With Christmas upon us, we'll try to stick to positive topics. For example, apparently you don't have to be a compulsive gambler to be excited about the last two weeks of the NFL season.
My columns about the Afghanistan Marathon and Notre Dame's new coach also drew mail. As always, thanks for all the feedback. My responses are here in italics.
Now on to The People's Voice...
AFGHANISTAN MARATHON ("A truly amazing race" December 16, 2004)
Kudos to the troops in Afghanistan on running the marathon. We should all stand up and take a moment and thank them for being over there and risking their lives.
The real heroes are our armed forces.
Thank you so much for this wonderful article! I have, of course, been following the stories in the news about the marathon my husband was organizing, but I do believe this is the article I liked the most – mainly for its positive tone. Thank you so much for your support and nice words!
Anita H. S. Hurlburt
I am very active in the running community in the state of New Hampshire and write a column on running and road racing for a local newspaper. There is a runner in New Hampshire who is a member of the military, Raymond Youngs. Raymond is a former runner at Northeastern University in Boston. A couple of years ago Youngs was stationed in Afghanistan and organized a marathon around the base he was stationed ... If you do a search on Minefield Marathon you will get a lot of replies.
Indeed, in April of 2003 more than three hundred soldiers ran four laps around an airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan with a crowd of security and curious Afghans watching. Youngs won but apparently there was no official time.
I'm struck dumb. This war, and the loss of life, is about the [Afghans] being able to run, not us. You remind me of those guys in Saigon who were inside the barbed wire and totally forgot the war was not about the U.S., but about the population. What a joke – a million landmines, drug trade galore and routine violence in the countryside, and we're running marathons?
I don't blame the Marines for wanting to forget about their plight for a while and engage in some form of hijinks, but for you to glamorize it and say it is somehow special makes me seriously question your judgment.
The column was not about the war, our objectives in it or the level of success we are having. The rank-and-file troops have no control over any of the politics involved. During the Olympics I wrote about the new freedoms for Afghans. I do believe there is great merit in celebrating the opportunity for our soldiers to enjoy the chance to run and accomplish a set goal.
Thank you for portraying our military in an honest and non-political light. I don't think it is a coincidence that this "amazing race" was not reported in the mainstream press in the U.S. How could every newspaper and television network ignore this? God forbid anything positive come from Afghanistan.
CHARLIE WEIS ("Looking the part" December 13, 2004)
When Ty was let go I knew it was to go after Urban. I might have been the only guy in the country where my first choice was Weis. I am excited to have this guy and feel ND will be on the right track with him at the helm.
I think Notre Dame is going to get its arrogance back under Weis. And I mean that in a good way.
Why doesn't someone come out and say it: Coach Willingham was not winning as many games as the alumni expected, and they were pulling the plug on contributions. He didn't make a lot of friends with his often stern and short answers, and rich alumni like to be sucked up to.
If Coach Weis doesn't produce a top-10 team in three years, they'll be after his hide also. If he sucks up he may last two more. After that he'll be history also. My feeling is that it will take a very outgoing, dynamic coach, sort of a Rick Pitino type personality.
I am a 1961 graduate of Notre Dame. Reading many of the Irish-bashing articles surrounding the firing of Willingham, about which I had mixed emotions, and the hiring of Weis, I was given the impression that the school should burn itself at the stake.
Having looked at the situation more thoroughly, I think Weis may be the best thing that has happened to Notre Dame coaching for 50 years. Notre Dame has made many mistakes in hiring coaches – Faust and Davies are two big examples – but I don't think Weis will be one of them.
San Clemente, Calif.
I hope they lose every game they play. Tyrone Willingham bailed them out and took a job no one else in the country wanted. With the naysayers and in-house lack of support, Coach Willingham did a wonderful job if put in the proper perspective. Given the proper time that every other coach at ND has received, I believe he would have been successful.
You are the only guy out there in regards to this topic that seems to get it right. The constant bashing on Notre Dame no matter what they do is just getting ridiculous. I love the hire and think Weis will certainly shake down the thunder!
There is undoubtedly a segment of the media that loves hammering Notre Dame at every chance. The problem is, the Irish have provided plenty of chances lately.
NFL STRETCH RUN ("Season's beatings" December 20, 2004)
Amen. After watching Sunday's games (mostly through my eyelids), I found I spent more time looking at StatTracker than the games themselves, to see if I was going to make it to the championship game in my league (which I am).
Where is your "just another lousy Oliver Stone movie" now? Miami beats New England, and all of a sudden we have an AFC playoff picture that could get interesting down the stretch.
Just goes to show you that on any given Sunday...
You want a meaningful game this week? How about Vikings/Packers? Winner takes the division.
Here's an idea, Mr. Wetzel. Since we're so worried about players being injured in such a physical game, and since the NFL has become so predictable now (3 percent of us picked Miami over New England last night!), let's just not play any games at all.
We'll put all the teams into this giant supercomputer and pay a bunch of "football" players to have games simulated! Then we won't have to worry about injuries or "over-hyped" record chases! It would be fantastic!
I think that's called college football.
When was the last time you had 15 teams alive for the playoffs in the NFC with two weeks to go? This weekend (like last weekend) will have only one game in which there are no playoff implications – there is plenty to be excited about. Next time you want to write a column like this, spend the time figuring out all the possible NFC playoff combinations instead.
New York, N.Y.
Most of those games have playoff implications because the NFC is so bad. Washington-Dallas is, by definition, one of those games. It features two 5-9 teams. I'm not excited.