I am embarrassed to be a graduate of a university that has produced some lunatics who believe it is cool to stifle the First Amendment. But I'm not surprised to learn that other colleges also have graduated loonies who are suffering from the same myopia.
I suppose the lunacy reached its zenith over the weekend on Illiniboard.com when the crazies who only a few weeks ago were nominatiing Illinois coach Ron Zook for sainthood began to call for his ouster after Illinois' opening 37-9 loss to Missouri.
It wasn't subtle. It was brutal. After one game, the posters are calling for a boycott of future Illini games. There are more than six threads of "Fire Ron Zook." And that is followed up by "Take Juice (Williams) out the door with Zook." And these knuckleheads who disguise themselves in orange and blue really take themselves seriously.
When the Internet was invented, did you ever think the readers/posters would use it to try to pressure editors to fire writers whom they disagree with or persuade other readers to boycott Websites in an attempt to have the taken down? Did you think they'd try to influence how the football or basketball programs were run?
In most cases, the off-the-wall strategies haven't worked. Journalism is about objectivity, explaining both sides of an issue, the good and the bad and the ugly, not leading a band of cheerleaders or hiding the truth or ignoring the facts.
When the Chicago Sun-Times invited me to join its staff of high school bloggers, I really didn't know what a blog was. The word isn't in my Webster's dictionary. Does it itch? Do you scratch it? Or do you take a pill and see a doctor in the morning?
After writing more than 230 columns on "Locker Room Prep Talk" since September 2007, however, I have learned several things about the process...some good, some bad, some educational, others downright irritating, even profane. As a reader/poster, I'm sure you feel the same.
1. Worst of all, posters tend to stray from the original premise and get involved in personal issues, catfights and mud-slinging with other posters.
2. Posters often are little more than cheerleaders. They support their home school or home team and anyone who doesn't isn't taken seriously. You're either for them or against them. There is no middle ground, no room for objectivity. They prefer to deal in conspiracies, not facts.
3. The whole process is taken much too seriously. A blog is supposed to be fun, entertaining, educational, controversial, provocative, perhaps an exercise in constructive criticism designed to exude editorial comments from readers.
4. One Website founder said he didn't want to deal with recruiting, only positive news about the program, players and coaches of his favorite university. Like it or not, recruiting is to college sports what Erin Andrews is to sideline reporting. It is, as longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming outlined in his book, "Football's Second Season." To ignore the process would be like playing football without a helmet.
5. Another disgusting and thoroughly unprofessional and unethical practice is sharing e-mails from one poster to another. Bloggers often respond to readers' inquiries with personal e-mails. They are for the reader's eyes only. Would the reader share his personal correspondence with others?
6. I guess I'm not surprised--having dealt with these issues for nearly 50 years--but I continue to be startled at the lack of knowledge displayed by most posters regarding the fundamentals of college recruiting, what it takes to be a successful recruiting analyst and the responsibilities of a sportswriter.
7. Having been a product of the newspaper profession, where your real name is at the top of every story you write, for every reader to see, I guess I'll never come to grips with anonymous posters. Their responses wouldn't be printed in a "Letters to the Editor" column unless their real names were attached.
Unfortunately, Websites print anything, mostly fiction. They allow anonymous posters to rant and spew profanity and refuse to call for accurate addresses because, God forbid, they might be forced to engage in an intelligent debate on the issues.