It's midseason, and rather than give you midseason awards, I thought that it's time for a midterm on writing letters to this column. If you want it posted, name and hometown are mandatory. Being intelligent and interesting help, as does not making me correct your spelling and/or grammar. Take the time to use the apostrophe key. If you don't, I have to. I may not post all 2,500 words you write -- let's leave a little bandwidth for the next guy, OK? -- but I'll try to pick out the core of what I think you're trying to say.
There are a few more letters on the Matt Bernstein column, from Tennessee fans, who mysteriously found my e-mail address after the win at Georgia, and other assorted love notes.
One more thing -- even after spam, I get three figures worth of e-mails each week, from media releases to reader e-mail. While I intend to read it all, the truth is, by the time I would get to some of it, it's out of date. So I purge it, and then I get nasty e-mails from the purged who are technologically geeky enough to have tagged their e-mail so that they know whether I read it or not. You just can't take it personally. I know you took the time to write, and I appreciate it, but I have only so many hours in the day, if you get my drift.
And now on to the geeks and ungeeks among us:
"..like Georgia, the Gators must be wondering how they let Tennessee take control of the East."
God bless ESPN. God bless you and the rest of the biased meatheads that work at your station. God bless the AP, who ranked Georgia ahead of us after we roughed up David Greene. God bless the producers who edited the highlights from the game, most replays only showing the final three plays of the game, who made it look as if Tennessee lucked out to win. And lastly, God bless you for quotes like the one above. Boy we sure are lucky that the preseason top two teams in the SEC East "let" us win the division this year, because everyone knows that we're too stupid and unathletic to take it from them.
Please understand, I am not one of those UT fans who is angered by the media's and especially your place of business's bias against UT. In 1998 you gave us the least amount of attention that you've ever given a national champion, chalked it up to Clint Stoerner and Marcus Outzen. And that's all fine with me. Because contrary to your opinion of the SEC East letting us have this one, we'll take our respect just like we took this division.
Kingston Springs, TN
Brad, I liked your letter until you asked me to please understand that you're not angry because of ESPN's bias. If you're not angry about that, then what are you angry about? I think you're just rusty. You haven't complained about ESPN in six years. Work out the kinks and get back to me.
Tennessee deserves the Rodney Dangerfield award of the week don't you think? Tennessee beats Georgia (AT Georgia) to give the two teams the same record. Tennessee, however, has played a tougher schedule to this point than Georgia. How in the world does anyone consider Georgia a better team than Tennessee? You're not one of the writers guilty of helping this to happen, are you?
Robert A. Skimmyhorn
Actually, I voted Tennessee ahead of Georgia in my ballot on the ESPN Power 16. I'm guessing that the poll voters remember how Florida got jobbed at the end of its loss to Tennessee, and how poorly the Vols played against Auburn.
I've been a massively loyal Florida fan for all of my life. My father took me to my first game (Oct. 14, 1982) when I was only 10 days old and I've been hooked ever since. My first sports hero was Emmitt Smith, even though the Gators were barely mediocre during the seasons he was in Gainesville. I've always done everything to support my team through thick and thin, but I'm on the verge of joining the ranks of the fireronzook.com "fans" of the Gator Nation. I just don't think I can handle another blown 4th quarter lead.
I've always subscribed to the theory that good teams with good coaches who have their players well-prepared and focused find a way to win and put games away in crunch time. Ron Zook is the exact opposite. This Gator team under his watch seems to collapse late in the game due to his illogical and usually passive play-calling on offense and defense. Case in point: on their final drive of the game against LSU, with the Gators needing to pick up a few first downs to run out the clock from their own 3 yard line, Zook decides to call his favorite bubble screen to OJ Small IN HIS OWN END ZONE who barely escapes a safety.
On second and six, after a face-mask call, instead of giving it to his horse, Ciatrick Fason, and trusting that he can pick up six yards in two plays, Zook calls a 10 yard out pattern that is incomplete but would've been out of bounds so the clock would've stopped regardless. As you know, the Gators didn't convert on 3rd and six, and the exhausted Gator defense was eaten alive by the LSU running game as the Tigers rode their tailbacks right down the field for the game winning TD with less than 30 seconds remaining. This is not the genius of coaching mastermind.
No one can blame it on a lack of talent or a transitional period. These are players Zook recruited and coached and are familiar with his system. He is just being outcoached by the Fulmers, Sabans, and Bowdens of college football. So I ask you, Oh Wizard of College Football, do you as an objective observer of UF football believe Ron Zook is still the man for the job even though his team consistently underperforms late in the game? I know I'm beginning to lose my faith.
After Saturday night, I don't blame you. The other losses that you mention, either I didn't see or I thought the other team deserved to win. Not that LSU didn't, but that's the first time I came away thinking that Florida really gave the game away. Gene Wojciechowski and I watched the game together, and when that pass went incomplete at the sideline, I turned to Gene and said, "What are they thinking? Run the clock!" (Gene replied, "We're out of chips. And while you're out, get some more beer!") In Zook's defense, I assume that's Larry Fedora's call. But it's on Zook's watch. Something about that game really made me wonder if Florida is going to get it together.
I was reading your article on the OU/Texas game, and enjoyed reading it other than a few exceptions.
First, Peterson is good, but it is way too early to be saying the White has no chance of winning a second Heisman, especially because of Peterson. White is still the one of the greatest comeback stories in college football, not to mention the fact he played the Sugar Bowl with a broken toe and sprained wrist. He's tough as nails, and when teams start focusing on the run, we will see the Heisman-worthy talent of White.
Second, give readers a break and get the politics out of football. Your crack on Cheney totally disrupts the picture for the reader. It really annoyed me, because I was enjoying the article up to that point. Otherwise, I would have never sent you this e-mail. If you want to write about politics, then go work for someone else!
Kastle, I didn't say White was playing poorly, but his numbers are no longer Heisman-worthy. As for my remark about the vice-president, that wasn't political. I racked my brain to think of a public figure who made an anatomically impossible suggestion, and Dick Cheney was the only one I could think of.
First, I am sorry that Mr. Silverstein is offended by other people's religious beliefs, views, and convictions simply because he disagrees with them and fails to respect them. In our society of political correctness and fear, we should at least respect the way someone else believes even if we feel it is inaccurate, erroneous, or wrong. And it is not your job, Mr. Maisel, to hinder your writing because you might offend or marginalize someone. In fact, no matter how we hear of someone else's beliefs, whether at work, at school, or through the media, we ought to at least respect the fact that we all have beliefs; though we may not always share them or agree with each other about them. For example, I am a devout evangelical Christian, and because of this, I personally disagree with most of what Mr. Silverstein said about our society and his view of spirituality. But you know what? I completely respect him for how he feels and believes, and I do not at all feel marginalized by you for reprinting his e-mail.
What I feel you did with the Matt Bernstein situation was comment on how you respected his beliefs, though it sounds by your writing that you do not share in them. And though you do not share them, you still respect them, and you wanted to make that known. What is wrong when we can no longer talk about a situation we respect and applaud just because the circumstance and choice revolved around someone's beliefs -- specifically their Judeo/Christian beliefs? I don't care if Mr. Bernstein or Mr. Silverstein is a Muslim, Hindu, agnostic, Christian, or alien -- I respect their right to choose their beliefs and live by those in every manner of their life they choose, no matter how completely I might disagree with either one of them.
Thanks for the time, and keep up the great work,
Seth's letter continued on, but if I ran the whole thing, I couldn't figure out how to pass the collection plate. Nevertheless, he made the point that I wanted made. Born again or agnostic, everyone should get their say. And they can get it here, if I like the letter. Like this next one.
Ivan, I ask that you please be nice to everyone regardless of football beliefs, or any other, so that we can all play nice and not offend anyone by telling them that their team is terrible (like the Bottom 10). Could you please waive your right as an American to free speech and duty as a journalist to speak things as you see them? These aren't really necessary and they just cause problems. Why don't you just tell us that every team is doing very well, every athlete is behaving properly and that on Saturdays (or whatever days games might be played on) there were no losers, and that everyone wins and anyone who wishes will be allowed to play in the NFL. This would be more politically correct and anything less would give your column and ESPN a bad name.
Jeff Brownfield, the sarcastic, insensitive jerk
This is in response to the negative responses you've been receiving on the Bernstein article. I thought it was a great article, not just because I'm a Badger fan but because it highlighted that most of these college athletes have other lives and priorities besides just football. It brought a touch of humanity that people can relate to. While I'm not Jewish, I found it inspirational that he would put his priorities the way they are. The attacks I find are silly in that those people attacking your article really just don't like any mention of religion in any sphere of public life. Never mind the free exercise clause of the first amendment. It was a great article no matter the team. I would have written that if the story was on a hated Buckeye.
Keep up the good work,
Acknowledging impressive coaching records is one thing, but bestowing such honors as a great man, a decent, God-fearing, humble, caring man and a "saint" are another. Has the preoccupation with winning at all costs permeated the sports world so profoundly that everyone forgets, or at least fails to ever mention and consider the fact that Tom Osborne was a coach that would allow his tailback to throw his girlfriend down a flight of stairs on Friday night, only to start him in the Husker backfield on Saturday afternoon?
Aaron J Shuler
Chicago (not Norman)
Aaron, let me step into that hornet's nest that you just took a baseball bat to. Osborne always maintained that the best thing he could do for his tailback, Lawrence Phillips, is to keep him on the team, where Osborne had some power over him. Like you, I disagreed with Osborne's decision then, and I do now. Osborne should have suspended Phillips for the season, if not forever. But you also have to consider the coach's record over the whole of his career.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.