I got so much feedback this week I needed steroids just to get through it all. Seriously, this was great. More than 1,500 letters from 11 different countries checking in. And I received 27 emails alone from Starkville, Miss., which has only 21,000 residents. Next week I'm going to write something nice about China (pop. 1.2 billion) and hopefully get the same percentage of feedback, then go ask for a raise.
If I don't get it, I'll just run for governor of Mississippi.
Indonesian labor officials and Barry Bonds fans will rejoice.
Now on to the People's Voice. My comments are in italics.
SPRING TRAINING (Feb. 23-28: Road Trip)
Stop, you are having way too much fun! Just kidding, it was almost like being there. The sounds and smells and the warm breezes of spring training are like no other. Thanks for sharing and we can all be optimistic at this time. Even me and my son... Mets fans.
Michael Patrick Hogue
Life isn't fair. Let me preface this statement by saying, you suck.
Life is an up-at-dawn, physically grueling, mentally taxing marathon for me each day ... so naturally I hate the guy who has it better than me.
Is there is any way you can get me a job? You know, talk to your editor, pull some strings for the little guy? I'd appreciate it. If not, at the very least, spare a thought for me as you throw back a cold one while basking in the warm spring sun and the light of our national pastime. I envy you, dude. I really do.
Sorry dude, I'm scared of the competition. I prefer my editor thinking I am the only one capable of pulling this rigorous task off.
Your column on covering spring training being the best job sent me back to my youth in San Francisco and the glories of sunny mornings, chalk lines and the smell of leather gloves and fresh cut grass. In your picturesque words, you captured what sports is all about – memories and dreams. Well done!
Usa River, Tanzania
Your tongue-in-cheek style created points of humor in the midst of what is an absolutely tragic episode and season in the world of sports in general, and in the game of baseball specifically.
Those of us who have tried to maintain the love affair our grandfathers and fathers gave us for the national pastime find it hard to do anything but fall into a cynical hole that will not be filled by the empty and farcical denials of those who have let themselves and us down so badly.
Shame on you all who have taken our game to such a sad place.
Instead of letting everything play out, you feel the need to bash the players that are at the heart of the steroid issue. I'm not saying they are innocent or guilty. What I am saying is that an investigation will reveal what happened.
I submit that you don't know anything about who is using steroids and who isn't so you should shut your yap if you're going to make allegations until you have some hard evidence. As usual ... you've acted like an irresponsible idiot!
Lake Dallas, Texas
Because I severely doubt there will ever be a fair, honest investigation of the players' activities (which the Feds are not currently looking into), I felt now was the time to express my opinion on the matter. In other cases (i.e. Kobe), I wait until I hear more facts.
It is sad what has happened to the game. I long for the innocence of baseball days gone by. "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?"
Long Valley, N.J.
Aren't you beating a dead horse on the use of steroids with baseball players? I mean, who gives a rats arse? I don't!
Aren't there bigger fish to fry, like the 'roid manufacturers in Europe who always stay one step ahead by knowing how to mask the use of juice? Without all these humongous salaries, much of this wouldn't exist. And who created these huge salaries where players will do almost anything to stay in the game? Of course, the owners!
Look at the BIG PICTURE instead of the players!
Woodlawn, Bronx, N.Y.
Funniest stuff I've read since Norman Chad. Laughed my anabolic steroids off.
Terrific job of summarizing the issue with keen insight and acerbic wit. Now about this fortune in gold bullion I need to get out of the state. ...
Jan Peter Ozga
You are so not funny it's laughable. Someone should take that pen away from you. You're embarrassing yourself.
Sarcasm at its best! I couldn't stop laughing!
Huntington Beach, Calif.
I am not one for revisionist history. But what possible compensation can be obtained, or punishment assessed, if it is determined that, among others, Jason Giambi was in fact "juiced" last year? Keep in mind that Giambi knocked two monster home runs off the Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS after returning from injury.
The "facts" as we know them tell us that use of steroids (as Giambi is alleged to have taken) would have assisted/expedited his injury recovery (making him more fit to play than, say, another player suffering the same injury) and boosted his muscle mass, etc. (and we all know what effect that can have) – conferring upon him, and therefore the Yankees, an advantage that proved the difference of an enormous scale on possibly one of the greatest stages.
ALCS cannot be replayed and Sox fans might be saying "what if?" It is a messy problem, I appreciate that. But in this case, I honestly feel that, if the allegations are proved true, "the Sox were robbed!" (barring, of course, revelations that half the Sox lineup was on the "juice" as well – which has yet to be mooted).
Oh brother, just what we need – another curse for the TV networks to beat to death.
I am 41 years of age. I am an avid softball player and I used weight training as a way to make me stronger and hit the softball farther and harder. I used Creatine as a way to enhance my workouts. I gained over 20 lbs. due to my working out and eating.
It is very possible that a Barry Bonds or Gary Sheffield could and can maintain their athletic abilities by being focused on working out on a regular basis in the regular season and offseason. The strength and weight gains can be amazing but it takes a lot of dedication to stay at this level.
Until these gentlemen have been drug tested please don't convict them of any wrongdoing.
Kansas City, Mo.
There is a saying in Spanish that says there is not a worse blind person than someone who does not want to see. The MLBPA is worse than a blind person. They only care about the money they get from the players. I believe they are now worse than the team owners.
The union will first demand that fans are tested for steroid use as they walk in the stadiums, then force its clean-cut members to take the test or walk.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
OK, for a moment, I kind of agree with you when you said "And one thing I know for sure is that the Major League Baseball Players Association is a real labor union. Without it, being a major leaguer would be akin to Nike factory worker, Indonesian division."
The Indonesian salary system is considered to be one of the worst, but when Nike decided to leave Indonesia (which is scheduled this year, and already being scheduled from three years back) and moves it all the way to Vietnam and China, why do you think they (and soon Adidas) are doing it?
Is it because the Indonesian Labor Union is creating and proposing a new standard regulation of minimum salary to lift up the workers' salary, and that has to be followed by the business environment? The Indonesian salary system may be one of the worst, but compared to China and Vietnam, we are not the worst.
There are few sports columns that have more readers than this one, which for a writer is a great thing. The downside is you can't get away with any unchecked comment. You absolutely always will be called on it. This is the perfect example. Batam, Indonesia? Who knew? So, I apologize to the Indonesian Labor Union for my unsubstantiated comment. You may not be good, but you aren't as bad as I wrote.
DICK VITALE (March 5: The consummate contributor)
Your piece on Dick Vitale is excellent. Though there's always been something about the man that rubbed me just a touch the wrong way (maybe because he never stops smiling), you summarized all the right reasons to love what the man has done for the sport. Through your words I've gained that much more respect for him.
Doug La Farge
I've almost worn out the mute button on my TV remote watching a game that Dick Vitale is broadcasting. I watch and listen to the game until Vitale starts talking, then hit the button. I cannot stand the constant "baby," his yelling, and his voice and mannerisms really irritate me.
If I had to vote for him for the Hall of Fame, he would never get in.
I grew up in suburban Detroit. My best friend since grade school is a guy named Todd Nadeau. He was a promising high school basketball player at Detroit Catholic Central. In the summer of 1979, when we were about to start our senior year, Todd was in an accident in a plant he was working at for the summer, and had his hand cut off with an industrial saw.
He was rushed to the hospital where the hand was reattached during an 11-hour operation. Over the next year and a half, he would have another 23 operations to try to regain its use. Todd did most of his senior year in high school from a hospital bed, and obviously, basketball was out of the question at that point.
At that time, Dick Vitale was the coach at the University of Detroit, and he would soon land the Detroit Pistons head coaching job. Needless to say, he couldn't have had a whole lot of spare time on his hands, but when he heard about Todd's situation, he made time to visit him in the hospital. Not once mind you, but at least a couple times a week! I would go down to visit my buddy every couple of days, and it seemed like Coach Vitale was almost always there.
He would constantly bring players like Bob Lanier, John Long and Terry Tyler with him to cheer Todd up. There's nothing quite like seeing a die-hard athlete, who just had his hand cut off and reattached, lying in a hospital bed, and still grinning from ear to ear because his heroes are in his room to see him. There were never any television cameras, or any other media of any kind to report these good deeds. This was simply an act of kindness.
At a time when my best friend could have easily given up on life, Coach Vitale helped him keep his head in the game by taking time that he really didn't have to show up in person on a regular basis to help keep Todd motivated, and his spirits up.
Todd never did regain full use of his hand, but he has never let that hold him back from anything. He went on to play college basketball one handed, and is still a die-hard athlete. He routinely beats me in golf using one arm to swing the club. He has his own sports training equipment business, and works with kids in sports motivation and training. He has a beautiful wife and two beautiful stepdaughters. He has a great life!
Dick Vitale had a part in making that happen. I seriously doubt that this is an isolated incident with Coach Vitale. Whether he knows it or not, he has had a terrific impact on a lot of people's lives, and I for one will be forever grateful to him.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (March 8: The eternal optimist)
Yes, Mississippi is last in a lot of things, and outsiders like us to be the butt of most ranking jokes. I've lived and visited in a lot of different places but I'm happiest right here in good old Olive Branch, Miss. Geez, what other place can you own 3.5 acres and a reasonable house and only pay $280 per year in property taxes!
Olive Branch, Miss.
I am originally from West Point, an even smaller town near Starkville, and I believe this is the first positive piece I have ever read in the national media on the area.
I was still living in Mississippi in 1996 before I joined the Marine Corps and left the simple life behind. Very rarely is Mississippi afforded an opportunity or a cause to rally around like the 1996 Final Four team. Life literally paused just long enough to watch a team take an entire state on its shoulders for forty minutes. And even though WE lost to Syracuse, we felt like we had accomplished something great.
I think about that Final Four every year, and how the whole state seemed to be united if only for a moment. And when I look at the list of national champions, I think about how lucky Kentucky was that WE lost to Syracuse. Or else Rick Stansbury's dream of a national title in Starkville may have been realized under Richard Williams. We owned Kentucky in '96.
via Vicksburg, Miss.
Thanks for the kind words about our home, Mississippi. It seems most people are quick to "point and snicker." We still struggle under the stereotype of the '60s when it seemed that Mississippi was burning, hanging and shooting. We have come a long way since the changes brought on by the Civil Rights Act.
Even though I am a graduate of Ole Miss, I appreciate the nice column about Miss. State and my state as a whole. It is a great place to grow up. The people of Mississippi are what makes it a special place.
I attended and received my BS in Engineering from Miss. State, and for you to know about the Starkville Cafe... most impressive. Thank you for finding the positive things about my university. As always, it's much easier to bash a small "redneck" state than speak kindly.
I can't imagine making a trip to Starkville without stopping in at the Cafe. A true southern classic.