THE SPORTS DOCTOR-Giving thanks: Three cheers for two good sports

Vick faces the music in Richmond in 2007

So it's Thanksgiving again, the one day of the year set aside for gratitude and celebrating goodness. As much as Orlando, Florida's, Dr. Phillips High School needs to learn a thing or two about right and wrong– football players charged with the brutal beating of a freshman player should not be suiting up and taking the field– I will save the vitriol for another day (I'm coming for you, Dr. Phillips High School– don't think I'm not).

Hardnosed as I am, it's Thanksgiving, and I'm more than capable of expressing gratitude.

This year has seen two memorable examples of genuine goodness, humanity, and humility. I hope you've noticed them and applauded them, because Lord knows when we'll see their like again.

I don't care how many touchdowns Michael Vick has thrown this season or how many MVP votes he gets. He could ride the bench the rest of the season, and it wouldn't bother me. I am immensely grateful for Michael Vick nonetheless– not just because he has changed, but because his change demands more from us.

The man who came out of Leavenworth is very different from the man who went in, and that's what everyone wanted, isn't it? Vick has been punished, publicly shamed, and he learned from it, as is evidenced by his behavior as a football player. On the field, Vick is more mature and unselfish with an admirable work ethic, traits he is apparently sincere about incorporating into his personal life. Still, many people hold onto their hatred of Michael Vick, and that's just as shameful as the crimes Vick committed.

One needn't be religious to appreciate the parable of the prodigal son. When he returned home after years of heinous misdeeds, the last thing the son expected was forgiveness or mercy. But the father welcomed him home with compassion and rejoicing instead of beating and  recriminations. Michael Vick has turned his debased and brutal life around; he was lost and now is found.  

Shame on those who still hate him. Rejoice.

If you missed the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight a couple of weeks ago, you didn't just miss a great fight, but a rare display of true gentlemanliness and sportsmanship. Pacquiao dominated from the beginning, and after the sixth round it was obvious Margarito was really hurting. By the ninth round, a less tentative referee than Laurence Cole would have stopped the fight. By Cole's own admission to Boxing Fanhouse before the fight, his goal was not to have an impact on the fight. Unfortunately, Cole did what he set out to do. The fight went on as if he weren't there.

By the ninth round, Margarito's right eye was swollen shut by a massive hematoma, which was also cut and bleeding. A similar hematoma was developing under his left eye and the bridge of his nose was so swollen he was forced to breathe through his mouth. Not only couldn't he see Pacquiao's punches, Margarito couldn't see Pacquiao, his own gloves missing Pacquiao by inches. Though he continued to throw punches, he was throwing them blindly and was clearly unable to protect himself.

When Cole failed to act, Manny Pacquiao turned to him pleadingly more than once, imploring him to step in. By the twelfth round, realizing that neither Cole nor the fight doctor nor Margarito's trainer was going to stop the fight, Pacquiao took it upon himself to ensure Margarito's safety. He basically stopped fighting. Instead of exploiting Margarito's injuries, Pacquiao merely tapped Margarito with his gloves, avoiding Margarito's eyes and nose. 

Now we know that Margarito's injuries were so extensive (he was hospitalized immediately after the fight with a crushed right orbital) that were it not for Manny Pacquiao's humanity, Margarito could have been permanently blinded or even worse. 

Manny Pacquiao's compassion and sportsmanship are an example to us all, athlete and layman alike, and for that I am truly grateful.

Juanita Giles lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.