I guess I'm an old-school traditionalist. So sue me. For 50 years, I signed my name to my columns and articles that were published by the Daily Illini, Champaign-Urbana Courier, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Chicago Daily News and Chicago Sun-Times.
Criticism was welcome. But newspapers always have had a policy that letters to the editor had to be signed.
Then came the Internet.
Who are OrangeBlazer, Elwin Illini, Bloomfan101, Cabana Joe and NYDomer310 and why do they choose to use aliases instead of their real names when they tap into message boards?
Tom Lemming and I have a policy, too. I operate my blog, "Locker Room Prep Talk," for the Sun-Times and I monitor Tom's, "Second Season," because he doesn't have a Website or an e-mail address. If you want to talk to Tom, call him up.
We respond to any and all e-mails and messages as long as the address is accurate and signed. If there isn't an address or if the message is anonymous, the e-mail is jettisoned. One recent critic referred to a player by the wrong name. Of course, he didn't leave an e-mail. His missive was dismissed.
We don't discourage criticism. It is part of the business. Illini Nation has a particular problem with us, however, because we don't go along with Ron Zook's "you're either for us or against us" policy that some beat writers and columnists embrace in order to be granted access to anything that has to do with the Illini program.
Newspapermen and recruiting analysts are supposed to be objective, not cheerleaders. Zook and Charlie Weis have differing views. So they don't talk to us. And they won't talk to you if you don't agree with them.
All of which makes the Illini Nation's tired accusation that Lemming is a pro-Domer all the more ridiculous. The facts don't support it. Bob Davie once threw Lemming out of Notre Dame Stadium. He had a good relationship with Lou Holtz and Vinny Cerrato (still does) in their day when the Irish were a national power. But he criticized Holtz' recruiting tactics when he brought in players (like Chris Zorich) who were under Notre Dame's academic standards. Holtz didn't complain. But Notre Dame Nation did.
Yes, Lemming has rated Notre Dame's recruiting classes among the top 10 in the country. But so has everybody else...Rivals, Scout, ESPN and Allen Wallace. Curiously, Lemming is targeted. But I've explained that issue so many times to readers who apparently don't want to allow facts to get in the way of name-calling.
I love it when a reader demonstrates a knowledge of the subject--I'm an Illinois graduate who has observed the scene for 50 years so I think I can talk sensibly and rationally and intelligently about any and all issues--and wants to have an intelligent conversation.
We don't have to agree. It's often more educational when we agree to disagree. But we have to communicate. This isn't about the Civil War or the Middle East or the economy. It shouldn't be so personal. Name-calling has no place in this discussion. I'm a professional. So is Tom Lemming. Nobody in the country does what he does. Nobody. You be a professional, too.