Vick, Peer Effects & Self-Destruction

Yahoo! Sports Michael Silver lets former NFL running back and ex-con Bam Morris offer some strong advice to Michael Vick:

“I hope Mike sees that when you go to prison, you really have no true friends,” Morris says. “I’ll bet his mom, his brothers and his fiancée have his back. The same people he spent thousands of dollars on, they probably were nowhere in his corner. They’re what I call male groupies. Yeah, he was doing things he shouldn’t have been doing, but these dudes never told him to stop.”

“I feel like Mike has hit rock bottom,” Morris says, “and I feel like when somebody brings him in [to play], he’s gonna give it is his full attention. His talent is so superb, and he just needs to prepare, stay focused and apply himself – and to keep good people around him. [emphasis added]”

In econ, we put a lot of stock on the role of incentives and income — with good reason. They explain a lot of outcomes, or, at least, sizable portions. As Morris’ comments suggest, peer-effects also matter. Guys like Morris, and even more so Vick, have plenty of incentive in terms of lost income (not to mention prison) to steer clear of self-destructive behavior. What they did not have is the right “entourage.” The same can be said for Steve McNair, who after a long NFL career, appeared to have best buddies who were not much different than guys he could have hung out with if he were a crack dealer in Nashville (McNair murder 911 call transcript).