Like the sad story of a great fall, everyone loves a great redemption song, and the fact is you can't have the song without the stumble.
Everyone who follows either the sports page or the front page knows Michael Vick's exploits on the football field as the resurgent quarterback of the Eagles, and they know the only reason he's there is because he served 19 months of a 23-month sentence for running an illegal dogfighting ring out of a property he owned near his Virginia hometown.
Were it not for federal agents and local police showing up at his doorstep three years ago, Vick likely would be in Atlanta, where he was 38-28-1 as a starting QB with three trips to the Pro Bowl.
Then came that steep fall, the one that cost him his career, his wealth and his freedom. When he emerged from federal prison, the only team that would have him was the Eagles, and that seemed an odd place since Philadelphia already had both its quarterback of the moment (Donovan McNabb) and the future (Kevin Kolb).
Yet, sometimes things work out if you face your demons, pay the price without complaint and come away from that experience not bitter but instead realizing you need to change, the world doesn't.
Vick has certainly done that as a player since becoming the Eagles' starting QB this season after McNabb was traded to the Redskins and Kolb struggled with both injury and inconsistency. That opened the door for Vick, and the man who walked through it only slightly resembled the quarterback he once was.
Vick is every bit as exciting as ever and every bit as dangerous, but these days he's something more. He's not just a running back who can pass. He's now a quarterback who can run, an accurate throwing QB who learned from McNabb and Eagles head coach Andy Reid that where you throw the ball and when you throw the ball is every bit as important as how far you throw the ball.
After a six-touchdown performance against McNabb and the Redskins (four passing, two running) on "Monday Night Football," Vick's resurrection seemed complete with talk centering more on whether he was the league's MVP rather than its MHC (most heinous criminal).
The dog stories still come up, of course, and Vick has conceded that, "I totally understand there's going to be people who will never forgive me. I understand that what I did was totally inhumane and unethical, but I can't change it.''
If he keeps playing the way he has been while staying out of trouble and lecturing at various schools on behalf of the Humane Society, Vick won't have to. He will have given people reason to believe he has changed himself from the inside out.
That's far more difficult than changing your approach to the art of quarterbacking. It's far more important than winning an MVP or Comeback Player of the Year (or both), too. It's what a true redemption song is all about.
Today we know Michael Vick is changed on the football field. We don't really know if he has changed where it counts most. All we know is what he says, and largely because of his renewed play, his words are enough for most of us. At least they are for now.
Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald.