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High-energy OTAs

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Tom from Estero, FL:
How about Roberto Clemente? Did you have a chance to see him play often? What is your fondest memory?

Vic: He was my most favorite player in any sport through my childhood and into my 20's. I loved to watch him play. He had such a flair and style to his game. I could cite memory upon memory, but the one that immediately comes to mind is his throw to third base from the right field corner in the 1971 World Series. It froze the runner and the crowd. It literally produced a moment of silence. My last memory of him is having awakened on New Year's Day, 1973, to pick up the newspaper and see the headline that Clemente had died in a plane crash.

Scott from Aurora, IL:
College football doesn't seem to be worried about tradition. Do you think there's a good chance the rich could suffer at all in going down to four super conferences?

Vic: They're not going to suffer, but I think there's a strong possibility that decisions will have been made during this process that will result in major regret down the road. I think the major conferences are so consumed by greed that they are pushing the revenue envelope beyond the tolerances for what are and aren't good fits for their conferences. Stanford and Texas Tech in the same conference? That's almost comical. Yeah, tell me again that academics are a major consideration in these decisions. I don't get Nebraska to the Big Ten, either. All along, we were made to believe the Big Ten wanted into the New York market so they could add TV households for the "Big Ten Network." So the first move you make is to add a school from a state that offers very little in the way of TV households or even a recruiting base, for that matter. What's the attraction? In my opinion, some of these moves run the risk down the road of estranging members and causing them to look elsewhere or even go independent. As long as Notre Dame remains an independent, nothing is for sure. They can change the landscape of college football in a heartbeat. They can snap their fingers and a dozen big-time programs will follow them.

Jody from Fort Pierce, FL:
How bad was the ticket sales problem in New England in the early 1990's? What turned it around? Was it simply winning?

Vic: It was real bad. The Patriots were 1-15 in '90 and their media guide shows crowds in the 20's late in the season. I don't know if that's actual attendance or tickets distributed; my guess is it's actual attendance. Nonetheless, attendance sagged horribly through a four-season period that produced a 14-46 overall record. The problem wasn't, however, all about the product on the field. The old stadium in Foxboro was awful. It was bench seating and there was no protection from the elements. Ownership had gone through some unstable years, too, and the future of the franchise was cloudy. Bob Kraft changed it all. He bought the team in 1994 and boldly announced his intention to bring New England a championship. Immediately, they were in the playoffs and two years later they were in the Super Bowl. Then came Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and a new stadium, and now the Patriots are one of the league's featured franchises. Yes, it can change that quickly.

Jordan from Kill Buck, NY:
I don't watch soccer outside of the World Cup. I think you're bitter about the World Cup because you know if our Jaguar fan base had one-hundredth of the World Cup's emotion, we would have a waiting list for tickets.

Vic: No, that's not it. I just don't like soccer. I don't like any sport that can be played while wearing a straight jacket. The important thing, however, is not that we accept the fact that people are allowed to make choices, but that we continue to beat on this subject so that we promote more edgy debate, right?

Matt from Tallahassee, FL:
It's refreshing to see a veteran media personality embracing the Internet and its open nature, rather than decrying it as the end of times for the news industry. Thank you for putting out such an amazing column on a daily basis. What are your thoughts on the plight of journalism in the 21st century?

Vic: It's re-inventing itself and it needs time to do it. I love writing for I'm enjoying these years immensely and I'm so glad I didn't miss them. I'm so fortunate to have caught the end of one era and the beginning of another. What we need to do going forward is to define what is and what isn't credible media. We need to pigeon hole those sites that are professional media and those sites that are driven by amateurs. One gives you a report, the other gives you a rumor and calls it a report. That's the big difference. The classic example is the reporting on all of this conference expansion stuff in college sports. One guy from one prominent site has had a new rumor every day. He's offered every possible scenario as rumored that it will happen, and he hasn't been right on one. Please, tell me what constitutes a rumor. I have a feeling it's a phone conversation in which two people exchange their thoughts, which is nothing more than message board reporting. What I want is a website that writes a story and stands by it; it doesn't change the story the next day. That's the kind of sports journalism I respect. Be that as it may, the Internet offers potential the newspaper business couldn't imagine and, for that reason, it's worth living with the foibles of website reporting. Here's a classic example of the potential websites offer: Recently, in this column, I was asked about a snow game I covered in 1976. I told the story of the game and referred to a famous "Sports Illustrated" picture from that game. After the column was posted, it was called to my attention that a reader had posted a link to that picture in the "Facebook" section at the bottom of the column. I checked it out and, sure enough, there was the picture. Wow! How good is it that a reader was able to deepen the content of the column? It made the column 100 percent better. Let's all be patient. We have a great thing. We need to let it grow and shape itself.

Don from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Young men and women are putting their lives on the line every day so fans can write in and complain about fighting on the football field? Are you serious? I say the Jaguars need to put a couple of nuns on the sideline and every time a little scuffle happens they would run out and smack them down with rulers. That would solve that problem. C'mon, it's the NFL, not the World Cup.

Vic: I had a nun who pulled ears. She just loved to pull ears, and it really hurt.

Brian from St. Marys, GA:
With what Mel Tucker said that during camp there will be more tackling drills, do you agree with that? I think the tackling across the NFL has become lackluster. I watched a classic NFL game the other day and out of the whole game there was not a missed tackle at all.

Vic: Lackluster is an understatement. Tackling in the NFL last season was worse than ever. The Packers-Cardinals playoff game was hard to watch. Yes, I wanna see tackling drills return to training camp.

William from Jacksonville:
Do you believe the sanctions put on USC played a major role in Pete Carroll coming back to the NFL?

Vic: I think he knew what was going to happen and I think he knew it was time to get out of Dodge, so to speak.

Ray from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Did you see Mays play in person? If so, do you have any fond memories to share?

Vic: I saw him play in person several times. I remember that wide batting stance he had and how it appeared to dare pitchers to throw the ball. I have this one particular memory of Willie Mays. I was in the cheap seats of Forbes Field, which were in right field. I was at the far corner of the section, where it met the deepest part of the ballpark in right-center field. Balls almost never came out there because it was so deep. Well, a ball was hit right to that spot and it drove Mays on a dead run to the wall right beneath where I was sitting. I could see the whiskers in his beard as he caught the ball against the ivy. After he caught it, he looked up at me. I'll never forget it.

Preston from Patterson, NY:
The Jaguars haven't gone with three quarterbacks on the roster in a few years. Think that'll change this year, Vic?

Vic: No.

Hunter from Orlando, FL:
Is it safe to assume that coach Tucker is a yeller?

Vic: Yeah, he's a yeller, and the Jaguars have a lot of yellers on their coaching staff, especially on defense. These are the most high-energy OTAs I have ever witnessed.

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