Here in America, professional football is the biggest, baddest dude on the sports block. The one so incredibly muscular and annoyingly Teflon that negativity, adamant in its refusal to stick, simply slides away.

Collectively, the National Football League can do no wrong. Oh, its players and coaches can — see poster idiots Michael Vick and Oakland coach Tom “Sugar Ray” Cable — yet sum the thousands of its parts from stadium grounds crew members all the way up to team owners and the NFL is the untouchable force.

Half the league’s payroll could be doing hard time and it wouldn’t matter. They play, we hear the silent dog whistle and come a runnin’. By now, the league basically sells itself, which one would think might lighten the work load of the league’s marketing department.

If only.

With the two-ring circus known as Vick and Brett Favre returning in 2009, couch potatoes coast-to-coast are going to be inundated with can’t-miss-this promos touting these quarterbacks bound only by the positions they play and the fact each passed his prime three years ago.

But Vick’s rep for bankrolling a dog-fighting operation and the almost-40-year-old Favre treating his reputation like a birthday Pinata with wishy-washy behavior pertaining to retirement make them lightning-rod subjects. Hovering above like famished buzzards are the television networks, NFL players who haven’t been to Leavenworth or made an enemy out of the entire state of Wisconsin be damned.

Controversy sells, yes, but it’s more than that.

A friend of mine refers to this country as the United States of American Idol, her point being that good looks, charm and any sort of whiff of the unprecedented kick open doors that simply shouldn’t be kicked. Exhibit A in this person’s mind presently occupies the big chair inside the White House. Truth be known, he’s Exhibit B as once upon a time Bill Clinton smoothly played the media game perfectly and wound up elected.

Vick and his handlers will do this, too, and in time we will soften in regards to his incredibly poor choice of supplemental income. Favre likely makes a few humorous commercials and back he goes to being that cool, Wrangler-wearing everyman playing touch football with the guys.

In the good ol’ U.S. of American Idol where second chances grow plentiful and more-deserving football players are constantly swimming upstream in an attempt for even a few precious moments of limelight, anything is possible.

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