Rick Reilly Go Fish: The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

Rick Reilly's Mailbag

November, 9, 2010
11/09/10
10:06
AM PT
I don't mind getting your e-mails, I really don't. But you don't have to SHOUT.

HELMET TO HELMET HITS

This issue drove people crazy both ways. I called for the NFL to round-file fines and issue suspensions to players who tackle helmet-to-helmet. Hundreds of you said, "What happened to the gladiatorial aspect of the NFL we all love?"

Just a reminder: Most gladiators died in competition.

Man's game Reilly. Don't play if you can't hack it. Don't want hit by Harrison? Go the other direction. You want finesse? Go to the ballet and enjoy the hell out of it. -- Neil Hennigan, Pittsburgh

Geez, relax, Andrew Dice Clay. Throughout history, the NFL has changed its rules to protect its employees. Here's just a few:
  • Banned facemask tackles (1956)
  • Banned clothesline tackles (1960s)
  • Banned the head slap (1977)
  • Banned blocking below the waist (1970s)
  • Stopped play when QB was in the grasp (1979)
  • Banned clipping anywhere on the field (1999)
  • Banned horse-collar tackles (2006)
Did the NFL die after any of those changes? Did football become "soccer" or "two-hand touch" or "ballet"? No, it only got more insanely popular.

I JUST DON'T THINK YOU OR ANYONE ELSE IN THE MEDIA SHOULD PILE ON JAMES HARRISON BECAUSE HE IS THE BEAST THAT THE NFL HAS MADE HIM. -- Ron Vaught

Disagree. Nobody's "made" Harrison into a head-hunting contract hitman. In fact, a slew of NFL coaches have come out and reiterated that this is NOT how they teach their players to tackle. Here's what Browns head coach Eric Mangini said:

"That drives me nuts, they should wrap them up, wrap them up, wrap them up, because you can do both. You can be technically sound and bring the back to the ground and wrap up and they teach it from pee-wee on. Head across the bow, good base, exploding up through, hitting with leverage. Not wrapping up drives me crazy. Usually what happens is they go for that big shot and the back spins off them and goes for another 25 yards. It’s low-percentage football. You see guys do it and they get one big hit and the crowd cheers and all that stuff happens and then there’s six other times where they do the same thing and the back runs for 35 yards."

So it's not only NOT what they've been taught, it's lousy football. Worse, it's the kind of football that can leave somebody paralyzed.

As a player, when you are busting your butt and going full speed, it is very difficult to hit someone so that they cannot be injured. Those moments are so quick, it's difficult to think, "Don't hit him in the head." You are instructed to hit people as hard as you can basically, and sometimes that is the difference between winning teams and losing teams. When you are a receiver and come over the middle, it is SCARY. If the NFL keeps making these limited contact rules, offenses are going to be able to run the field without worrying about getting "Lit Up". Make every player aware of the dangers that come with their profession and if they don't want to play, they don't have to. -- Mark Flood

Watch the tapes. These guys are launching themselves at other players. They're leaving their feet. Their arms are to their sides. There's zero intention of trying to wrap up. It's a human missile aimed at a man's head. And in most instances, they lower their helmets at the last instant to double the impact.

You say the new rules will result in "limited contact." Wrong. There will still be oodles of contact, but no more trying to purposely rearrange a guy's brain synapses.

Imagine the damage guys like Harrison are doing to their own brains!

There is no going backward here. The NFL has made the only humane decision it can. The science is finally there to show how much permanent, life-altering damage is going on out there. Suspensions are the only answers. The players need to know the NFL is serious and wimpy cash fines aren't doing it.

James Harrison knows that his brain might be oatmeal in 10 years, but he's still playing the game. He's making a conscious decision to put himself in that danger. If he can't find his car in 10 years because he liked to light up receivers, it's his fault. Taking money away from him now only hurts him in the future when he'll need that $75,000. -- Nick Brundage, Pittsburgh

Fine. What about the guys he hits?

College players and pros pulverizing each other into early dementia? College ball being decided by a computer? No thanks ... I'm taking a pass until these guys get their act together. --Dave, Woodland Park, Colo.

Boy, does it take guts to decapitate a defenseless player. Rather, it takes the character of a savage. I for one do not need crushing head to head contact to enjoy our greatest sport. -- Wayne, Peacock East Greenwich, R.I.

Marvin Harrison did exactly what he's been coached to do probably since pee wee football. -- Bruce, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Hey Bruce, Marvin retired two seasons ago. How many hits have YOU taken?

Why you would bring up the fact that James Harrison's dad was a truck driver? Why the personal attack? I bet you wouldn't say that to his face. Another writer hiding behind the pen. -- Peter Eckman, Port Orange, Fla.

Read much? If you reread the column, you'll see it was HARRISON who said he was considering retiring from football and driving a truck like his dad. I've got no trouble with truck drivers. Who doesn't like truck drivers? My only point was I hope in THAT career, he doesn't have as many head-ons as he does in football.

MIAMI HEAT NAMES

I asked you to come up with a good nickname for the Miami Heat's troika of superstars -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and (always third) Chris Bosh.

Sadly, you didn't do much better than I did:

Bron's Zoo -- Rex Post, Phoenix

The Trifecta -- Miguel Reyes, Miami

The South Beach Boys -- Kirk Beitz, San Diego

Trilight (Like "Highlight") -- Eddie Lepp, Williamsburg, Va.

The Three Basketeers -- Jeff Iredell, Pottstown, Pa.

LCD -- John Mercado, Sicklerville, N.J.

Threegos -- Bryan Howell, Washington D.C.

The Miami Cheat -- Tyler Smith, Commack, N.Y.

One-Ring Circus (D-Wade is the only one with a ring) -- Mike, Los Angeles

RILEY 3:16 (Their jersey numbers) -- Ben White, Orem, Utah

The Sisterhood of the Traveling That Never Gets Called -- Chris Kytic, Sydney


BOISE STATE

Mail ran about 2-to-1 against my calling the BCS computers cross-wired, flawed and SEC-biased for continually leap-frogging teams over undefeated Boise State, which happened again this week, by the way.

In fact, now people are trying to take away BCS-conference wins this season they've already earned. Robert Smith, one of ESPN's college football analysts, said recently, "I'm trying to keep an open mind about all this. But I'm not so sure if Boise State plays Virginia Tech today, they beat them."

I'd hate to see Smith on The History Channel. "I'm trying to keep an open mind about all this, but I'm not so sure the Allies win World War II if they fight today."

Keep up the controversy. That is what good reporters do to get everyone talking and hopefully a plus-one or 8-team playoff will happen. But please don't expect people to believe Boise could finish a season in a major conference undefeated. It just wouldn't happen. -- Scott, Glendale, Calif.

No, of course not. And Utah could never beat Alabama. And Boise State could never beat Oklahoma. And Larry Bird's 1979 Indiana State basketball team, from the hopelessly lame Missouri Valley Conference, would never get through even one game in the NCAA basketball tournament, much less the final, right?

If Boise State wants to be seen as legitimate, they can play Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, etc., on the road. I'm sure OSU would take a home game vs visiting Boise. They would also win by 14. -- Mike W., Cleveland

It's wonderful hearing from people who already know the future. Why aren't you playing the stock market?

College football bias continues to fan the flames of nonsense. If Notre Dame strings two consecutive wins together against FCS squads they're automatically a top 10 team in the hunt for a national championship. Why you ask? Because 30 years ago Notre Dame was an elite program. -- Dev Sky, Los Angeles

Can you point me to any articles you wrote in 2004 regarding the BCS, when a 12-0 Auburn team, which had defeated four top-15 teams, was left out of the championship game? I'm just having trouble seeing how Boise State's current hypothetical situation is a greater travesty. -- Richard Schmitz, Washington, D.C.

It's not. It's a travesty every year.

Imagine, just for a second, if the rest of sports worked like the BCS:
  • The Miracle New York Giants of 2007? Wouldn't have been voted into the Super Bowl.
  • Duke, last year's NCAA hoops champions? Wouldn't have been voted into the final.
  • Texas and San Francisco, the two teams in this refreshing World Series? Never heard of 'em.
There are some people in Eugene that would remind you of 2001. -- Keith Fancher, Montgomery, Ala.

Yes, that's the whole freaking point. College football is the only sport in the world where winning every game doesn't mean you progress toward a championship.

My God, if we simply had the plus-one playoff system this season -- just ONE extra game -- you could include all four undefeated teams: Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Boise State. As things stand right now without it, it's quite possible that TCU or Boise State won't even make the Rose Bowl!

Someday, we will all look back on this with shame.

There's another way (for Boise State). Beat a top ten team 3 out of 4 weeks like Auburn just did. Or if we're going to look back, let's make it 6 years so we include Auburn's undefeated season winning the SEC, beating 6+ top 25 teams. The one where they did all that and ended the season ranked 3rd and left out of the BCS Championship. As for an article idea, try this one. If there is a SEC "bias" in the computer polls, does it reflect the fact that the SEC has won 7 out of the 8 times they played in the BCS championship game even though they were the underdog and just barely made it in 6 of those years because they had a loss ... to another SEC team? -- Rupert Patton

All the more reason that SEC fans should be leading the lit-torch vigilantes-heading-to-Dr.-Frankenstein's-house mob to demand a playoff! If the SEC is as unbeatable as you say it is, they'd win every year! Get on board before it happens to you AGAIN!

Need I remind you of how many times it's happened just since the Blatantly Corrupt System began? I need? OK ...

2009: Boise State (14-0, beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl 17-10) final rank -- AP and Coaches: 4

2008: Utah (13-0, beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 31-17) final rank -- AP: 2 Coaches: 4

2006: Boise State (13-0, beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl 43-42 in OT) final rank -- AP: 5, Coaches: 6

2004: Utah (12-0, beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl 35-7) final rank -- AP: 4 Coaches: 5

2004: Auburn (13-0, beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, 16-13) final rank -- AP and Coaches: 2

1999: Marshall (13-0, beat BYU in the Motor City Bowl 21-3) final rank -- AP and Coaches: 10

1998: Tulane (12-0, beat BYU in the Liberty Bowl, 41-27). final rank -- AP and Coaches: 7

I have a great idea for feature article.... You (the media giant) and I (the ground-roots football fan) should trade emails discussing the Boise State/BCS situation. You and I should exchange perhaps, 3-4 emails (each way, so 6 or 8 total) discussing back and forth the arguments for and against Boise State's presence in the title game. Shoot me an email and let me know what you think. (-- Jonathan Dennis

Wait, wait ... I have a better idea! Let's not!

KOBE VS. LEBRON

Reacting to Kobe Bryant's claim that he could beat LeBron James one-on-one in his "sleep," I explored the possibility with experts, who picked LeBron by about 2-to-1.

I haven't watched a whole game of the NBA since Barkley retired, but I'd pay my 50 bucks to the cable company to watch this. -- Lee Riley, Pelham, Ala.

Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. I'll pick Kobe with the refs or I'll pick LeBron without the refs. -- Jon Lapuz, California

By the way, the ESPN stat department broke down the times Kobe and LeBron have gone one-on-one without any doubling or help from teammates. Kobe scored far more points against LeBron than LeBron did against Kobe.

Over the past six seasons, Kobe has scored 20 points on 27 isolation plays when guarded only by LeBron, while LeBron has scored seven points on 13 isolation plays when guarded only by Kobe. Then again, LeBron looks to pass more often than Kobe.

Anyway, when I e-mailed Kobe to show him the results of the research, he e-mailed back: "OMG!! Really??"

Apparently, he didn't need to see the research.

IADS: LATEX BALLOONS

I lamented the Incredibly Annoying Decision made by the principal of Boulder High School in Boulder, Colo., (my alma mater) for popping more than 100 balloons at a football pep rally because one of the students had a latex allergy. You'd be amazed how many people in this country have (a) latex allergies and (b) time to e-mail me about them.

I'm allergic to latex. After running to a third conference championship in cross country, I ended up in the hospital because the finishing chute was lined with latex balloons. Would it have been that hard for them to find mylar balloons? -- Alex

I'm allergic to every kind of animal myself, but does that mean that if I play for USC, they shouldn't run Trojan on the field? If I’m allergic to grass, should we only play on turf? Life is unfair. The kid was allergic to latex. When he sees balloons, he's got to either risk it or go home. The world shouldn't stop for one person.

As a physician and pediatrician, let me try to provide a bit of balance. Latex allergies are real and for some children and adults can cause life-threatening reactions ... That being said, you are absolutely correct in calling out the principal who demanded all the balloons be popped. That likely released way more latex into the air than the intact balloons ever would. -- Marc Williams, Salt Lake City

FANTASY FOOTBALL

My newfound addiction to fantasy football prompted this:

Maybe Tiger should have gone this route years ago -- it would have saved him a $100 Million or so. -- Mitch Moore, Rutland, Vt.

BUZZ-WORTHY

Buzz Jordan, 49, was an unforgettable golf nut whose life -- and death a month ago -- still moves people.

I am sobbing at my computer right now. --Katie Jaquin, Liverpool, N.Y.

One of Buzz Jordan's many nicknames was Party Starter... and his funeral was another party he started. -- Lauren Dundon, Denver

How about publishing the address of the college fund so that we can send in a donation for the kids? -- Joe Tait, Maple Glen, Pa.

The Zack and Brooks Jordan Fund is set up at:

Colorado State Bank and Trust

3610 E. First Ave.

Denver, CO 80206

Phone: (303) 318-6006

Checks to be made out to "The Zack and Brooks Jordan Fund."

AND LASTLY ...

We recently added a West Highland Terrier to our household. While trying to come up with a name my 17 year old son said, "Why don't we name it after my favorite sports writer?" So our dog will be hence forth known as Reilly. -- Ron Lape

Be patient with us Reillys. It took my wife almost three days to teach me to beg.

OK, I take that back. Plenty of mail in the last month has been plenty insulting. But such is the mailbag, the place where it's my turn to be the piņata:

ON MICKELSON AND WOODS AT THE MASTERS:

Phil played a great tournament and he has had a tough past year &. Now, why did you spoil his story by involving Tiger Woods in it? We just happen to know Tiger's history due to a tabloid leak which just exploded from there. Are you with Phil 24/7 or know him and his wife's history? Of course not. So call Phil's story what it is, and leave Tiger out of it. I think it would be a safe bet that if Tiger's wife or mom had cancer he would do the something along the same lines as Phil. I'm sure no matter who won you would have portrayed them as the anti-Tiger. Please stop the fake outrage over Tiger's infidelities.

-- Mitch (Fairfax, Va.)

You make a good point about Tiger doing the same if it were his wife or mom. I'm sure he would. My point was that both players had gone through a very tough year, one of them because of his own inexplicable decisions regarding women and one through female forces he had no control of. You'd had to have been an anvil not to notice the theme.

"And a man buried in the most unshaven sex scandal in sports history was greeted like a returning astronaut." Really? In history? Magic contracted HIV after having sex with everything that moved in the 80's (And I think he was married at the time - at least for some of it). Kobe was charged with RAPE. Look, I don't think what the guy did was right by any stretch - I'd certainly never cheat on my wife. But, I think you can tone down the hyperbole a bit, eh? I mean, there is a reason it's not against the law to cheat on your spouse - because our jails aren't big enough. I guarantee you there are hundreds or thousands of pro athletes out there doing the exact same thing as Tiger.

-- Dignan (Philadelphia)

Well, to be fair, all charges against Kobe were dropped. There is no doubt, however, that Tiger is to affairs what Imelda Marcos was to platform heels. Tiger himself has admitted to "disgusting" and "horrible" behavior. My astonishment at what happened at the Masters was that after such a sordid and tawdry sex scandal, Woods was barely heckled at all, unless you count the airplane circling above and a few random shouts.

I thought that deserved comment. So sue.

You are absolutely right. Phil's win last Sunday was a win for women. It was also a win for those of us who try to live and give of ourselves, with honor and integrity. Thank you, again.

-- Mary Schoelch (Shoreview, Minn.)

AND A WOMAN WHO THOUGHT JUST THE OPPOSITE:

Mickelson's win a victory for women? Augusta National still won't allow women to join? You're better than this stupid column.

-- Jon (Roy, Utah)

When I saw [Mickelson] embrace his stricken wife with tears running down his face that changed everything for me. I immediately contrasted that image to Tiger's self absorbed tantrums ... I was so struck by irony of that. I am now a Phil convert.

-- Peter Brzezinski

It's a horrible thing what those brave ladies are going through, and this is in no way meant to question their sincerity, but how does playing golf actually help them? Doesn't it help Mickelson and Mickelson alone? Sure, it was nice that Phil won, but I just don't see how it is beneficial for those brave ladies. Phil yes, them no.

-- Chris Kane (Atlantic City, N.J.)

Try this: Just imagine the increase in donations to breast cancer research from that tear-soaked scene on 18 alone. How many more men will walk in a Susan G. Komen event? Those images were powerful and seen by millions. That translates into money and activism.

ON TRADING DONOVAN MCNABB:

Rick, I respect your opinion, but you are completely off on the McNabb trade. A coach caring for his players should not be lambasted by the media as being "soft" or putting "family over business." Just because Reid isn't so quick to off his greatest player to the black hole of Oakland (read: Belichick) or the pseudo-black hole of Buffalo doesn't mean Andy is incompetent as a coach. I remind you that such player loyalty is what brought faded stars such as Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas back to the Eagles. Reid cares about his guys, and players around the league should be taking notice.

-- Brandon (Bethesda, Md.)

Let me get this straight. Andy Reid just traded away a six-time pro bowl quarterback with three or four good years left and that's going to go out as a beacon to the rest of the league's players how "loyal" he is? Has it occurred to you that the reason the Eagles are willing to trade McNabb in division to the Redskins is because he is no longer a good quarterback? They clearly are not afraid he will come back to beat them. Although I disagree with a lot of what the Eagles do, they are not a stupid organization.

-- Scott Cavett (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.)

I'll bet you a Pat's cheesesteak you're wrong.

You said that Belichick wouldn't trade inside the division...yes he would. Take a look at the Drew Bledsoe to the Bills trade a few years ago. An up and coming quarterback (Tom Brady) led to Bledsoe getting traded to the Bills. Bledsoe is quite similar to McNabb as well. A few good years left in him and a quarterback that came close but never was able to win it all. Hey if Belichick did it maybe this wasn't too bad of an idea.

-- David Wolff (State College, Pa.)

OK, I ignored Bledsoe because he wasn't even the starter when he was traded, never mind a star. But OK, one for you. Next time you see me, you get to slug me on the shoulder.

ON WEST VIRGINIA BASKETBALL COACH BOB HUGGINS:

Who are you to comment so negatively about WV and the hard workers in this state? I would love to see you do one shift in the coal mines.

-- Unknown

This column seemed to offend people all over the state of West Virginia. While I stand by how I feel about Huggins, I regret that my crack that he would've made a good coal miner because he likes to work in places away from the lights offended so many people. I didn't mean to ridicule coal miners. I can't think of a tougher or more dangerous job and my hard hat goes off to them. For that, I apologize.

Look, we all know that Bob Huggins isn't perfect, but for you to get so butt-hurt that he's having success at WVU is pathetic. Let me guess: He's not a carbon copy of coach K, so he's a POS, right? Huggins has screwed up before, and he's not "personable", but who cares? The man's good at what he does: coaching basketball. Get off your high horse, you slimy little worm. You realize that, right? You are the WORM of all ESPN/Sportscenter people.

-- Omar Behery (Morgantown, W.Va.)

I take offense, sir. We have no worms at the Worldwide Leader. We do, however, have an on-campus bait shop.

Are you intentionally trying to inspire WVU fans to go to your house and set your couches on fire?

-- Jason (Washington, D.C.)

Yes, I really hate the print on my couches.

Hey Rick, I read your article about Bob Huggins, but I don't know how you can feel the same after seeing tonight's game. The moment between Huggins and Butler was as emotional as it gets. Whether you like him or not, he had a great connection with this team.

-- Brad Goldman (Baltimore)

I agree that was a wonderful moment, but I think you should re-read the column. I practically broke an ankle pointing out how close he is with his players and how much they love him. That moment didn't surprise me. What surprises me is how so many West Virginians have risen up to defend a man who is the Typhoid Mary of college basketball and who wouldn't think twice to leave them behind tomorrow if a better offer came up. Exhibit A: Kansas State.

I was a tutor in the athletic department at Akron when both Bob Huggins and Gerry Faust coached there. Bob Huggins was a bully, an abomination, and definitely not interested in the success of the student portion of the athlete.

-- Brian (Akron, Ohio)

Your comments on Bob Huggins couldn't be more ... right! I grew up in Indiana, and I was there to see some of the Cincy games. Graduated no one, cussed constantly in front of everyone, not a kind word to anyone who said anything to him, and yet they kept him. Tell [West Virginia fans] to wait. One day Bob Huggins will thoroughly disappoint them.

-- Brad Dixon (Charlottesville, Va.)

ON SLOW BASEBALL:

I saw your spot on Sportscenter about the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers having the longest games. You think the fact that they have good offenses which means more at bats and leads to … the opposing teams pitching around people, having mound conferences and making more pitching changes might have something to do with that?

-- Steve Morgen (Somerdale N.J.)

What slows down Yankees and Red Sox games is that they all seem to behave like Art Carney on the golf course. Their pitchers and hitters take forever to get on the mound and get in the box. Adjusting, primping, re-velcroing, scratching, pondering. It's ludicrous! Derek Jeter often takes 30 seconds between pitches. And that's after seeing a ball! Perhaps they all think they're starring in a Wagner opera. If their hideously long games are simply a product of scoring more runs, why did commissioner Bud Selig call them and tell them to speed it up? Why did umpire Joe West recently call the speed of a Red Sox-Yankees game he called "pathetic and embarrassing"?

ON NFL DRAFT RESULTS:

I wonder if the "results" (number of pro-bowl appearances) aren't more the result of the coaching a player receives more than the picks. That is, maybe the reason Indianapolis has more pro bowl players than Cleveland is because they coach their players to be successful. Maybe Indianapolis and Pittsburgh (because they are the top two) could just pick players out of a hat and turn them into pro bowlers. Cleveland could pick players out of a hat to be heater hoggers.

-- Scott Andrews (Ames, Iowa)

So you're saying If Tim Couch would've been taken by Indy instead of Cleveland, he'd be Peyton Manning? No way. Cleveland's drafts go flatter than a keg with a hole in it.

I don't think you understand. To be a Cleveland fan means to live in the ashes of whatever season just ended (if it was a playoff season then it probably ended tragically) and then anticipate next year to rise up out of those ashes like a Phoenix. The NFL draft for Browns fans is that hope, at this point we have already put Couch, Brown, Warren, Green, Winslow, Edwards, etc., not completely out of our minds (because we still cling to bitterness as a master emotion) but in the back of it. We love the draft because like spring, it gives us hope...only to ultimately disappoint us in the end. Wait 'til next year!

-- James Lotz (Cleveland)

I pity you.

Why would the Giants have picked Ron Dayne? It isn't as if he broke and still holds the NCAA Div 1-A record for career rushing yards, won the 1999 Heisman Trophy, won 2 Rose Bowls MVP awards during wins in '99 and '00, rushed for over 1,000 yards in all 4 seasons with Wisconsin, holds the Big Ten total touchdown record with 71, and shares the title of most 200-yard games in NCAA history with Ricky Williams. What would you have said after your draft? "We hope we made the right decision, but we won't know for sure until they produce. And they may NEVER produce." I bet your fans would love that kind of talk.

-- Jason (Tucson, Ariz.)

Yes, yes that's exactly what I'd like from coaches, GMs and TV analysts. But instead all weekend, what did we hear, 100 times? The usual platitudes: "They've just had a great draft." And "They've just made the steal of the draft." And "They've made their team significantly better." Fine. But I'm saving all those quotes and pulling them out in three years.

Columns are like your kids. Just because you love them doesn't mean everybody else does. Sometimes it doesn't mean anybody else does. To the inbox:

ON THE COLUMN ABOUT THE SUDDENLY DILUTED HABIT OF RUSHING THE COURT IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL WHEN IT'S NOT REMOTELY RUSH-WORTHY:

I think your rules for storming the court are a little over-ambitious. Example: UMass v. UConn, 2004 ... storming the court completely justified. UMass hadn't done squat in 10 years since the Marcus Camby fiasco destroyed the entire program. UConn, ranked seventh at the time, was coming off a national championship the year before. We won on a layup with four seconds left. My best friend got his wallet stolen ON THE COURT and yet he'd never regret it in a million years.

-- Mitch (Tyngsboro, Mass.)

If you read the Iron Clad and Unbreakable Rules of Rushing the Court, you'll see that your RTC that day was technically a violation of the third rule: The team you just beat was not in the top three. But... being as UConn is a clear and present rival, and you guys have been generally left-out-milk bad ever since Julius Erving was there, and it was the first time you'd beaten UConn in 19 years, and it was tighter than a DMV clerk's smile (61-59), I'll allow it. Besides, your buddy lost his wallet, so there's some karma there. Don't know how he went on with life without his six bucks, his Subway card and his two-year-old condom.


You sound like an old fuddy duddy who just does not want the kids to have any fun. You're saying they don't deserve to have that much fun or be that happy because REPORTERS LIKE YOU have deemed the team to be in the top 25 or whatever. Get over yourself. Nothing wrong with college kids celebrating their team's victories. Fun and excitement are what make college sports great!

-- Terp Fan (whereabout unknown)

OK, here's an actual reason you can't have an RTC every other Thursday. People can get stampeded. Players can get hurt. Someday, somebody's going to get killed. In 2005, I wrote about a high school kid in Tucson, Ariz., named Joe Kay who made the last-second shot to win a championship. All the students came flooding out, tried to pick him up, and dropped him, leaving him paralyzed. Does that qualify as something "wrong" to E-MAILERS LIKE YOU?


Since you have laid down these rules, I was wondering: When was the last legitimate game that deserved a court storming?

-- Sam Yoshida (Provo, Utah)

Three rush-worthy games from this season:

&#8226 College of Charleston upsets North Carolina, 82-79, on Jan. 4. First time Charleston beat a ranked team in 12 seasons.

&#8226 Louisville beats Syracuse, 78-68. This falls under the Official Exceptions to the Unbreakable and Iron Clad RTC Rules: Your arena is closing down forever after the game. This was the last one ever at Freedom Hall.

&#8226 Northern Iowa shocks Kansas in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament, 69-67, on Ali WillStrokeTheNet's bodacious 3-pointer with 30 seconds on the shot clock. Unfortunately, this game was in Oklahoma City, meaning only the bench got to RTC. Therefore, I'll allow Northern Iowa one free RTC in its first home game next season, win or lose. Knock yourself out.


ON THE COLUMN ABOUT GREG WISE, THE HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL COACH IN HOUSTON WHO PRESSES WITH 100-POINT FOURTH-QUARTER LEADS:

Leave Wise alone. If the other teams don't like being embarrassed, instead of whining about it the other teams' coaches should spend some time game-planning, re-evaluating there offseason program and coaching up there kids. If you go in to play [Yates] and you know you are going to be pressed the whole game, come up with something. Good for Coach Wise and Yates.

-- Randolph Warren (Greenbelt, Md.)

There is no sportsmanship nor decency nor manners in beating a team by 123 points. John Wooden himself couldn't come up with a game plan for a mismatch like that. The honorable thing for Wise to do is stop shooting, stop pressing and have his team work on its defense and passing game. As for you, Randolph, you need to work on spelling the word "their."


In Washington state several years ago, a similar situation was happening with a girls basketball coach. With a few seconds left in a record-breaking game, the opposing coach called timeout and forfeited the game. The final score in all forfeits was entered as 1-0. Individual stats were also eliminated. Food for thought!

-- Patrick Leonard (Olympia, Wash.)

That's genius. I'd love to see an opponent of Yates do that next year if Wise keeps up his seminars in classlessness.


Maybe you should do a follow up, explaining how Yates won the [Texas 4A] state title [on March 13] in a close game, 92-73. Ironically, the score doesn't sound close, but the game was tied at 70, before Yates went on a 22-3 run. By using all 15 players and staying consistent to their style of play, their reserves were able to produce when it truly mattered. I won't, however, hold my breath for that column.

-- David Moore (Houston)

Did you check the box score of that game? Of the 92 points Yates scored, 91 were by starters. You call that "producing"? Congrats to Yates for winning the state title, but Wise owes every one of those teams he humiliated on the way to it a personal apology.


ON EVERYTHING ELSE UNDER THE SUN:

March 15 was LSU's pro day. Among the festivities, the media members were invited to participate. We arrived at 8:30 to run the 40, do bench reps of 95 pounds and test our vertical jump. The big story was my boss, Derek Ponamsky of Bayou Bengals Insider.com, pulling his hamstring, then falling and breaking his collarbone while running the 40. & It shocked everyone, from the media to coach Les Miles. It was simply stunning.

-- Jay Potter, Staff Writer, Bayou Bengals Insider

Well, since you brought it up, here it is, one of the least heroic moments in sports journalism history.


Have you ever thought about writing on women's tackle football? I am a player for the California Quake -- an L.A. team. The women's game is different, but exciting nonetheless. No spoiled T.O.'s here. Come and take a look -- you may become as hooked as I am!

-- Linda Reid (Los Angeles)

Have I ever "thought" about writing on women's tackle football? You must be joking. I PLAYED tight end on the world champion SoCal Scorpions of the now defunct WPFL league in 2007. OK, I played for only two days. And only in practice. And, actually, it was only one day because I got hit so freaking hard by a couple of their 280-pound linewomen that my back actually felt like a nest of scorpions had crawled inside my lumbar, causing me to see an emergency chiropractor. Which meant I had to retire my sports bra and watch in street clothes the next day. Still, I know a lot of the Scorpions felt my one day in their uniform taught them volumes about pro football and inspired them to the championship. Not that they've ever said that.

It's all in my coming book, "Sports from Hell, My Two-Year Search for the World's Dumbest Competition" (May 4, Doubleday/ESPN Books). And I'd like to say women's pro football isn't dumb at all. I mean that. Sincerely. Please don't come and hurt me again.


ON MY RETIRING MY BI-WEEKLY COLUMN AT ESPN THE MAGAZINE TO DO MORE INTERNET WRITING AND MORE "SPORTSCENTER":

I am sorry to hear, AGAIN, that you are not going to be writing your column. I don't read SI with the same excitement anymore because you are gone and now I am losing you again in this venue. Your strength is in the way you write, not the way you look (sorry, don't take that the wrong way).

-- Gerry Freudenberg (Clinton, Iowa)

This happened before and now it's happening again. People just don't read all the way through. As I wrote, I have NOT quit my column. I have only quit writing the magazine column. My ESPN.com columns and "Go Fish" will still post every week online. Same thing happened when I left Sports Illustrated. It seems to be a generational Internet-savvy thing. Once every two or three days, someone over 40 will come up and say, "I can't BELIEVE you quit writing. You were pretty good!" And then some young guy will come up a little later and say, "Hey, have you been writing long? You're pretty good!"

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
2:05
PM PT

Actually, upon further review, Canadians can be slightly less than nice. To the inbox:

A Canadian team hasn't won a Stanley Cup in 17 years -- that may be true but I think you're missing the bigger picture. Roughly 50% of NHL players are Canadians so we practically win the Cup every year. In fact, if it wasn't for us beaver-loving Canadians there wouldn't even be a league for your sub-par U.S talent to play in.

-- Chris Warden (Toronto)

Let's see: U.S. 5, Canada 3. Would you like to trade for some of our subpar talent before the medal round?


Relax, you sound a little cranky. Was your handgun confiscated at the border?

-- Gordon Robson (Waterloo, Ontario)

No, my umbrella.


Being a Canadian but having lived and worked on both sides of the border, I actually found some humor in your original piece. I thought that you were just trying to make yourself sound ignorant. Now I know that it isn't an act.

-- G (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Thank you?


Are your parents going to judge the sports writing awards for a 12th year?

--Kevin Richardson (Toronto)

No, they've both passed on. Did your parents teach you tact?


Normally love your stuff but I had to stop reading this one after you wrote "Compliment (Canada's) national anthem. It's way better than ours." A slap in the face to all of us who serve for your freedom. Every night our soldiers, airmen, marines and all other servicemen and women end our day with our nation's song. Think twice before you put another nation's heart, soul and pride ahead of ours. To an American that's the depth of what OUR anthem means!

-- Steve Bacci (Wichita, Kan.)

Really? Our national anthem is our "heart, soul and pride"? A song? A song with notes that only one person in 50 can hit? Wouldn't you like to have something catchier to sing at the end of the day? Something easier on the throat? Nobody's dishonoring your service. I thank you for it. But I'm an American, and I vote we come up with a new one. Forget Francis Scott Key. Call Alicia Keys.


No apology required! I laughed my 'arse' off. Anyone whining about that piece must have an icicle stuck up theirs.

-- Paul Murphy (Calgary, Alberta)


Funny you would comment on "us" (Canadians) speaking English - when it's y'all 'merican's that drop "u's" and "gh"s from spelling, not to mention your regional dialects (read Western, Southern, New Yawk). It's friendly banter on your side I am certain - we do apologize much too often here - something our southern neighbours may like to emulate a bit - would make you all a little more bearable internationally. Those "U.S.A." chants are equally as boring, uninspired and don't impress much - but then we know y'all can't spell much down there.

-- Michael Proulx (Toronto)

At least we don't put an "X" at the end of our names for no apparent reason.


You are misguided. 3 medals in (the first) 22 events IS owning the podium by Canadian standards.

-- Aaron Grover (Oshawa, Ontario)

Tell you what, if you guys get to 20 medals during these Olympics, we'll make you the 51st state. How's that?


And speaking of podiums ...

You wondered why Tiger brought up his Buddhist roots -- I'd say it was because his Buddhist mother was sitting in the front row and he was letting her off the hook for her son's extreme self-indulgence.

-- Mike Doege (Macomb, Mich.)

I didn't wonder why he brought it up. I said it was a pointed reference to Fox News' Brit Hume suggesting Tiger give up Buddhism for Christianity. Tiger was raised as both a Christian and a Buddhist. (I was in his childhood room once, and he had a Buddhist shrine on one wall and a crucifix on the other.) During his mea culpa, Woods went out of his way to say he's going back to Buddhism, the religion his mother taught him.


Your comments to Colin Cowherd on the post-Tiger conference are humorous. You were "very impressed how gutsy that was." Really, Rick? You're smarter than that. Gutsy? He finally comes out of hiding 3 months later and that's gutsy?

-- Doug Thompson (Bend, Ore.)

I agree that it was nine weeks too late. I'll never understand why he waited so long. David Letterman apologized before his scandal even hit the Web, and the storm passed in three days. Tiger let this broil for three months, giving every stupid fake e-mail and ridiculous rumor credence because it filled the information vacuum.

Still, it was just so strange to see a man I've known since his freshman year in college, a man I always thought was bulletproof, standing up there exhausted and defeated and small. It was like seeing Superman in pajamas, fumbling for his glasses.

I guess you had to know the man to realize how hard those 13 minutes were for him. The most competitive person I've met, a man who would rather chop off his pinkie than lose to you in anything, standing there and admitting he'd failed, he'd cheated, he'd been a fool. It was astonishing and mind-melting and, yes, gutsy.

I'm disgusted by how many bloggers and columnists and commentators dismissed his confession, made fun of it, called it "robotic" and "insincere." My God, have a heart. The man has been pilloried around the world. He's been a laughingstock from the Azores to Zimbabwe. He's paid a hellacious price, and you could see it in his eyes. How polished and ad lib would you be if you had to slice yourself open in front of 150 million people? If you knew him at all, you knew those words came out of his mouth like spitting up a tumbleweed.


Anyway, on to a lighter subject, such as my newfound love of curling.

My drinking team has a curling problem.

-- David Pritchard (Ottawa)


And a heavier subject, potentially Afghanistan-bound U.S. bobsledder John Napier ...

I served in combat, but it was Desert Storm. If I'm going to die, I'm going to die for a reason. It's unfortunate I can't say the same for John Napier. It's honorable what he's willing to do, but the cause isn't.

-- Mark Mills (Las Vegas)

Wow. Thanks for cheering everybody up.


What writers do you admire?

-- Charlie Calzonetti (Hamilton, Ontario)

They're all Canadian.

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

January, 27, 2010
1/27/10
1:58
PM PT

We all know about the SI Cover jinx. Is there any documentation for "Life of Reilly Jinx"? Your column on Norval (Turner) was awesome -- until we lost. You didn't happen to write an article about how Nate Kaeding is the greatest kicker in NFL history, did you?

-- Brady Phelps (San Diego, Calif.)

No, but I did write an entire column saying 2009 would be Mischa Barton's big comeback year.


Is there a Rick Reilly Scholarship available to freelance writers? If so, shoot me some info please.

-- Billy Bruce (Pedro, Ohio)

Yes. But first we have to buy you a plane ticket to the big Freelance Writer Scholarship Dinner. Just send me your credit card information. It's a $1000 deposit, plus a 15 percent service fee. Then you can come and get your cap and gown and your free full-ride scholarship! (Tuition, books, room and board not included.)


The only thing I ask of Warner is that if he does decide to leave the game, please, for the love of God, take Matt Leinart with him!

-- Kevin George (Chandler, Ariz.)

Just a reminder. Do you remember who finished second to Leinart in the 2004 Heisman Trophy voting? Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson.


Great column. [Warner] is one of the more fascinating and thoughtful characters in professional sports. In 500 words you captured his humanity; a feat that ranks right up there with hitting on a post pattern. Nicely done.

-- Paul Kidwell (Boston)

Thanks, but ... 500 words? It was about 800. It's ALWAYS about 800. For 22 years, I wrote an 800-word column and there's no changing me now. It's like a dog with an electric fence. Even if the fence has been torn down and hauled away years ago, the dog never leaves the yard.




What a great story about Matt Costello. Though I live in Detroit, I grew up in Baltimore and went to Loyola as well. I had tears in my eyes from the beginning. In the midst of millionaire athletes with guns, the most famous athlete in the world living a deceitful lie, baseball players cheating the game, you have the reality of this young man who only wants a chance to live and maybe throw a ball again.

-- Brian Effinger (Detroit)


I have identified as transgendered for as long as I can remember but still ended up as a college football player. I am too afraid to come out because, for me, I know it will cause me to lose my job, family, any chance at a relationship, friends and safety. I believe that ignorance about it makes a large contribution to our high suicide rate, which I have also strongly considered. Any mention of our struggles in a national spotlight can only help ease the way for more women like your friend and myself. I merely want to thank you for staying her friend through her difficult times and being understanding of our plight in general.

-- Marissa T (Rochester, N.Y.)

Good luck. I wish you the best whatever you choose.


As an Aints fan since the day I was born, I have 21 years experience dealing with horrible Saints quarterbacks. This poem has made sitting through countless interceptions and fumbles worth it. Thank you for making the terrible, terrible history of our quarterbacks not so terrible anymore. Go Saints and God Bless Drew Brees.

-- Michael Morris (Hammond, La.)

Next up: I'm doing all your nose guards.


Re: the Saints QB poem ... here is my husband's last stanza for you:

Brees has done

What others couldn't do

That gunslinger QB

From good Ol' Purdue

-- Julie Stephen (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

Nice, but his first line has three beats, his second and third have six and his last has five. Does he have no rhythm in other departments of life?


What every Rick Reilly reader

and every poet laureat (sic) knows

is that Richard should keep his day job,

abandon poetry and stick to prose.

But it was a noble effort, Rick ... like the way intentional grounding longs to be a pass.

-- Ramon Presson (Franklin, Tenn.)

First, never criticize somebody else's poem when you can't even get the meter right. Your poem goes: 8, 9, 9, 10.

Second, it's ironic that a laureate such as yourself can't spell "laureate."

Third, only my mom was allowed to call me Richard.


The best way for us Colts fans to make it known how angry we are at Polian, Irsay and Caldwell for robbing this city, the players and the fans of a shot at a perfect season is to boycott all souvenir and concession stand purchases at the playoff games. We can just tell them, "IT WAS NEVER A GOAL OF MY FAMILY TO SPEND $150 ON JERSEYS AND PAY $20 FOR A POPCORN AND TWO COKES."

-- Brent Scott (Elwood, Ind.)

OK, that's funny. And a very good idea. It's always an idea dumber than Spam Lite to introduce the feel of losing into a team that hasn't lost yet. Why, exactly, would you want to remind your team that, yes, we can suck? Would you do that in battle? "Men, it's time we lose one of these, just to get it out of the way." No. Beyond that, there are very few chances in the world of sports to become immortal, even fewer chances for an entire team to do it. Very few records stand for 20 and 30 years. To this day, we remember the 1972 Miami Dolphins, not because they won the Super Bowl (dozens of teams have done that), but because they were perfect. The Colts' going 19-0 would have been the kind of perfection that would've even surpassed that. To me, it was the dumbest decision in the NFL this year.




You recommend NCAA athletes who want to get a personal message across to have it tattooed, especially as it regards to Tim Tebow and his proselytizing. There's a very big problem with that: "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:28) ... Leviticus strictly prohibits tattoos. Period.

-- Justin (Marietta, Ga.)

So every athlete that has a religious symbol tattoo (75 percent of them) is violating Biblical law? Who knew?


Frankly, Mr. Reilly, I became a bit perturbed while watching the Taco Bell lineup in the (insert any name here) Bowl Game. I realized that the Overstock.com first down marker had misjudged the actual first down which was brought to me by 7-Eleven. Even the sacred Heisman Trophy has a name attached. On top of that, the college football championship game had a sponsor. And who was it? A company that has assisted in this nation's problem -- Citi credit cards. When will penalties gain sponsorship? But then, who wants their name associated with such a violent offense? What about touchdowns, field goals or maybe even the attempts for such scores? I realize money must be spent, earned and maybe even laundered, but this is outrageous to say the least. Thanks for allowing me this time to rant. Of course it is not on company time. Our office doesn't have the money to sponsor it.

-- Larry Mitchell (Carlsbad, N.M.)

Thank you for visiting the FedEx Mailbag.

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
1:26
PM PT

I nearly pull a hammy trying to find funny closed-captioning screw-ups. Then, as soon as the column runs, you people deluge me with them. Thanks for nothing.

I am a Closed Captioner. I was doing an L.A. station a couple of years ago when a local reporter was doing a story on budget cuts for the Meals On Wheels program. The reporter was interviewing an elderly man, who said, "I don't know how I'm going to get my males anymore. I only get one hot male a week, and now that's gone. I don't know what I'm going to do now for a hot male."

-- Sebrina Crosby (Ashville, Ala.)

Best closed captioning I ever saw was during a football game in the '90s: LOOKS LIKE THIS GAME IS HEADED TO OPRAH TIME.

-- James F. (Redmond, Wash.)

Rick, my favorite CC to date was reading about the Pittsburgh PIE RATS.

-- Clint Thomas (Charleston, W. Va.)

The DETROIT PISSED SONS.

-- Beverly O'Keeffe (Cranford N.J.)

I've got another one -- "just incredible" was transcribed as "Justin Credible." Good name for a superhero!

-- Brad Smith (Toronto)

My wife of 23 years is deaf and I have always watched television using closed captions and have enjoyed the carnival of text. Best one ever was when watching a football game and the announcers were describing a misdirection play -- except it was referred to as a MISSED ERECTION play.

-- Bill Littlefield (San Diego)

Watching an old Rams' game in an airport bar one Monday night. Kurt Warner's pass was complete to Ice Sack Bruise. Nice catch, Isaac Bruce.

-- Terry K (St. Paul)

Not sports-related, but I once saw a caption identify a home-building charity as "Habitat for Humidity".

-- Jim Savage (Richmond)

Your article on Clothes Cap Shunning was absolutely in spiraling.

-- Kurt Ramler (Northfield, Minn.)

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

December, 30, 2009
12/30/09
4:46
PM PT

And now for something completely different. Emails that have absolutely nothing to do with Tiger Woods:

Re: Why we love sports

One comment about sports being black and white with no gray areas? BCS.

-- Kellen (Iowa City)

I stand reprimanded.

By the way, is anything as unfair as what the BCS did to TCU and Boise State by pairing them against each other in the Fiesta Bowl? Here's two undefeated teams that will never get to prove themselves against BCS-conference teams in the bowl, the way Utah got to smoke Alabama last year in the Sugar Bowl, and the way Boise State beat Oklahoma in the '07 Fiesta. It's a pathetic try by the BCS committee to sweep two of their three problems -- undefeated teams who get no shot at a national championship -- under the rug. Two fine teams, sitting at the kids' table at Thanksgiving. We'll never know how good they were and it's wrong. Congress, are you listening?

You say that Nolan Ryan's kid doesn't get to play just because his Dad is Nolan Ryan. But is there any other reason Joe Buck has a job other than his father?

-- Joe Leisten (Chicago)

Dude, you must have no ears. The guy is smooth, funny and brilliant. His name could've been Lipschwitz and he'd be a lead national guy. Try hitting "volume" on the remote.

"...family... mean[s] diddly in sports." Then how do you explain Chris Simms' continued employment in the NFL?

-- David Edelman (Missouri City, Texas)

He does terrific impressions of Joe Buck?

Re: Nothing But Nets and free NBA tickets

I am a ninth grader, 14 years old, from New York. You're my favorite sportswriter, so for my Bar Mitzvah I sent $10,000 to this charity. Mentioning the donations made me remember the joy these 1,000 people must have had upon getting these nets. Thanks for making a dreary Monday much better.

-- Sam Minter (Pelham, NY)

Wow. How cool are you? Thanks so much. Also, can you give me the name of your temple? That's a room I need to work.

I loved your story about the malaria nets and donated to the fund. I also got a pair of better than expected seats. To my chagrin however, Ticketmaster added a 72% charge to my donation ($1.50 in convenience fees, $3.20 Order Processing Fee, $2.50 TicketFast fee.) Any chance Ticketmaster donates their profits to charity? I won't hold my breath.

-- Paul Levine (New York)

We asked Ticketmaster to waive their fees for this promotion. They said no.

Re: Abilene Christian lineman Nick Jones discovers a dad

Speaking for someone who lost his father, it's nice to read about someone who gained one.

-- John Scherzer (Fairbanks Alaska)

Re: Covering an entire football game the green way

Aren't our environmental problems hilarious? I wonder what future generations will think of columns like that. Probably about the same as what we would think about someone in the 1830s writing a funny pamphlet about trying to go a day without slavery. Good times!

-- Dave (Tampa)

Yes, I suppose you're right. Next time I'll write about global warming in a much more boring way, so everybody can stop reading after the first paragraph.

Re: Tattoos

You forgot former L.A. Clipper great Keith Closs who got "F@#K the World" inked on his back. Winner, Winner, Chicken-Dinner!

-- Kevin M. (La Canada/Calif.)

Sorry, no way it beats MMA fighter Melvin Costa's "I have a small penis." All-time bad tattoo champ. Retire the belt.

Re: Trying to call a horse race

I was the track announcer for three years at Arapahoe Park and I must say, I believe I was the worst track announcer in the history of horse racing. One of my early races, as the horses were meandering up the backstretch, I moved my binoculars slightly ... only to see a pickup truck heading in the opposite direction. For a split second I thought the truck was on the track and was about to wipe out eight horses!

-- Bill Rogan (Denver)

And some general griping:

I thought an NCAA athlete couldn't wear a non-uniform "sign" like Tim Tebow's Bible reference during an event. Would it be ok to have a sign that said, "Praise Allah" or "Bush Sucks"?

-- John O'Connor (Tigard, Ore.)

I assume you're talking about the Bible verses Tebow wears in his eye-black during games.

I agree that this is a bit of a slippery slope. So far, the NCAA has banned players from wearing product endorsements, but not from personal messages. Some guys wear their area code, some say "Hi mom!" and some give religious messages, like Tebow. During last year's BCS championship game at Land Shark Stadium, he wore John 3:16 under his eyes. According to the Miami Herald, 90 million people Googled the verse that night.

This is wholesale proselytizing, for better or worse, to say nothing of a violation of the separation of the church and state -- Florida being a public university. You have to feel for the Jewish kid or the atheist kid or the Muslim kid who loves Tebow but didn't realize his fanship would involve a pitch to convert to Christianity. What if the next quarterback wants his eye-black to say, "Love Satan" or "God Is Dead"? or "I (Heart) Beer"? Is the NCAA going to allow it? No chance.

Then again, any player could simply tattoo that message under his eyes and the NCAA couldn't stop him.
Still, the NCAA should stop eye-black messaging next year. Yes, players are people with strong beliefs and yes, they're going to want to use their fame to promote those feelings. But these people do not have millions of fans because they're deeply religious. They have them because they can throw a football through the eye of a needle. If it means that much to a player to say it, let him head to the nearest ink dispensary and let the needling begin.

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

November, 23, 2009
11/23/09
1:48
PM PT

What's more fun than continuing to collect all the mistakes, gaffes and outright idiocies athletes have tattooed on their bodies? Links to the pictures!

What about Greg Ostertag's Fred Flintstone on his calf?

--ssmuin

LaDainian Tomlinson has the misspelled "INSPERATION" on his arm. Sigh.

--Mike (San Diego)

You could've mentioned David Bey, a former heavyweight boxer who had his own name spelled incorrectly on his arm.

--Scott Shaffer (NYC)

I never understood "Big Dady" as written on former Oklahoma State basketball player, Jason Keep. Maybe that was intentional.

--James Kerr (Edmond, Okla.)

Bobby Maze, starting point guard for the Tennessee Vols, has a tattoo on his leg that reads "Stuggles Made Me," instead of "Struggles Made Me." Which leads everyone to ask: Who's Stuggles?

--Jeremy (Knoxville)

I am a tattoo artist in the Phoenix valley area and I can honestly say that athletes' tattoos are a never-ending source of entertainment for us. One would think with the millions of dollars they make, they could afford better work. At the end of the day, I get a good chuckle and make a little extra money on the cover-ups I eventually do on all of the kids that decide to copy these athletes.

-- William Allen (Chandler, Ariz.)

Former Boston College RB Josh Haden tattooed the BC logo onto his right pec -- before he decided to transfer.

--Tom White (Farmingdale, N.Y.)

The fastest player in USC football history (Sultan McCullough) has a woman's name tattooed on his chest in letters four inches high: MABLE. Never mind that his mother spells her name Mabel.

--Eli Karon (Los Angeles)

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

November, 11, 2009
11/11/09
4:54
PM PT

After reading your articles about the success of the Rockies and Broncos after you had criticized them, I respectfully request that you publish columns criticizing the 49ers, Sacramento Kings and San Francisco Giants. Thank You. -- Sam (Sacramento, Calif.)



As a father, for me the implications from Agassi's confession of having used Crystal Meth go way beyond whether he cheated, lied, or betrayed the ATP. To me, the tragedy is about a role model's admission of having used one of the most addictive/destructive drugs out there and being able to say he quit after a year and went back to leading a happy normal "tennis champion" life without even going to rehab? How does that sink into my pre-adolescent child's brain? "Oh, good Dad, I can try that stuff Agassi did it for a year and nothing happened! Look, he even won a bunch of Grand Slams afterward -- it can't be that bad --" Shame on you Andre, as someone who supposedly contributes to educating underprivileged children. -- Rodolfo Benitez (Houston)



Give me a break. In my eyes, (Agassi's) courage to bear the truth of his remarkable journey -- the high and lows -- only increases my appreciation of such a truly special human being who also happened to an incredible tennis player. -- Andrew Delia (New York City)



Please never stop writing. Be like Tupac and write a whole bunch before you die so your column keeps coming out and everyone thinks you're still writing it in a basement somewhere. -- Josh (Whitewater, Wis.)



Editor's note: What do you think you're reading now?

You said Matt and Marvin do not get paid. Neither did Reggie Bush. -- Mark Riden (Etowah, Tenn.)



If Matt Barkley is getting paid, why is he riding a bike everywhere?

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

October, 30, 2009
10/30/09
1:26
PM PT

Response to the column about the death of tailgating has been spilling out the office windows and onto the sidewalks. Turns out tailgaters of all sports are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.

I'll say it again. Get out of your lawn chairs and stop the madness! Fans need "Tailgating is Not a Crime" T-shirts. Fans need organized protests. Mostly, fans need to send protest letters to team presidents and university officials with limburger cheese inside. Believe me, they'll relent.

You overlooked arguably the biggest football school in the state of Michigan. While the crackdown on tailgating isn't happening in surrounding parking lots, the city of Ann Arbor has been attempting to silence and contain the pregame festivities at several houses that lead up to the stadium which have long been a part of the pregame tradition. Students are fighting back though, as protests have been organized recently. We will not go quietly!

-- Alex Moyer (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Citi Field, Mets. Five friends and I met for the weekend to attend a Yankee and a Met game. Pulled into parking lot at 5:30 p.m. going to have one beer and go into check out the stadium. We are all 40-plus and had my white Mini Van. Two sips. Undercover (cop) comes by and asks for IDs. (Said) we didn't have cups to pour cans into so we were cited for open container in parking lot. We offered to dump the beer but were told too late. Five $25 citations that took 45 minutes to write. Was told no open flames or cooking, open containers, scalping (right) or no having fun (made that one up). Welome to Citi Field -- empty, bad team, undercover pompus rent-a-jerks.

-- Doug Jones (Sauquoit, N.Y.)

Amen! I was recently at the Colorado-Kansas game, and we've been going to the same tailgating spot (in Boulder) on the top of the parking garage by the engineering building for 10 years. Sure enough, (there were) cops threatening to give tickets to anyone tailgating! They instructed us to a parking lot NEXT to the parking garage for tailgating. A parking lot that requires a parking permit, not paid parking. Friggin pinko commies.

-- Jeff Fawcett (Denver/Colorado)

(Harvard) banned U-Hauls and anything similar (including fun) from Yale-Harvard games around 7-9 yrs ago.

-- Randy (NYC)

I am a student at Western Michigan University. This weekend was our biggest football game of the year -- Central Michigan. At 3 p.m. sharp, police stormed the parking lot demanding everybody leave. We barely had time to pack up our car before police on horseback came and herded us out of the parking lot like livestock. I understand what they are trying to do with this 3-hour time limit, but they have to understand that they are failing. Anyone can see this is done to prevent excessive drinking. However, by setting the allowable time to begin tailgating at 3 hours before the game and then kicking us out promptly at kickoff, all they are doing is setting up a shot clock (pun intended). Suddenly students are drinking against the clock. Isn't binge drinking exactly what these universities should be trying to prevent?

-- Jay (Kalamazoo, Mich.)

Try tailgating at Coors Field for the World Series. Arrived two hours early in our season ticket parking lot, parked, got out, opened beers, lit cigars. Within five minutes, told to stop by roaming parking lot tailgating police. Thanks Mr. Coors for not allowing 30 minutes of celebration for years of suffering.

-- Marv Spyker (Frisco, Colo.)

Opening Day at Citizens Bank Stadium. Me and my friends go down early to tailgate but the lot we were in was not allowed to tailgate and was punishable by a fine of 50 bucks! If we got there early we were not allowed to sit outside the car and listen to music and eat and drink.

-- Andrew (Philadelphia, Pa.)

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
11:32
AM PT

Hey Rick, Looks like the Titans will be 0-7 since disrespecting the Terrible Towel. Never under estimate the power of the towel. --Mike (Pittsburgh)

That's nothing. The Denver Broncos are 5-0 since I disrespected them. They're 5-0 since I said Josh McDaniels made one of the worst trades in NFL history. They're 5-0 since I called McDaniels "Boy Blunder."

I still think the trade was lousy. Chicago -- with the Broncos' ex-QB, Jay Cutler -- is seventh in scoring. The Broncos are 22nd. But Kyle Orton has been far better than I thought he'd be. He's been smart, calm and judicious with the football (7 TDs, 1 INT).

What I didn't know is that McDaniels and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan had put together a nasty, miserly, veteran-led defense that is absolutely hell to run against and nearly as hard to pass against. Denver is not just No. 1 in the NFL in fewest points given up, they are No. 1 by nearly six points per game! Do you realize they're on pace to become just the fifth NFL team in history to give up less than 10 points per game?

I was wrong. The kid can coach. He's been nothing short of a 5-8 coaching Godzilla. The Broncos have won three of their five by coming from behind in the second half. That's just pure coaching.

As penance, I will wear those horrible striped socks the rest of the season.

OK, that was a joke.

Really.

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

October, 12, 2009
10/12/09
10:05
AM PT

My attempt at a New York Times-style review of Chad Ochocinco's new book "Ocho Cinco" unlocked a boatload of contempt for the Bengals' wide receiver. Letters ran about ochenta y cinco against the man.

Thank you for your review of Ochocinco's autobiography. You forgot to mention if they included a free set of crayons with it!

-- Nick (Sugar Land, Texas)

I found the part in the article about him wanting to make condoms rather funny for someone that has four kids by three different women.

-- Mario Reasby (Las Vegas)

I long for the day when "Strange But True Hockey Stories" was considered exciting.

-- Michael Thompson (Stamford, Conn.)

I would not have him on my team even if the only other choice was a 90 year-old man with a colostomy bag.

-- Dennis (N.C.)

Everything anybody ever needs to read about Chad Ochocinco is on the back of his jersey, which features only two readable items and yet manages to be redundant.

-- Robert Black (Providence)

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

September, 23, 2009
9/23/09
1:39
PM PT

My unbridled criticism of Michael Jordan's graceless Hall of Fame speech drew hundreds of emails, which ran about 60-40 in agreement. And zero percent of them were ambivalent.

How do you sleep at night after bashing one of the greatest sports figures of all time?

-- Andrew Blan (Sacramento)

Most uncomfortable speech I have ever watched.

-- Chris (King of Prussia, Pa.)

As the Bible says: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"

-- James (Papillion, Neb.)

Jordan's speech was merely a look into the inspiration of what drove him. He wanted to prove people wrong, and he did that. To perceive this as rude is asinine. He merely was showing what drove him to be the greatest to ever lace them up.

-- Pat (Boston)

Think of all of the games you watched of Michael Jordan that brought you joy. If his personality wasn't like it is, he would have been forgetable on the court. I still wanna be like Mike.

-- Joe Salvador (Fort Collins, Colo.)

I now view him as an extremely athletic jerk.

-- Tyler Ommen (Sioux City, Iowa)

Please stop villifying athletes. It gives people the impression that you were the guy who got picked last for pick up games.

-- Harman Hall (Marietta, Ga.)

I loved and hated the article you wrote on Jordan's HOF speech. It's very well written, and unfortunatley spot on. That's the part I hated, you being right. The speech was a slap in the face to the sport, the players and all the fans.

-- Dave (Salt Lake City)

Here's what you and a lot of other selfish people don't seem to understand, Rick. Michael Jordan's HOF induction speech is not for you. It's not for Dean Smith. It's not for the Chicago Bulls. It's not for the Hall of Fame. It's for him. He's spent his entire career being humble, biting his tongue, saying the right thing. That speech was for HIM and him alone.

-- Quentin (Cambridge, Mass.)

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The One E-mail That Wasn't Insulting

September, 2, 2009
9/02/09
11:23
AM PT

Turns out the Little League in Staten Island, N.Y., isn't the only one that's been plagued by over-reactive parents. To wit:

I've coached youth baseball for eight years. I actually had a mom threaten to sue me because our catcher bumped into her son when he crossed home. She said her son had injured his spine in a car wreck, and if he got hit just right, he could be paralyzed. The only thing I could say was "Why the heck is he out here?" Good thing it wasn't Ms. Gonzalez. -- Bart Trickey (Conway, Ark.)

In the spring of 2008, a parent from my local (Worcester, Mass.) Little League telephoned on the eve of opening day to declare that I should be expelled from coaching because I dared allow teams in my league to be called Yankees. The caller's two sons were placed on a team called Yankees and was I not sensitive to the scorn, ridicule and abuse his and other children were surely to endure. The parent stated that neither he nor his sons would ever have anything to do with our program and that I would be on report to Little League International headquarters. My reply? "I'm sorry you're denying your sons a chance to play a game they enjoy." How sad when the behavior of adults drops to infantile levels. -- Paul Richard (Worcester, Mass)

I have a better idea than strapping (Ms. Gonzalez) to the shuttle and sending her to space. I think you should set her up with Alfred G. Rava. I figure those two might end up suing the pants off each other and then they'd both be out of our hair. -- Blake Byrne (Seattle)

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The column on Tiger Woods abusing both his clubs and the ears of people near him at the British Open got more reaction than any column I've written at ESPN. Opinion was mixed, but never vague.

I got this firsthand working for NBC Sports. What an ass he was to me! He deliberately told the bluest stories, F-bombing by each step ... I finally told his security: "If at the sixth tee I hear another F-bomb or hooker story out of his potty mouth, I am going to scream during his tee shot at the next hole." I never heard another rotten peep out of him. Steve Williams earns every penny. I would be embarrassed to be his wife and kids. But I have had wonderful days working on golf, because the crews are some of the best in the businesses of sports broadcasting, and many of the players are warm and kind, even while they play at the highest level in golf.

-- Susan Chrysler, Xenia, Ohio

What if that is what makes him great? I play at a club and have witnessed good players having horrible days -- yet when they melt down and throw clubs around, I've seen their game come around, too. I know for me if I quietly seethe, I suck. Maybe that's how he cleanses his mind. I kind of like knowing that this super-human isn't.

-- Tom Beck (Campbell, Calif.)

As the recipient of the business end of a thrown putter (head-first into my ribs from 30 feet and still knocked me down), I can attest to the absolute idiocy of that kind of behavior. I am a huge fan of Tiger, but his bad temper has always been a disappointment to me. It has to do with having class, and that comes with proper perspective. He has it in all other public endeavors. I am sure he will figure this out and maybe it won't take a multi-million dollar damage suit for him to do it.

-- R. Ready (Napa, Calif.)

From the golf equipment world, I want to say thanks for saying what we see every week.

-- Jay Johnson (Greensboro, Ga.)

You will never change certain things about certain people. Tiger might be a tad spoiled. Sure, no one has ever, since Earl, had the "cojones" to tell him what's what. That being said, this is Tiger. His drive comes from his fire. He expects perfection, and when he doesn't achieve it, he has one of his mini-explosions. Is it OK? Probably not. But this is who he is. Like it or not, he wears his emotions front and center.

-- Stuart Davis (Palm Desert, Calif.)

Someone really needs to bring up the idea of a "Curse Jar" for Tiger. Every individual curse word (aloud or under his breath) while golfing costs Tiger $100. Banging a club on the ground costs $250, throwing a club costs $500, etc. At the end of every month he could write a check to some charity for that amount. I think he'd hit $50K a month and realize just how much he does swear. That might help him rein it in all on his own.

-- Mike (Fort Worth, Texas)

Give it a rest, Rick. One day we hear that "Tiger doesn't have enough personality," the next we chide him for showing emotions. True golfers appreciate a player who doesn't giggle and say "oops" after a foozled shot. It means you care -- it actually means you respect the game. If it didn't matter, if it didn't drive you crazy, it wouldn't be golf -- even for Tiger.

-- Adam (Philadelphia)

[My] only disagreement is calling him the world's "most beloved athlete." Not in this household of golfers. We would rather watch anyone but Tiger play and we would rather see anyone win but Tiger. His lack of respect for the GENTLEMEN who have preceded him as well as for the game's honor overshadows his abilities.

-- LFern (Shelby, N.C.)

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