Rick Reilly's mailbag: Jimmer fans react

April, 1, 2011
4/01/11
3:58
PM PT
The best hate mail in America comes from BYU fans. Even when they're spitting 20-penny nails, they're still incurably nice. Alabama fans will write hoping you die a slow, painful death, staked to an anthill while your mom watches, but the worst a BYU fan will say to you is that you're not going to heaven.

The general crux is that they feel I was attacking Jimmer Fredette's personality, or faith or drive in this column. I wasn't. I was only criticizing BYU fans' out-of-control crush on the kid. It's as though they expected him to come to New Orleans and walk across Lake Pontchartrain to get to the games. Take these guys I met at New Orleans Arena ...

Rick ReillyBYU fans display a "biblical" Jimmer Fredette poster.



That's Jimmer as Adam, about to be created by God himself. And yes, over the private parts, it says "The Code."

Do you see what we're up against here?

I think he deserved the AP Player Of The Year award he won Friday and said so all along. But now he goes to the NBA and he's going to get sliced and diced up there. I'm sorry if I'm the first to tell you.

Some people called the column "hate-filled." Who'd I hate on? I really liked The Jimmer. He's sincere and works his behind off. I even wrote how much I liked him:

"Great kid, though. Polite, smart (good chess player, whiz at Sudoku), studies his Bible in hotel rooms." I didn't make any of that up. He does study his Bible in his hotel room, according to Kansas' Marcus Morris, who was one of his roommates at a USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas. What's wrong with that?

True, I only watched him live once -- in New Orleans at the Sweet 16 -- but I watched him play on TV a bunch this season. When you see what little defensive effort he gives, when you see what little foot speed he's got, any objective writer has to say his chances to be an NBA star are tiny.

The funny thing is, I hope he does become an NBA star. He's humble, friendly and smart. It's just not going to happen. In fact, if Jimmer Fredette ever makes an NBA All-Star team, I'll donate $10,000 to his favorite charity, even if it's The Society to Stick Sharp Things in the Eyes of Aging Sports Writers. Tell you what, I'll donate $5,000 if he starts a game, any game, his first year in the league. I'm serious.

I get that thousands were offended. Some of you did the Christian thing and turned the other cheek. Many of you, however, gave me both cheeks. Here are some examples:

Do you realize how incredibly offensive your article about BYU and Jimmer Fredette's loss to Florida is to not just BYU fans (LDS Church members) but to college basketball fans in general?

I certainly respect that you have a right to form and express your opinion regarding Fredette's personal talents. However, Jimmer Fredette has captivated the nation with his talent and had one of the most memorable personal college basketball years in recent memory.

For you to trash him as a player and ridicule him for his religious convictions was incredibly ignorant and uncalled for. Your willingness to write such a biased, insensitive and offensive article is not an endearing quality to possess.

I know that you are more talented than what your article displayed. But the big question is......are you a better person than that? I certainly hope so!

I believe an apology from you is owed. Not just to BYU fans but to all college sports fans who try to live their life by a particular moral code that isn't always that easy. Are you man enough to make that apology? Or will you hide behind your computer screen and just move on to your next article? Do the right thing!
-- Wally Wood


When was I mocking his religion? I said that Mormons were horrified at what they saw on Bourbon Street and couldn't wait to get off of it. Frankly, I can't blame them. Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, has ruined that street. Every third door seems to be a strip club. And each of them has some hard-luck stripper out front in lingerie or a bikini that you're praying doesn't come off. My only point: BYU on Bourbon Street was a match made in Hell.

Don't you think your story on Jimmer was a little harsh? He had a bad game on a big stage. If we discounted every athlete that had a similar experience there would be nothing in sports to believe in. I understand criticism, but to take away someone's future in a simple post on ESPN seems to me to be a little over the top. If we all followed your path, I would have quit on you a long time ago. Let's hope that Jimmer is like you and can get up after a bad moment in what you do best.
--Andy Lyda


Who's taking Jimmer's future away? How do I have the power to do that? Jimmer can make his future anything he wants it to be, but if he wants his future to be an NBA starter, he's going to have to learn to play defense.

Your story on Jimmer Fredette was way out of bounds. In fact all your stories concerning BYU have been pretty trashy. Although I have enjoyed your other writings I can't help but feel that you are "out to get" the Cougars.

Is it because they live up to a standard that you yourself never could, so you try to drag them down to your level, or are you just jealous of their clean cut image and reputation. That they walk the walk and talk the talk.

Jimmer will have a great life because he's a great kid. He treats his fellow man with respect and would never say a bad thing about anyone. Unlike you Mr. big time sports writer, Jimmer has always seen the good in people and would not ever treat you the way you have treated him.
--Phil

He's right, of course. If I had been banned from having premarital sex in college, I'd have barely lasted three years. OK, three and a half.

It is easy to write and belittle. To wit: "pizza delivery guys." Even more so: "than a blind man has in rainbows..." What, no jokes involving lesbians or African-Americans or amputees? Perhaps your yearning to entertain entitles you to denigrate. Sorry, but it is not humorous to this former fan. Thanks for considering.
--Roy Parker


See? "Thanks for considering." People writing from Philadelphia end with, "And I hope your sister dies under a yak." Still, I don't understand how writing that "until he shows more interest in defense than a blind man in rainbows" is insulting to anybody. If a blind person says I show no interest in Braille, am I insulted?


Your Jimmer article came across like Barry Bond's mistress' recent testimony - full of jealousy and insignificant facts. This kid played with a bunch of pizza delivery drivers and still was able to win the national player of the year award and make the sweet 16. While he is certainly no Pete Maravich and he may not become an NBA All Star, he was the very best player in college basketball and captivated the nation.

We have all had our days when we need to tear others down to make ourselves feel better but with Barry Bonds, Dez Bryant, the NFL labor negotiations and so many others throwing you softballs, why go out and take a swing at Jimmer?
--Steve Harmsen, Bridgeport, Neb.

OK, not from Utah, but still nice, right?


Mark my words. Because Jimmer has a work ethic nearly unmatched, a determination, and unique skills, he will be a superstar in the NBA.

One day, you will look back at your column and realize that you got Jimmered! :)
--Mike Bohn


Thanks for the smile emoticon! If Jimmer had played at Georgia, you'd have ended your email with "Never walk alone."

I was tremendously disappointed after reading your column on Jimmer Fredette. You seemed to analyze his talent based solely off of arguably his worst game of the season. When you weren't mocking Mormons, you were dissecting and refuting a few comments that some March Madness/Jimmer-crazed fans made before or during the game. Most impressive. --Perry Carson


I don't understand why, when giving a pretty much perfect critique of Jimmer's game, you had to basically insult me and 11 million other people's religion doing so. Why is it bad to teach not to have pre-marital sex? Why is it wrong to teach not to use drugs and alcohol, which kill thousands upon thousands of people every year? True, you never said in the column that it was wrong, but the way you throw around my beliefs without even understanding them really disappoints me.
--Ty Wendell


Honestly, I can't find anywhere in that column where I even insinuated it was wrong to teach kids to not use drugs and alcohol. I admit I screwed up one part in explaining The Code. I said it banned caffeine. It does not. It bans coffee and tea. I apologize.

You are a Jimmer hater. I agree he had a terrible game in the Sweet 16. BYU needed him so badly offensively that he was gassed on the defensive end of the floor. His MPG were through the roof, leading to his gas tank being on empty. I see Jimmer in the mold of Nash. He can shoot, distribute, and get to the rim. During the entire tourney no one got to the rim as much as Jimmer. Just because he can't jump out of the building doesn't mean he can't be a good pro.
--Nate Knight

Nash has won two NBA MVPs. If Jimmer wins one NBA MVP, I'll hand wax the Marriott Center.

Smart people know that Jimmer's a better version of JJ Redick but not the homers that you talked to that thought he is or will be better than Pistol or Ainge. Tearing down what he did and what he has done wasn't the way to do it in my opinion but... that's why you are writing and I'm doing tech support I suppose.
--Matt Didonato

It's true that Jimmer did struggle a little bit in the NCAA tourney and maybe tried to force some shots. But look at the Florida game, the whole 2nd half the rest of the team for BYU went cold, they were missing wide open shots. So like any wise shooter in basketball he tried to get something going for his team since nobody else could. Plus look at the stats in the season. Jimmer did shoot a lot but if you look at the top 10 regular season scoring leaders Jimmer is ranked 3rd best in FG% [Editor's note: Fredette is ranked fifth.] Out of the top 20 leading scorers Jimmer is ranked 5th [Ed. note: He's sixth ] on 3-point percentage also at 40.5%. Individually he carried his team to the Sweet 16. Tell me who is a better MVP candidate than Jimmer Fredette?
--Jordan Jensen

No argument that he was a great college player. What I'm saying is that he's not going to be a good NBA player. And he sure as bejeezus isn't going to be Pete Maravich, who was one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of All Time.

And now for some others who aren't going to heaven, either:

Great column, Rick. You should take it one step further, though. With all due respect to Jimmer, he wasn't as good as ADAM MORRISON! I may be a homer Zag, but it's a fact. Adam dismantled everybody just as easily, but he shot a better overall percentage, rebounded more, and was at least as good a passer. He even played defense better, and that's saying something. All that being said, I hope he succeeds, because the NBA needs some more flavor, and God knows his game has some of that.
--Brett Allbery

Morrison, like Fredette, was a one-trick pony: He could score. Morrison, like Fredette, played in a weak conference. Morrison, like Fredette, was a worthy candidate for all the player of the year awards. And how did Morrison do in the NBA? Seven and a half points per game and out of the league in five seasons. If you don't think NBA teams see that comparison, you must live in Provo.

You were right on. I was there at the game on Thursday and the observation I made was that there are probably 50+ players in the NCAA ranks who could have had Fredette's stats if given the same green light. He totally alienated his teammates who started the game off with a hot hand while he struggled. And the rest of the game was spent on him trying to warm up while his teammates stood around picking up behind him. I was waiting for one of Fredette's teammates to steal the ball from him and take a shot from three so he can see how it feels.
--Stefen King

Being a Badger fan we saw this with Jordan Taylor and especially Jon Leuer against Butler. Leuer picked the worst time to have a garbage game. I feel bad for the guy but unfortunately it defined his senior season and hurts his draft stock.
--Jordan Hagedorn

Dear Mr. Reilly,

THANK GOD THERE IS A VOICE OF REASON IN THIS COUNTRY!!! Too many fans look at one stat in basketball and that stat would be points. Why? Because it's a "sexy" stat. Jimmer can shoot, don't get me wrong. But look at the number of shots he was throwing up! Mizzou's own Kim English could score 25 a game if he threw up 35 shots a game! Low volume scorers take away possessions from your team and jeopardize a teams chance of winning (See Carmelo Anthony, Denver or New York). End of story. But still, with his lack of size, the speed of the NBA game and the players, and the fact that he won't be playing against U of New Mexico's defenders, I agree he will never be a factor. I am glad you wrote this article, and as a journalism student, I admire you for speaking your mind and pointing out the big elephant in the room.
--Nick Logan

On my column detailing Phil Mickelson's year and a half of trouble and his hopes for better times:

Rick, You are a historically great sports writer, and a historically poor theologian. First, the Iowa girl-wrestler story, and now God hates Phil Mickelson? Why, because he probably loves and cares for his mother, wife, and son more now [than] he did when things were going smoothly. Or because he probably appreciates all the success in his career more now than he did five years ago after his physical ailments? Whether it's another Masters win this year, or the day he celebrates 25 years of marriage with his wife, it will be MORE sweet now after trials. God sure does have a funny way of showing hate.
--Bryce from Dallas

You figure Job felt like that? "Gee, all this fire, death, and boils all over my body. God must really love me!!!"

On the sports bar in heaven:

No Ted Williams in Heaven's sports bar? Oh, right, maybe the head on the bar would be a problem.
--Al Sawan

OK, that's funny. (Please, Boston fans, don't send me severed heads.)

Mike: Schmidt over Krzyzewski? Just look at the numbers...it's not even close.
--Ryan C.

Disagree. The man hit 548 homers before steroids. He was the slickest third baseman in the National League for the better part of two decades (10 Gold Gloves). He won three NL MVPs and one World Series MVP. It just doesn't compare to what somebody did wearing a coat and tie.


Wayne Gretzky??? The greatest athlete ever and you wrote a book about him!!! How the hell did you leave him off your list?!?
--Pat H.

If you read the column, you'll see that I was going over the names that were controversial. No controversy over "Wayne."


Good article about the bar in heaven, but no "Larry" Bird?
--Dave Simon

See above.

Greatest Greg: Maddux? Four consecutive Cy Young Awards, only pitcher in history to win at least 15 games in 17 straight seasons, and 18 Gold Gloves. Come on Rick: Louganis? Really?
--Zeke Traylor

Disagree. Louganis is the greatest in the history of his sport. Can you say that of Maddux? Louganis won four Olympic gold medals and, if not for the Moscow boycott, would've easily won six. Six gold trumps four Cys.

I was absolutely outraged when Jackie Robinson wasn't even mentioned with the Jack's. At least should of brought him up at some point. And as a Blazer fan Andre Miller should at least be mentioned with the great Andre's.
--Jeff from Portland

Andre Miller? Really? Miller doesn't even beat out Ethier.

Where are the women? You had a couple, but those were women with men's names. It would have been more inclusive to consider women's names. Jackie: Robinson or Joyner-Kersee. Gail Devers or Gale Sayers? Martina Navratilova over Hingis (no contest there). I could go on. But it wouldn't be heaven without women.
--Jay

There were six in there! Plus, there would be plenty with no controversy: Mia, Venus, Serena, Bonnie, Wilma, et al.


Great list, but I have one issue. I understand why you chose Jordan (the same reason everyone chooses Jordan), but you're reasoning in an earlier selection would suggest you should have gone with Michael Phelps.You said that Carl belonged to Lewis because of nine gold medals. Well, Phelps has 14 gold (out of 16 total) compared to Jordan's 6 championships and 2 gold medals. Shouldn't he [be] the Michael by default?
--Zach

There's no Carl Jordan to compete with in this category.

A hypothetical: You're in Boston on a spring afternoon, and you're looking for a place to catch the Sox game. You walk into a bar, empty except for two patrons, one on each end. You have to sit next to one or the other for the duration of the game. One patron is Tom Brady, the other Tommy Heinsohn. You can't possibly tell me that you're picking Brady. You want to create a First Name Hall of Fame? Yes, Brady every time. You want to enjoy 3-4 hours BS'ing on a bar stool? NO WAY you don't take Heinsohn.
--Mark SanGiacomo

Lemme guess. You're over 60, right?

On siding with the NFL players over the owners in the lockout:

I have got to disagree with you. Players today are given a huge amount of money to play a game. They know the risk, they elect to take that risk to get paid a huge sum of money. Players want money for themselves now. If they said they don't want to give the billion to the owners, but how about we take that money and give it to health/medical care for the retired players it would make me a little more understanding. Labor cost at 60% would destroy any other business. You have such great loathing for the owner, yet you're fine with players owning 50 foot boats, 7 cars, and throwing down 100K a strip club.
--Kent Page

A hundred thousand dollars in one night in a strip club? Name one player who's done that. Are you thinking of NFL players or sultan's sons?

I guess by your standards a checkout girl at WalMart should be making about $100,000 a year, look at the money the Waltons have. People at Microsoft make less than Bill Gates -- he should be ashamed.
--Joe from Milford

Can the checkout girl at WalMart return a punt through 11 angry men 80 yards in 11 seconds?

I am an owner of the Green Bay Packers along with over 100,000 others. I highly doubt any of us are billionaires - maybe a few millionaires. I am not in either category. All 100,000+ of us feel insulted by being lumped into the same group as Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones. We don't make a dime from us - we are just privileged to own a piece of history.
--Laura Wendorf


Rick, I think you miss the point. It is not about feeling sorry for the owners. Frankly, both owners and players have it pretty good. Players choose a profession that puts them in harm's way. How many construction workers would like to have 3 years salary at NFL average?
--Chip Woods

Can construction workers get 80,000 people to sit in a stadium and watch them work a nail gun?

Thank you for putting into words what I've been saying for weeks. As a Bengals fan, I say "A year without pro football? Try 20 years without pro football! Bring on the lockout."
--Jeremy from Cincinnati

On sports needing somebody as hella quotable as Charlie Sheen:

You forgot the golden quote: " My fingers radiate sunshine and I water them with the tears of a jaguar."
--Tony

On Caltech finally winning a conference game after 26 years:

I've always marveled at what the Caltech kids actually accomplished on the court. I remember games where the reserve players sat on the bench with "SLIDE RULES" working homework problems in our gym. I always felt bad for them when we'd crush them, but knew that down the line, they'd come out alright (working at JPL, etc.).
--Jim Kerman

On hating the trend of NBA players colluding to play with their friends on superteams:

I see your point with the concentration of power in the NBA in the Big/Fun cities- But OKC (not exactly a destination) seems to be quietly building a team that blows your theory out the water. It's very Green Bay-esque.
--Jemima Cameron

Sorry about Denver losing Melo, but this has been going on in the NBA for quite some time (Kareem forcing a trade out of Milwaukee, Wilt forcing a trade from Phili to LA, Shaq leaving Orlando as a free agent).
--Mike

I still hate the trend that's happening, but, as a life-long Nuggets fan, I love the trade now. Since the trade, Denver is 12-4 and the Knicks are 9-12 (through Wednesday night's games.) But I still miss Chauncey.

And one nice one:

I just wanna say thank you for all the times when i was deployed in the military and now as a civilian, traveling all over the world cleaning up Unexploded Ordnance. I would always, always grab an old SI or ESPN and read the column. Part Fun, Serious, and Sad. I always felt a little better, be it a minute or longer. Thanks Again.
--Anthony Kraintz

Thanks for your service and for the nice words. Please go to Provo and tell somebody.

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