Received an e-mail last week from a woman who didn’t appreciate my column about Nate Sassaman, the Classical Academy football coach, former Army football star and anti-hero of the Iraq War.
She wondered why I injected my opinion into the column. She wanted to draw her own conclusions. She even talked about my use of “venom.”
First off, I read and consider all criticism from readers. I learn from the criticism. I respond to nearly all the criticism, except the extremely rare e-mailers who seem a little dangerous. So, please, if you don’t like something I write, let me know. If you want to call me names, that’s fine, too, but you don’t have to engage in name-calling to get my attention.
Second, it’s my job to write analysis about local sports. It’s my job to be opinionated. It’s my job to draw conclusions. Newspapers don’t always do the best job of explaining the business to readers. Many readers don’t understand – because they’ve never been properly told – that columnists are encouraged, even required, to write opinion.
Another e-mailer wondered how I could make judgments about Sassaman even though I’ve never engaged in combat. It was a good question, but I could have returned the question right back to him. How could the reader make judgments about my writing when he has never worked as a sports journalist? Rush Limbaugh and George Will and Michael Kinsley and Maureen Dowd make judgments, often harsh, about politicians and none of these journalist/commentators has ever been elected to public office.
The Sassaman tale is complicated. I have my view. You may have your view. I take what I do seriously, but I would never pretend to offer the final word on anything. That’s one of the blessings of marriage. My wife taught me early in our 24-year marriage that I didn’t know everything. Readers who bless me with responses to my work stretch my mind, make me look at my work from a different angle.
Yes, I have strong beliefs, but please remember that one of those beliefs is to listen to others.