Your voice is louder than ever, and we are listening.
Happy holidays to all of our readers – ranks that seem to be swelling by the minute. In the past few months since opening this forum, we have asked you to send your opinions, and you've done it with insight, color and authority. Your readership is a gift to us, and this forum is our gift to you. We couldn't be happier to be sharing it with so many people.
That said, we hit a benchmark over the last week, after a reader in our last mailbag compared Pat Tillman's departure from the NFL to that of Ricky Williams, asking why the two were treated so differently. Readers responded to that question in the hundreds, more than ever for a single topic.
Readers also turned out to voice their opinions about the NFL steroid-testing policy, which many fans seem to feel is a sham, even in the face of pro baseball's glaring shortcomings. Sprinkle in thoughts about Jerome Bettis and several other topics, and it's not hard to see why you've all made this weekly piece a success.
So keep the responses coming.
And remember, if you want your thoughts to be considered for future forums, please include your first and last name, as well as your city and state of residence.
To the mail …
PAT TILLMAN VS. RICKY WILLIAMS ("Read and React: Hate wave," Dec. 15, 2004)
Ricky Williams bailed out on his teammates who had built their offense and pinned their hopes for the whole year on him – because he'd rather globe-trot and smoke weed, as is his prerogative. Pat Tillman gave up his NFL salary to do something he thought was his duty, and gave up his life protecting the rights of people to make ignorant comparisons like the one Rukara Lewis made.
Pat Tillman did not leave to go travel the world, smoke pot and do nothing to contribute to society. He left because he felt it was the right thing to do. And to say that Tillman enjoyed killing is sick.
I can't believe you included the email comparing the exit of Ricky Williams from the NFL with Pat Tillman's. Just because someone writes something perfectly asinine doesn't mean you're obligated to publish it.
Charles, Charles, Charles, how could you print but then not issue a response to Rukara Lewis' email?
I would rather let our readers do the responding on this issue. I figured there would be plenty of well-thought replies from you folks, and there have been. This forum isn't about me ripping on readers.
No excuse for even writing that question about Pat Tillman compared to Ricky Williams. I am ashamed your editor would even allow such nonsense to be printed.
If you believe that Pat Tillman left for something honorable, then maybe you believe people have the right to the freedom and opinions he was fighting for. Rukara Lewis made a thought provoking comment. If you've read in the past, you've seen that we include a wide array of emails, even ones we don't necessarily agree with. It's what makes this forum fair, and keeps the spirit of expression true.
I can't stand the comparison of Tillman and Williams – that they both left to do what they "want" to do, including that Pat Tillman wanted to kill people.
New Haven, Conn.
Ricky Williams deserves what is coming to him. Personally, I like him as a football player, but he did not honor his end of the deal. Pat Tillman should in no way be linked to him for leaving the NFL to serve his country. He did one of the most honorable things you could do. It was a conviction that he held onto.
Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Corbin
Seeing Ricky Williams on 60 Minutes really convinced me that Ricky did what was best. As a New Orleans fan I know he wasn't happy here and it was nice to see that he's happy with himself now.
Baton Rouge, La.
JEROME BETTIS ("Magic Bus," Dec. 18, 2004)
When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to go pass-happy last year, and they made Amos Zereoue the starter, Jerome Bettis didn't pout. He did his job. Bettis allowed the Steelers to re-work his contract so that they could improve the team and stay under the cap for this year. And he took a back seat to Duce Staley and never complained. He is one class act!
Niagara Falls, Ontario
I couldn't agree more. He's a joy to cover as a football writer.
A few weeks back, New England Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest was talking about Bettis and said in an interview, half-jokingly, "Is he even still playing?" I guess he knows the answer by now.
Around these parts, most people wrote Bettis off big time, almost as much as University of Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris.
Wait until the playoffs. You're dead wrong about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their washed up running back being the toast of the AFC.
STEROIDS ("NFL's fear factor," Dec. 16, 2004)
If the NFL was clean of steroids, I would never watch the game again. Just think if the players were not using steroids. It would be like going back to the 1960s when linemen were 240 pounds. I don't want to see my linemen 240 pounds!
The NFL substance-abuse regulations are so soft it's laughable. When mere mortals like you and I have to pee in a cup and get caught with using drugs or whatever, we get fired immediately. Probably without pay. And we have to fear for the rest of our career.
Oss, The Netherlands
While I think the NFL's steroid policy is laudable, shouldn't the players resist taking steroids on moral grounds, not because of the dent in their checkbooks? What does it say about the efficacy of the league policy when the only thing keeping players from juicing up is fear of losing money?
I think it says quite a bit about what some players will do to make money, i.e., subject their bodies to harmful substances. But it says even more about what they will do to keep that money.
Maybe next year's MVP should go to Plaxico Burress' hamstring injury which will undoubtedly cause him to lose stock in the free-agent market. This may permit the Steelers to retain his services when in other years they might not have been able to ante up.
Oil City, Pa.
Regardless of the injury, Burress will be in line for a big contract. Teams love his size and speed, even if his production and health haven't been consistent.
Donovin Darius should receive similar treatment as the Indiana Pacers players for going into the stands after fans. There is only one difference, the Pacers were provoked. What a cowardly act to make a vicious illegal hit on a totally vulnerable Robert Ferguson, and even more cowardly to try and justify the illegal act by saying it was a good hit.
West Hartford, Conn.
I wouldn't compare what Darius did to the Pacers attacking fans. That was a situation of total overreaction and uncontrolled rage. Unlike Ron Artest, what Darius did was totally out of character for his reputation. While I don't know if he meant to hit Ferguson's head, it was surprising he didn't receive a suspension, and it was a mistake on his part to justify what happened.
How can you bag on Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice for expressing interest in a college coaching job when he's already being paid as low as a college coach? He is one of the most underpaid coaches in the NFL, so if the owner or whoever else takes exception to whatever Tice said, he can take part responsibility.
I always thought Mike Tice was not NFL head coaching material. There's too much little boy in him. He's too moody and irrational to make practical decisions to lead his team to the playoffs. Minnesota needs a real head coach and an owner who is willing to pay for one. As it is now, the owner got what he paid for.
As the New York Giants continue to lose, the San Diego Chargers and their fans love it. With the rights to New York's No. 1 pick, it looks like it will be no lower than fifth overall. I am having visions of Mike Williams and an offense like the Colts dancing in my head.
Des Moines, Iowa
You wonder what Edgerrin James may think about Peyton Manning calling "his own" number so often on short touchdown plays? Well, seems to me that not so long ago the glaring glitch in the Indianapolis offense was an inability to "punch it in" from short yardage.
I'll tell you how Edgerrin should feel about Manning calling his own number: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I've always been skeptical of the pass setting up the run, but these Colts are a textbook example of how to do it.
Los Angeles, Calif.
In Atlanta, it's the three Ds: defense, Duckett and Dunn. In spite of all the press Michael Vick gets, he's a bust. You were easy on him saying his play is "lukewarm."