Rick Reilly Go Fish: LeBron James

Mailbag: Nothing but nice

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
11:52
AM PT
Lately, readers have accused me of publishing only negative emails and tweets (@ReillyRick) in order to stir up controversy and get attention. I'm also getting ripped for being falsely modest.

Therefore, this mailbag will feature only people who think I'm wonderful and talented and smell of lavender.

We begin:

U.S. OPEN

Do us all a favor: If Tiger starts birdie-birdie at the British Open, save the "Tiger is back" montage clip until he actually makes it through the weekend with a number less than 75. Keep up the good work.

Kevin (Columbus, Ohio)

Very kind of you. I will.

How are your ankles? Did you break either one of them jumping off the Tiger Woods bandwagon? "There's no way Tiger can lose this tournament." Nice call.

Stacy Applegate (N.C.)

Appreciate you noticing. Thanks.

Do you feel the slightest bit stupid after your piece on Tiger Saturday? HE IS NOT BACK. HE IS NOT WINNING OPEN. HE IS FALLING APART. This is not the first. You are wrong a lot.

FH Race, (Westerly, R.I.)

Thanks for noticing how often I'm right. I appreciate it.

STOP HATING LeBRON

In your article on LeBron, you pick all the facts from one side of the argument and completely ignore the facts from the other.

Brad Klabik (Cleveland, Ohio)

I was hoping you'd notice that. It's taken 35 years to learn that skill. Articles that present both sides of an argument are called news stories. Articles that present only the writer's side are called opinion columns. This is what you read.

I really hope you didn't get paid more than $20 for that last article.

Pat (address withheld)

My tax strategies to avoid climbing into higher tax brackets are between me and my accountant. Thanks for worrying about me, though!

I would have loved to hear an audio narration of the "LeBron being LeBron" article as only you can do. Maybe ESPN should start audio narration of some articles? Now that would be cool!

Ray Williams (Alabaster, Ala.)

Each Tuesday and Friday night, I read my columns aloud at my home to any fan who wants to hear them. This is a free service. By sheer coincidence, these two nights happen to be my wife's Girls Night Out evenings. Come over!

LeBRON VS. DURANT

Really? You like James and the Heat over Durant and the Thunder? This I PROMISE you....the Big 3 from OKC will outplay the 3 from Miami.

Jonathan Anderson (Austin, Texas)

Thank you. You made my Tiger prediction look very smart by comparison. I'm impressed, and I like your shoes.

MICHAEL PHELPS

In over 15 years of reading your articles, I think this is the first one that I just completely disagree with! Feel sorry for Phelps? Feel sorry for the millionaire who spent his life playing a sport? Come on Rick, you're better than this!

Paul (Baltimore, Md.)

Thanks for agreeing with every single column I've written for almost 15 years! That's a huge achievement by me!

He's only 26 and he wants to spend the rest of his life playing golf and traveling? How about using his celebrity to help legalize medicinal marijuana? Nobody ever put a gun to his head and said "swim."

Michael (San Francisco, Calif.)

I agree. More celebrities like Phelps need to use their status in life to promote controlled substances. And not to disagree with you, but Phelps has been in many races that began with starters' pistols, so, in a way, they DID put a gun to his head and say "swim." Thanks for being a fan!

JERRY SANDUSKY

Well done sir. A new low for biased, poorly written and opined reporting, known as ESPN.

Brendan Westfall (Richmond, Va.)

You're welcome.

You are a superlative writer. In such a concise manner, you captured the essence of this awkward and tormented situation of Monster vs. children. I shall be a fan of yours for life. No one could have done it better.

--Meg Kimmel (Donalds, S.C.)

Agree.

I'm as disgusted with Sandusky as anyone (but) I'm disappointed with your conclusion. Essentially you hope Sandusky is raped in prison. Really? Don't be so flip. Think about what you're writing. Good column, horrific conclusion.

Wes Lukowsky (Geneva, Ill.)

Glad you enjoyed the column!

BRIAN BANKS

Why in the hell did (the girl) accuse Brian Banks of raping her? It sounded to me they were friends, going on a date. Did she ever say why she came to her actions?

Taco Jans (Netherlands)

a) You don't meet a lot of guys name Taco in Holland.

b) Banks says the woman merely told him, "I was immature back then." Sure, sure. But believing the man you sent away to prison will want to be your Facebook "friend?" Nine years later? Now that's mature.

I just finished your article on Brian Banks. If you're half as good at being a human as you are at capturing human stories, you're one of the best of us.

Clinton Carlson (Denton, Texas)

I am.

NEW GOLF GLOSSARY

Great article Rick! ... I don't know why my golf scores are so bad. I have five or six good shots every hole.

Steve (Pontiac, Mich.)

Reading your golf term column I figured you might like these:

A Diego Maradona -- a very nasty 5-footer

A Salman Rushdie -- an impossible read

A Cuban -- needs one more revolution

A Kate Moss -- a bit thin

A Princess Grace -- should have taken a driver

A Princess Di -- shouldn't have taken a driver

A circus tent -- a BIG top

Bryan Reid (Vancouver, B.C.)

GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT MY MAGNIFICENCE

I miss you in the back of SI, dude. I grew up with that column every week. I'm sure you're told this all the time. Any chance you ever make a guest appearance?

Dave Fite (Glastonbury, Conn.)

I occasionally still write under an assumed name at Sports Illustrated: Gary Smith.

I was wondering, do you display your 11 National Sportswriter of the Year awards in the same kind of case Phil Jackson stores his 11 championship trophies? Show us a picture, Zen Master Jr.

Jim Beaver (Freehold, N.J.)

When you win the NSOTY award the first time, you get a gold ring with your name on it, engraved with the year you won. You also get a plaque with your name and year on it. Each time after the first, you only get the plaque. So I decided to box up the plaques and just keep engraving the years on the ring. No idea where they are now. I hope people are not upset at me for this. But this is not as bad as Red Smith, the late, great sportswriter, who used to burn plaques he won for firewood.

And no, I'm not going to post a picture of the ring. That would be bragging.
JIMMER FREDETTE

I wrote ... BYU's super scorer Jimmer Fredette will be a bust in the NBA because he's too small, too slow and too bored by defense. In fact, I promised to donate $5,000 to Jimmer's favorite charity if he started even one game in his first year, which will be with the Sacramento Kings.

You wrote ...

Jimmer to the Kings following a trade of Beno Udrih. I'll let you off easy and you can just donate $2,500 to me instead of the whole $5k to charity.
~ Mike Barlow (San Antonio)

I will. Soon as you start a game in the NBA.

So Rick, have you started setting aside some money from each paycheck to go towards the charity of Jimmer's choice after he officially starts his first game now?
~ Greg Jones (Houston)

Yes, I've been selling all the razor blades BYU fans have been sending me in envelopes. It adds up.

What is Jimmer's favorite charity? I'm dying to know where your $5,000 is going.
~ Jerry Izu (Valencia, Calif.)

Jimmer represents The Biceps Project. It's a program to help incurable gunners ice their shooting arms.

RORY MCILROY

I wrote that golf has been starving for a new superstar and that superstar arrived at the U.S. Open with a mind-melting performance from Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.

You wrote ...

Take it a step farther and look at the backgrounds of the European golfers and the U.S. born players. Rory, Westwood, McDowell and a number of others all come from working class families who had to make big sacrifices for them to pursue golf. Parents had to work two jobs. The majority of our guys are country clubbers with a sense of entitlement instilled in them from the time they start junior golf. Give me the kid who had to make a 10-foot put to pay his rent at some point in his career over a kid that misses and gets in his BMW ...
~ Steven Caruso (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Why we love Rory: First, he handled the Masters loss like a gentleman. Second, this guy can flat play. Third and most important, on Father's Day he reminded all of us what our fathers taught us, to be gentlemen, to be genuine and be men that people respect. He made us all feel good and isn't that what sports are supposed to do?
~ Allen Jordan (Cold Spring, N.Y.)

After McIlroy wins ONE tournament, albeit a major with a dominant wire-to-wire performance, golf is saved? Puh-leeeze! The kid's photogenic enough (he reminds me of Danny in "Caddyshack"), he's proven he's not afraid of microphones and he's obviously got talent, but one European Tour win in 72 starts since 2007 and one PGA win doesn't have me calling the Vatican and telling them to get the white-smoke machine ready. {Editor's note: McIlroy has won three tournaments as pro.} ~Bruce Baskin (Chehalis, Wash.)

Please move to Ireland because I'm tired of hearing your bull!! Rory's got 1 major. When he gets to 14, call me and then you will have an argument.
~ Jeffery Jones (Jemison, Ala.)

What's 14 got to do with it? How about just one more sometime soon? That would be an improvement over what we've got in this Tiger vacuum -- 11 different winners in the last 11 majors. The game is dying for somebody -- anybody! -- to lead the peloton and McIlroy has the wheels for it.

TIGER WOODS

I wrote Tiger will still catch Nicklaus' 18 majors, even if it's a very empty boat I'm sitting in.

You wrote ...

I know you're still in love with Tiger but if you think he's going to catch Jack's record you're crazier than Charlie Sheen. Yes, I know Tiger's still ahead of Jack's pace but Jack was a healthy 35. Not a 4 knee surgeries, swing is such a wreck I have no clue where it's going off the tee and I can't make a putt into a 50 gallon drum 35 like Tiger is right now. As Lee Trevino said in an interview the other day, if Tiger doesn't figure out how to swing without putting so much pressure on his left knee, the final chapter of his story has already been written.
~ Jimmy Stucky (Auburn, Ala.)

51 bucks sez Tiger doesn't pass Jack. Why 51? The fitty I'll spend. The Washington you'll sign in silver Sharpie that says, "I lost to Jake." I'll frame it and no, you can't substitute it for a check. One of the reasons why Tiger won't pass Jack, nobody on tour likes Tiger and they'll do anything to stop him. It literally will be, for rest of his career, "Tiger against the field."
~ Jake (Dallas)

If nobody on tour likes Tiger, why didn't they do "anything to stop him" 14 majors ago? If you find me and we can shake on it, you and your $51 are on.

I take exception to your comments on the McIlory win at the U.S. Open when you allude to the better suitability for him to be the face of golf as opposed to Tiger Woods. This win at the Open was amazing and a joy for any golf fan; I just don't understand who made you judge and jury over Tiger Woods. You may not like his personal behavior but how dare you try to belittle and demean his accomplishments. I don't like how he conducted his personal life but I appreciate and acknowledge all he has accomplished out on the course. You should too.
~Michelle Moffitt-Simon (Bedford, Texas)

Wait. What? Who says I don't like him? I'm just saying the new Boss of Golf is McIlroy for now. That's clear. He'll be the favorite in every major until Tiger can prove that his knee is healthy and his swing is healthy and his mind is healthy enough to win majors again. But I've never stopped saying Tiger still will win majors and will still pass Jack, unlike 95 percent of my colleagues. I get what a boon Tiger has been to players, fans and journalists. He put golf in the A segment of SportsCenter again. But now his career is at the bottom of the bird cage and he's got to rebuild it. Until he does, McIlroy is the new Man.

USGA

I wrote the USGA's cutesy "comfort" pairings in the two opening rounds now of the U.S. Open is an advantage for those lucky enough to get them.

You wrote ...

Far worse than the, as you call them, "cutesy" Spanish, Italian and Swedish pairings was the racist "Asian" pairing the USGA put together of Ishikawa, Yang and Kim. While it's debatable whether they should have done it or not, I understand why the USGA chose the players they put together in the Spanish, Italian and Swedish groups --because they actually were Spanish, Italian and Swedish. But, wow, Ishikawa, Yang and Kim? What, exactly, do they have in common? Hmmm ... you think the USGA gave Kim his choice of a Honda, Toyota or Hyundai as a courtesy car?
~Doug (Apex, N.C.)

It reminds me of a joke.
Two Americans sitting at the bar, talking. One is Jewish and the other is of Chinese descent. They are getting a little deep into their cocktails when the Jewish guy turns and slugs the Chinese guy in the jaw.
"What was that for?!?" asks the Chinese guy.
"That was for Pearl Harbor!" the Jewish guy says.
"Pearl Harbor?" asks the Chinese guy. "That was the Japanese, not the Chinese!"
"Japanese, Chinese," says the Jewish guy. "What's the difference?"
They sit there a little longer, the Chinese guy rubbing his jaw. Suddenly, he turns and punches the Jewish guy.
"What was that for?!?" asks the Jewish guy.
"That was for the Titanic!" the Chinese guy says.
"Titanic?" says the Jewish guy. "That was an iceberg!"
"Iceberg, Steinberg," he says. "What's the difference?"


LEBRON JAMES

I wrote, after Game 3 of the NBA Finals, that criticism of LeBron James for "shrinking" in the fourth quarter was moronic. James dominated the game in other ways -- passing, defense, screens -- and besides, he'd already come up massive in fourth quarters against Boston and Chicago.

You wrote ...

Are you still standing by the article you wrote last week that claims LeBron James is coming up as big as ever on both ends of the court? Just wondering.
~ Tommy (Breezy Point, N.Y.)

No, I am not. I was wrong. I'm an idiot. I am currently trying to get the byline changed on that column. When Gregg Doyel of CBSsports.com asked James the question -- "Why are you shrinking in fourth quarters?" -- after Game 3, I thought he was huffing paint. Now I realize Doyel was seeing something before the rest of us. Gregg Doyel, I apologize. I will never doubt you again -- until the next time.

How about another nickname for James, since he seems to disappear in the 4th quarter ...Lebronymous.
~ Marthe Walsh (Wiloughby Hills, Ohio)

Ooooh, that's really good. Or ... The Frozen One?

I'm tired of hearing (James) is a "facilitator" ... 6'8 and 255 is not a facilitator... if he wants to "play big," drive the lane like a linebacker, and get a post game ... leave the facilitating to guys who aren't the most naturally gifted athlete on the planet.
~ Mike (Detroit)

James is the best passing forward in NBA history, {if you go by apg} but that's like being the most beautiful Broadway chorus girl. What the Heat needed was the lead, the star of the show, the huge voice that rattles the theater chandeliers and they didn't get it. I expect a more selfish James on the court next year and a more humbled one off it. But I've been wrong before. (See above.)

And, just to prove I haven't cornered the market on Jell-O-brained statements, there was this:

I get that Dirk Nowitzki is an all-time legend. I understand that he deserves a ring. I get that Jason Terry and Jason Kidd both deserve them. Here's the reason it's a competition, the winner gets the ring. I don't want to watch this series to make sure Dirk or Jet or Kidd get their rings. I want to watch it to see who's the better team. If NBA rings were about who deserved them, almost every professional basketball player should have one. This isn't kindergarten, it's dog-eat-dog, may the best man win. And the better team will be the Heat.
~ Laki Politis (Wellington, Fla.)

No, there is one person who didn't deserve a ring in that series and that was James. For him to win a ring immediately upon switching teams for the sole purpose of winning one -- and in such a ham-brained way -- would be like Bill Gates' kid hitting Publisher's Clearinghouse. He can wait.

I don't understand how -- since the NBA draft that produced LeBron, Carmelo and D-Wade -- Carmelo has been rated the least of the three. He has averaged roughly the same amount of points, rebounds and assists and field goal percentage as James. He played like a man possessed for the Knicks during the playoffs and without Stoudemire and Billups and NEVER worked harder to get the ball in his hands and when he had it he was the best player in the arena. The Knicks will someday be grateful that LeBron took his talents to South Beach and allowed Carmelo to energize the greatest arena in all of sports. When it's said and done Anthony will be more heralded than Mr. James.
~Brian Harrington (Syracuse, N.Y.)

I'll tell you how he's rated third, because he is. Wade has been to two Finals. James has been to two Finals -- one with a lot of nobodies. Anthony has been to zero. Not enough? Look at their career numbers so far:
James 27.7 pts, 7.1 rbs, 7.0 assists
Wade 25.4 pts, 5.1 rbs, 6.3 assists
Anthony 24.8 pts, 6.3 rbs, 3.1 assists


But I'll give you this. He's been WAY better than Darko Milicic.

J.J. BAREA

I wrote that J.J. Barea of the Mavs is my personal hero in that he tore the heart out of the Heat and Lakers defenses at only 5-foot-9, plus he's funny and polite. Oh, and he's dating Miss Universe.

Mario Chalmers is MY new hero. He's kicking Barea's ass. And I HATE Miami.
~ Gowdy (Chicago)

Really? Once Barea became a starter in Game 4, the Mavs never lost again. He got into the paint more than Sherwin-Williams. Even his misses made for easy follows. He drove Erik Spoelstra batty. In the final two killer games, he averaged 16 points and five assists.The only thing that kicked Barea's ass was the trophy, which was almost too big for him to carry.

Nice article on J.J. Barea. FYI, Puerto Ricans don't eat "taquitos." Barea and Miss Universe would be insulted. We are sensitive about these things. Try pasteles or mofongo next time if you're looking for a good PR food reference. The stuff will kill you faster than a Johnsonville brat but pretty tasty nevertheless.
~ Israel Hernandez (San Francisco)

Then please explain why there's a restaurant in Puerto Rico called "El Taquito." ( Also: "Mofongo" would be a terrific intramural team name.)

MOUTHPIECES AND T-SHIRTS

I wrote that there's two new trends that make the NBA less digestible. One is everybody in the arena wearing the same ugly T-shirt. Two is players constantly letting their mouthguards hang out, even as they play.

You wrote ...

Have you ever played a sport that required a mouthpiece? You chew on them because they are in your mouth but not comfortable to just have chilling all the time. You chew on them just to do something besides breathe through it. What the hell is LeBron supposed to do with it when he takes it out that would be less gross? Should they pay someone to carry around a mouthpiece holder for him or something?
~ Fred (Edison, N.J.)

Let me think. What would be less gross than LeBron James taking his slobbery mouthpiece and sticking it in his headband during timeouts? ... Anything! There are some things you shouldn't have to see. Tiger hocking a loogie on a green. Dugout Toilet Cam. Dripping mouthguards not in mouths.

Interesting that on your list of "towns" that have gone the homogeneous tee shirt playoff look, conspicuous by their absence were four "cities" ... New York, Philly, Chicago and Boston. All with real fans and great hoops pedigree.
~ Edward Seeling (Philadelphia)

RONCALLI GIRLS SOFTBALL

A little over a year ago, you wrote a magnificent piece on the Roncalli (Indianapolis) High School softball team that volunteered time and money to (teach softball to) an inner city school (opponent). I wanted to let you know that they just won the state title this year. They had to overcome the death of a teammate. About a month ago Katie Lynch lost her battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma and passed away, devastating the entire school. Through all of this, the girls and the coaching staff pulled together to accomplish what Katie had always said was her ultimate goal, winning a state title.
~ Clayton Steele

NFL LOCKOUT

I wrote that the owners forcing this lockout when they are making obscene amounts of money is unconscionable. And if I didn't, I should have.

You wrote ...

What can we do as fans to punish the NFL owners? They have more money than God, and we all know they are dragging this out to finally hit the players in the pocket book and force them to cave. I blame the owners and want to support the players by hitting the owners where it matters most. I already tried throwing pennies at Richardson's office and was threatened with jail. The owners disgust me and I want to show them. Please help! Thanks!
~ Rich Maletto (Charlotte, N.C.)

I checked in with this guy to see if he really did throw pennies at Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson's office. He said he tried but was stopped by security and wound up throwing them half-heartedly at the guard, but he vows to try again.
People! In no way do I condone throwing pennies at NFL owners' offices to protest their money-grubbing ways in this NFL lockout.
.

I prefer nickels
I wrote ... If there's one thing new journalism graduates can to do help themselves it's to stop writing for free. It only cuts the bottom out of the market and cheapens the craft.

Slate agreed with me and wrote...

The journalism world got all flappy about this, according to Romenesko. "Useless," NBC Sports baseball blogger Craig Calcaterra wrote. "Really, really bad advice," wrote Jason Fry, a former Wall Street Journal staffer turned freelancer and consultant.

And now, a word from ... Samuel Johnson:

No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

A columnist in the L.A. Times agreed with me. Plenty of writers, paid and unpaid, didn't. But it's stirred up a small hornet's nest among those who blog for free and make millions for sites like The Huffington Post (which just sold for $315 million to AOL).

A recent poll by the Media Industries Project at UC-Santa Barbara found that 69 percent of HP's unpaid bloggers think they should be paid to write, and that 96 percent percent of them think their stuff is as good as or better than the work of the paid staffers.

The truth is, if you're writing your own blog for free just to get practice and a little exposure, that's fine. If you're in college and you're taking an unpaid internship at a website or newspaper, that's fine, as long as you're getting college credit.

But if you're writing constantly for a website or magazine that is selling ads and making money and you're getting nothing? You're a fool. Demand to be paid. If you can't find anybody willing to pay you to write, maybe it's time to try something else.

I wrote... The Miami Heat are doing the hardest thing in sports -- living up to the hype. The way the three SuperFriends colluded to play on one team is destructive to the league, but the way they're playing is a joy.

You wrote ...

Reilly, the three amigos "colluding" to win a ring is not going to ruin the NBA for the following reasons: 1. In the NBA, people love stars over laundry. 2. The NBA thrives when the NBA Finals rock. 3. The Finals rock when it is filled with stars. 4. If the Heat make the Finals, then the Finals will be filled with stars. 5. Therefore, if the Heat make the Finals, the NBA thrives.
-Dan Wheeler, Greenville, SC

The Heat is still Mr. Wade's team in spite of what LeBron does. By joining up with two other superstars he proved that he does not have the mettle, or fortitude to make those around him better.
-Chuck Dennis, Maryland

I grew up very close to Cleveland and am a Cavs fan, naturally. I was in the same boat as you. As soon as LeBron left for Miami, I couldn't WAIT for them to fall flat on their face. Unfortunately, I may be waiting years for that to happen if they keep playing the way they have in this year's playoffs.
-Andy Baylor, San Diego

I wrote ... If you re-drafted the 2006-2008 NFL drafts knowing what you know now, the New Orleans Saints would've proved themselves to be the wisest and the Seattle Seahawks the dumbest.

You wrote...

Really interesting article, one glaring omission. Marques Colston. The guy went in the 7th round and plays like a 1st rounder.
-Bryce Cohen, Metairie, LA

You would honestly take Devin Hester ahead of Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall?
-Brent Gostomski, NY, NY

One thing we learned is why the NFC West sucks so much now. The bottom three teams are all from that division, with the Arizona Cardinals not far behind.
-West Garrett, Austin, TX

I wrote ... Seve Ballesteros was a player you couldn't help watch, with his incomparable rescue shots, his dashing ways and his unending thirst to win at all costs.

You wrote ...

Let me get this straight. The guy cheats in the middle of the Ryder Cup and you think it is ok. Maybe Barry Bonds should have shot up on deck. I like Seve, but just because he died at 54 does not make him better than any other cheater. By the way, I didn't know this about Seve until you brought it up.
-Jon, Tucson, AZ

What Seve did wasn't cheating. What Seve did was gamesmanship. Personally, I hate gamesmanship, but there's no penalty for it. I was merely trying to describe what the man was like, down to the bone.

As a teenage golfer, I enjoyed watching Seve as much as any American; but the coin jingling, stealth mowing, and other antics crossed the line. And who transformed the Ryder Cup from a spirited, but classy golf match into a jingoistic, mean-sprited, death match with Flyers fans? Seve! He was the rah rah captain who taught his fellow golfers and fans that it is okay to act like a horse's ass. Without Seve, Justin Leonard never happens. Seve was a great golfer, but let's be honest - he was kind of an a**hole.
-John Healy, Ridgefield, Connecticut

I remember seeing the parking lot shot in '79 on TV. Given the circumstances, I thought it was the best shot I had ever seen at the time, and now I hear he and his caddy were aiming at the parking lot because that provided the best angle to the flag on the second shot. Seve was a blast when he came up. It was obvious Jack's game was starting to fade, leaving a competitive void with Watson alone at the top ... and here came Severiano. Those were good times. My number never got that low again, my game was never better. Life goes by quick, man.
-Scott MacMichael, Fresno, CA

I wrote ... New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul has not only forgiven the five teenaged boys who murdered his grandfather, he would like to see them freed from prison.


You wrote ...

I'm glad our legal system does not allow family members to determine the punishments of their relatives' murderers! While I am absolutely convinced that Chris Paul is a class act, I can't believe anyone would want five cold-blooded killers released after serving just six years. Chris, try to understand that they aren't in prison to make you feel better - they are there to prevent someone else's grandfather from getting killed.
-Spencer Hughes, Ames, IA

I want to make sure that if I am ever put in a difficult position like the great Chris Paul, that I will act and react with such grace and courage. That is called inspiration.
-Warren Bradley, Lansdale, PA

I knew Mr Jones. During the gas shortage of 1973 (I was 8 years old), my dad ran a brick mason company and needed gas for his dump trucks, etc to keep working. Mr Jones would open his filling station at 4am just for my dad so he could fill up in the dark before the public came around 6am or so and waited in line most of the day.

I once had to drive to Hampton, VA and my car wouldn't pass inspection because of bald tires. He lent me tires until I returned and could afford my own.

Many, many times my mom, or someone in my family would have a stalled car due to battery, alternator, etc. and we would just call Mr Jones and he would send his only mechanic Willie (who was disabled, having only one arm) to our house to fix the car in our driveway instead of towing it, although it meant not having him available at the station for customers. The Gulf station was full service back then and usually only Willie and Mr Jones were there.

This kind of personal service and friendship was even more rare in those days, and in this area, because my family is white. He and my dad (who died when I was 10) must have had some kind of bond for him to continue helping our family so much even after he died and into my late teens and my mom always.

Mr Jones always ignored differences in people (hiring Willie), helping people of all colors, because he was truly a kind man and probably the last person I remember being a good neighbor in this country. Local businesses don't care about people like he did. I really miss Mr Jones and love hearing about him.

Thanks for giving me a place to finally share these stories.
-Todd Stevens

I wrote ... that not all NFL players are millionaires wondering if they'll have to get rid of their eighth Lexus during the lockout. Some of them are young guys wondering how they're going to make ends meet.


You wrote:

The fact that some NFL players are in a relatively difficult financial situation compared to the owners has no bearing on the morality of who is right or who is wrong. My advice to you: read Leviticus. You shouldn't favor either the rich or the poor on the basis of their financial standing. Justice is not on the side of the players just because they're less well off.
-RJ Jordan, Philadelphia

Thanks! I did read Leviticus and found it to be quite enlightening and useful in solving our modern dilemmas. For instance, in Leviticus I found out:
--I can't shave.
--If I curse my parents, I have to be killed.
--If I have a flat nose or am blind, I can't go to an altar of God.
Thanks for making me wake up and smell the frankincense!


Loved this piece on the lockout and the struggles guys are facing, in comparison to the owners. We appreciate you painting the picture that most people don't get, or even get to see/hear. Hopefully this all gets worked out, I know none of us dreamed as kids that THIS is the NFL we would love to be playing in.
-- Dan Orlovsky, QB, Houston Texans

I'll give it to you Rick. You wrote the most compelling article I've ever seen at making the public feel sorry for 20-year-olds who make $200k per year, playing a sport, struggle to make ends meet. Oh the tragedy! How will they survive this?! Personally, I think you did the best you could. You've got a great big heart sir.
-Brian Kight, Columbus, OH

Rick, you have GOT to be kidding me with your "Making Tight Ends Meet" column. I'm with you that the owners should take a large majority of the blame for this lockout, but I can't support the logic that someone who clears $200,000 per year has to struggle through life. As for "student" athletes entering the draft this year who are claiming that they have nothing else to fall back on, well maybe they should have taken advantage of that college education, especially given the fact that most of them will be out of the league in 2-4 years.
-Tim, Apollo Beach, FL

Rick, as a business owner, this was a "cut and dried" debate for me; I was on the owners' side. Let the players start their own league.........Thanks for presenting the non-star player perspective. I am now leaning towards a more moderate solution.
-Gregg, Buffalo, NY

Can you please pass on a message to Brian Schaefering for me? We have a job for him building bars in Vermont and delivering them all over the country. And we will beat his asking price of $12.
Thanks,
Chris Meyer, VT

I wrote ... BYU's Jimmer Fredette, Player of the Year in college basketball, is a wonderful kid with an amazing will to score, but he'll be a disaster in the pros.

You wrote ... I was an idiot and a Mormon basher.

Then I wrote ... It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with The Jimmer being less interested in defense than a lion in a tofu burger.


Then you wrote ...

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but not a BYU fan. Please don't mix the two. In fact, I was embarrassed by my fellow church members and their rebuttal to your perfectly worded, critically thought out article on Jimmer. I thought it was fine. I thought you did what each writer should do; study the facts, then address the issue at hand. My wife and I got a laugh as we read the responses of some very obtuse BYU fans. Way to "turn the other cheek." My fellow Cougar Blue Kool-Aid drinking Jimmer fans made the religion I practice look bad.
-Doug Harris, Salt Lake City

I wrote ... The Chicago Bulls would stun the world and win it all, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. Admittedly, I have a glue-sniffing problem.


You wrote ...

Thanks for cursing the Bulls, ya jackwagon.
-Chris G., Chicago, IL

Care to eat a little crow Ricky? Zach Randolph carried Memphis on his back and into the 2nd round. Thank goodness for that "Punk Chromosome"!!!!!
-Jeff Link, Memphis, TN

It's true. I said Memphis wouldn't get anywhere in the playoffs because they have Zach Randolph and he has "an extra punk chromosome." I was very wrong. Randolph played with guts and heart, leading the Grizzlies into the second round. And I've received 100s of emails telling me what a great guy he is. It's possible I have an extra bonehead chromosome.

I think you owe the man an apology. Zach has a checkered past but the man really has changed during his time in Memphis. Every year he buys kids gifts at Christmas. Every year he pays for families' utility bills in the winter. Zach Randolph has done some amazing things for this city. Come to Memphis and see for yourself this next weekend.
-Evan Winburne, TN

I wrote ... It gives me great pleasure to be able to type, for the rest of my life, "Barry Bonds, convicted felon."


You wrote ...

Rick, I'd love you to be right about Barry Bonds. He lied but one person didn't think so or was bought. Therefore they could not convict on perjury. They convicted on something that will be overturned. I wish you could, but don't think you'll be able to call him convicted felon for much longer. Enjoy it while you can. He deserves it but it won't last.
-Vincent Fisher, San Diego, CA

There are far worse people than Bonds in this world, and to demonize him is just a way for you to get headlines, and serve as another distraction to the real criminals in this world. In fact, had the nation spent have (sic) the time investigating the risks of going into Iraq instead of steroids in baseball, we may have saved the lives of thousands of American troops, millions of Iraqi civilians, and the economic repercussions of starting wars we can't finish.
-Andrwe, Los Angeles

OK, so let me see if I have this right:
a) Sportswriters are the reason we're in Iraq.
b) Bonds isn't the felon, George Bush is.
c) I'm responsible for the lost lives of thousands of troops and civilians.
Got it.
Do you get sharp things in the home?


I wrote... Not all Augusta National members are rich, uncaring billionaires. Brad Boss, for instance, the former CEO of Cross pens, went out of his way to pay for a fine grave site for his long-time caddy, plus flew in from Boston to attend the viewing and the services.


You wrote ...


It's stories like this that make the Augusta National Golf Club not only a great and prestigious place, but that make it a place filled with people who really do care about "everyday people". The fact that the roars of Amen Corner can be heard from this man's grave makes me stop, shed a tear, and say......wow.
-William Cranman, FL

Who cares about a dead caddy? For the love of god, find something interesting to write about...
-Don Brown, Louisville, KY

I'm guessing you had no fears of being taken up in the Rapture?

I wrote ... Brainy CalTech won its first conference basketball game in 26 years, a joyous occasion that could only be matched by the discovery of the Heisenberg Uncertainty.


You wrote ...

After (Brandon) Davies was suspended from BYU, I was saying that if having sex disqualified you from playing college basketball, the only two schools that would be able to field a five-man team would be BYU and Caltech.
--Ralph Hayward
Caltech, class of 1975

I wrote ... Hueytown (AL) High School is finding out baseball can be a relief, win or lose, when the rest of your day involves putting your life together after losing everything in a tornado.

You wrote ...

I felt attached to (this column) since the game I umpired was the Briarwood-Hueytown game three. Briarwood came from behind and won 8-4. ... You could tell in the big crowd it was a relief for people to get away. They were not in a hurry to leave, very unusual for a loss. There were prayers before the game, and no one dared complain.
-Riley

Rick, I'm a dog person - thanks for including that Lexi was found after all.
-Barbara, Long Beach, CA
Nobody knows for sure, but it's been more or less 50 years since a woman overheard Arnold Palmer order a half lemonade, half iced tea at a bar in Palm Springs and said, "I'll have that Arnold Palmer drink."

It's popular now all over the world, transcending Palmer himself. People today order an Arnold Palmer who have no idea who Arnold Palmer is. No other athlete has had a drink named after him catch on.

This, to us, seems a shame. Seems like we should be able to walk up to a bar right now and order ...

A Tiger Woods ... Pineapple juice and vodka ... Drink one and you'll want 13 more.

A Jack Nicklaus ... Kind of like an Arnold Palmer, only a little better.

A Brett Favre ... By the time it comes, you've changed your mind.

A Chris Bosh ... Chaser only.

A Greg Oden ... You can order it but it never shows up.

A Rex Ryan ... Tastes like a Tootsie Roll.

A Mark McGwire ... Comes with a shot.

A Cam Newton ... Your dad orders it for you.

A Dennis Green ... It is what you think it is.

A Tom Brady ... Really good by the sixth round.

A Michael Vick ... A little hair of the dog that should've bitten you.

A LeBron ... Served with a mirrored glass so you can watch yourself drink it.

A Terrelle Pryor ... It's free!

A Lance ... Only one ice cube.

A John McEnroe ... After one, you cannot be serious.

A Karch Kiraly ... Comes spiked.

A Tim Tebow ... Served very straight.

A Michael Phelps ... Water with a water chaser.

A Reggie Bush ... You drink it for a little while, then they take it back.

A Nick Saban ... Comes with extra bitters.

Anna Kournikova ... A white Russian, hot.

A Quentin Richardson ... Hold the Brandy.

A Chris Evert ... You drink it with both hands.

A Barry Bonds ... Careful: it goes straight to your head.

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.

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