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The People's Voice unpacks from New Orleans

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

You know, for a college football season that had so much controversy, I will say it was a lot of fun. I actually am sad to see it end, and judging from the thousands of letters received, I don't think I am alone.

Thanks again for every input and remember the ground rules. Try to keep it short, to the point and with a point. Include full name and hometown. And while I read through them all, I can't respond to individual inquires. It is nothing personal, but we are talking about more than 1,000 emails a week.

Now on to the People's Voice ...

NICK SABAN
(Jan. 4: "LSU coach leaves celebrating to the experts")

Thanks for your column on Nick Saban. It was a great read and I appreciate the idea that there was something else to read besides "Southern Cal got screwed." The debate will rage on, I'm sure, about who is the real No. 1 team in the land. Southern Cal has a great offense – but LSU has a great defense.

Heck, even Barry Switzer said at halftime that defense does indeed win games. One thing is for sure. College football is going to be great to watch even more than usual over the next few years.

Mark Kemp
Jackson, Miss.


I am a native of Baton Rouge and know the intense loyalty of LSU fans ... your article was heartwarming after their win Jan. 4. Thank you for such an accurate and humorous description of Coach Saban and the contrast of the rabid LSU fan.

Mary Morton
Canton, Mich.


I know a lot of what you said is tongue in cheek. However, having seen Coach Saban mingle with the crowd at LSU social events, I can tell you he really is very personable in those situations. Now he is not going to remind you of Jeff Foxworthy, but he is not dull. In fact, he can be downright entertaining. He has a very clear love and appreciation for the fans and is very patient for pictures and autographs.

He is not only a great coach, but he brings a way of making these guys understand that sports is merely preparation for life. I have no doubt that our players are better people for having played for Nick Saban. I'd like someone to say those things about him.

Ross Montelbano
Shreveport, La.

You are correct. Obviously the man has some charm and charisma or he wouldn't have gotten this far. And he certainly is a tremendous coach and leader. But I have never seen anyone win a championship in any sport and seem less excited about it than Saban.


Great story on Nick Saban. I've long admired his work ethic and ability while being intrigued by his lack of outward emotion. But as an LSU fan, who cares? Most of all, thanks for writing about the game and not just writing again about the BCS controversy. LSU and Coach Saban deserve the accolades.

Connor McDonnell
Kansas City, Mo.


STILL THE ONE
(Dec. 30: "Sugar Bowl is still the one")

The rules are the rules? How about watching the games. After the bowls it is even clearer that USC was the nation's best team. Only a moron would disagree.

David Sanchez
Los Angeles, Calif.

I have consistently said I think USC is the best team. However, the six major college football conferences came up with this system to determine their champion. To decide in the middle that the system shouldn't be followed is wrong. Thus, like it or not, LSU is the champ.


Being of sound mind and body and recognizing how prudish and old-fashioned this might sound I submit the following:

We must remember that college football players are student-athletes, not professional athletes. They should be studying for their finals in December rather than worrying about a bowl game. Shame on us for lusting after a "clear No. 1 team" so much that we have forgotten this. Clearly the character of the football players, coaches, alumni and in some cases the school administrators has deteriorated in direct proportion to how important winning has become.

John Ruth
Gallatin, Tenn.


After seeing the Rose Bowl I, like many other fans, already know who is No. 1 and I for one will not even watch that other game. We don't care what the computers "think." We saw the real thing for ourselves on Jan. 1.

Jack de Lowe
Raanana, Israel


The Trojans deserve the championship just as much as Oklahoma or LSU. This entire situation reminds of me the 1991 season when Miami won the AP championship while the UW Huskies, who were undefeated, got a bad rap but did get a co-championship out of it. Thanks for letting me speak my mind.

Tim Morton
Belfair, Wash.


The similarities between the coaches' poll (under the BCS) and the 2002 Iraqi presidential election are very apparent:

• There will be only one candidate.

• The voters are forced into voting for the candidate.

• The candidate who will win this fraudulent vote would be destroyed by any worthy opponent.

The USC Trojans could easily destroy whomever wins the Sugar Bowl, but instead we are once again stuck with the socialist state of the BCS.

For the sake of college football, I strongly urge the coaches to do what is right when they vote in their poll. Vote for whom they truly believe is the best team in the country. If not the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll will become as relevant as Saddam Hussein.

Jim Delurgio
Redondo Beach, Calif.

How media organizations such as USA Today and ESPN, who presumably stand for freedom of speech, can sponsor and operate a rigged system is puzzling. It goes back to my argument that media should get out of the entire poll business. The media should report the news, not make it. It certainly should not be participating in the BCS formula, crowning champions and handing out trophies. Does anyone care whom the White House press corps thinks should win the New Hampshire primary?


Amen to your column on the winner of the Sugar Bowl being the national champion. I have heard absolutely nothing good from ESPN about the BCS. ESPN picks the Heisman winner, they choose many of the bowl participants (90 percent of the bowl games were broadcast on their stations) and they can't stand not being able to choose the national champion.

When a team fires their coach, ESPN even wants to name the replacement. Their arrogance has become almost intolerable to me, but I have to watch them because that's where the games are.

David Beals
Knoxville, Tenn.


With that kind of logic, Wetzel, you just need to go into your little closet and ask yourself, "We played by the rules and O.J.'s not guilty?"

John Reynolds

Well, that is exactly what we do in this country. O.J. Simpson is a free man. Just because (I assume) the majority of the country thinks he did it doesn't mean he should be in prison. The system is the system.


In my opinion USC ended ranked above LSU in the polls because they began the season ranked above LSU and lost their one game before LSU lost theirs. I'm deployed with a bunch of California guardsmen who have been shooting down that argument. Their response was, to a man: "That's the system in which we play."

When it turned on them at the last possible minute every one of them, to a man, was saying that the system under which we play is flawed! USC may be co-No. 1, but they are not co-national champions. The BCS champion is the sole national champion.

Sgt. R.J. Long
270th MP Co (and LSU alumnus)
Baghdad, Iraq


BAYOU BENGAL FANS
(Jan. 2: "True Bayou Bengals")

Just read your article about Ha-Ha down the bayou. I live up the bayou in Houma and I think you got it right. It is amazing; everyone down the bayou has a nickname.

Once on a flight from Corpus Christi to Houston, I was sitting next to a Texas alum. As an LSU alum, we started talking football. His prophetic comment as we departed the plane was, "I went to a game at Tiger Stadium when I was a student." He then grappled for the right words and said, "You know, most of your fans there didn't go to college." I laughed out loud. He didn't want to insult me and in fact he didn't. Tiger fans are a unique breed and many never stepped foot on campus. C'est tu. Geaux Tigers.

Keith Rhea
Houma, La.


I didn't know someone so smart could be so ignorant about something. You have over-stereotyped so much that your writing resembles the fictional crap seen on movies and TV shows. Maybe you should spend time around the whole state before you write about it. Isn't that what writers and journalists do? Perform research.

Kimberly Walker
Baton Rouge, La.

I didn't stereotype or fictionalize anything and I never said this was representative of the entire state. I just drove down there and this is what I found. These were real people and that is what they really said.


I know it is easy to poke fun of Cajun and Southern Louisiana people. I just hope, as I'm sure you did, that you found the people hospitable, unique, fun loving and good natured.

A lot can be said for [these qualities] even though ... the virtues of high culture often found in larger cities seem to have passed the region by. Did you feel this way when you visited for your article?

Barrett Noble
Houston, Texas

Hopefully it came across in the article that I liked and respected the Sapias very much. If not, then let me reiterate that I did. I hung out and fished with them for a while, and if it weren't such a long drive back to New Orleans I would have stayed longer. They are good, smart, hardworking people who have a beautiful, close, tight-knit family. Ha-Ha is just a very colorful, unique character who says some truly funny things. And he is one insane Tiger fan.


I have read your articles before and enjoyed them. I will not read anything more you write. You portrayed one southern family with utter disregard to the rest of the southern state as well. You used poor judgment and insulted all Cajuns, from Dulac to Lafayette. I only wish you would write articles with positive underlying messages as well as negative.

Kevin Cement
Thibodaux, La.


Great column about Louisiana, LSU, and cultural diversity in this state. You were right on target.

Walter J. Woodman
Shreveport, La.


"One of the beauties of college sports is how a team from an elite institution of higher learning manages to bring together everyone from the entire state."

Man, we can sure tell what generation you're from. The Clinton Era. Facts don't matter, do they? Elite institution? Let's see. Is LSU more elite than Yale or Harvard, or Cambridge, or MIT, or Stanford, or Caltech, or ... Golly gee, we thought LSU was noted for baseball, football and agriculture. We Ph.D.'s are such idiots.

Go Tigers. Win one for Einstein, boys!

Daniel Morris

A person would have to be 3 years of age or younger to not be from the Clinton Era, so I don't even know what that point is about. If you don't think much of LSU, fine. Maybe it isn't Harvard or Yale, but in Southern states the big, SEC university is very much an elite institution. And one I believe you are underestimating.


REAL WINNERS
(Jan. 3: "Real winners")

Your Real Winners column was right on the money! You certainly expressed a real view of what it is all about in relating the actions of these two Sooner football team players.

The issue of Mr. Price is disturbing, and more so when ESPN highlighted him on his views earlier in the season. All the controversy [over] No. 1 by Coach Carroll is ridiculous. Texas Tech's "stunt" against Navy was tasteless. So it is worth remembering who the heroes are Sunday, no matter who wins or loses. My hat's off to you!

John A. Whitney Sr.
Ada, Okla.


Thank you for your story about Sooners receiver Mark Clayton and defensive tackle Lynn McGruder and their heroic acts on the freeway. It is great to see you are looking out for the good people. It is stories like this one of selfless service that make me proud to defend such a great society as America.

Shane Martin
Ramstein AB, Germany


I enjoyed your column about Mark Clayton and Lynn McGruder. What they did after the auto accident was admirable, to say the least. But are you completely unaware that McGruder was dismissed from the Tennessee football team after he was arrested on charges of manufacture, sale and delivery of marijuana?

Being a scholarship athlete at a major program is a privilege, not a right, even if you're a highly touted blue-chip lineman, and I don't believe in second chances for guys who should be doing ten years hard time instead of playing college football. How many solid, responsible, law-abiding student-athletes would love to have McGruder's place on the OU team? Thousands, no doubt.

George McCoy
Shawnee, Kan.

I struggled with whether to include McGruder's past charge in the original column, and then again over whether I should print this letter. Maybe I should have ignored it again. My feeling is that what happened in Tennessee has nothing to do with what happened in Oklahoma. The fact that he broke the law two years ago doesn't change the fact that he pulled people out of a burning minivan.

Besides, the court dismissed the charges after McGruder stayed out of trouble for one year. He has the right to play football and OU has the right to take him.

I have always found it difficult to balance this stuff. You can't just brush everything aside, but I just hate when you see an obituary of some great person and somewhere in there is a line that 20 years ago he was charged with DUI or something. Life isn't all about our missteps. I won't claim that I have all the journalistic answers here, though.


Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports national columnist. Send him a comment for potential use in a future The People's Voice.