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Ten Foot Mailbag: Urlacher Rooting Against The Bears & Paterno's Legacy

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) Remember when some people were so worried that former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher would sign with the Minnesota Vikings, not because he would improve a division rival (he wouldn't have) but that it would perceivably taint his legacy?

All those fans who view sports through a Disney lens, where everything needs to fit an established narrative template, and great players ending their long careers on a different team gives them a big, wet sad?

"I'm going for (the Bears)," Urlacher said at a celebrity golf tournament this week. "A lot of my friends are still on the team. A lot of my good friends--guys I played with for 10, 11 years--so I'm still rooting for them. I hope they do well. They better not win the championship without me, 'cause then I'll be really pissed."

Really, most beloved Bear of a generation?

"Like I said, I've got a lot of friends on the team, but I don't want them to win the Super Bowl without me," Urlacher reiterated.

Let that be a lesson to fools who think sports and athletes follow some dumb romanticism. Hopefully Urlacher's words shocked a lot of people into reality.

Weekend. I want to send this one out as a letter back home.

On to your correspondence.

There very much is such a campaign. Are you unaware of Paterno's relatives? Did you miss Bob Costas' special on all this that included the family attorney that couldn't stop looking at the floor while talking and a "family spokesperson" that I guess was needed because the attorney doesn't also hold that position? Has Franco Harris and his sad, weird quest escaped you?

And then there are the disciples (and Harris is one because he is no longer compos mentis) of John Ziegler, Pied Piper for those Costas refers to politely as "people on the fringes." They are the blindly zealous for whom facing the fact that this Santa Claus is not real is not an option. See, when we're little kids and first are made aware that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the image of any idol (see the response to Jeff Pearlman for his biography on Walter Payton) isn't real, we respond with initial disbelief because it's naturally difficult to grasp that something we've so long believed in is actually false or even merely imperfect. Then some of us lash out at those who caused us to believe it because the trust we held so long in them has been now damaged. To be lied to by people we admire changes us irrevocably and forces us to grow up.

But some people refuse to grow up. Santa has to be real. The favorite sports figure couldn't possibly have committed sins. Those clingers to unreality then grasp for any shred of evidence that can give them hope their misbeliefs are warranted (I was that way for a while with MLB and steroids, letting selfishness cloud my judgment) and react very angrily to people who point out their faulty beliefs (it takes a lot for a real person on Twitter to get blocked by me for his or her tweets; I've had to block several JoePa Claus believers). Compound that with fandoms seeing their favorite teams and figures as reflections of themselves, irrational as that is. For so many sports fans, a perceived slight against the team or its members is a slight against them. And if the team does something bad, the fan thinks he or she has the badness extended on them for some reason, even though it isn't true. (I'm a Notre Dame football fan who doesn't see any negatives involving the program as a reflection of me at all.)

Think of it as a sort of syllogism done in the psyche—usually the subconscious. "I admire figure. Figure is bad person. I admire bad person." Nobody wants to admire a bad person if they can help it because then they are bad. So the syllogism must be changed. Specifically, the minor premise of the admired being bad.

The solution for some is to find a way to unmake the idols look bad or stupid and in turn do the same to they the fans. (Look at people who still support Chris Brown, for example.) Enter people like Ziegler who benefit from others' desperation. He helps warp the minor premise for the Paterno supporters (or not) and is then appreciated for it.

As far as changing their minds, the hope for anyone who continues to point out evidence that Paterno played a role in Jerry Sandusky being able to commit horrendous acts of child rape is not so much converting them to reality (most have made it clear they prefer fantasy) but more so keeping an infamous case of pedophilia as much in the news and on the minds of people as possible so that something like this never happens again. The complaints from "readers" (I use the term loosely because so many judge a column based on a headline) of something akin to "Why are we still talking about this?" and "Just let it go away" are as troubling as the Paterno defenders. "NOBODY CARES" just means you don't want to talk about it because it requires thought, and thinking for such people is hard and not worth it. It's an insult to victims of pedophilia (they care, trust me), and it's those complainers desiring the talk of a subject that makes them uncomfortable to go away rather than have it solved through difficult and unpleasant work.

I will neither perpetuate nor condone ignorance when it comes to child rape no matter how uncomfortable it makes some third party. When you encounter somebody who would try to get a person like me to stop discussing this or any case of rape or abuse against children or adults past or future, let that person know they are part of the problem and they are putting their own uncomfortable feelings or petty displeasure with me beyond the Paterno story ahead of those crimes and victims.

If this awful press release is any indication, then yes. But I'm really interested to see the Donkey's thespian chops (which is also the name of a band opening for One Eskimo this summer). Think about it—this film isn't a comedy, so Dunn's casting isn't a la the Farrelly Brothers' calling card of putting a famous athlete, good actor or not, as a bit part in their films. The heavier subject matter of HIV/AIDS and the struggle in the 1980s for proper medications likely means Dunn wasn't cast just because.


The outrage over it is foolish to me. A respected magazine is doing a piece on an accused terrorist, but because it's the august authority on pop culture instead of Newsweek, well, we must be offended or something.

"But it makes him look like a rock star." And? You know he's not, so what does it matter what you think the magazine's use of a selfie comes off as. They didn't bring him in a studio and eventually choose one of hundreds of glamor shots, dolts. And that photo has been published elsewhere prior to this week.

From The New Yorker: "What is so troubling about this image, and many of the others that have become available since April, is that Tsarnaev really does look like a rock star. In this way, the photograph on Rolling Stone is of a part with the often unexpected, and unsettling, portrait of Tsarnaev that has emerged over the past few months."

I think it's a bold and not inappropriate choice. He's not Osama Bin Laden. He's not Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He doesn't look the part. But the part has apparently changed, and that's another wrinkle we have to deal with, not get pissy over and bemoan how it's soiled our virgin eyes and then make the always productive Facebook page decrying it.

"Why do we demand that evil people look evil?" Neil Steinberg wrote Thursday. "Isn't it truer—and more valuable—to realize that the next terrorist, the next murderer, could indeed be someone who looks like this goofy teen? Real life is not a movie, we don't get thuggish bad guys with jagged facial scars. We get this tragic misguided mope."

And the people calling for a boycott of places that are selling this issue of Rolling Stone are part of a problem, not a solution. The end game of doing so is to prevent people from reading. It is not, as boycotters will argue, an expression of rights or respect for the dead or some other faux-noble BS. It's an attempt to get less people to read it until the magazine backs down and removes the copies (which ain't gonna happen, fools), and the offended's precious pathetic sensibilities and desire for control over others will win out, theoretically. But no matter what way you spin it, attempt to stop people from reading anything results in two things: 1. You, the boycotter, are the bookburner and the record steamroller of yore that history has proven a fool, like it or not, because 2. More people are now reading it because you're both saying they shouldn't and making more people aware of it. It's a slam dunk result and has been throughout history every time people have tried to censor something, but every time the new censors think their cause will be the won that wins. Nope, oversensitive, irrational people. You lose again.

And here's your Angry Penn State Fan of the Week:

[RECORD SKIP] Actually, not everyone who loves Penn State hates me. Not every email or tweet I get about it all is delusional. The following is an email from a person that seems to appreciate logic, civilized discourse, and the greater good.

From: Maribeth S.
To: Me
Subject: Penn State's transparency (or lack thereof)


There are many Penn Staters who couldn't agree more with your assessment of the SI article, and who are trying desperately to hold the university leadership's feet to the fire at every possible turn.  Our organization is called Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship (PS4RS) and we've been fighting for truth and transparency at the Board of Trustees level of our school since word came out in November 2011 that certain trustees were well aware of the Sandusky grand jury, and still remained disengaged and ill-prepared for the subsequent scandal that rocked Penn State. None of it had to go this way; that's for sure.

When you cut right through it, last week's SI article completely supports the stance of PS4RS. It mocks the Penn State transparency pledge, from beginning to end (including the Openness website). It questions how Joyner could have moved from the BoT to a $335k job, it exposes all of his personal baggage, including that of incompetence and lack of qualifications. And finally, it gives concrete examples of recent decisions he made (whether OB recommended them or not) that seem to be detrimental to the program. After digesting the article, my thought was, if the objective was to expose Joyner and publicly question his credentials, then I couldn't have done it better myself. The OB press conference — perhaps intentionally -- created a side show that took the attention off the real story, which is that the ubiquitous power of the Penn State Board of Trustees is damaging to all things Penn State, and needs to be stopped immediately.

I enjoyed your column.  Thanks for writing it.



Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you're a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.

Want your questions answered in a future Mailbag? Email them to or tweet them to @TimBaffoe with the hashtag #TFMB. No question, sports or otherwise, is off limits (with certain logistical exceptions, e.g. lots of naughty words or you type in Portuguese or you solicit my death). If you email, please include a signature.

Jeff Pearl
The author. (credit: Jeff Pearl)

Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for, Tim corrupts America's youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim's inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don't follow him in real life. E-mail him at To read more of Tim's blogs click here.

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