Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nice thoughts and bald predictions

The Bald Truth

I'm deeply touched by the letters I have received from so many readers - including many who never before had written me, such as Travis Truitt of Chicago:

Mike, As a longtime reader of yours, I just came across the bad news on your blog. I'm really sorry this has happened to you. I live in Chicago now, but I grew up in the Champaign area and started reading your columns in the News-Gazette. You are the only sportswriter my dad has ever really liked! For years, he called you "the bald guy from Chicago" before he finally learned your name. But you spoke a truth that appealed to him. I've never reached out to you before, but I figured if there was ever a moment to send a guy a piece of fan mail, this could be it. You're a talented sportswriter who speaks the truth in a clear and interesting way. You've made me laugh, and a few times you've gotten me all teary-eyed. You're better than anyone currently writing in the Tribune or the Sun-Times. I wish you all the best, and I'll be checking out your blog to see what happens next. Keep the faith and don't lose the hope.

Such kindness from complete strangers has been one of the many benefits of this job. I remember back in my first year as columnist in 1998, I wrote a piece after my father died. I received more than 100 letters and e-mails. These examples serve to reinforce what we already knew: People are basically good.

Here's a fun letter from Tom "tmad" Madigan, another reader who hadn't e-mailed me previously (that I could remember, anyway) but did post frequent comments on the previous incarnation of The Baldest Truth:

Mike: So Rob Marinelli has a job and you don't. WTF? Hope somebody at Comcast, ESPN, some mag - ANYTHING! - gives you a decent, well deserved shot. As Da Coach once said "This too shall pass." Wishing you and yours better days ahead.

Well, given my, um, close relationship with with a certain leggy ESPN sideline reporter, I'm guessing The World Wide Leader won't be calling anytime soon. And I'm not holding my breath on the others, either. These are tough times in our industry and jobs are few and far between. However, I did just learn that I have the inside track on the job of being Mr. Clean's stunt double.

The Balder Truth

So now we come to the sports portion of our show. Word is, there are a couple of fairly important football games Sunday. I'm 5-3 on my picks this postseason, which isn't all that great but is better than Chris Berman's 4-4. Sounds like slummin', but I'll take what little glory I can get.

EAGLES at CARDINALS: Denny Green's former team is about to reach that magic point where we can say: "They ARE who we thought they were!" If the Eagles' defense succeeds at making the Cardinals one-dimensional on offense, it could end up being a long day for Kurt Warner & Co. Meanwhile, I just have a feeling that Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb (or both) are going to come up huge for Philly. Oh sure, there's no home-field advantage in all of sports as traditionally wonderful as the one the Arizona Cardinals have been enjoying for, oh, 18 minutes, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say ... Eagles 27, Cardinals 17.

RAVENS at STEELERS: Ray Lewis could be wearing an evening gown and sipping tea out of a little cup with his pinkie finger extended and he still would scare the crap out of me. And as a guy who used to juggle shards of razor-sharp glass just for kicks, I don't scare easily. In the end, this one will come down to the QBs, as playoff games often do. Ben Roethlisberger was Joe Flacco before Joe Flacco was Joe Flacco, and Big Ben was better at it. And he is still better at it (as long as he's not riding his motorcycle on off-days). The Ravens will get to Ben some, but he'll still be standing in the end. Will Joe The Rookie be able to say the same after being folded, spindled and mutilated repeatedly by the Steelers? Perhaps, but I'm still saying ... Steelers 17, Ravens 13.

Proof Positive

It's Cubs Convention weekend, and thousands of folks who paid big bucks to wait two hours in line for Randy Hundley's autograph can't be wrong. Yes, just this once, Cubbie fans are blindly, crazily optimistic, so you know the championship is in the bag.


I'll post one last letter today, this from loyal reader and frequent e-mailer Drew Stout of Cary:

Mike, I’m sorry to hear about the layoff. I know from personal experience that those things never come at a good time. I remember having moved from Illinois to upstate New York right after getting my degree nearly eight years ago and then getting laid off a mere eight months after I started my new career. And to top it off, she delivered our older son on the very day the layoff happened! (Almost as strange as my wife meeting me because she dialed the wrong number, but just as true.) It was easily the most emotional day I’ve ever had.

Everyone I’ve known who’s been laid off has come out better off, provided they accepted it for what it was and didn’t take it personally.

I think I’ve probably written you three or four letters in the past few weeks that I ended up not e-mailing because I just didn’t think they were up to snuff. You’ve set a pretty high standard in your columns as far as journalistic integrity, and I really like to make sure I’ve got my ducks in a row before I hit the send button.

I had one recent unsent e-mail that I wrote defending the BCS, and I’d even laid out a nice statistical analysis in support of it. Then I thought about it some more and decided I needed to make absolutely certain that I wasn’t completely off base. So I dug deeper and realized that the BCS wasn’t an official NCAA championship like the others. I’m not quite sure how I missed that important point, but it blew my entire argument out of the water on basic principle, so I ended up not sending it. To me, that’s the standard you represent. That’s why I’ve enjoyed reading your columns so much. Even if I haven’t agreed with you, I knew I was always getting the same degree of objectivity every time. Your thoughts were always opinionated but fair.

I look forward to you keeping TBT online. I will still be checking in to see what you’ve got to say. And I hope you continue to say what’s on your mind.

Don't worry. You can't get rid of me that easily.

God knows, my wife has tried ... and I just keep showing up over and over again like some kind of bald penny.

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