar


    Interesting news about the archelogical digs in Tidewater.

    Rtwng extrmst:

    I can’t see the link between abortion and Michael Vick any more than I see a link between Vick and the originial settlers of Virginia.

    So, I’ll leave the abortion debate out of this.

    I feel sorry for people who develop a substance abuse problem. I imagine it is a lot easier to get addicted to drugs and a lot hard to get clean than most people realize. It’s still wrong to abuse substances but it’s a personal tragedy as much as a crime.

    I can understand the momentary lapse of judgement that gets someone a DUI. It’s also wrong and dangerous to yourself and others but (hopefully) it’s a one time lapse in judgement.

    Today, the animal control people will kill 53 dogs that were involved in the Michael Vick dog fighting ring (unless they are claimed for legitimate homes). Sadly, it seems that once trained to fight it is nearly impossible to re-train these dogs into household pets.

    But … 53 dogs?!?

    Mr. Vick did not fall prey to the siren’s song of illicit drugs. He did not have a momentary lapse in judgement.

    He was at the heart of a substantial, complex and far reaching criminal enterprise. This criminal enterprise required the ownership of kennels, breeding of dogs, training of dogs, staging of dog fights and alledgedly the establishment of a gambling circle to bet on the dog fights.

    This criminal enterprise required time, money and the personal focus of those who ran it.

    Mr. Vick must have known it was illegal.

    He stopped only after he got caught and then (apparently) lied to the NFL in a feeble attempt to cover up the nature of his involvement.

    Regardless of how one feels about deer hunting, fox hunting or even abortion – thise activities are legal in many places. However, dogfighting and the establishment of betting rings on dogfighting is clearly illegal.

    I find what Mr. Vick and his cohorts did to those dogs cruel and disturbing. However, I am far from an animal rights activist. I eat meat, wear leather and have nothing against hunting.

    What stuns me is Vick’s stupdiity. His willingness to establish a complex criminal enterprise as a well known multi-millionaire sports hero. What did he think would happen?

    At this point I believe Mr. Vick should start looking to Paris Hilton and Martha Stewart as role models.

    He should publicly state his case and try to explain how he could have done something so stupid.

    He should remind people that he has not historically had problems with the law and he is genuinely sorry for what he did. He should make no excuses whatsoever for his behavior.

    He should apologize to his family, his fellow Falcons, the Falcon fans and just about everybody else in the US.

    He should go get sentenced and take his punishment like the man he is.

    He will almost certainly be given jail time.

    He should serve his time with as much honor as possible. He should try to be a role model (a la Martha Stewart).

    He should be released and re-enter society.

    And, the NFL should take no action against Mr. Vick beyond the punishment he will be given by the courts. Once he has served his time Mr. Vick should be allowed to rejoin the NFL assuming he can find a team which wants to employ him.

    As a life-long Redskins fan I would be happy to see Mr. Vick in burgundy and gold assuming he conducts himself from this day forth with as much dignity and honor as is possible given his situation.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Michael Barone may be an insufferable, Michigan-born Ivy Leaguer, but I would highly recommend anyone interested in the origins of Virginia to read “Albion’s Seed.” It is one of the most fascinating works of cultural history I’ve ever read. And it lends a lot of insight into Virginia. Bottom line: Virginians were not puritans. And that’s a good thing!

    (The main thesis of Albion’s Seed is worth pondering, too. David Hackett Fischer argued that the 13 colonies were settled by four distinctive sub-cultures from the British Isles — the puritans (New England), the Quakers (Pennsylvania), the southern English (Virginia) and the Scotch-Irish (the frontier), each with its own distinctive culture and religious traditions. The differences between these groups, though small to us, loomed large to them. But the tradition of religious freedom and tolerance in America arose from an agreement between these cultures to live and let live. It’s a lesson worth remembering.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The irony in this is that if football waere played by dogs, it would be illegal.

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Well, at least betting on the outcome would be illegal. Ask the NBA.

    There are a lot of these ironic conflicts in law and customs and citizens need to move past them and focus on creating a sustainable trajectory for civilization or we will not be able to pursue any of them legal or illegal.


  8. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst


    In your rush to dismiss the discussion of abortion, you miss the whole point. There is little to disagree with in your response, but the point of my post is simply this. We live in a society where abuse of ~53 dogs as you state it garners national headlines for weeks and protests, but the literally thousands of human beings that are grotesquely tortured to death each day in this nation are simply ignored. That is a huge hypocrisy and indeed is a sad statement on the status of our culture.

Leave a Reply