Rick Reilly's mailbag: April 11, 2011

Let's get straight to the griping, shall we?


... in which I described how the body and finances of Tiger Woods' 53-year-old half brother, Kevin Woods, are being ravaged by MS, and how his family is exasperated at not being able to contact Tiger for the past six years.

This should be your last column about Tiger. This column just proves that he is an arrogant, self serving [expletive]. It is so sad that some people still worship him.

-- Jim. M.

You have written columns that have made me laugh, and some that have made me cry, but nothing you have written has ever touched me like Monday's column about Kevin Woods. I was diagnosed with MS in 2007 and my entire family has been supportive of me. I have not had nearly as many problems as Kevin has, but the past five years have still been difficult enough that I could not have made it without them. ... I hope Kevin gets to keep his house and that his doctors get his disease under control.

-- Mary Koppenhofer

Your column on Tiger Woods' half-brother was irresponsible. Unless you have half-siblings, this is a family dynamic that you simply cannot understand and thus territory upon which you should not tread. ... This one crossed the line.

-- Randy Helmy

Why does Tiger Woods' step family need Tiger to help? They have each other and a mother to help. Step children are not necessarily close to each other, especially when different mothers are involved. Once the step children grow up, why would they be interested in the step family? Maybe Kevin can move in with his real brother/sister or mother.

-- Esper

First of all, this is not a step family. These are half siblings. Tiger and these three people had the same father, Earl Woods.

Second of all, these people contend they have not asked Tiger for money. What they want is to let Tiger know how bad Kevin has gotten with MS and how he may lose his San Jose home. Of course, they'd love financial help for him, but they all maintain that the most important thing to them, and especially to Kevin, is being able to update him, to speak to him, to hear from him.

Thirdly, Kevin can't move into his brother Earl's house, because he lives in Phoenix. And he can't move into his sister Royce's house because it has stairs and Kevin has a dog that wouldn't work there. And he can't move into his mom's house because she lives in Modesto. Kevin is at a crossroads.

I was trying to find out why Tiger won't return their calls, but Tiger wouldn’t return MY calls. He may have a very good reason, but the half-family has no idea what it is. Tiger's people said he couldn't talk to me because he was "preparing for the Masters." But the request went out four days before the Masters began, on that Sunday. By not commenting -- his right, of course -- he risks looking guilty of the very thing his half family is accusing him of -- indifference.

A lot of Tweople (@ReillyRick) condemned the timing of the column, as it came out the Tuesday before the Masters. But this column was not delayed for any disingenuous reason. I was given a tip on this story on Saturday, March 24, in Phoenix, at the Sweet Sixteen. I began working on it that next Tuesday, after I'd written the Rick Pitino column, and it took five days to get the half-siblings' side of the story before I knew what to ask Tiger.


...in which I seem to have become the national clearinghouse for people disgusted by Tiger's temper tantrums on the golf course.

Why don't you and fellow announcers quit brown-nosing Tiger and comment on his inappropriate behavior at the Masters for throwing and kicking clubs when he makes a poor shot? [Gary] McCord gets banned from Augusta for a comment that the [Augusta] hierarchy deems inappropriate. [But] Tiger, because he adds to your ratings, can do whatever he pleases and just be called a competitor, a warrior and a man fighting to reclaim his greatness. Give us a break and report the truth.

-- Woody

It's bizarre how people see me when it comes to Tiger. I'm some kind of human Rorschach test. It runs about half ("All you do is kiss Tiger's butt!") and half ("Why don't you get off Tiger's butt?").

But this letter made me slap my forehead so loud they could hear it at the back of the plane.

I was one of the first voices -- and by far the loudest -- to call Tiger to the front of the classroom for his increasingly vile behavior on the course, which started to get disgusting at the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. I did a video essay on it then (comparing him as a kind of Goofus to Tom Watson's Gallant). I've criticized him dozens and dozens of times on "SportsCenter" and in columns for his language, his petulance and his bratty ways. I've begged for anybody to do anything, up to and including a spanking. He is, by far, the best-known golfer to kids, and plenty of them now think it's cool.

Now, after Tiger kicked his 9-iron on the 16th tee Saturday at the Masters, and was caught swearing by microphones Sunday, I think it's up to Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National. Payne needs to issue a public rebuke of him. He has criticized Tiger's behavior before, in front of the world, over the sex scandal. It's time to issue a statement again, which should read:

"Be advised all Masters competitors: Augusta National will NOT tolerate the throwing or kicking or slamming of clubs on our grounds, nor the abuse of bags or balls, during the Masters, or at any time. Those who do will be asked to leave the premises immediately and will not be invited back." That would do it.


... in which I described how Broncos exec John Elway found the perfect way to Jet-tison Tim Tebow without hurting any feelings and land the biggest fish in NFL free-agent history, Peyton Manning.

In Peyton's first year, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, his completion stat was 56% and his rating was 71 (lower than Tebow's in 2011). So, in your opinion, Manning should have been dumped in Year 2 or never given an opportunity to improve? Why not give Tebow the benefit of the doubt? How about a team that invests in him the way Indy invested in Manning, not half-assed like Denver did? And let's face it, Mr. Ed Elway never did. If you are not going to personally give Tebow a fair shake, then how about report on Tebow fairly?

-- David Gallagher

Slanderous accusations at me aside, (A) Tebow is not one-half as talented as Manning, not in his second year, not now, not ever; (B) Manning was a No. 1 overall draft choice whose promise was immense while Tebow was a stretch at No. 25 overall; and (C) I have an idea that Elway, who has watched nearly every NFL practice and game Tebow has ever had, knows what he's seeing. And you're welcome for cleaning up your spelling. You, too, hit about 56 percent.

How are you going to write one column all about advising Peyton to go to Denver and then give Elway all the credit [when] Peyton listens to you?

-- T. Newmyer

Good point. I deserve 10 percent of the $96 million.

You got this one wrong, Rick. Elway is NOT getting a free ride on bringing Manning in and booting Tebow. He WILL be blamed if this doesn't work out and we are left with nothing. He better hope Tebow never gets it, because even if Manning plays for the next few years (I doubt there will be a Super Bowl, we still have a terrible team) and Tim is successful elsewhere, we will crucify him. No statues for John.

-- Donna Yost

I'm going to wince every time Manning takes a hit. I've had five spinal fusions, count 'em, five, on my lumbar vertebrae -- all five of which have come within the span of six years. There's a reason I've had five surgeries, and that's because each one preceding the next hasn't worked. My point is that, like the United States, Denver is only one shot away from Plan B, and if that were to happen at least they'd have a proven winner, in Tebow, to take the helm. I think the Broncos would've been better off keeping Tebow, and giving Peyton two or three years to mentor him.

-- Roger

It wouldn't have worked. The first interception Manning threw wearing the Predominantly Orange, the fans would've been screaming for Tebow. Manning would've had no chance to get used to his new receivers, his new system, his new team. Chaos would've reigned in the locker room. You want the Broncos to start a QB who won five games last season by scoring 18 points or fewer? Over Peyton Freaking Manning? Tebow's 2011 season was shocking, I admit, but more than half of his wins were due entirely to the defense and kicker Matt Prater.

You seem to give Elway the lion's share of the credit for this situation. However, I suggest Elway was far more lucky than good. Manning leaving the Colts and becoming available at the time Elway wanted to guide the Broncos away from Tebowmania was simply fortuitous. As Elway himself commented, he had no Plan B and, in fact, if Manning had not become available, no Plan A for leaving Tebow. Nothing wrong with Elway being lucky -- after all, the detective's mantra is: it's good to be good and better to be lucky -- but at the same time, does not warrant erecting a statue of Elway.

-- Kenneth

Of course Elway got lucky. He might as well have gold monkeys popping out of his mouth. Luck was all over this deal. If the Colts had won two more games, the Colts probably wouldn't have released Manning because they wouldn't have had the first pick to take Luck and this doesn't happen. If Manning's favorite QB as a boy isn't Elway, this probably doesn't happen. If Denver doesn't have the same low-media, hometown feel of Indianapolis, this probably doesn't happen. If Elway hadn't won two Super Bowls after 36, as Manning aches to do, this probably doesn't happen. But are you people saying even if all this hadn't happened, there shouldn't be a statue of Elway? Are you smoking shrubbery? Of course there will be a statue of Elway in Denver. If there can be a demonic blue horse with red eyes menacing visitors at Denver International Airport, a statue that fell on and killed its sculptor, then there will surely be a statue of Elway somewhere.

It is amazing how quickly you guys are willing to write off Tebow. Your logic is that you should rather do a five-year contract with a one-time Super Bowl quarterback with very dubious health issues, give him $96M, and say, "Elway will not be blamed for trying, rather than keep hold of an up-and-coming quarterback with exceptional WINNING mentality?!! Granted, Manning was an extraordinary quarterback and I hope he will not get seriously hurt when he will get hit with this Broncos defense. If Manning does not get injured, and the fans in Denver don't chant Tebow's name next season, I'll send you a case of my favorite French wine.

-- Sig Fusk

Too late. You just sent me a whine.


... in which I thanked the legendary QB for the effort he gave, the manners he showed, and the loyalty he had to his franchise, even if it wasn't, in the end, returned.

Thank YOU for the wonderful article on Peyton Manning. As a 20-year resident of Indy, Peyton and I have crossed paths on occasion. He was always gracious, down to earth and classy. One time in particular I literally bumped into him at the Final Four at the Dome. I stepped out of the suite to use the restroom, and walked right into him. He was walking with Eli, and took the time to introduce himself to me and to Eli. I'm 6-foot-7, so he made some comment about running into a tree, then patted my back and walked on. I will never forget how friendly he was.

-- Wes Van Bruggen

OK, Mr. Manning was a terrific footballer. A pretty decent multimillionaire, as self-obsessed professional athletes go, these days. BUT, HONESTLY, after four neck/cervical spine operations don't you think prudence (and surgeons) would urge retirement? What is it with celebrities, anyway? So few ever know when to get off the stage. This player doesn't need the money and there's little more for him to achieve in the sport. Who is Mr. Manning listening to? Or, maybe the question should be, who is he kidding?

-- P.J. Andros

Hey, P.J., how would YOU like to be told when to retire by Peyton Manning? And not just retire from work, but from the greatest passion of your life, from the most-fun thing you do, from all your friends? And do ... do ... do what? Play golf the rest of your life? At 36? Don't tell people how to run their lives. That's my job.

I guess now I have to relinquish the boycott I imposed on reading your articles (this is the first time I've done it since the Jimmer article and I'm glad I did).

-- Daniel Field

So my forking over $5,000 to Jimmer's charity wasn't enough to earn your forgiveness? Tough reader.


... in which I objectively and comprehensively rated the four cities Manning had to choose from -- Nashville, Phoenix, Miami and Denver -- and decided the best bet would be Denver, which happens to be my hometown. Manning took the advice. And do I get any thanks? No. All I get is thrown tomatoes from you people.

Crime rate. On the Manning situation ... about 25 years ago they did a study about cites with clean air and murder rates (in the Miami Herald ). Its results were that Miami had clean air and the highest murder rate in the country. So the Herald stated that if you are in Miami and have trouble breathing, don't worry, it's not the air, you have been shot.

-- Mike Grysko

You said that the Titans didn't have any receivers that people recognized in uniform. I don't how you can get that when they have Kenny Britt. Yes, he got hurt last year, but he was having another amazing season till he got hurt. Then Nate Washington stepped his game up and had the best statistical season he has ever had. Then the last few games of the season Jared Cook became a huge target and go-to guy. The Titans, in my opinion, have the best group of receivers and tight ends out of the three teams left.

-- Ryan Markham

Yes, Jared Cook is definitely a go-to guy. As in, "I've got to go to somebody else."


... in which I described how watching Luck work out at his home campus of Stanford was an astonishing experience, how NFL assistant coaches come to watch him the way people used to come to watch Bo Jackson hit in the cage, and how I hadn't seen such a sure-fire NFL QB star since I made the same trip to see John Elway at Stanford in 1983.

You wrote ...

Well, after reading your article on Andrew Luck, who I admire as a person more than a player, just a simple question: Do you believe Luck will impact the NFL on the field as quickly and as powerful as Cam Newton did?

-- Jerry Pitts

Well, the Colts are a de facto expansion team right now. He's going to need a few dozen players. But I think Luck will, in the end, be even better than Newton, and I think Newton has a chance to be great.

RGIII and Luck are both amazing prospects and are sure to have some success in the NFL, they seem to be practically even on most quarterbacking aspects, but RGIII did win the Heisman, is a better athlete and seems to be slightly better than Luck in some ways. So my question is if RGIII was white, do you think that Luck wouldn't be the presumed slam dunk for the first overall pick?

-- Edwin

Wow. Thought we were past all that. So you think winning the Heisman entitles the player to be No. 1 in the draft? Or do you just think it's the color of his skin that demands it?


... in which I shared the highlights of a one-hour conversation I had with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird at an event in Beaver Creek, Colo., near Vail.

I really enjoyed the article on Larry and Magic, because it showed how two competitors like those two can really relate to one another as human beings off the floor.

-- Richard Evitts

What were Magic and Bird doing in Beaver Creek?

-- Jerry Butler

It was a corporate event.

Great interview!! How does it stack with some of the other interviews you've done in the past?

-- Gregory Jerrell

I've been lucky to do so many great ones: All three Mannings at once, interviewing President Clinton while playing golf, having Muhammad Ali pretend to fall asleep on me and then suddenly having him jump up and choke me, the Josh Hamilton "Homecoming" interview (gripping), the Magic "Homecoming," writing books with Charles Barkley and Wayne Gretzky, and hundreds of other hilarious and sentimental ones along the way. But that one has to be in the top 10. Bird was just so deadpan funny, staring at his feet while amazing things came out of his mouth. And Magic jumping up out of his chair every five minutes to expound on some point he was making about Bird's greatness and introversion. And backstage you couldn't get them apart.


... in which I asked in a "SportsCenter" video essay, "What American athlete has meant more to a city than Magic Johnson to Los Angeles?"

The comment you made that Magic buying the Dodgers was more important than Mario Lemieux and the Penguins is just ridiculous. The Dodgers might be having some attendance issues but they would never be a threat to relocate. Mario bought the Penguins out of bankruptcy and got the team a new stadium so they could stay in Pittsburgh. I recognize that to sell a story you have to speak with some hyperbole but you come off clueless when you make a comment like that.

-- Cullen Hagan

I disagree. The Dodgers were in the darkest days in the 50 years since they moved to Chavez Ravine. But let's grant your point that Mario Lemieux bailed the Penguins out of a bigger hole. How many championships did Mario bring to Pittsburgh, vs. Magic? Two vs. five. Did he ever coach them? No. Did he revitalize their inner-city with hundreds of millions in investments? Hire gang members? Open an inner-city health clinic? Have a profound effect on two of Pittsburgh's pro teams? No.

Granted, Mario established the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which raises money for cancer research. He was also a founder of Athletes for Hope, which seeks to help other athletes in their effort to contribute to their communities. Still, Magic’s impact has been greater over all.


... in which I describe how coach Rick Pitino has mellowed with age in Louisville, and the team he brought into the Final Four in New Orleans was his favorite since his 1987 Providence squad.

I have been one of many who always looked at Pitino as a little too slick and a little too arrogant. After the infidelity/blackmail scandal, the small part of me thought he finally got his comeuppance. Your article not only made me a little ashamed of myself (he whose slate is clean and all that), but also renewed my commitment to be a little less judgmental and a little more forgiving of folks.

-- Jim Cleveland

I am not familiar with the Biblical phrase, "He whose slate is clean ..." Is it in the Book of Comeuppance?

I find it stunning that you wrote an article supporting Pitino while you still bash Tiger Woods. Don't get me wrong, I love that someone in the media shows dislike for Tiger's off-the-course actions. But weren't Pitino's actions bad as well? I'm not defending Tiger. I'm not bashing Pitino. I'm just curious how you can have empathy for one and not the other?

-- Tyler Miller

Pitino was tarnished with one alleged act of infidelity. Tiger had 14 of them.

I think referring to Kentucky as "Voldemorts" is terribly unjust and horribly inappropriate. By using this analogy, you imply good against evil and to the kids on the Wildcats team, that is grossly unfair. They are not evil. Just a group of kids who happen to be extremely talented and unselfish enough to play together in beautiful harmony. Call them Goliaths, or Juggernauts or the Best Team in the Land, but DON'T you dare refer to them in any way as evil just because you may not be a fan. Shame on you!

-- Judith Flickinger

Oh, just chillax, Aunt Bea.


... in which I asked people to guess which one of 15 Sweet Sixteen storylines was fake. It was the one about Baylor sharpshooting guard Brady Heslip looking so unlike a basketball player that he missed a game this season when security arrested him outside the arena for trying to "sneak" in. Many of you are not careful readers.

Why would you fabricate an untruth about Brady Heslip like that? Is this what is supposed to pass for journalism or just an inside look at your journalistic integrity? Excuse me, I mean lack thereof.

-- Mike Whitis

I believe your piece about Brady Heslip is incorrect. He is 6-foot-2, not 5-foot-6 and he was not arrested before the Baylor-Missouri game. I can't find any reliable article that even says he was stopped by a security guard.

-- Conrad



... in which I ... oh, hell, you'll see.

What is the biggest secret in becoming a great sports writer?

-- Eric Jackson

As a 19-year-old aspiring sportswriter, I've been having trouble coming up with creative metaphors and analogies .... Whenever I read others' works, such as yours, I can understand the references right off the bat, and more often than not, get a quick chuckle out of myself while doing so. The problem is, as soon as I finish the sentence, I usually find myself thinking, "There is no way I would've thought of that in a million years." Do you have any tips and advices for me?

-- Michael Peng

My No. 1 goal when I write is to come up with sentences that jump off the page and poke you between the eyes, sentences that create an immediate word picture in your mind. For instance, you might write, "There is no way I would've thought of that if I were trapped for a year in a closet with a keg of Red Bull." Coming up with sentences that have never been written before may leave you sitting in the media room while everybody else is fast asleep, but it makes your writing fresh and different.

I became homeless about six weeks ago. I used to work about 60 to 70 hours a week until I was laid off. I never had time to read a lot of books. As I'm sitting in my car feeling sorry for myself I started reading your books -- all of them. I came to realize that a lot of people had it worse than I do. You have a way of writing that made me feel like you were in the car seat next to me telling me these stories. Thank you again as you have brought my spirits up. I get to come to the library two hours a day to look for work on the Internet so I'm hoping things will change quickly.

-- Mike McCart

Library? Go BUY my books, you cheapskate!

(Kidding! Anybody got a job for this guy?)