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UP FRONT

8/13/2008

Hallelujah! I'm experiencing tears of joy right now. A first for me, people. Really! Because so many of you have taken the time to throw some venom in my direction (some love, too) using the e-mail address at the bottom of this page, The Magazine has granted me the opportunity to respond. I'm truly touched. Tito, get me some tissue!

Finally, I get to remind you folks that I've been a journalist for 15 years. That I was a beat writer for 10 of those years. That long before I was blessed with the opportunity to cover basketball, I covered soccer, track and field, motocross and the Olympics.

See, contrary to popular belief, ESPN didn't hand me the privilege of working here overnight. That opportunity arrived after years of blood, sweat and tears. A lot of people choose to ignore this. Fine! Especially now that I've got the last word. Or the last word of the first round, anyway.

Let the games begin!

When you went on Outside the Lines to express your opinion about Penn State's ongoing problems in football, you were downright rude. Why don't you just stick to basketball? You know nothing about any other sport. -Carlisle
SAS: I wasn't rude, Carlisle. OTL did a brilliant job reporting on a wave of criminal behavior by Penn State football players. It's undeniable and a flat-out travesty. I said it's time for JoePa to go, and that's exactly what I meant. Paterno's weak response to OTL's research was an embarrassment. And as for your proclamation that I should stick to basketball, that isn't even worthy of a response. At least not one that's printable.

I've always wondered if you're truly the angry black man you make yourself out to be, or is it just your way of creating a unique identity? -Yuran22
SAS: Appreciate the question, Yuran. Sometimes I am angry. But I'm a black man earning a good living, blessed with the ability to provide for my family. I'm blissfully happy most of the time. I just happen to speak on issues with passion and energy because that's how I feel, and I aspire to convey that to my audience at all times. I do not pretend, nor do I fake what I'm feeling for any reason. I laugh all the time. Yes! I've laughed on ESPN quite often. But people choose to notice what they want, and I can't be concerned with that. At the end of the day, I am a serious brother. Trivial stuff doesn't interest me. What affects the masses, what's important and substantive is what matters most. I have no desire to be PC. My motto: Be professional and as thorough as I can, but above all else be as real as possible—in everything I say and do.

What do you think of the Pistons' decision to sign Kwame Brown, who's clearly your all-time favorite bona fide scrub? -Woody
SAS: Kwa-ME? Look at the numbers: He is a scrub! How do you feel about having a scrub on your squad?

When will the Knicks finally win an NBA championship? -Michael
SAS: Let me check my calendar. Here it is: in 2013. (Assuming they get LeBron.)

Regarding your argument about why there hasn't been an African-American activist from the sports world in a long while, the conclusion seems clear to me: There is no need for one. While we certainly have issues with race in this country, they no longer involve the segregation of blacks and whites. -Josh
SAS: I respectfully disagree. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for the sacrifices and efforts of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, of Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, of Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. History doesn't just teach us, it clears a path. To veer from that path because the way forward isn't clear, is, honestly, to neglect one's responsibility.

Do you think some of today's athletes don't stand up for many of the issues you've mentioned simply because they lack an understanding of them, maybe because they haven't had a higher education? -Soren
SAS: I believe today's athletes don't stand up because it's perilous for them to do so. The dollars they are making are constantly flashed before their eyes, and they're made afraid of the consequences of speaking out. Despite already having millions, there's a price they aren't willing to pay. It's sad, but it is their right.

You need to understand why you are allowed on ESPN. It is not for your content; it is because you are reaching a certain audience. Do not take yourself too seriously. -Scott
SAS: Scott, you seem to be assuming you understand why I am at ESPN. Why don't you do a little more research and get back to me?

Racism will vanish when black people quit bitching about race. It's the Jesse Jacksons, Al Sharptons and Stephen A. Smiths of the world who are keeping racism alive. Let it go, and we'll let it go. -Bryan
SAS: What utter nonsense! First of all, if black folks in previous generations had entertained such a timid approach, there would have been no civil rights movement. Second, I find it funny that people who spend their time and energy oppressing or being associated with those who oppress are the first to jump up and state "Just let it go." If you pimp-slap somebody in the face for no justifiable reason, who are you to dictate how they should respond?

I am 40, white and from Utah, a state that's the most homogeneous of all, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos have been heroes to me as long as I can remember. I try to teach my 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter that they have the privilege of deciding for themselves whether to follow rules. I tell them to think and not just obey. -Eric
SAS: Amen, Eric! Amen!

Most of the time when I see you on ESPN, you go out of your way to be a loudmouth windbag. But in the article about Smith and Carlos, you got it absolutely right. Keep up the fine writing! -Mitch
SAS: Thank you, Mitch. I'm sorry about the "loudmouth windbag" part. I've recognized I was very loud in the past. I also know I've toned it down considerably. Unfortunately, first impressions last quite a long time. But I'll continue to work on that.

I dare you to write an article without the topic of race. I dare you! You are so one-dimensional it's hilarious!!! -Matthew
SAS: Look up my articles in the New York Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer dating back to 1993. You'll see plenty of material that's not race-related. I don't imagine you will, though. See, what you'll find in most of my articles is me getting on one black athlete after another. I suspect, in your mind, that's perfectly okay.

I'm disgusted with how you've taken your pomposity to a whole new level. Why can't you just talk sports, instead of always injecting your own agenda? -Scott
SAS: Scott, baby! Why the hostility? Regarding my agenda: I'm a columnist! That means I have license to editorialize, to give my opinion. Which means I'm doing my job! Do you get the picture, sir? By the way, just because you neither agree with nor desire to hear what I have to say doesn't mean my opinions aren't valid. Get rid of the Haterade. You're bigger than that.

(I think.)