It's a week to hear from the Silent Majority -- Oklahoma fans, LSU fans, generic college football fans -- and it's about time. No offense against the readers with whom I have a running discussion. I write a column; they write an e-mail. I've gotten to "know" a few of them and gladly click on their name. But the impression I received this week is that Joe Fan responded.
Maybe that's because the games last week were so unexciting that you were looking for something else to do. There's no such problem this week. October has a month full of important games, starting Saturday.
Just don't take that as an excuse not to write.
My two (or three) cents on some of the comments you have received...
1) LSU fans -- You won the freaking National Championship last year. You don't have to tell us that USC sucks or how much LSU "will continue to be the most under-appreciated team in college football". Let me repeat -- you won the National Championship last year. It doesn't even matter that it is a split championship. Michigan split with Nebraska in 1997, and it still says "1997 National Champions" in Michigan Stadium. Now please take your seats and try to remain calm.
2) Reed Richard from Baton Rouge asked, "Why should LSU have dropped so many spots in the polls?" It's because a) LSU was perceived to be very lucky to beat Oregon State at home and b) because LSU lost early in the year. There are a whole bunch of undefeated teams in September. Voters typically place teams with 0 losses ahead of teams with 1 loss. There is no national conspiracy against LSU.
3) The Orange Bowl is a creaky, smelly, dirty stadium. I have been lucky enough to witness two Miami-Florida State games there. Great games, a dump of a stadium. The University of Miami needs to raise some funds to help the City of Miami renovate the place. Oh yeah, the seats are really uncomfortable, too.
4) A plea for the national media -- Please don't tell Notre Dame how bad their team is and how far they've fallen the week before they play Michigan.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Come on now, Ivan. Surely not all e-mails from LSU fans display such blatant paranoia, and furthermore, I bet there's quite a few e-mails from fans of other schools that are similarly paranoid, whiny, biased, cryptic, or flat-out ignorant. So why just show the ones from LSU fans? If the clear majority of e-mails from our fans are like the ones you publish, and other fans' e-mails are not, then I stand corrected. But otherwise, come on man, don't make us look so bad.
If our fans suffer from anything, they may just be a little overzealous in their support of our school. Three reasons why this may manifest itself through e-mail in the way it does: first, when you haven't won a national title in 45 years and suddenly your program produces such a spectacular season as we had last year, you want everyone else to be as impressed with our team as we are.
Second, our state needs something to be proud of and this football team is about all we have at times (God knows we have enough to make up for with the Saints). Our state is generally used to being the butt of jokes in the national scene, and we know that most folks have a general perception of us as incompetent and backwards, with our biggest claim to fame being David Duke and Bourbon Street. So it may be natural for us to be a little defensive of our state's team, especially when we're so proud of them.
Finally, I think our defensive posture toward our school stems a lot from the media love that USC got last season when we were the ones who did what every team sets out to do at the beginning of the season. Every team's goal is to: win your games, win your conference, and if possible climb the polls/BCS so that you make the designated National Championship game. We did what everyone set out to do- what more could we do? Our fans simply feel like we were cheated out of what the system was supposed to give us when people tried to change the rules in the middle of the game. The BCS may be flawed, but it was what everybody agreed to before the season began, and we won it. USC had a similarly spectacular season but they didn't get selected. Sorry. I guess our fans still feel like it was never really settled and so we still have to defend ourselves.
Sorry this was so long, but I had to get all that off our collective chests. Now, last season is last season, so we're moving on. Do you think that our youngsters on offense and defense will settle down in time to maybe run the table from here on out or maybe finish with two or three losses? Also, Corey Webster came in so hyped but has been very disappointing -- missing tackles, not fighting for interceptions, etc. Is he as good as we thought? Finally, my brother is Rudy Niswanger, starting right guard for LSU. I think he has been All-Conference so far but I may be a little biased. Check him out.
Thank you, Fritz, for your letter, and for your defense of LSU fans. The whole spectrum of Tiger attitudes spilled forth this week, and a sampling follows this answer. I have a hard time believing that LSU will run the table from here, because road games at Georgia and at Florida are not easy for experienced players, much less freshman quarterbacks. Your comments about Webster, I think, speak more to the talents of Auburn tailback Carnell Williams than they do to Webster. Williams let no one on LSU bring him down on the first hit, and rather than blame Webster for not making that interception, I would praise Cadillac for making a great play. In short, I'm not ready to say that Webster is not as good as we thought. As for your support of Rudy, after a letter like that, you can plug your whole family in this space. Thanks for taking the time to put the letter together.
Your resemblance to Dan Rather is uncanny, and I don't mean physically
(bias, what bias?). Maybe if you close your eyes hard enough people will
quit asking questions. LSU could have kissed its national championship
hopes goodbye well before the loss to Auburn. Now that the AP is back in
control, or at least has 1/3 say, the "elite" college football squads can
breath easier. Example: Georgia can eke out a win over South Carolina, and
retain their ranking, but when LSU does this, well we know what happened. I
can't wait to see what is going to happen if Oklahoma, Georgia, Miami and
your precious USC loose a game this year (it will happen), let's see if the
"untouchables" are held to the same standard as LSU.
I don't think you guys will have the guts to admit that certain teams will always be allowed an extra hall pass or two during the season just because of who they are. If
you need a reference, here you go: do you think LSU would have been allowed
to retain its ranking in the AP and go to the Sugar Bowl if it had lost the
SEC Championship? No way!
Maisel, it is OK that you and your kind dislike LSU and their fans. Frankly we could care less, but it angers us when our teams fate can be decided by those, like you, that find it impossible to put their bias aside and make CONSISTENT and EQUAL judgments based on performance.
LSU fell about as much as Florida State did after it lost an equally painful road game. I think the voters did judge on performance -- I'd guess that Oregon State hovered in the back of their minds. Georgia did eke out a win on the road, which is something that neither LSU nor Florida State did. As for Oklahoma's hall pass, go back and look at the polls, which had Oklahoma ranked third after the Big 12 championship game. Under this year's system, LSU and USC would have played in the Sugar Bowl. It was, to borrow your phrase, your precious computers that kept Oklahoma in the top two.
Are you on some kind of mission to make LSU fans look defensive and petty? Every "Maisel E-Mails" this season has included the recurring theme of LSU fan whining. The inbreds that write those letters are in such need of a life that they turn to LSU football as a measure of their own personal worth. The majority of LSU fans, however, know darn well that LSU's offense has yet to find a rhythm. OK, they suck. We know we won the National Title LAST year. We know USC is really good. We know we don't deserve, as of yet, to be a top 5 team. We're good people, Ivan. So please, for the love of God, stop making us all look like a#$ holes. I know that this e-mail could be interpreted as yet another whine. Disregard that.
Thank you from Tiger Nation.
From the beginning of your e-mail columns it sounds like you catch a lot of heat from LSU fans. Props to you for listening to us, I don't think anyone else does. This Tiger fan just wanted to say great job on your article after the Auburn game. I thought it was extremely well written, fair and balanced. That's all we ask for from the media. We are just a little more passionate than your average fan.
To the SEC refs -- let the kids decide it on the field you bunch of Bozos. Think twice before you reach for that hanky in the closing stanzas of a game.
I have to take exception to Mr. Richard's comments in your recent column that LSU is the most under-appreciated team in the country, and to the various examples of LSU fans' exceptional paranoia. It's a well-known fact that Ohio State is the most under-appreciated team in the country and Buckeye fans are the most paranoid. I resent these LSU johnny-come-latelies trying to muscle in on our turf.
Next thing you know, the Golden Band from Tigerland will declare it's the Best Damn Band in the Land. John, you just can't let this stuff go unchallenged.
And here's a letter from the Unsilent Minority:
The me start off by saying, THERE IS NO GOD. And anybody that believes so is insecure, irrational, and hardly worthy of praise from others. That is my story, and I will never be afraid to say that to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
But to stick to the football issue at hand, I find it unfathomable that anyone would make such a big deal of athletes skipping games (or meals, or warm ups) to observe religious holidays, in this case Yom Kippur. It's not as if they actually sacrifice anything of value (like their lives), or give of themselves for the sake of others (as in charity). They merely chose not to play in a sporting contest. And in this case Bernstein played, but didn't warm up? (Same with Shaun Green in MLB) I don't see why that should even be a story, let alone an inspiration. No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans are arrogant narcissists.
If you want to discuss religion, discuss the fact that Muslims, Christians, Hindus et al. use religious beliefs, and the differences between them, as excuses to kill human beings. You are all exacerbating the destruction of civil societies and the eventual extinction of mankind. Grow up.
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."
The suburbs of the sewer of Detroit
Thank you for taking the time from your position far above the rest of us to condescend to those who do believe that there is a God. I'll decline the opportunity to defend them and the general concept of organized religion. You wrote from a college e-mail account, so I am especially grateful for your advice to grow up.
We now return to the college football portion of our telecast.
In last week's "For Argument's Sake", you claim the Stanford Cardinal
were the most overrated unbeaten team in the country. I question how
you arrived at the conclusion that they were overrated. In the polls
for last week, they received 2 points in the Coaches poll and 0 in the
AP. Also, there was little if any hype surrounding the team last
week. First, where's your loyalty? Second, how does that qualify
them as overrated?
Given the fact that the Cardinal led USC for half the game and that
the final score was only 31-28, what do you think of the Cardinal now?
This week, they received 0 points in the Coaches poll and 10 in the
AP. While the Cardinal may no longer be unbeaten, would you still
claim they are overrated?
Menlo Park, CA
You took "overrated" more literally than I did. I looked at all 28 unbeaten teams and decided which one was the worst.
And I was wrong.
As for my loyalty to my alma mater, I have more loyalty to my credibility.
You're right about Alabama -- depth is a huge issue for the Tide this year, so I'll forgive you for saying Alabama "has less depth than Jessica Simpson." But I'll tell you this much: Just like Jessica Simpson, that Crimson Tide is awfully pretty to look at for us true believers.
I bet Jack's letter is even funnier when read aloud with a drawl.
This isn't an "Oh man, you got it wrong" e-mail; it's a long-standing
question of mine. I grew up in Oklahoma, so I'm certainly biased, but why
is Tom Osborne consistently considered one the greatest college coaches in
any sport, but Barry Switzer is left completely out of the conversation?
Barry Switzer -- 16 Years
.837 Winning Percentage, 12 Conference Titles, 3 National Championships (and
a Super Bowl for good measure)
Tom Osborne -- 25 Years
.836 Winning Percentage, 13 Conference Titles, 3 National Championships.
For on-field performance, how can you even pick between these two? However,
Switzer fails to make the cut for the ESPN Top 25 Coaches List, while
Osborne was Number 17 (experts) or 5 (users); Osborne retired in 1997 and is
inducted into the Hall of Fame two years later; Switzer retired in 1988, but
wasn't inducted until 2001. I'm assuming you feel the same way since
Osborne makes your list; Switzer doesn't.
Don't get me wrong, I can understand if the disparity is based solely on the
"other" aspects of Switzer's tenure. Part of being a college coach is being
a teacher, leader, and mentor. But is that what it is? Is this simply
about Charles Thompson and the rest of the (unfortunately accurate)
perceptions of the Switzer Era off the field?
New York, NY
I think Oklahoma's off-field problems during Switzer's tenure contributed to the delay, and just the fact that Osborne lasted longer than Switzer did meant something. Switzer left a half-step ahead of the NCAA sheriffs. Osborne retired with a clean rap sheet.
Love the work you do at ESPN but have to argue on the ten best coaches in college football history. You just can't leave Gagliardi off of that list. If you remove him, then you have to take Robinson off as well and add a Bo Schembechler type. I respect Robinson just as much as the next guy, but like Gagliardi he coached at a small school. So in comparing the "small school" coaches, Robinson just can't compare. Gagliardi has more wins, more championships, and all while using an amazingly different coaching philosophy. If you include one of these guys, you must include another. (Although I could live with taking Neyland off the list and adding Hayes.)
Who would I remove? I think you're original list was right. I would put Woody Hayes/Bo Schembechler/Hayden Fry/Barry Switzer/Vince Dooley just a notch below the top ten. But you just have to keep Gagliardi on this list. He's too special and unique to keep off.
Keep up the great work.
I think the fact that Switzer left college football one step ahead of the NCAA sheriff had some effect on me. I also think Osborne deserves props not only for coaching for 25 years, but for doing so without a drop off in achievement. In fact, Osborne left at his peak. I've always had a soft spot for Neyland, probably because he interrupted his coaching career a couple of times to serve in the Army, then came back and picked up where he left off, and because Bryant never beat him.
Perhaps the reason you didn't get more flak regarding poor officiating in the UT-FLA game. ... Gator fans, to their (surprising) credit, might just be remembering the "gift" they received four years ago in Knoxville when Jabar Gaffney was awarded a touchdown -- that's right, 7 points -- on a catch that didn't happen with 12 seconds left in the game, resulting in victory. (Fulmer refused to protest or even dwell upon it, which resulted in Spurrier praising him for his dignity or some such thing.)
At least last week UT had to drive the field, convert huge plays, and kick an improbable field goal after the poor call. Let's just say that the Gator-Vol karma is now settled, and we're free to hate each other with an empty slate going forward.
Steve Banick, Vol Fan
Fans never forget the slights, do they? I have to say, I covered that 2000 game, and I thought Gaffney had possession long enough to score. But that's just me -- and the entire Gator Nation.
I think the reason there was a dearth of e-mails about the UT-Florida clock snafu was that most of us who weren't Gators fans didn't want to spoil a thing of beauty. A huge fan of the game -- but of neither team -- I went from being happy for the Gators to pulling for the Vols upon seeing (James) Wilhoit on the sideline after his missed PAT. I felt for him in that 109,000-degree pressure cooker. When they lined up for the field goal, I muttered, "Come on buddy, you don't get many second chances in life." Standing in front of the TV with my arms crossed tightly, I willed the ball through the uprights. I was still smiling an hour later. What a finish!
So you see, to acknowledge the officials' clock management error is to realize that maybe the kid wouldn't have found redemption in such a fantastical way, and I for one don't want to lose that moment. We all should have a moment like his at least once in our lives. They are why I only watch football on Saturday.
Greg, you're a poet. And you're absolutely right. Thanks for reminding the rest of us.
In your last Maisel E-mails, you said "Oklahoma fans remained quiet,
because the Longhorns didn't play last week, and after the conduct of
now-former Sooners defensive lineman Dusty Dvoracek, Sooner fans may be
laying low for a reason." I don't think that's the reason. We're simply
letting our team's performance do the talking.
I think Sooner Nation is very proud of how the Dvoracek situation was
handled. It just goes to show that OU is running a classy program that
doesn't turn a blind eye to the activities of its athletes like many
programs seem to be doing.
A little crimson in a sea of nasty burnt orange,
"Oklahoma fans remained quiet, because the Longhorns didn't play last week, and after the conduct of now-former Sooners defensive lineman Dusty Dvoracek, Sooner fans may be laying low for a reason."
Do Oklahoma fans obsess over Texas? I suppose some do, but I care more about Oklahoma State than Texas so far this season, as Texas struggled with Arkansas and Oklahoma State has steamrolled teams with a freshman QB.
As far as Dvoracek's conduct, why would that make me "lay low"? I am not responsible for his behavior. And the athletic department at OU takes a lot of pride in supporting aspects of the athlete's life like counseling, psychology and academic support, in addition to the many other innovations their athletic department has made or why else would ESPN cover "OU: The Program"? Dan Cody and the support he has received fighting depression is one example. It would seem to me OU does its best to help their student athletes conduct themselves responsibly.
Dvoracek has been removed from the team after the conduct was examined in detail by accounts I have read, but he has been allowed to keep his scholarship and has been given verbal support by coach Stoops. Put it another way: the football team will not benefit from the player, but the person and the student are still allowed to benefit from the university and its support facilities. Is there something else OU should have done, besides the "laying low" tactic?
I suppose the thing that galls me most about this comment is that it seems meant to inspire e-mails so you can write your column rather than offer advice or sympathy for the affected parties; you will accept my apology if I have misjudged the "reason" behind your comments.
By the way, I think it is safe to say Adrian Peterson has made a contribution to OU's run game.
I didn't write what I wrote to poke a sleeping bear with a stick. In retrospect, maybe I should have figured out that the lack of comment should be interpreted as approval. This reminds me of when my wife can't believe I didn't understand what she meant when she didn't say something. Anyway, as I wrote, I like how Stoops handled it, too.
Just curious if there has been any consideration to go "Behind The Scenes" at The Ohio State University with Coach Jim Tressel and Athletic Director Andy Geiger? The Buckeye Nation spreads far, but NOT few between, so the ratings would be there. And Jim Tressel is an incredibly likeable guy, while Andy Geiger is very much the businessman. Plus, many people seem to think that next season the Buckeyes have a legitimate shot at another National Championship. You guys would seem like psychics! Just a hopeful questions. Thanks for your time and consideration.
Jeff St. Louis
Jeff, you have to be invited behind the scenes, and Tressel has never been a guy who has liked that idea. If you can lay any groundwork for us, you'd have the gratitude of this little corner of Bristol.
First off, I'm not going to defend the Orange Bowl (OB) as a great venue to watch a game. The OB does not appear on anyone's top-10 venue list, and it is in need of some essential renovations. The writers from Orlando and the "swamp" made their points. The OB needs more bathrooms, chair-back seats, and a host of other amenities to appease the candy-butt fans that travel in from the sticks to see their 'Noles or Gators get smacked in the mouth and sent home crying. I'm sure that I am not the only one who would prefer an old school stadium to watch rowdy football, than paying a premium for an uptight 'pro-player' club house, where corporate geeks in polo shirts eat shrimp and could care less about the game.
So, the OB building aside, I want to respond to their comments regarding "Cane fans." First, there is one main difference between Miami and other top college football towns: Miami is a very cosmopolitan place with a transient population, the majority of whom were born elsewhere. Yes, you can sell out big stadiums with "local" fans in Ann Arbor, Gainesville, or State College (Penn St), because of their demographic profile. As in Green Bay, what else would you have to root for but the Packers? Let's compare Miami to a similar place, say Southern California. Both areas are often described as a laissez-faire town with too many distractions for a multi-ethnic population from all over the world. For example: Because of the whimsical nature of the USC fans, the Athletic Dept of USC teamed up with an online ticket exchange service (Stubhub) for ticket holders who might prefer the beach instead of the Coliseum on game day.
In short, you can't compare Miami to Gainesville, College Station, or State College. I believe that in any college town there are only a percentage of ticket holders who could be considered truly "diehard." The rest enjoy the entertainment or rooting for the only thing their town is known for. I attended a few UM games with my family back in the late 70's when UM had a hard time beating any team in a near empty Orange Bowl. When "the one" (Howard Schnellenberger) turned the 'Canes around in the early '80s, I had the pleasure of witnessing some of the greatest moments in college football. I give more credit to those who endure the searing September heat in the metal bleachers to see the 'Canes run through the smoke (a 'Cane concept) and win, than to a Skoal-spitting Swamp rat who chose not to watch another fishing channel special.
Another thing, check out the sidelines the next time your college team plays a rival. Do you see current and former NFL stars talking to your players? I see the likes of Ray Lewis, Bernie Kosar, and Warren Sapp walking on the Miami sideline. I don't think our Gainesville fans can say the same thing.
I speak for myself: even though I lived outside Miami for 12 years, I always fly back to attend our big rivalry games.
Kansas City, MO
Skoal-spitting Swamp rat? Ouch. More than a few people wrote in to defend Miami fans because of the relatively small number of undergrads who attend the school. That's a fair point, as is the special esprit de corps that former 'Cane players have fostered with the current ones.
We constantly hear suggestions of how to tweak the BCS formula to be fairer to teams across the board. Why not eliminate ALL automatic berths? Don't worry, you can count on the SEC, Big 12, etc., always to make the final cut. But this will definitely give the present non-BCS conferences less to be upset with. I don't see a downside, do you?
The only downside is that it will never happen, because the leagues that get the automatic berths are the ones who make the decisions about how the BCS. They're not going to give up the automatic $14.4 million berths out of a sense of fairness, or outside of anything less than an act of Congress.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at email@example.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.