In August, the inconspicuous Week 13 matchup between Philadelphia and Atlanta suddenly became a national headline when the Eagles signed Michael Vick.
By the morning of Sunday December 6th, after nine anticlimactic games of wholly unimpressive play, Vick's return to the city he once owned - the city he so badly disappointed - was just another pregame show story. With the Colts and Saints attempting to preserve unblemished records, Vince Young going for an unbelievable sixth-straight win as the Titans resurgent quarterback, and Brett Favre trying to continue breaking Packers fans' hearts with his record-breaking season in Vikings purple, the convicted dogfighter and wildcat specialist did not receive any excessive hype that he would not have deserved anyways.
Then a funny thing happened. The anti-hero's anti-story became a legitimate headline.
Vick's stat line was simple. One impressive throw downfield. One short toss for a touchdown. One quick dash into the endzone. Three small plays that went much further than 12 points and less than 50 yards.
Love him. Hate him. Don't care. Doesn't matter. No one can deny that Michael Vick produced an evocative epic on a poetic afternoon. Whether it evoked sympathetic chills or queasy nausea is irrelevant.
The word "surreal" needs to penetrate any ill feelings that existed prior to Sunday's kickoff. It is surreal that head coach Andy Reid had Philadelphia's anti-leader lead his teammates out of the tunnel and onto the field. It is surreal that Reid appointed his anti-captain to serve the role of captain at midfield for the coin toss.
It is surreal that, playing on his old stomping grounds under the Georgia Dome, the anti-hero was able to enjoy a hero's reception as the opposing crowd chanted Vick's name as if it was beloved in Atlanta once again.
It is surreal that (until this point) the NFL's anti-story of the year suddenly became a story - mostly on the merits of athleticism.
Reid's play-calling, which is often heavily scrutinized for its common imperfections by Philadelphia football fans, yielded a beautifully perfect script for a man whose story is far from possessing any semblance of beauty.
On the Eagles opening offensive drive, Reid avoided any extended suspense by inserting his third-string quarterback into the game. An unimpressive run up the middle - a weekly ritual for a quarterback whose legs once outran the fastest defenders - would have sufficed for the purposes of the occasion. Most people would have been satisfied with a non-story about a non-factor.
But Reid wanted to create something more. He wanted to rub salt into, what turned out to be, the city of Atlanta's non-wound. Vick's teammates understood the importance of this game to Vick, and they selflessly supported him getting every possible opportunity to exact non-revenge against his former team. And with each ensuing success in his non-dazzling performance, Vick was (presumably) able to enjoy divine happiness that no one else would ever want to comprehend.
Today, Andy Reid admirably composed an anti-fairytale. He took an antagonist, disguised him as a protagonist, and constructed a narrative that should have ended with some sort of moral - yet no such message of virtue or ethics existed.
As today's story comes to a close, there cannot and should not be an "ever after" for Michael Vick. There is just a subjective, complication interpretation of "happily" in this moment.