First, please accept my apology for taking so long to do a mailbag column. I've been a little busy on the road and it has been hard to get into a routine.
Second, to all of you who like to use various four-letter words to denigrate me and my work, you might want to channel your anger in some other way. It really has no effect. In 25 years as a reporter, including 15 on the NFL, I've been yelled at by plenty of people in person. Electronic vitriol is just comical.
With that, here's a small sampling of your emails, including plenty of debate about Reggie Bush. I'll start with one from a reader who seemed to have the best take on the entire Bush issue. My comments appear in italics.
BUSH INVESTIGATION ("Cash and carry," Sept. 14, 2006)
I admire your hard investigative work on this story. I hope the facts of the case prove what everyone should know. This has been happening and will continue to happen until the NCAA realizes that what it allows and what is sometimes necessary don't always mesh. I don't think Bush should be given any preferential treatment. At the same time, the rules regarding eligibility and players not getting preferential treatment are a total joke.
Kevin, you hit it on the head. The NCAA simply doesn't get it when it tells players they can't get benefits. What the NCAA should do is find a way for star players like Bush to take advantage of their talents in a smart and legal way. Low-cost loans contingent on a player getting insurance is a good example of a way to keep young men like Bush from being tempted. There is not an easy answer, but trying to enforce these rules is insanity.
What you have here is a spurned agent causing a stink? Anyone with common sense can see this. You journalists are so gullible. Use your brain, you scumbag.
Dean, you might want to re-read the story. Much of it is based on documented evidence, information from two men who had little or no direct contact with Bush and is multi-sourced. And that's Mr. Scumbag to you.
I appreciate your investigative prowess and hard work on the Bush piece. You two (Cole and Charles Robinson) have been at it for some time now and I think America has a right to know what's going on behind the scenes of big-name college sports. From unscrupulous agents and attorneys to dimwitted parents to blind-eyed athletic programs to pampered athletes, the circle is complete as you've shown it and it's all got to come to light. Thanks for the great job of staying with this story undeterred. My mind reflects back to one of our own gems here in Washington. Puyallup's Golden Boy, Billy Joe Hobert, and the number he did to the University of Washington. That bitter pill still hasn't gone down yet.
Jim Taylor, DDS
Jim, thank you for the support. More important, thanks for seeing the big picture.
So what if Bush gets paid in cool stuff and maybe cash? He deserved it because he is an outstanding player and someone would love to see him play. I made my point, so why the fuzz, Mr. Cole?
Muhand, there are these things called rules that say Bush wasn't supposed to get that cool stuff and cash. Based on my work, Bush broke them. Whether I agree with the rules (and hopefully you see that I don't), they exist. The system has to change. The only way it's going to change is if something dramatic happens.
So what? It's players like Bush, Sean Taylor, Vince Young, Michael Vick and the list goes on and on that gets the NCAA to negotiate these fat TV contracts that gets them paid also. I understand that the NCAA gives these players at these schools the so-called "platform to show the nation their talent." But if these schools that represent the NCAA did not have these exciting players, then, in my opinion, they wouldn't have these huge TV contracts. Sure, they'd make money, but not the type of money the NCAA is making now on college football.
Erik, I hear this point a lot and some of it is true. However, the vast majority of college teams don't make the huge money you think. Beyond that, colleges don't get rich in the same way that NFL teams and owners get rich. Yes, college coaches make a pretty penny, but most of the money made on college football goes to support the rest of the athletic department because most sports don't make money. The profits from college football, if there actually are any, go to support scholarships for men's and women's soccer. That is a good thing.
Why is it that you all try to destroy any black athlete and their family if they accept even a crust of bread from anyone you perceive as helping? Would you prefer that these people commit the crimes as say, Maurice Clarett? Have you no other journalistic skills than this? Have you ever been poor or in need of anything? As long as these people did not steal or sell drugs to athletes, I say go for the money. Please leave this athlete alone and find some other story of substance. Thank you.
Roger, why is it that you try to make this an issue about race? I grew up poor and I made some questionable decisions growing up, too. I don't blame Bush for taking the money and even for going after it, as he appears to have done. However, breaking the rules is breaking the rules, whether you are black, white or green. If I had ignored the story because Bush is black, that would be racism as well. A patronizing form, but racism nonetheless.
Great work on investigating and reporting this. Keep the heat on the NCAA!
Boyd, thank you. I think the rest of the NCAA member schools will keep the heat on sufficiently.
I think you are completely missing the point of Bush's actions. Clearly, the Bush family took money and favors from Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake, who clearly were representing an agent. However, when you take the slant that Bush somehow wronged the people giving his family the money, you blow right past the obvious point. Bush realized at some point (probably with his internship with Mike Ornstein – which I am sure was on the up-and-up, wink) that he would be punished for taking money and favors from Michaels and Lake. The only possible way to avoid sanctions would be to act as if those guys were family friends just helping the family out. If he signed with New Era, there would be an absolutely crystal clear path from Michaels and Lake giving substantial monies and benefits to the Bush family to Reggie signing with New Era – an exceedingly obvious breach of NCAA rules.
Mike P., you need to take a logic class. First, Bush was also getting money from Ornstein. Second, if that was the case, why didn't he just pay back the money Michaels and Lake gave him? He certainly could have done that.
So, you went to Stanford, huh? Why am I not surprised? Have you spent as much time investigating Cal, San Jose State, Fresno State or any Pac-10 schools for meaningless and unsubstantiated scandal as you have with USC? Can you enlighten me as to any other big news stories that Yahoo! Sports or Yahoo! News is actually responsible for breaking? Got any updates on the actual NCAA and/or Pac-10 Conference investigation into these allegations, you know, the investigations that matter? Your witch hunt reeks of jealousy and frustration. Your band sucks and your mascot's a drunk.
Jason, I wish the mascot was drunk. That would be far more entertaining than the way Stanford's football team is playing these days.
I just read your Reggie Bush article and would like to commend you and your partner on a very detailed and convincing statement. I think the fact that Bush received illegal benefits is unquestionable at this point. I think your next exposé should expose the NCAA for its hypocritical nature. It has become more than obvious that it is willing to turn a blind eye to the benefits that elite athletes receive until they are no longer NCAA athletes at which time they "launch investigations" to save face.
Morris, thanks for the kind words. As for the NCAA story, maybe someday.
Who cares? We just want to watch football!
Chris, unfortunately, that's what most of you think.
THE PROBLEM WITH TOM ("Business as usual," Sept. 17, 2006)
Dear Jason: I watched NBC last night and saw Tom Brady make a lot of incomplete passes. Not because he wasn't accurate, but because his "receivers" kept dropping the ball. Do you think that New England would benefit from a receiver like Mike Hass? He had an outstanding career at Oregon State and even won the Biletnikoff Award for top college receiver in 2005. He's not the fastest guy, but he has great hands and great ability to make yards after the catch.
Jillian, aside from the fact that I think you're somehow related to Mike Hass, my thought is that Brady's biggest problem is that the Patriots let both David Givens and Deion Branch go from last year. Given the type of offense New England plays, which is based on so much timing, this was a terrible move by the Patriots. New England didn't want to pay the premium to keep either Givens or Branch because they aren't elite athletes. I understand that point, but it's really not good for Brady.
AS FOR AN EX-PATRIOT ("Blaming Bledsoe," Sept. 10, 2006)
I have watched Drew Bledsoe play since college. Are you among the detractors who believe he does not belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Mr. Cole, please explain in the next article the importance of an offensive line. Or, more importantly a running game. Pardon me for a long diatribe, but you're more of an expert in being a clown writer then a sportswriter. Thank you for not printing this. I'm glad you get the masses rallied behind you, Mr. Machiavelli Act. You're just a bum writer from Miami who couldn't hack it anymore and got demoted. Have a good one, bub.
Joseph, Mr. Machiavelli? I like that. My mom had always hoped to raise a prince. That's as close as she'll ever get. As for Bledsoe and the Hall of Fame, I don't vote for that. But I would say he'll get in about the same time that Vinny Testaverde makes it.
You are dead on with your perception of Drew Bledsoe. I am an avid Buffalo Bills fan and saw those hurried passes, forced passes, and poor reads on the defense all too often. I often thought that he just wasn't a smart quarterback. What the fans in Buffalo really disliked about him was that he would never take any responsibility for his actions. It was always someone else's fault. It was nice to finally read a sportswriter pick up on those things.
Bob, great minds think alike. Isn't that what Machiavelli said?
Glad to see you know everything about being a quarterback in the NFL! I am referring to your comment stating Bledsoe should have thrown the ball away or taken the sack instead of throwing an interception. Not being able to see your athletic history on the blurb heading this section, I can only assume that you must have played a wide variety of sports in the pursuit of your degree. I don't see how covering the Miami Dolphins, NBA teams or being a member of the Pro Football Writers Association would make you, or anyone else for that matter, the authority on what happens on the actual playing field. I am a soldier and a firefighter. Will you tell me how to direct my troops or how to extinguish a structure fire?
Kevin W. Morgan
Kevin, based on your logic, nobody can criticize anybody if they haven't actually done that specific job. Thus, I can just ignore what you have to say about my job performance as a sports writer, correct?
DUNGY THOUGHTS ("Dungy's master plan," Sept. 4, 2006)
Since you have recently done a rather laudatory column on Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, you may wish to put in another viewpoint. Although I am willing to grant that Dungy seems to be a nice guy and that his players seem to like him and that I'm sorry about his son, I doubt very much the Colts will ever win the Super Bowl with Dungy as their coach. The man just does not have the necessary killer instinct – which is why Tampa Bay got rid of him. He chose to play subs for the last several games of last season because the Colts had wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which was about the only thing he was really interested in. As a result, the Colts were imbued with the concept that the remaining games to be played weren't really very important and that it was OK to lose them. Unfortunately this "OK-to-lose" concept held over to the playoffs. I do not expect this year to be any different.
Alan, so what was the problem with Bill Cowher during his first 13 years in the NFL? Would you have found some reason to get rid of him? Dungy has been a head coach for 10 years. If I was the owner of an NFL team, I'd take my chances with him.
OVERFLOWING RIVERS? ("Worth the wait," Sept. 21, 2006)
I believe you are very premature in offering praise to Philip Rivers as a quarterback. He certainly isn't a great quarterback or he would have won the job over Drew Brees last year or the year before. So the only reason he has the job is because he cost $20 million and Chargers general manager A.J. Smith decided that he wanted to dump Brees because he didn't draft Brees. Until the Chargers play someone good, I'm still regarding Rivers as a latter day Ryan Leaf.
Michael, actually, you're wrong. Smith was with the Chargers when they drafted Brees. As for Rivers, I'll agree, the jury is still out. But I'd have to say he's better than Leaf already.
I think Rivers will develop into a fine quarterback. Much like how Big Ben Roethlisberger was worked into the system, Rivers should have the same opportunity. I am curious to see how he will do in Week 4 against the Ravens in Baltimore. Since he will have essentially two weeks to prepare, if he can't handle what they throw at him, I question how the Chargers will do if they, by chance, make it to the playoffs.
Kenn, I'm curious about Rivers against Baltimore, too. Fortunately, I'll be there to see it in person.
Jason, you gotta find a better description than "snagged" for a caught ball when you're writing your articles. You used it twice in less than 100 words last night.
Dan, good catch, I mean snag. Oh heck, good point.