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Original Issue

Following a Trail of Yesterdays

Two SI writers explore the complicated dynamics behind the undoing of Michael Vick

As a seasoned investigative reporter--he came to SI in 2000, just months after winning a Pulitzer Prize at age 27 for uncovering academic corruption in the University of Minnesota's men's basketball program--staff writer George Dohrmann was initially skeptical about the premise of the story he would write for this week's magazine: that "ghetto loyalty" played a significant role in the downfall of Michael Vick (page 68) by keeping him under the influence of friends from home. "You're saying that somebody is not responsible for his own actions, and I'm naturally resistant to that notion," says Dohrmann, who also wrote about the recruiting gamble being taken by Los Angeles high school basketball star Oscar Bellfield (page 60). But the two months Dohrmann spent exploring the concept of ghetto loyalty opened his mind to the larger societal forces at play. "I heard all these different explanations for why Vick did what he did: He was stupid, he was arrogant, he thought he could get away with anything," Dohrmann says. "Those all seemed too easy to fall back on. I don't know that the story lessens Vick's culpability, but I hope that it helps people understand precisely what his role was."

Co-author Farrell Evans, a writer-reporter who joined SI in 2002, values any chance to explore the intersection of race and sports. Evans, 32, took a leading role in SI's coverage of the Duke men's lacrosse scandal last year and won an award from the Golf Writers Association of America for an '04 piece, cowritten with Alan Shipnuck, about the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club's efforts to disassociate itself from the Shinnecock Indian tribe. "As a black man and a former athlete, I feel like I can bring a different perspective to these stories" says Evans, who played golf at Florida A&M. "Just because athletes like Pacman Jones and Vick have money and celebrity does not mean that the pathologies that shaped their experiences as poor black men are going to suddenly end. There's a real need, beginning in high school, for social programs that help prepare poor African-American athletes to be both professional athletes and citizens."




Dohrmann (left) and Evans investigated how Vick's skills made his life botheasier and more challenging.