By Mike Greenberg
Special to Page 2

I didn't mean to start such a huge ruckus.

My return to this space a week ago was meant to be nice and easy, like dipping a toe in the tub to make sure the water isn't too hot. In my previous stint as a columnist for Page 2, I tackled the serious issues: steroids, guns, Kobe in Colorado. Last week I went in a completely opposite direction. I wrote about a pretty skater with a funny name, and a handsome quarterback in a velvet jacket.

Benjamin Agosto & Tanith Belbin
AP Photo/Eric Gay
Tanith Belbin has probably gotten a lot of husbands in trouble the past few days. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

It seemed so innocent. Then all hell broke loose.

In fact, enough people responded to the piece that I decided to raise the subject on my radio show. Four hours, 2,000 e-mails and countless angry husbands later, I was a beaten man. Nothing I have ever written or said provoked this sort of reaction, confirming my long-held belief that the one true constant in life is that all women think their husbands are idiots.

If you missed it all, it essentially boiled down to this: When Tom Brady performed the coin toss at this year's Super Bowl, my wife said: "Boy, he's really good-looking, isn't he?"

And I didn't like it. There was just something about the way she said it. It didn't sound like a casual observation. It sounded like it could have been followed up with the sentence: "I wonder if he's still with that actress from the Will Smith movie." Or, worse: "He makes my husband look like a pile of inner tubes."

So, against my better judgment, I expressed my dissatisfaction. It was against my better judgment because I invariably lose in these discussions. In fact, I not only lose, I am usually humiliated in some unforgettable way. Think Lloyd Bentsen vs. Dan Quayle. Figuratively, my wife tells me I'm no Jack Kennedy every time we have an argument. But now we were about to have another one, because being no Jack Kennedy is one thing, but being no Tom Brady is another.

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Mike Greenberg's new book, "Why My Wife Thinks I'm An Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad" (Villard Books) is available March 7. The book is a wry and revealing look at one man's good-hearted but mistake-prone attempt to grow up before his children do. Marriage, fatherhood, manhood, fame, athletes, crazed aunts with gambling problems, the true significance of sports, the worst possible thing to say in a room full of pregnant women -- no topic is out of reach.

We had the argument … I wrote about it … and the e-mails have been pouring in ever since. I've read them all, and have found only one true supporter -- and even his encouragement was offered in a glum tone: "Greenberg, you are one brave dude," wrote James in St. Louis, "to talk about this subject on the air and write a book about it. What guts!"

I believe that's exactly what someone said to Mel Gibson's character in "Braveheart." And, as I recall, things didn't turn out so well for him.

Many of the e-mails I've received read like they're from a therapy session. Husbands, feeling brave because I voiced complaints they never would, share their stories in the relative anonymity of my in-box.

"My wife baits me," wrote Greg from Fort Worth. "If we're watching 'Dancing With The Stars,' she'll say, 'Isn't Stacy Keibler hot?', just waiting for me to respond with any type of affirmation. Most times I give her the 'Yeah she's pretty…" but the wife will keep on until I agree. THEN, and only THEN, she blasts me!!! I'm newly married, Greeny -- is it always going to be like this?"

Yes it is, Greg. It is always going to be like this.

"Here's a losing battle I tried to fight," wrote Keith in Maryland. "The toilet seat. Who's to say it should remain up? Why do I have to make the effort to lift the seat, but then must also make another effort to put it down? Is it not more fair for me to have to lift it and for her to have to reset it, thus dividing the toilet efforts equally? Here's why you can never win these arguments: I asked my wife why she believes the natural position of the toilet seat is down … her response? Gravity. I lose."

Yes, you lose, Keith. I hope it felt good to say that aloud. Or at least type it.

Here's one more, from Chad in Minnesota, who obviously felt the need to unburden himself: "I'm ashamed to admit," he wrote, "when my wife says someone is good-looking, I find ways to nitpick about something about him. Like, I'll say: 'I guess he's handsome, but he's awful small, isn't he? I think he's about 5-foot-8.' It doesn't change my wife's opinion, but it helps me get through the knife-in-the-gut feeling."

Thank you, Chad. That'll be $150, and I'll see you next week at this same time.

Other e-mails came in the form of advice, which I obviously need, so that was much appreciated. Like this one from Michael in Greenville, N.C.: "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit in the wind, you don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger and you don't ever tell your wife another woman is attractive."

Duly noted.

John, in New York, had similar advice: "Two golden rules, Greeny," he wrote. "(1) Never comment on the looks of another woman; (2) Never say anything but positives in regards to your wife's weight. Actually, be proactive and say: 'Honey, have you lost weight recently?'"

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Fred in Toledo was the first of thousands to e-mail me variations of the following two rules of thumb: "(1) Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at the menu; (2) Look at the menu all you want but come home for dinner."

And then there was Dave, from Chicago, who shared some facts that I haven't verified -- so in no way do I represent them as true -- but I did find them fascinating regardless: "It is a proven scientific fact," he wrote, "that your average woman uses, on a daily basis, around 10,000 words per day. Men, on average, use only 1,000 or so. They just out-word us. They keep going and going to prove their point, because they can. By the end, guys are just grunting single words because their tank is empty. Greeny, you may be able to take her if you start off in the morning when you can keep up with her on a 1-to-1 basis. That is, until you get to 1,000. Then simply start grunting one-word answers."

I'm going to have to commission some research on that one.

By the way, in case you're wondering, I did also receive thousands of letters from women, and perhaps we'll run those another time, as they present an entirely different point of view. But I will leave you with one, because it serves as advice to us all.

"It is OK if my husband or I say someone is good-looking," she wrote. "But when my husband starts e-mailing CNN trying to find out why Heidi, the short redhead that used to fill in for some people, has not been on in a while, I draw the line. He needs to keep that to himself."

Good luck, fellas. And don't say you haven't been warned.

Mike Greenberg is the co-host of "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on ESPN Radio.




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