The e-mail about my review of Jim Rome's "Rome Is Burning" on ESPN was hot and heavy, as I thought it would be. But here's the shocking thing: It was almost unanimously anti-Rome.
Where are Rome's "clones"?
Those who did write in with amens rarely failed to mention Rome's on-air altercation with NFL quarterback Jim Everett a decade ago. Rome, like many others, thought Everett was "soft," and Rome kept calling him "Chris," as in Chris Evert, who -- never mind that she was a great champion -- is a woman. Soft, like a woman, get it? Everett politely asked Rome to cut it out a few times, and then when Rome insisted, Everett attacked him, overturning a table in the process.
Those not fond of Rome are fond of recalling the look on his face in that split second when Everett was coming at him, which I don't really remember but they all described as stunned and frightened. Reader David Pandt described Rome looking "pale as a ghost looking up in disbelief."
One reader did leap to Rome's defense, asking if I need a pacifier (yes, please) and writing, "What makes him have such a loyal following is he's an entertainer with strong opinions, hence you're either a loyal listener/viewer or an angry, jealous person who hates his success. I guess you like 'The Best Damn Sports Show, Period,' where most of the show is about fake-boobed women, sex and making fun of athletes."
Actually, in spite of all that, I don't care for "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period."
I'll try to let the readers speak a little more often in the future, but for now, here's a taste of what you've been saying to me in the last two weeks:
Roy writes, "I cannot relate to most of the teams in the NBA because of the new culture of the game. Sacramento, Utah, they play in a context I can understand. I'm tired of the mugging and the posing."
On the other hand, C.D. Kaplan writes: "It's no longer about the game. Mars Blackman was right: It's the shoes ... I love the Spurs. They just play. I love Kidd. He just plays. I love the Pistons. They just play. I love the Mavs. They just play. Really fast. I hate the Lakers and Kings because they mug and woof."
Are the Sacramento Kings an example of what's right with the NBA or what's wrong? Maybe they're the NBA's version of the Bible: Whatever you're arguing, you can use the Kings to make your point.
In response to the NBA's strategy for marketing itself in the post-Jordan age, one reader writes, "What is wrong with the current great talents we have, scattered around various teams, many of them bound to improve over the next several years (Pierce, Garnett, Bryant, T. Mac, Yao, etc.)?"
That question could best be answered by the fans who are tuning out NBA games in record numbers.
I disagree completely that you root for the players, not the team. I think you root for the uniform. You root for a guy when he's wearing your suit and you root against him when he comes in wearing somebody else's, although if he played well and seemed to be a hard-working nice guy while wearing your colors, you give him a nice hand.
I also don't think players swap teams any more now than they did before free agency, though superstars do.
But about interleague play becoming ho-hum, I'd say that time is now. That was my point, that the thrill of seeing matchups like Yankees-Cubs or even Yankees-Mets wears off once it's a regular feature of the schedule. A recent New York Times piece in which Mets and Yankees players admitted that the series didn't have the same buzz around it that it once did seems to bear me out. I think the fans won't be far behind the players on this one.
Foolishly ignoring the Neifi Index, the Pirates released Young over the weekend.
"My only question," writes Just Frank, "is whether [the Index] can be tweaked to eliminate people, like Lenny Harris, who are kept around primarily as pinch-hitters. Pinch-hitters come into play more when their teams are behind, so they'll play more in losses."
I wondered about that too, but I found that Harris actually doesn't pinch-hit that much. Of the top five in the N.L. Neifi Index, Harris was only fourth in pinch-hitting appearances. Most of the time, he plays first or third base. I could find no correlation between pinch-hitting frequency and Neifi Index prowess (that is, tendency for a player's team to lose when he plays), nor could I find any between the quality of the team and a player's Neifi Index.
Clearly more work needs to be done. I'll publish the American League leaders this week, and update both leagues throughout the season until we have a Neifi Award winner for each league in October. Please keep sending your suggestions for tweaking the criteria.
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