OK, I take that back. Plenty of mail in the last month has been plenty insulting. But such is the mailbag, the place where it's my turn to be the piñata:
ON MICKELSON AND WOODS AT THE MASTERS:
Phil played a great tournament and he has had a tough past year &. Now, why did you spoil his story by involving Tiger Woods in it? We just happen to know Tiger's history due to a tabloid leak which just exploded from there. Are you with Phil 24/7 or know him and his wife's history? Of course not. So call Phil's story what it is, and leave Tiger out of it. I think it would be a safe bet that if Tiger's wife or mom had cancer he would do the something along the same lines as Phil. I'm sure no matter who won you would have portrayed them as the anti-Tiger. Please stop the fake outrage over Tiger's infidelities.
-- Mitch (Fairfax, Va.)
You make a good point about Tiger doing the same if it were his wife or mom. I'm sure he would. My point was that both players had gone through a very tough year, one of them because of his own inexplicable decisions regarding women and one through female forces he had no control of. You'd had to have been an anvil not to notice the theme.
"And a man buried in the most unshaven sex scandal in sports history was greeted like a returning astronaut." Really? In history? Magic contracted HIV after having sex with everything that moved in the 80's (And I think he was married at the time - at least for some of it). Kobe was charged with RAPE. Look, I don't think what the guy did was right by any stretch - I'd certainly never cheat on my wife. But, I think you can tone down the hyperbole a bit, eh? I mean, there is a reason it's not against the law to cheat on your spouse - because our jails aren't big enough. I guarantee you there are hundreds or thousands of pro athletes out there doing the exact same thing as Tiger.
-- Dignan (Philadelphia)
Well, to be fair, all charges against Kobe were dropped. There is no doubt, however, that Tiger is to affairs what Imelda Marcos was to platform heels. Tiger himself has admitted to "disgusting" and "horrible" behavior. My astonishment at what happened at the Masters was that after such a sordid and tawdry sex scandal, Woods was barely heckled at all, unless you count the airplane circling above and a few random shouts.
I thought that deserved comment. So sue.
You are absolutely right. Phil's win last Sunday was a win for women. It was also a win for those of us who try to live and give of ourselves, with honor and integrity. Thank you, again.
-- Mary Schoelch (Shoreview, Minn.)
AND A WOMAN WHO THOUGHT JUST THE OPPOSITE:
Mickelson's win a victory for women? Augusta National still won't allow women to join? You're better than this stupid column.
-- Jon (Roy, Utah)
When I saw [Mickelson] embrace his stricken wife with tears running down his face that changed everything for me. I immediately contrasted that image to Tiger's self absorbed tantrums ... I was so struck by irony of that. I am now a Phil convert.
-- Peter Brzezinski
It's a horrible thing what those brave ladies are going through, and this is in no way meant to question their sincerity, but how does playing golf actually help them? Doesn't it help Mickelson and Mickelson alone? Sure, it was nice that Phil won, but I just don't see how it is beneficial for those brave ladies. Phil yes, them no.
-- Chris Kane (Atlantic City, N.J.)
Try this: Just imagine the increase in donations to breast cancer research from that tear-soaked scene on 18 alone. How many more men will walk in a Susan G. Komen event? Those images were powerful and seen by millions. That translates into money and activism.
ON TRADING DONOVAN MCNABB:
Rick, I respect your opinion, but you are completely off on the McNabb trade. A coach caring for his players should not be lambasted by the media as being "soft" or putting "family over business." Just because Reid isn't so quick to off his greatest player to the black hole of Oakland (read: Belichick) or the pseudo-black hole of Buffalo doesn't mean Andy is incompetent as a coach. I remind you that such player loyalty is what brought faded stars such as Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas back to the Eagles. Reid cares about his guys, and players around the league should be taking notice.
-- Brandon (Bethesda, Md.)
Let me get this straight. Andy Reid just traded away a six-time pro bowl quarterback with three or four good years left and that's going to go out as a beacon to the rest of the league's players how "loyal" he is? Has it occurred to you that the reason the Eagles are willing to trade McNabb in division to the Redskins is because he is no longer a good quarterback? They clearly are not afraid he will come back to beat them. Although I disagree with a lot of what the Eagles do, they are not a stupid organization.
-- Scott Cavett (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.)
I'll bet you a Pat's cheesesteak you're wrong.
You said that Belichick wouldn't trade inside the division...yes he would. Take a look at the Drew Bledsoe to the Bills trade a few years ago. An up and coming quarterback (Tom Brady) led to Bledsoe getting traded to the Bills. Bledsoe is quite similar to McNabb as well. A few good years left in him and a quarterback that came close but never was able to win it all. Hey if Belichick did it maybe this wasn't too bad of an idea.
-- David Wolff (State College, Pa.)
OK, I ignored Bledsoe because he wasn't even the starter when he was traded, never mind a star. But OK, one for you. Next time you see me, you get to slug me on the shoulder.
ON WEST VIRGINIA BASKETBALL COACH BOB HUGGINS:
Who are you to comment so negatively about WV and the hard workers in this state? I would love to see you do one shift in the coal mines.
This column seemed to offend people all over the state of West Virginia. While I stand by how I feel about Huggins, I regret that my crack that he would've made a good coal miner because he likes to work in places away from the lights offended so many people. I didn't mean to ridicule coal miners. I can't think of a tougher or more dangerous job and my hard hat goes off to them. For that, I apologize.
Look, we all know that Bob Huggins isn't perfect, but for you to get so butt-hurt that he's having success at WVU is pathetic. Let me guess: He's not a carbon copy of coach K, so he's a POS, right? Huggins has screwed up before, and he's not "personable", but who cares? The man's good at what he does: coaching basketball. Get off your high horse, you slimy little worm. You realize that, right? You are the WORM of all ESPN/Sportscenter people.
-- Omar Behery (Morgantown, W.Va.)
I take offense, sir. We have no worms at the Worldwide Leader. We do, however, have an on-campus bait shop.
Are you intentionally trying to inspire WVU fans to go to your house and set your couches on fire?
-- Jason (Washington, D.C.)
Yes, I really hate the print on my couches.
Hey Rick, I read your article about Bob Huggins, but I don't know how you can feel the same after seeing tonight's game. The moment between Huggins and Butler was as emotional as it gets. Whether you like him or not, he had a great connection with this team.
-- Brad Goldman (Baltimore)
I agree that was a wonderful moment, but I think you should re-read the column. I practically broke an ankle pointing out how close he is with his players and how much they love him. That moment didn't surprise me. What surprises me is how so many West Virginians have risen up to defend a man who is the Typhoid Mary of college basketball and who wouldn't think twice to leave them behind tomorrow if a better offer came up. Exhibit A: Kansas State.
I was a tutor in the athletic department at Akron when both Bob Huggins and Gerry Faust coached there. Bob Huggins was a bully, an abomination, and definitely not interested in the success of the student portion of the athlete.
-- Brian (Akron, Ohio)
Your comments on Bob Huggins couldn't be more ... right! I grew up in Indiana, and I was there to see some of the Cincy games. Graduated no one, cussed constantly in front of everyone, not a kind word to anyone who said anything to him, and yet they kept him. Tell [West Virginia fans] to wait. One day Bob Huggins will thoroughly disappoint them.
-- Brad Dixon (Charlottesville, Va.)
ON SLOW BASEBALL:
I saw your spot on Sportscenter about the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers having the longest games. You think the fact that they have good offenses which means more at bats and leads to … the opposing teams pitching around people, having mound conferences and making more pitching changes might have something to do with that?
-- Steve Morgen (Somerdale N.J.)
What slows down Yankees and Red Sox games is that they all seem to behave like Art Carney on the golf course. Their pitchers and hitters take forever to get on the mound and get in the box. Adjusting, primping, re-velcroing, scratching, pondering. It's ludicrous! Derek Jeter often takes 30 seconds between pitches. And that's after seeing a ball! Perhaps they all think they're starring in a Wagner opera. If their hideously long games are simply a product of scoring more runs, why did commissioner Bud Selig call them and tell them to speed it up? Why did umpire Joe West recently call the speed of a Red Sox-Yankees game he called "pathetic and embarrassing"?
ON NFL DRAFT RESULTS:
I wonder if the "results" (number of pro-bowl appearances) aren't more the result of the coaching a player receives more than the picks. That is, maybe the reason Indianapolis has more pro bowl players than Cleveland is because they coach their players to be successful. Maybe Indianapolis and Pittsburgh (because they are the top two) could just pick players out of a hat and turn them into pro bowlers. Cleveland could pick players out of a hat to be heater hoggers.
-- Scott Andrews (Ames, Iowa)
So you're saying If Tim Couch would've been taken by Indy instead of Cleveland, he'd be Peyton Manning? No way. Cleveland's drafts go flatter than a keg with a hole in it.
I don't think you understand. To be a Cleveland fan means to live in the ashes of whatever season just ended (if it was a playoff season then it probably ended tragically) and then anticipate next year to rise up out of those ashes like a Phoenix. The NFL draft for Browns fans is that hope, at this point we have already put Couch, Brown, Warren, Green, Winslow, Edwards, etc., not completely out of our minds (because we still cling to bitterness as a master emotion) but in the back of it. We love the draft because like spring, it gives us hope...only to ultimately disappoint us in the end. Wait 'til next year!
-- James Lotz (Cleveland)
I pity you.
Why would the Giants have picked Ron Dayne? It isn't as if he broke and still holds the NCAA Div 1-A record for career rushing yards, won the 1999 Heisman Trophy, won 2 Rose Bowls MVP awards during wins in '99 and '00, rushed for over 1,000 yards in all 4 seasons with Wisconsin, holds the Big Ten total touchdown record with 71, and shares the title of most 200-yard games in NCAA history with Ricky Williams. What would you have said after your draft? "We hope we made the right decision, but we won't know for sure until they produce. And they may NEVER produce." I bet your fans would love that kind of talk.
-- Jason (Tucson, Ariz.)
Yes, yes that's exactly what I'd like from coaches, GMs and TV analysts. But instead all weekend, what did we hear, 100 times? The usual platitudes: "They've just had a great draft." And "They've just made the steal of the draft." And "They've made their team significantly better." Fine. But I'm saving all those quotes and pulling them out in three years.