Rick Reilly's Mailbag

I don't mind getting your e-mails, I really don't. But you don't have to SHOUT.


This issue drove people crazy both ways. I called for the NFL to round-file fines and issue suspensions to players who tackle helmet-to-helmet. Hundreds of you said, "What happened to the gladiatorial aspect of the NFL we all love?"

Just a reminder: Most gladiators died in competition.

Man's game Reilly. Don't play if you can't hack it. Don't want hit by Harrison? Go the other direction. You want finesse? Go to the ballet and enjoy the hell out of it. -- Neil Hennigan, Pittsburgh

Geez, relax, Andrew Dice Clay. Throughout history, the NFL has changed its rules to protect its employees. Here's just a few:

  • Banned facemask tackles (1956)

  • Banned clothesline tackles (1960s)

  • Banned the head slap (1977)

  • Banned blocking below the waist (1970s)

  • Stopped play when QB was in the grasp (1979)

  • Banned clipping anywhere on the field (1999)

  • Banned horse-collar tackles (2006)

Did the NFL die after any of those changes? Did football become "soccer" or "two-hand touch" or "ballet"? No, it only got more insanely popular.


Disagree. Nobody's "made" Harrison into a head-hunting contract hitman. In fact, a slew of NFL coaches have come out and reiterated that this is NOT how they teach their players to tackle. Here's what Browns head coach Eric Mangini said:

"That drives me nuts, they should wrap them up, wrap them up, wrap them up, because you can do both. You can be technically sound and bring the back to the ground and wrap up and they teach it from pee-wee on. Head across the bow, good base, exploding up through, hitting with leverage. Not wrapping up drives me crazy. Usually what happens is they go for that big shot and the back spins off them and goes for another 25 yards. It’s low-percentage football. You see guys do it and they get one big hit and the crowd cheers and all that stuff happens and then there’s six other times where they do the same thing and the back runs for 35 yards."

So it's not only NOT what they've been taught, it's lousy football. Worse, it's the kind of football that can leave somebody paralyzed.

As a player, when you are busting your butt and going full speed, it is very difficult to hit someone so that they cannot be injured. Those moments are so quick, it's difficult to think, "Don't hit him in the head." You are instructed to hit people as hard as you can basically, and sometimes that is the difference between winning teams and losing teams. When you are a receiver and come over the middle, it is SCARY. If the NFL keeps making these limited contact rules, offenses are going to be able to run the field without worrying about getting "Lit Up". Make every player aware of the dangers that come with their profession and if they don't want to play, they don't have to. -- Mark Flood

Watch the tapes. These guys are launching themselves at other players. They're leaving their feet. Their arms are to their sides. There's zero intention of trying to wrap up. It's a human missile aimed at a man's head. And in most instances, they lower their helmets at the last instant to double the impact.

You say the new rules will result in "limited contact." Wrong. There will still be oodles of contact, but no more trying to purposely rearrange a guy's brain synapses.

Imagine the damage guys like Harrison are doing to their own brains!

There is no going backward here. The NFL has made the only humane decision it can. The science is finally there to show how much permanent, life-altering damage is going on out there. Suspensions are the only answers. The players need to know the NFL is serious and wimpy cash fines aren't doing it.

James Harrison knows that his brain might be oatmeal in 10 years, but he's still playing the game. He's making a conscious decision to put himself in that danger. If he can't find his car in 10 years because he liked to light up receivers, it's his fault. Taking money away from him now only hurts him in the future when he'll need that $75,000. -- Nick Brundage, Pittsburgh

Fine. What about the guys he hits?

College players and pros pulverizing each other into early dementia? College ball being decided by a computer? No thanks ... I'm taking a pass until these guys get their act together. --Dave, Woodland Park, Colo.

Boy, does it take guts to decapitate a defenseless player. Rather, it takes the character of a savage. I for one do not need crushing head to head contact to enjoy our greatest sport. -- Wayne, Peacock East Greenwich, R.I.

Marvin Harrison did exactly what he's been coached to do probably since pee wee football. -- Bruce, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Hey Bruce, Marvin retired two seasons ago. How many hits have YOU taken?

Why you would bring up the fact that James Harrison's dad was a truck driver? Why the personal attack? I bet you wouldn't say that to his face. Another writer hiding behind the pen. -- Peter Eckman, Port Orange, Fla.

Read much? If you reread the column, you'll see it was HARRISON who said he was considering retiring from football and driving a truck like his dad. I've got no trouble with truck drivers. Who doesn't like truck drivers? My only point was I hope in THAT career, he doesn't have as many head-ons as he does in football.


I asked you to come up with a good nickname for the Miami Heat's troika of superstars -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and (always third) Chris Bosh.

Sadly, you didn't do much better than I did:

Bron's Zoo -- Rex Post, Phoenix

The Trifecta -- Miguel Reyes, Miami

The South Beach Boys -- Kirk Beitz, San Diego

Trilight (Like "Highlight") -- Eddie Lepp, Williamsburg, Va.

The Three Basketeers -- Jeff Iredell, Pottstown, Pa.

LCD -- John Mercado, Sicklerville, N.J.

Threegos -- Bryan Howell, Washington D.C.

The Miami Cheat -- Tyler Smith, Commack, N.Y.

One-Ring Circus (D-Wade is the only one with a ring) -- Mike, Los Angeles

RILEY 3:16 (Their jersey numbers) -- Ben White, Orem, Utah

The Sisterhood of the Traveling That Never Gets Called -- Chris Kytic, Sydney


Mail ran about 2-to-1 against my calling the BCS computers cross-wired, flawed and SEC-biased for continually leap-frogging teams over undefeated Boise State, which happened again this week, by the way.

In fact, now people are trying to take away BCS-conference wins this season they've already earned. Robert Smith, one of ESPN's college football analysts, said recently, "I'm trying to keep an open mind about all this. But I'm not so sure if Boise State plays Virginia Tech today, they beat them."

I'd hate to see Smith on The History Channel. "I'm trying to keep an open mind about all this, but I'm not so sure the Allies win World War II if they fight today."

Keep up the controversy. That is what good reporters do to get everyone talking and hopefully a plus-one or 8-team playoff will happen. But please don't expect people to believe Boise could finish a season in a major conference undefeated. It just wouldn't happen. -- Scott, Glendale, Calif.

No, of course not. And Utah could never beat Alabama. And Boise State could never beat Oklahoma. And Larry Bird's 1979 Indiana State basketball team, from the hopelessly lame Missouri Valley Conference, would never get through even one game in the NCAA basketball tournament, much less the final, right?

If Boise State wants to be seen as legitimate, they can play Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, etc., on the road. I'm sure OSU would take a home game vs visiting Boise. They would also win by 14. -- Mike W., Cleveland

It's wonderful hearing from people who already know the future. Why aren't you playing the stock market?

College football bias continues to fan the flames of nonsense. If Notre Dame strings two consecutive wins together against FCS squads they're automatically a top 10 team in the hunt for a national championship. Why you ask? Because 30 years ago Notre Dame was an elite program. -- Dev Sky, Los Angeles

Can you point me to any articles you wrote in 2004 regarding the BCS, when a 12-0 Auburn team, which had defeated four top-15 teams, was left out of the championship game? I'm just having trouble seeing how Boise State's current hypothetical situation is a greater travesty. -- Richard Schmitz, Washington, D.C.

It's not. It's a travesty every year.

Imagine, just for a second, if the rest of sports worked like the BCS:

  • The Miracle New York Giants of 2007? Wouldn't have been voted into the Super Bowl.

  • Duke, last year's NCAA hoops champions? Wouldn't have been voted into the final.

  • Texas and San Francisco, the two teams in this refreshing World Series? Never heard of 'em.

There are some people in Eugene that would remind you of 2001. -- Keith Fancher, Montgomery, Ala.

Yes, that's the whole freaking point. College football is the only sport in the world where winning every game doesn't mean you progress toward a championship.

My God, if we simply had the plus-one playoff system this season -- just ONE extra game -- you could include all four undefeated teams: Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Boise State. As things stand right now without it, it's quite possible that TCU or Boise State won't even make the Rose Bowl!

Someday, we will all look back on this with shame.

There's another way (for Boise State). Beat a top ten team 3 out of 4 weeks like Auburn just did. Or if we're going to look back, let's make it 6 years so we include Auburn's undefeated season winning the SEC, beating 6+ top 25 teams. The one where they did all that and ended the season ranked 3rd and left out of the BCS Championship. As for an article idea, try this one. If there is a SEC "bias" in the computer polls, does it reflect the fact that the SEC has won 7 out of the 8 times they played in the BCS championship game even though they were the underdog and just barely made it in 6 of those years because they had a loss ... to another SEC team? -- Rupert Patton

All the more reason that SEC fans should be leading the lit-torch vigilantes-heading-to-Dr.-Frankenstein's-house mob to demand a playoff! If the SEC is as unbeatable as you say it is, they'd win every year! Get on board before it happens to you AGAIN!

Need I remind you of how many times it's happened just since the Blatantly Corrupt System began? I need? OK ...

2009: Boise State (14-0, beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl 17-10) final rank -- AP and Coaches: 4

2008: Utah (13-0, beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 31-17) final rank -- AP: 2 Coaches: 4

2006: Boise State (13-0, beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl 43-42 in OT) final rank -- AP: 5, Coaches: 6

2004: Utah (12-0, beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl 35-7) final rank -- AP: 4 Coaches: 5

2004: Auburn (13-0, beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, 16-13) final rank -- AP and Coaches: 2

1999: Marshall (13-0, beat BYU in the Motor City Bowl 21-3) final rank -- AP and Coaches: 10

1998: Tulane (12-0, beat BYU in the Liberty Bowl, 41-27). final rank -- AP and Coaches: 7

I have a great idea for feature article.... You (the media giant) and I (the ground-roots football fan) should trade emails discussing the Boise State/BCS situation. You and I should exchange perhaps, 3-4 emails (each way, so 6 or 8 total) discussing back and forth the arguments for and against Boise State's presence in the title game. Shoot me an email and let me know what you think. (-- Jonathan Dennis

Wait, wait ... I have a better idea! Let's not!


Reacting to Kobe Bryant's claim that he could beat LeBron James one-on-one in his "sleep," I explored the possibility with experts, who picked LeBron by about 2-to-1.

I haven't watched a whole game of the NBA since Barkley retired, but I'd pay my 50 bucks to the cable company to watch this. -- Lee Riley, Pelham, Ala.

Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. I'll pick Kobe with the refs or I'll pick LeBron without the refs. -- Jon Lapuz, California

By the way, the ESPN stat department broke down the times Kobe and LeBron have gone one-on-one without any doubling or help from teammates. Kobe scored far more points against LeBron than LeBron did against Kobe.

Over the past six seasons, Kobe has scored 20 points on 27 isolation plays when guarded only by LeBron, while LeBron has scored seven points on 13 isolation plays when guarded only by Kobe. Then again, LeBron looks to pass more often than Kobe.

Anyway, when I e-mailed Kobe to show him the results of the research, he e-mailed back: "OMG!! Really??"

Apparently, he didn't need to see the research.


I lamented the Incredibly Annoying Decision made by the principal of Boulder High School in Boulder, Colo., (my alma mater) for popping more than 100 balloons at a football pep rally because one of the students had a latex allergy. You'd be amazed how many people in this country have (a) latex allergies and (b) time to e-mail me about them.

I'm allergic to latex. After running to a third conference championship in cross country, I ended up in the hospital because the finishing chute was lined with latex balloons. Would it have been that hard for them to find mylar balloons? -- Alex

I'm allergic to every kind of animal myself, but does that mean that if I play for USC, they shouldn't run Trojan on the field? If I’m allergic to grass, should we only play on turf? Life is unfair. The kid was allergic to latex. When he sees balloons, he's got to either risk it or go home. The world shouldn't stop for one person.

As a physician and pediatrician, let me try to provide a bit of balance. Latex allergies are real and for some children and adults can cause life-threatening reactions ... That being said, you are absolutely correct in calling out the principal who demanded all the balloons be popped. That likely released way more latex into the air than the intact balloons ever would. -- Marc Williams, Salt Lake City


My newfound addiction to fantasy football prompted this:

Maybe Tiger should have gone this route years ago -- it would have saved him a $100 Million or so. -- Mitch Moore, Rutland, Vt.


Buzz Jordan, 49, was an unforgettable golf nut whose life -- and death a month ago -- still moves people.

I am sobbing at my computer right now. --Katie Jaquin, Liverpool, N.Y.

One of Buzz Jordan's many nicknames was Party Starter... and his funeral was another party he started. -- Lauren Dundon, Denver

How about publishing the address of the college fund so that we can send in a donation for the kids? -- Joe Tait, Maple Glen, Pa.

The Zack and Brooks Jordan Fund is set up at:

Colorado State Bank and Trust

3610 E. First Ave.

Denver, CO 80206

Phone: (303) 318-6006

Checks to be made out to "The Zack and Brooks Jordan Fund."


We recently added a West Highland Terrier to our household. While trying to come up with a name my 17 year old son said, "Why don't we name it after my favorite sports writer?" So our dog will be hence forth known as Reilly. -- Ron Lape

Be patient with us Reillys. It took my wife almost three days to teach me to beg.