EUGENE, Ore. -- Having traveled 14 hours door-to-door Thursday, it's official. I have acquired an East Coast bias. Don't blame me. Blame O'Hare Airport, which threw about three hours into my trip that no one planned for, including whoever it is that has my luggage, which is somewhere between here and Chicago.
So that's it. I'm officially against the Pac-10. You want me to vote for you? Write about you? Move closer to my house. It's all about convenience with me.
You know, now that I think about it, UConn seems underrated.
Let's see if anyone recognizes the sarcasm in the three paragraphs above. This column may need one of those old-fashioned TV-editorial messages: "The view expressed here doesn't necessarily represent the views of ESPN, its affiliates, or especially anyone with any remaining credibility."
It is a joke, people. I'm a Pac-10 graduate, if Stanford is still in the conference after its 20-17 loss to UC-Davis. I got e-mails this week wanting to know why I didn't write about the upset by a Division II school. Any Stanford alum can tell you that the Cardinal plays to the level of its opponent. In fact, the Stanford grads may have been the only people in Division I-A who weren't taken by surprise. We have come to expect stunts like this.
The mailbag has been dripping with anger this week. We are here for your venting pleasure.
I have to say that I'm a little surprised that you would pass such damning judgment on Urban Meyer's offense's chances in the SEC already. Last I checked, Tennessee was a pretty talented defense. To be honest, I thought it was surprising so many people were focusing on UF's offense instead of whether our defense could stop Tennessee's running game (which it effectively did).
Coming into the season, the things most lacking at UF were toughness and the ability to finish the game. Last year, Chris Leak would not have lead the long drive that led to the game-clinching field goal. Instead, the Gators would have stalled in consecutive three-and-outs and allowed a late game-winning TD to the Vols.
No doubt, the offense clearly still needs work, especially consistency from the O-line. But this is a complex offense that these players have had a short time to digest and execute. A great comparison is Alex Smith in 2003 (not 2004). As Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun wrote: "Smith threw for 136 yards in his first start. At Utah, three games into his first season there, Meyer's quarterbacks threw for an average of 175 yards and none of those games were played against Tennessee's defense."
Or as Meyer constantly puts it: "We're trying to get second-year production out of a first-year offense."
Anyway, your reporting is usually very good so I was disappointed in your coverage this time. I'll keep reading, though, and keep up the normally great work.
The above was one of the more polite responses I got from Gator fans. Read on:
I am sure you have received several responses from frustrated Gator fans regarding this article. I, too, am frustrated with your analysis. This game certainly didn't answer any questions regarding the viability of the spread option, but Spurrier's first game against Tennessee resulted in a 45-3 drubbing of the Gators, and we all know where the Fun 'n' Gun ended up. I think it is shortsighted and frankly ignorant to analyze this offense so negatively this early in the season. The article that you wrote would have had much more credence had it been written after the Georgia game in late October or the FSU game in November. If the offense is still sputtering at that point, then you may have a point. As it stands, we all knew that Wyoming and La. Tech were not true tests of the quality of this offense, but the Tennessee game, by itself, this early in the year, is simply a premature analysis. I understand your point, but let's watch the maturation throughout the season before invalidating the spread option after one poor performance.
You are a good writer, please avoid the sensationalism and "what have you done for me lately mentality" so prevalent in today's journalism. In this situation it simply sounds unprofessional and uninformed.
Winter Park, Fla.
I have to admit: I agree with Mr. Bean and Mr. Hertz. That column sucked. What I should have done was point out the provincial thinking that I have heard from SEC fans regarding the spread option and how it would never work in the "big-time," and then write about the difficulty of the transition.
I did that, but the tone of the column was much more shrill than I intended. I sounded like the very people I intended to mock.
Every once in a while, you wake up Sunday morning and you want to ask for a mulligan.
Thanks for the article. I read it on my phone in the airport in Orlando. I went to the game and it was a lot of fun. I bought tickets outside the stadium (this was a last-minute decision to go between me and my college buddies) for $50 apiece (they were going for $200-$300 early, but a 20-year-alumnus knows better).
What a nice win and a great venue for football. Anyway, I strongly agree with you and your comments are dead-on. I was not impressed with the Meyer offense and I have some questions some Gators get defensive about this, but you are right and Urban Meyer discussed it too in his show on Sunday.
Do you think it will ever be right with a drop-back QB like Leak? He is awesome and accurate, but I don't see him running the option.
Do you think the Gators can run the table and play in the Rose Bowl?
If we go 11-1 (assuming a loss to USC) will Leak go pro? Or stay for a Heisman run?
I know this is all speculative, but I appreciate your thoughts.
I enjoy your articles and listen to you on ESPN thanks for covering the mighty Gators and the Gator Nation.
Chris Leak will figure it out, and he'll come back next year no matter how well the Gators do. He's not big enough to have a long NFL career. I don't think the Gators will get to the Rose Bowl. I think they'll get to Atlanta, though.
For the Peach Bowl.
Just kidding. I think Florida will win the SEC East. They may even get back to Atlanta for the Sugar Bowl.
Will you swear on you sauce-stained Dreamland menu that you will never again use any variation of the "'ol' ball coach" when describing South Carolina's football coach Steve Spurrier? And will you encourage all of your friends at the next sportswriters and broadcasters cliché-busting symposium to please refrain from same?
Rodney, that is an excellent point. Leave it to us ink-stained -- or sauce-stained -- wretches to beat something into the ground. But what to call Spurrier? I considered "Struggling Ol' Ballcoach," but the acronym may be a concern.
I spent my formative college years [at Notre Dame] as an undergrad cheering the football team on when they were under Bob Davie. Ty was here last year when I enrolled as a first-year law student and I cheered for him till my voice gave way. But today at ND I saw something unprecedented: the entire student section stayed after the game for 20 minutes to cheer in a losing effort. Notre Dame fans may be more fickle than the rest, but today we stayed. We cheered for the heart that it took to come back from 21 points down. We cheered because the team showed courage under fire. We cheered because ... WE R ND.
I'm proud today, not just of the team, but of the fans. The fans that had to stand there and watch MSU player plant their flag at our 50-yard line. The fans that stood there and watched Drew Stanton run across the field in front of our band as it played, his helmet in the air. The student section remained almost completely intact 10 minutes after the game was over for one reason: to sing our alma matter. Why? Because Charlie Weis has made us believe. Forget the hype in the papers and magazines, Charlie Weis has brought a winning attitude to the students here in South Bend, not just the players. MSU showed no class today after the game. The students here stayed and cheered for their team out of respect and love. That's why I'm proud to be a Domer.
At least the Michigan State coaches and players apologized. I think Notre Dame fans, by and large, are pretty classy. Speaking of fan behavior, the letters concerning the scene around Ohio Stadium for the Texas-Ohio State game brought in, yes, more letters.
I just read your column regarding Texas fans complaining about their treatment last weekend in the Shoe. As a die-hard Buckeye fan who attends every home game and many away games, I just have to respond.
First of all, there are 105,000 people who attend every Buckeye home game, and with this many people you are going to get a few idiots. I'm not making excuses nor am I condoning their behavior. This is just the way it is in society today. The overwhelming majority of Buckeye fans are intelligent, respectful and polite people who bleed Scarlet and Gray. We are very knowledgeable and intense when it comes to our football and we sure don't like to lose, especially at home. I don't think this makes us unique.
I talked to many Texas fans before and after the game. Most of these folks thanked me for a great game and the hospitality they were shown. They were very complimentary of our stadium and university and said they couldn't wait for Buckeye fans to come to Austin next year. I wish some of these Texas fans would take the time to write about their experience as well.
I've never seen Buckeye fans throw things onto the field during the game like happened last week in Ann Arbor. I haven't seen anything written about that anywhere. Also, try attending a game in Ann Arbor, Madison or State College wearing Ohio State colors. I've been called a few less-than-flattering things in all three of those stadiums by the same small group of idiots who also show up in Columbus on game days. Do I run to my computer to fire off e-mails to their university's president? No, because I understand it is always the small group of morons who are responsible and that they don't represent the majority.
I'd be willing to bet there have even been a few Aggie fans called less than flattering things in Austin at least once or twice over the years. I'm just sick of all these sanctimonious, holier-than-thou hypocrites who complain about these kinds of things which, of course, have never happened in their stadium to an opposing fan.
Several Bucks fans echoed Andy, but he said it with the most passion. That said, I don't understand the "It happened to me in Ann Arbor" defense. So that makes it OK? Seems to me that you would empathize with the visiting fans.
I ate lunch last Saturday sitting at the bar at the Gainesville Chili's, separating two Vols from two Gators. They couldn't have been nicer to each other. Maybe some of it came from being in the South. Maybe I found the only four polite people in Gainesville. It just didn't seem that hard to do.
I'm sounding so schoolmarmish it's making me sick. But several Ohio State fans agreed with me.
I was saddened to read in your weekly mailbag about the [behavior] of Ohio State fans. ... But sadly this is the truth in Columbus. I have had the privilege of working for the past seven football seasons (past five bartending) at the Varsity Club in Columbus (graciously mentioned by your colleague Pat Forde in his Sept. 14 column), and can report firsthand about the behavior of Ohio State fans. This is sad for many reasons:
First, it always seems that the behavior of fans trumps the wonderful accomplishments the football team achieves on the field. Notice I said fans and not students. Classes don't start here at Ohio State until September 21, so many Texas fans, like Mr. Lodge, probably were assaulted by non-students. The problem with Ohio State fans exists outside the student body as well.
Second, the behavior of Ohio State fans is highlighted by the wonderful attitudes of visiting fans. Longhorn fans that visited Columbus were a wonderful example. They were gracious, respectful and polite. They were a joy to serve all weekend. In my experience most other visiting fans are the same.
Finally, fan behavior makes me embarrassed to be an Ohio State fan. For many years, the grizzled (male) veterans of the Varsity Club road-trip to an away Ohio State football game in an RV. Our goal is to relax, male-bond, relive those college years and enjoy some football. However, many of us forsake wearing even the basic Ohio State hat or sweatshirt because we don't want to be guilty by association. Would a Notre Dame fan do this? How about a USC fan?
It is unfortunate that once again the bad behavior of many Ohio State fans appears on a national platform. I guess I just want everyone to know that not all Ohio State fans are rude and vulgar. I would love nothing more than for every college football fan to be able to witness the dotting of the "I" in a loud, raucous, but respectful Ohio Stadium.
Dude, when your bartender calls you on your behavior, it's time to reassess.
Hopefully you have by now received some e-mails from Buckeye Fan offering an apology. I grew up in Ohio, went to OSU and have lived in Houston for six years and now Nashville for two. I too was offended by the behavior of many of the Buckeye fans before the game and then after. The game was great, we lost. Vince Young is the real deal. One comes to expect the foul language during the OSU vs. UM game, but for us to treat those Texas fans like that was embarrassing.
For some only-Ohio-like reason, there were about five taxis available after the game for the 105,000 fans trying to leave the stadium area so we had to walk back downtown. This was about a 4.5 mile walk which began at about 12:30 a.m. During the walk I did my best to greet the Texas fans walking with us and let them know we aren't all incredibly rude. My buddy, who also went to OSU, said to the Texas fan, "It is bad, but I bet we get the same thing next year at Texas."
At that point the Texas fan stopped in his tracks, looked him square in the eye, and said "Like hell, no one would treat y'all that way."
After living in the South for eight years I have to say he is probably right.
Buckeyes: shape up and get your crap together.
Your comments about Buckeye fans needing pepper spray to realize its time to go home were right on the numbers. Buckeyes are people who light their own cars on fire to celebrate a win. Did Texas fans really expect better treatment?
One time, I was down on Lane Avenue in Columbus for the 2002 Michigan game and got insulted, booed and even threatened by all kinds of Buckeyes -- and I'M A BUCKEYE! My winter coat just happened to be blue and I made the mistake of wearing it that weekend. Still, my fellow Buckeyes should be embarrassed for their behavior sometimes, and the administration was right to issue apologies to Texans.
But where do you find a scarlet overcoat? In men's clothing, I mean.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.