The students sitting in Martin Luther King High's auditorium on Stenton Avenue just before dismissal Thursday afternoon were respectful. But let's stipulate that many were not fully attentive as U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger offered advice about working hard and overcoming life's obstacles, drawing from his own life experiences.
The room stilled as the next speaker took the microphone, although Michael Vick didn't offer a radically different message from Memeger's.
"I'm here to talk about decision-making," Vick told Martin Luther King's students, later saying: "I think we need to be conscious of what's going on in our community. Be a mentor. Don't be a statistic, please."
Let's also stipulate this was a savvy audience. The group knew the Eagles quarterback had given these kinds of talks for two seasons. When a short Q and A began, the first question to Vick was from a teenage boy: "Are you tired of talking about the dogfighting and prison?"
Vick had to appreciate that one, saying: "In a sense, I'm tired of talking about it." But he wasn't at Martin Luther King to veer off message, calling it "therapeutic" to talk about past misdeeds. He couldn't very well tell this audience, "Hey, if the U.S. Attorney's office calls, I'm picking up the phone. . . . These are the people who put me in Leavenworth!"
Not Memeger himself, but it was the feds who got Vick. And it was the feds who wanted him to help push their message about youth gun violence in Philadelphia in front of the cameras, how there have been 17 shootings in Philadelphia this week - just Monday through Thursday - and 14 of the victims were under 25 years old, 11 under 21. Vick himself used the word astonishing in talking about the numbers flashed in front of the audience.
Vick talked of needing to move away from old hometown friends, but hit home more when he talked football, like how he had to learn patience when he first got to the Eagles and was the third-string quarterback.
"I wanted to get on the field and play. They had me in the Wildcat offense. I looked like an average quarterback. I started to doubt myself."
Then Vick told them about how that first season ended on Jan. 6 and he was back working out on Jan. 10.
Vick's one big applause line came when he told the students how he can better put his football career in perspective "when I get a Super Bowl under my belt."
Big East meets, decides nothing
Nobody expected the Big East's annual meeting in Florida this week to sort out the football situation/mess. Most signs point to a decision going public in September. There was no formal discussion this week of potential new members, according to one Big East source. But, away from the stated agenda, there were reports of more talk about maybe trying to lure Army and Navy into the league. According to one source, the Big East has been "talking about Army and Navy in various ways for a long time" - as football-only members, or joining forces as part of a more informal scheduling arrangement, or even as "half members" - with each academy playing four games.
The assumption here is that if any Army-Navy scenarios come to pass - far from a sure thing - it might help Villanova's path into Big East football since the league could add more football games without adding more basketball members.
The big game on the big network
An e-mail from Fox Sports PR wished to make it clear that Saturday's Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United at London's Wembley Stadium won't be shown in the United States on FSN but on the Fox Network itself (2 p.m. Eastern) - "as in American Idol, Glee, and Fox NFL Sunday."
FSN is gunning for a 0.0 rating in that time slot, putting up weekly Japanese soccer league highlights.