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Forever and ever fans

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions. Vic:"Ask Vic" will not appear on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The column will return on Wednesday, June 28.

Thomas from Union, NJ:
I agree 100 percent with your comments about players and their off-field lifestyles. When I was 14, 15, I'd base opinions on players and their life choices. Luckily, I grew up and realized I don't know these people and as long as they don't hurt anyone other than themselves, it's none of my business. I find it sickening to see how many adults still have such under-developed opinions and obsessions with celebrities.

Vic: That's fine, but don't read too much into what I said. Please take what I said literally. I'm interested in how they play, not in how they live. That's all I'm saying. I'll leave law enforcement to the police and judges. I'm not going to conduct my own court of opinion on the lifestyles of football players.

Sean from Gainesville, FL:
Your comment to Leo from New Orleans could be one of the most irresponsible things I've ever read in your column. You're dealing with extremely well-paid, highly visible representatives from the individual teams and the league itself. I don't think anyone is asking these players to be saints, we're just asking them to not get arrested. It's not really that difficult. When an individual like Leonard Little is still playing in the NFL, I think it's perfectly reasonable to sit in judgment of the team that employs him.

Vic: You've cited an extreme example, and that's not the circumstance I'm targeting. What about Maurice Drew? He was arrested, for nothing. His name was smeared because he was a person of some fame. Has anyone apologized to him? I submit that a lot of these kids are being targeted (and I don't mean by the police) because their fame makes them vulnerable, and opinions are formed before they even have their day in court. Leonard Little went through the court system. So did Rae Carruth and Ray Lewis.

Paul from Jacksonville:
Thanks for mentioning the Vikings among your "greatest teams who never won a Super Bowl." Not only do you have to be great to even get to four Super Bowls – something that most teams have never accomplished – but most people forget that Minnesota was only actually favored in one of those championship games, their first one, against the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. The other three losses, to the Dolphins, Steelers and Raiders, were against what are widely considered to be three of the greatest teams in NFL history.

Vic: The Bills were in a similar situation. They were favored against the Giants, but heavy underdogs to the Cowboys (twice) and the Redskins.

Vince from Stafford, VA:
I seem to remember some sort of football game pitting an NFL team against some college all-stars. Steve Bartkowski is prominent in that memory as playing in one such game. I haven't been able to find out anything about this series or what became of it. What, if anything can you tell us about it?

Vic: It's technically known as the "Chicago All-Star Game" and proceeds benefited Chicago Tribune Charities. The last one was in 1976, when the game was shortened by violent thunderstorms and torrential rain with the Steelers leading 24-0 over a team of college all-stars. The game pitted the reigning NFL champion against a team of college all-stars. For the NFL team, it was usually the first game of the preseason, which meant the game quickly evolved into a match of college all-stars vs. the NFL champion's rookies. The first one was played in 1934. The NFL team won 31, lost nine and tied two. No game was played in 1974 because NFL players were picketing. The NFL champion won the last 12 games played and the score was often lopsided. The college all-stars had their most success during the World War II years, for the obvious reason. The game was played in Soldier Field and reached a peak attendance of 105,840 in 1947, when the college all-stars beat the Chicago Bears, 16-0. Attendance slowly dwindled and the game became impractical.

Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I couldn't disagree with you more. Winning is important, but so is how you win. When you play golf do you roll the ball in the fairway, forget shots, etc.? Hopefully not, you play by the rules, otherwise you are demeaning the game. In football the object is to win, but if you have to employ "criminals" and drugheads to accomplish your goal, you have demeaned the game and yourself in supporting them. Football and all sports used to have boundaries and rules that players knew if they crossed they would lose their chance to play. Today we allow the boundaries to be breached to win. The game loses, those individuals lose and we as a society are losers.

Vic: Why did you put criminals in quotation marks? Because law enforcement hasn't convicted them but you have. I hope I never do that, though I'm sure I have. It's wrong. Guilty by accusation is wrong. It has to be proven in a court of law. I think we've also developed a degree of sensationalism about athletes who live on the edge or have been accused of wrongdoing. Ben Roethlisberger was mowed down by a 62-year-old woman who made a mistake. Hey, mistakes happen, right? Now turn it around. What would public opinion have been of Roethlisberger had he struck a motorcyclist in the same fashion that he was struck? Roethlisberger would've probably been castigated as another reckless, prima donna football player. In my opinion, there's a growing anger toward these players because they make so much money. That's not fair. The Pittsburgh police did a thorough job of charging both parties. The 62-year-old woman was cited for a driving violation that caused the accident, and Roethlisberger was cited for unlawfully operating a motorcycle without wearing a helmet. As I said, I'll leave law enforcement to the law enforcement officials.

Adam from Leicester, UK:
Do you prefer to see a team throw or run a 60-yarder into the end zone or see a team go, say, 80 yards in five plays and be efficient on every single play?

Vic: I prefer whatever it takes to win. Just win, baby, win.

Brian from Orlando, FL:
I am a die-hard Jaguar fan and love that ticket sales have increased, but doesn't the fact that several thousand fans decided not to renew their season tickets after a 12-4 year say more about our fan base then a waiting list based largely on the most attractive schedule in Jaguars history?

Vic: The ticket sales people will tell you there will always be some kind of a turnover between seasons, especially in a transient town such as Jacksonville, but I think there's more to it. I think the Jaguars are still in the process of establishing and identifying their forever and ever ticket-buyers. Once they've identified them, that's it.

Tony from Jacksonville:
Who's the best "money player" right now? I would think Tom Brady would have to be on that list.

Vic: Yeah, he's on the list; the all-time list. Brady is one of the top "money players" of all-time. Bart Starr, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman were all great "money players," and Brady deserves to be included in their company. Joe Namath, for a brief but dramatic period of his career, was a true "money player." Bobby Layne is another one. There have been lots of great "money" quarterbacks. Quarterback is the most demanding position in sports. It defines the term "money player."

Thomas from Jacksonville:
The AFC championship game of the 1999 season; the Titans won in Jacksonville. In your opinion, did the Jags choke or were the Titans just better?

Vic: When one team beats another team three times in one season and twice in the other team's stadium, they deserve to be regarded as the better team. The Titans were clearly the more physical of the two teams and usually the more physical team wins. I acknowledge all of that, but, frankly, I still think the Jaguars choked. They collapsed in the second half and, in my opinion, chokes are defined by collapse.

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