I rarely missed an episode of Late Night with David Letterman from the time it debuted on NBC.
Of course, I loved Larry "Bud" Melman (who didn't?), but my favorite segment was always Viewer Mail.
And so, given the volume of mail I receive on boxing and mixed martial arts topics, I've decided to start a weekly reader email column.
If you click on the link at the bottom of any of my columns and send me feedback, I'll consider using your message. You can also send me messages at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The topic most on your minds in the last week is obviously the column I wrote about steroids in MMA in the aftermath of the positive tests of UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk and challenger Hermes Franca.
I was flooded with comments on the column, which were evenly split among those who agreed with my take that UFC president Dana White should try to get control of the issue and those who think I'm a.) ugly; b.) a moron; c.) educated at about a fifth-grade level; d.) fat and out of shape; e.) envious of the fighter's skills (there was more, but I'm beginning to get depressed).
What shocked me, though, is how many readers not only condone the use of anabolic steroids but who encourage the fighters to use them.
Anyway, let's get to it (my answers in italics):
CLEANING UP ("MMA needs to address steroids problem" July 19, 2007)
I will forever remember you, Kevin! It is clear you're being paid off by the nasty (expletive) boxing promoters and I hope you get hit by a (expletive) truck. You're pathetic and I hope all the bad things in life happen to YOU and nobody else but you.
Jeremy, who didn't give his last name or his city and state, is upset because he thinks I attacked the sport of MMA in my take on steroids. Nothing is further from the truth. Since a lot of my critics on this subject hold similar feelings (though none put it as eloquently as Jeremy, who obviously has to have a Harvard education), I want to make the following quick points:
I have grown to love MMA in the seven years I've covered it.
I think the athletes are among the most sincere and cooperative I've ever met in nearly 30 years of covering sports.
I understand that even those who use steroids still have to work hard.
I clearly understand that it's more than just an MMA issue and that steroids are rampant throughout the sports spectrum.
Having said that, I haven't changed my position despite the many who have urged me to do so.
Using steroids is cheating. And it's dangerous. And it needs to be stopped.
According to a report in The Wrestling Observer by the estimable Dave Meltzer, there were 30 positive drug tests in boxing and MMA shows in 49 live events from April through the first week of July. Of those 30, 22 of the positives came from MMA shows and 11 of those were for steroids.
That's just one state.
You said, "The sport is dirty." Although my argument is purely semantic, and I infer no improper motives from you, I take exception to that statement because I – and I fear others – infer from it that you mean the organizations are dirty. Boxing is a dirty sport because of the promoters and other professionals attached to it are crooked. MMA, as an industry, isn't crooked (as far as I can tell). Naïve? Maybe. Willfully blind? Almost certainly. But they aren't crooks. Instead, it's the fighters that are "fighting dirty," and I would have preferred words to that effect.
Ocean View, Del.
When I say the sport is dirty, Robert, I'm definitely referring to the large number of fighters who are using steroids. Again, while I recognize this is not a unique problem to MMA, it's a problem which needs to be addressed.
MMA promoters have the opportunity to be the leaders in professional sports here by requiring that theirs is a clean sport. That may be naïve, but it's a good goal to strive for and something I would encourage.
Who really gives a crap if these guys are on steroids? You sound like a big-time (expletive). Boxing is gone, the UFC is in. There still aren't as many steroid heads as there are in baseball or football! Of course, Bud Selig couldn't be any more of a weenie. Quit trying to stick up for everything else. The UFC is making tons of money and you can't stand it.
It's sad that Ryan's opinion is held more widely than anyone can imagine.
I just wonder if, years from now when some of these fighters turn up with liver problems, are folks like Ryan going to be there to give them financial assistance with their medical bills?
BERNARD HOPKINS ("No butts about it: Hopkins a winner" July 21, 2007)
I'm curious about what it is that makes Bernard Hopkins so boring to watch? I mean, the guy has beaten all the best fighters of his time. He has an amazing record and he's done it at an advanced age. Yet he is not entertaining to watch. He's the most boring fighter since Pernell Whitaker. Why is that? Is it his terrific defensive skills? I don't get it. I should like this guy, yet I don't.
Hopkins was amazing in his win Saturday over Winky Wright, though it wasn't the kind of back-and-forth slugfest that people talk about for years.
Hopkins is a master of subtlety and I think it's hard for some people to appreciate the small things he does.
But give him this:
He's always in superb condition.
He's a master of strategy.
He's willing to fight anyone.
He deserves big-time kudos for that and he'll get them when he's elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame the first day he is eligible.
I think the UFC has an array of light heavyweights to fight Chuck Liddell (Liddell is fighting Keith Jardine on Sept. 22 in Anaheim, Calif.). Houston Alexander beat Jardine and deserves recognition.
Canyon Lake, Calif.
I wouldn't have minded seeing Houston Alexander get the shot at Liddell. I told White when we spoke on the phone when the Liddell-Jardine match was signed that I didn't like it and didn't think it was an appropriate main event.
Even though White and Jardine trainer Greg Jackson point out that Jardine got caught as a way of explaining his quick knockout loss to Alexander on May 26, in my opinion, Jardine wasn't nearly at Liddell's level even had he, as expected, beaten Alexander.
No disrespect meant to the "Dean of Mean" here because I like him as a fighter and he's a good guy, but I would rather have seen Liddell fight Shogun Rua on the Sept. 22 show. Rua fought in Pride before coming to the UFC and White wants to expose him to the UFC audience before putting him in a big event like that. But I think enough fans know Rua and would have gotten excited by a Liddell-Rua main event that it could have, and should have, been made.
Why doesn't Bernard Hopkins challenge WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson?
It would be an interesting fight, but it's not the kind of bout a 42-year-old champion is looking for now. Hopkins is willing to fight anyone, but at this stage of his career, with only a handful of fights remaining, he wants to take the fights that pay the most.
And because Dawson isn't widely known, it would be a high-risk, low-reward kind of fight from Hopkins' view.
There is a great boxer coming out of Venezuela, only it is not Edwin Valero but Jorge Linares. The guy looked extraordinarily composed and efficient Saturday against Oscar Larios. No wonder (trainer) Kenny Adams is impressed. What did you think of his performance?
I was blown away by how good Linares looked. He's one of boxing's next big stars. I figured he would win the fight for the interim WBC featherweight title, but he surpassed my expectations. Linares can box, and he has great power and the charisma to make himself a star in the U.S.
I'd give him a double A-plus for that effort, and I've put him on my list of must-see fighters.