When Salon posted my e-mail address, it didn't tell you people that you had to write, but after sifting through the hundreds or so responses, I'm rather glad you did. There are a lot of issues that need clarification, and a number of important topics that I haven't had the time or space to get to that you people have been kind enough to call to my attention. Thanks to all of you, particularly the ones who start with "You asshole!" because those are the ones that get my editor's attention.
Regarding my blast at the NCAA, David Harmon writes: "I don't understand why you think big-time college athletes aren't paid. The cost of most tuition plus board and room is at least $100,000." That's a very good point, and it should be bought up in my discussion of college athletes and money. Unfortunately, I'm not buying the argument. First of all, the money is not paid to the athlete, it's used for the upkeep, as it were, of the athlete, so he can help to earn a profit for the athletic department. But that's really not even the point. The point is: Why are colleges and universities spending up to $100,000 apiece to maintain athletes who otherwise don't belong in college? In other words, why are America's colleges subsidizing the NBA and NFL?
Also, concerning my criticism of the NCAA, M. Jennings from Georgia wants to know: "Have you ever seen 80,000 people in a college football stadium? What kind of argument can you make against that?" To which I reply, yes, I'm all for the 80,000 people in the football stadium, but what does that have to do with the arrogance and power of the NCAA? Couldn't Georgia and Georgia Tech (let's say) find a way to play each other, and wouldn't 80,000 people show up, even if the universities weren't under the thumb of the NCAA? When you get right down to it, what is the necessary connection between the NCAA and fans enjoying college sports?
On my suggestion that the Seattle Mariners just might have moved in their fences to accommodate Alex Rodriguez, Chris Ryland wants to know: "Don't you think that pitchers' parks also draw fans in?" Chris, it's not up to me to tell a fan what he should pay to see, or even to tell a team how to construct its home park. All I was suggesting is that every smart team should either tailor its talent to suit its park or the other way around. Myself, I prefer seeing the ball in play to a catch between pitcher and catcher, but, hey, you're the ones who buy the tickets.
Regarding my comments that there should be several Heisman trophies, including one for offensive lineman, M. Paul says, "There's an award for best offensive lineman. I think it's called the Outland Trophy." You're right, but who knows about it? I think college football should be honest and admit that only backs are going to win the Heisman and call it an award to the nation's "Outstanding Offensive Back" and have a ceremony where they present it, along with the Outland Trophy, and a trophy for best defensive player, or whatever, all at the same time, thus ending the fiction that a quarterback is a better football player than a guard or a linebacker. (What they call all these awards I don't care.)
Chris Serico tells me they should end the farcical state of major league umpiring with a computerized zone. It's fine by me, as long as Paul O'Neill is still allowed to yell at it.
Eighteen readers, all males, told me I was "full of shit" regarding Anna Kournikova. One said she was "a hell of a tennis player." Hey, I'll give her her due: She could kick Britney Spears' butt in straight sets.
On the subject of the eroding skills of NBA players, Clay Gerny reminds me of something I should have remembered: The primary skill that players of 25 years ago possessed that is most lacking in today's game is not so much shooting as passing.
Regarding the New York Yankees' miserable performance in September, Chris Brown tells me I'm "a complete piece of shit. This is the greatest collection of clutch performers ever." I agree -- after watching the playoffs and World Series (which, by the way, I predicted they'd win). Next time tell your prediction before the games are played.
Rick Cowan, a friend of John Carlos, the 1968 Olympic 200-meter bronze medalist, suggests that the Olympic Committee should be pressured into apologizing to Carlos. (It censured him and gold medalist Tommy Smith for raising their fists in a black power salute.) You know, Rick, you're right, and this is something that should be done now, not an issue we should have to wait three more years to talk about again. Enough is enough.
Mike Showalter tells me I'm all wrong about Michael Vick and the new breed of running quarterbacks, reeling off a list of names (Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair, Donavan McNabb, et al.) of new NFL stars who run the ball. OK, maybe, but you're not going to convince me that Culpepper is more valuable for his running than for his passing, and, anyway, none of these guys has won a Super Bowl yet. My problem is still: What do you do when some frustrated linebacker takes out your running quarterback with a knee injury? Maybe I'm wrong, but the jury is still deliberating on this issue.
Wendy R. Leibowitz writes to ask "your thought on poor displays of sportsmanship at the Olympics ... I was embarrassed to be rooting for the French basketball team against the U.S." Why, Wendy? What difference does it make which shoe company beats which shoe company? I agree with you about the poor sportsmanship, which appalls me, but I also don't see why we should be having team sports in the Olympics, which were founded to promote appreciation of individual achievement.
Derek Foster didn't like my cheap shot at synchronized swimming. "Why don't you go down to my pool and try one single thing that they do?" Derek, if the Olympics were predicated on the basis of what I can do, there would be medals for shooting pool, listening to Bing Crosby records and digging up old Linda Fiorentino movies.
Nathan Ward liked the caricature of me that Zach Trenholm did for Salon but wants to know, "What's that line across your forehead?" It's from talking to people who feel compelled to call me on my home phone to argue over something I wrote.
Finally, there were a bunch of responses to my column on Marvin Miller being worthy of the Hall of Fame. Most were in agreement, but there were a few like Harry Walters, who says that "Marvin Miller helped destroy everything about baseball that I love. Free agency has ruined the game, and Miller is responsible." Salon understandably wants me to be nice to readers, but I've got to tell you, Harry, that you're a moron. The game today is better than ever, and Marvin Miller is largely responsible. If the owners pay the players too much, that's their hard luck, not yours. As I never tire of asking, why do you care what the players get? You're not paying for it.
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A point after
Here's something I'd appreciate readers' responses on. With, I believe, 3:38 left to play in the Orange Bowl, trailing 13-2, with something like a fourth and 12 on about his own 15, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden called for a punt. I was stunned, and none of the four announcers -- Bob Griese, Lynn Swann, Jack Arute and Brad Nessler -- said a word. Now, tell me: With about 3:30 left, how are you going to have time to stop the other team, get the ball back twice and score twice? You're not, of course; what Bobby Bowden was doing, in essence, was quitting and trying to save some face by keeping the score from getting worse. Now, I admit, fourth and 12 from your own 15 (I think it was) is a real long shot, but it's a chance, which is more than you've got if you punt the ball. Wasn't anyone out there as stunned by this act of wooziness -- and the timid acquiescence of the four announcers -- as I was? I'd like to know.
By Allen Barra
Allen Barra is the author of "Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends."