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GPB welcomes visit from ESPN

Icons, legends and heroes surround us everyday in some way or another.

Today at Georgia Public Broadcasting, he popped up: Gil Tyree. This man has been covering athletes for years, including Herschel Walker and Michael Vick to name just a few.

He’s a true journalist and I’m proud to say, he’s not just my co-worker and cubicle neighbor, but also an astute historian regarding the world of Georgia sports.

I was sitting at my desk eating lunch when I got up and walked down the hall and passed Gil’s cube.

He was getting all spiffed up for his interview with ESPN’s “NFL Countdown,” Pulse of Atlanta specifically focusing on Mike Vick’s return to Atlanta as the Falcons host the Philadelphia Eagle’s this weekend.

He was contacted based on some comments he made in an interview with NBC’s Peter King for Sports Illustrated online magazine.

I wanted to be sure and get the goods on this story, so after the crew wrapped up and headed out the door, Mr. Tyree became my point of interest rather than my neighbor one cube over.
When he sat down next to me, we talked as if we’d been friends forever. The history of Atlanta poured from the memories of his past and the conversation began.

It’s not uncommon to walk around Atlanta, and every now and then, see a Philadelphia Eagle’s jersey, number 7 or an old school Atlanta Falcons Jersey with the prominent number 7.

According to Mr. Tyree, despite all of the controversy surrounding Michael Vick, (i.e. the dogfights and his slap at the fans on certain comments we would have rather not heard...) people are still wearing his number and that’s what matters.

“But, what about the dogfights? What about the fact that he admitted he didn’t really try his hardest in Atlanta?” I had to know, how does someone dismiss those things?

“That is a maturation process,” said Tyree. “This is the guy that gave Atlanta a global identity from a sports stand point and gave Atlanta a face. Outside of Hank Aaron, I can’t say that anybody else had that impact in Atlanta.”

Tyree was an Atlanta sports reporter covering the Atlanta Falcons during the Vick years and followed him around the country when he worked with CBS Atlanta.

Mr. Tyree noted that during the Vick years in Atlanta, and to this day, there were and still are a lot of people who wanted to be like MV7.

Turning the discussion to Matt Ryan, I asked Mr. Tyree how he thought the Falcons’ current QB would stack up.

Tyree said, “Ryan will never have the same impact as Vick. It has nothing to do with his [physical] ability but everything to do with his ability to resonate with people.”
Tyree also said that Vick has inspired a segment of this community like none other because people felt like they could relate to Vick.

“This city will always be predicated on a racial divide,” Tyree said. “He sells jerseys and he creates racial conversation.”

I then thought about this weekend’s game, during which Michael Vick will return to a city that he once called “home.”

On the issue of being back in the Georgia Dome this weekend, Vick said: “This is not my house. This is Matt Ryan’s house. I’m just a visitor.” How many of us would believe that to be true? I queried Mr. Tyree regarding what he thought about the situation.

“Ask him the same question if the Eagle’s blow out the Falcons, in a private setting he’d probably say yes it is. He’s got pride. He left here in disgrace,” says Tyree.

Tyree also said that he thinks Vick would want to be here in Atlanta, but after everything that happened, the Falcons had to cut ties.

However you feel on the issue, I want you to think about something before you react. Think of your ideal athlete, the one who could never do wrong. How far would you be willing to stand behind them?

For golfers, maybe it’s Tiger. For Hawks fans, maybe it’s Dominique Wilkins, for UGA alum’s perhaps it’s Herschel Walker. Could you quit on them if they messed up too?
Vick spent his time in jail, and for some people that’s enough; however, there will always be skeptics.

Tyree says that he feels bad for Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Tyree said that Blank knew what phenomenal talent the Falcons possessed with Vick, yet he had to cut ties.
Tyree stated that there’s one thing for sure regarding this weekend:
“Sunday won’t be about red or green, it’ll be about number 7.”

Gil was chosen by ESPN among four or five other personalities on this issue and the experience to sit and chat with Gil was good for me. I’m honored to not only work, but to learn so much from him at GPB.

“This [experience] gives GPB credibility and I want this place to be known throughout the world and if I can do anything, that’s what I want to do,” he said. “This is what Georgia is all about and that’s what mike Vick was all about, Georgia.”

So what do YOU think sports fans? What’s going to happen when Michael Vick lands back in Atlanta?