Talking law review and Dream Job

My laptop just returned from its 36,000-file overhaul, so this ought to just fly right off of my fingertips. Aghghoh wtwioffh fss' hgljlhe wehlfdl …

Or perhaps not.

There's an old saying that one shouldn't discuss (using "one" indicates just how old the saying is) religion or politics in polite company. The easy joke is that y'all aren't exactly polite company, but I already made an easy joke in the first paragraph, so let's continue our pot-stirring.

In my May 17 3-Point Stance, I described Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry as a 21-point underdog to the First Amendment in his efforts to proselytize his players. The closest I ever got to becoming a constitutional scholar was shaving my head to psyche up for a midterm in an undergraduate Constitutional Law class my senior year. The truth is, I shaved my head to win $50 and impress a girl (it worked), but the midterm came up two days later, and I told the professor I shaved to psyche up. Impressed him, too.

Maybe I should have shaved my head this week – and it would take less time now than it did senior year – because you failed to be impressed.

My reference to the First Amendment regarded the freedom of religion clause. Is the football coach of the Air Force Academy the government? Given all the places that religion can't go, you have to think that the locker room of a school operated by the federal government would be subject to the same law.

Several of you leapt to the defense of DeBerry's rights to freedom of speech, also provided by the First Amendment. DeBerry the private citizen, yes. DeBerry the coach, posting a banner in the locker room asking his players to join Team Jesus Christ, is a three-touchdown underdog.

Several of you leapt for my throat for having drunk the blue-state Kool-Aid. I guess I had that coming, but I felt the same way in the four red states in which I have spent more than half my life. I belong to the freedom-of-religion-includes-freedom-from-religion school.

An investigation has begun at the Academy into charges that Jewish and Muslim cadets have been ridiculed and threatened for their religious beliefs. No one has suggested – or is suggesting here – that DeBerry did that.

Even if I agreed with DeBerry, that doesn't diminish the point that he's a three-touchdown underdog to the law as it now stands. It would be easy here to ease into a discussion of the showdown in the U.S. Senate over the federal judiciary, but that's for another time. Actually, it's for another Web site.

You cite the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion but also guarantees freedom of speech. Overall, it seems that you are against what Coach DeBerry is doing. I don't know a lot about the situation. Do the cadets have the freedom to worship as they see fit? Are they punished for not being Christian? It would seem that as long as they are not forced into participation, that certainly Coach DeBerry has the right to speak to his team about Christ. Even if someone were not to believe that Christ was God, certainly his philosophy of life could go great distances in repairing the social problems of this country and in teaching young men what is expected of a civilized person in this country.

Thanks for your time.

Mike Drake
Milliken, CO

We know that non-Christian cadets have complained about the atmosphere on campus. And we know that DeBerry has brought a strong sense of Christianity into the locker room. I think teaching what Christ taught, his philosophy of life, as you put it, is a great idea. Doing so in a way that respects other religions, and those with no religions, takes care. I don't think a locker room banner asking to join "Team Jesus Christ" achieves the goal.

I am confused by your statement. Isn't Fisher DeBerry the one in this
case who is possibly having his First Amendment right [infringed] on? He has
the right to speak on whatever subject he wishes. He's not forcing
anyone to believe what he believes. I've never understood this. If you
don't believe in God, for example, even if I'm the kind of jerk who
tells you nothing more than you are going to hell because you are a
sinner, what does that matter? If you don't believe it, what effect does
it have on you? DeBerry is not kicking people off the team for not being
saved, is he? I say the following with concern and a grin: Ivan, I think
you've spent too much time in the Northeast. Go home, and get your head
straightened out.

Jason Epp
Turpin, OK

Even in a vacuum, I just don't think it's that simple for teenagers, especially in a military environment, to be able to ignore the suggestions/entreaties/preaching of an authority figure. As for going home to get my head straightened out, you're not saying anything my mother hasn't been saying since I left Mobile a quarter of a century ago.

I'd like to say cheers to your stance against Bobby Bowden defending the Air Force Academy's coach. I couldn't imagine the pressure that a non-Christian player would feel in that locker room. As much as some coaches may say it, they are first and foremost coaches, not preachers.

Adam Beaugh
Greenville, SC

Living in a red state and everything.

I just finished reading your "3-Point Stance" from April 28. In it, you basically make the claim that no one in the Bay Area cares about college football. That makes about as much sense as the BCS selection process.

Proof that someone in the Bay Area does care about college football:

1. Cal has some of the most dedicated – and most fun – fans in the nation. I can't tell you how many one- and two-win seasons my comrades and myself have suffered through while maintaining our cheery (admittedly with an edge) demeanors.

2. The Big Game is a one-of-a-kind rivalry in college football. Where else can you see rivals sharing Chardonnay and Brie pregame while discussing their competing high-tech startups, followed by some seriously fun and spirited football (trombone players with tread marks, John Elway, Vince Ferragamo, Chuck Muncie, Joe Kapp, Pappy Waldorf, Bill Walsh, etc., etc., etc.).

3. Cal sold more season tickets this year than ever before.

4. Cal alumni somehow managed to trick the University of Texas administration into giving Mack Brown a 10-year contract extension, thus guaranteeing that the Longhorns will not beat Oklahoma or win a Big 12 title for at least another decade.

5. I miss college football so much that I actually read one of your pieces.

Go Bears!

Rick Rosen
Foster City, CA

(For those of you unfamiliar with the Bay Area and its college football fans, that's about a 15-minute drive from 3-Com, a 25-minute drive from Stanford Stadium and a 75-minute drive from the Campanile).

Yes, those Bear fans have proven that they are into college football – win or tie.

I recently saw your newest preseason football rankings and found something rather strange: you have Nebraska ranked No. 16!!! While I don't have a problem with this, and I am incredibly optimistic about the Huskers' upcoming season, why the sudden change of heart towards Nebraska? Last year you didn't have them listed anywhere near your Top 25, and after a 5-6 season, along with the offseason scrutiny of Coach Callahan by half of the state, was there something else that you saw that makes you think they are going to improve to 9-3 (the typical record of a 16th-ranked team)? Are there enough impact players coming in this recruiting class (especially the tandem of Zac Taylor and Harrison Beck) that this team will be that greatly improved?

Mark Klone

Jacksonville, FL

I expect that Taylor, at quarterback in that system, will make a difference. And I expect that the state of the Big 12 North means that the first team to make any progress at all will lap the field. I also think Callahan will get it done.

Your article about the BCS was right on point. But I disagree with your comments about the NCAA basketball committee. Even they couldn't figure it out. Why else would we have to go to a 65th team?

Can you imagine what will happen if the football gurus feel the need to have an eight-team playoff? The fighting over who should be No. 8 vs. No. 9 will be monumental.

For my part, as a traditionalist, I like the old bowl system. Give the kids and their fans a one-game reward for a season well-played. If we can agree on who was the best team, great. If we have two teams who are equally deserving, double great! I think college football can and should be different. There is no rule that says we must have an undisputed national champion.

Bruce M. Jaffe
San Jose

The last paragraph crystallizes everything I've been trying to say about the postseason for the past 10 years. Thanks, Bruce. If we have a Dream Job competition for Editor Joe's keyboard, I'll let you know.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.