Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You don't have to like what you read

       Before I posted the blog piece on Muhammad Ali on Saturday, I told my wife there would be some people who would not like it. Not at all.
       Easy prediction.
       On Saturday night, I received a message that began ... "please take me off of your mailing list if you are sending out something on Cassius Clay telling how great he was." It goes on to say he was a "draft dodger" and "the worst character image young people" could follow, not a hero and role model or a good American. And it ended with, "Sorry, but I can't help the way I feel about that man."
         Fine. I am OK with that. This is America, and we are all entitled to our opinion. If your opinion doesn't match mine, and you don't want to see mine anymore, so be it.
         I will not reveal who this person is -- that would not be right -- but it is a friend from 50 years ago, and I hope, a friend still.
         This is the fourth cancellation request/demand I've had through e-mail. One person didn't state a reason, one was a Louisiana Tech fan -- which I am, too -- offended at my being also an LSU fan.  Another didn't like me being with the "liberal media." (In my case, one has nothing to do with the other.)
         I make my blog available to some 750 people, through e-mail and Facebook and the blogspot.com web site tied in with Google. I have no idea how many people regularly read my blog pieces; I suspect a great number never even look. They might (or might not) wonder why they're on my mailing list or how they got there.
          Again, I'm OK with that. A lot of pieces -- about my family, or my Dad's Holocaust experiences, or about Shreveport, Woodlawn, Sunset Acres, or about Holland, or about sports topics -- are not for everyone.
          I do know this: When my blog pieces are "shared" on Facebook, several times on occasion, that's when I get the most readership. Best example was the recent eulogy I posted about Mr. J.W. "Bubba" Cook Jr., the longtime Woodlawn principal.
          The only other blog piece which got more readership, and more shares, was the one on Phil Robertson and Terry Bradshaw's two years together as quarterbacks at Louisiana Tech ... and how badly they played those seasons.
          It always feels nice, as a person or a journalist, to receive praise, and I've gotten enough. One friend -- we go back 50 years, as do many of the people on my mailing list -- told me he likes a lot of the blog pieces, "but some I don't agree with. ... But I then say, 'That's just Nico.' "
          Yes, it is. And I'm not apologizing. Nor am I seeking more praise.
          My intention with the blog was to write about my life, my family and my career, and every now and then, offer some opinions on what's going on, particularly in the sports world where I'm most familiar.
          And, of course, I have opinions -- always have had, something most people who know me from way back realize. I try to be non-controversial, particularly on social or political issues because I'm not trying to change anyone's mind.
          But on sports matters, I do offer "out there" opinions because -- old fartness setting in -- I'm not real happy with a lot of what goes on in the sports world these days.
          "You really got on your soapbox in your blog the other day," another old friend said to me a month ago.  I can't even remember which article they were referencing.
          As a sports columnist/writer, you learn early on that receiving criticism is part of the job ... if you're doing it right. Learning to deal with the criticism is part of it, too. Actually -- and this is going to surprise some old friends -- I felt I was not opinionated enough early in my career; I thought I skirted issues or didn't express myself clearly or sharply enough.
          Now that I have all these years of writing experience, and even more importantly, life experience, I think I have a better balance on how to express opinions and handle what they bring.
          There were, in fact, three people who responded to my piece on The Beatles two weeks ago who did not share the same admiration and love for them that I did. That came as a bit of a surprise to me, but I see their point.
           I read a lot of stories, and see a lot of posts on Facebook, that I don't agree with, or don't like. Sometimes I react and offer criticism, and then I wish I would have let it slide.
           This is why there are "delete" buttons on the computer or the "mute" button for TV. I have done some deleting on Facebook and I know I've been deleted. Again, that's fine.
           My wife and others encouraged me to start a blog; it wasn't something I wanted to do until I semi-retired from newspaper work. I didn't really envision what it would be like, but I've found that I enjoy it. Keeps my writing skills sharp a couple of times a week (other than the lengthy e-mails my wife so loves -- not), and hopefully, some people enjoy what I write.
           Some of these pieces come together fairly easily, as this one did; some of them I have to do some research and I have to work at writing.
           The series on my Dad's Holocaust experiences, I think, is a good story -- no matter what anyone thinks of the writing -- and I wanted to get it on record ... for my family, our kids and my sister Elsa's kids, and their kids. It's not a fun story, not a pretty one.  It is a cathartic one and I wish -- I have written this -- that I could ask my Dad more questions about it.
           Much of what I post online -- in blogs or on Facebook -- is self-indulgent; that's especially true of the Throwback Thursday photos. But many of those have been popular.
            What is important to remember, I think, is that everyone comes from a different perspective. Muhammad Ali (and at first Cassius Clay) is an example. He was speaking as a young black man who grew up in the South, and then as a converted Muslim, too, whose religion opposed war. How could we, as young white kids, identify with that?
            My perspective is as a European native and naturalized American (and I am proud of that) and as a person of the Jewish faith. So I don't have all the same views as many of my old friends. But I try to understand the Christian viewpoint, and accept that it is part of the world we live in. I need to keep an open mind and maintain a balance.
           I want to be satisfied with what I write on my blogs, and I was satisfied with what I wrote about Ali. The main point was that he was a role model for athletes who talk loud and long -- and can back it up. His politics and religion were up for debate 40-50 years, and I let go of it.          
          If you don't like something I write, aren't comfortable with it, remember it's just me. I suggest you move on, hit "delete" if you want. Maybe, hopefully, you will like what I write next time. 


  1. From Gary Ferguson: You're doing a great job with your blogs. You are right by saying you can't please everyone. I just move on if I don't like the opening paragraphs.

  2. From Jim Teague: Love the blog. Love the Woodlawn memories.

  3. From Raleigh Whitehead: Keep on writing and I'll keep on reading them. I happen to be an LSU fan much to the chagrin of my Auburn graduate daughter. I root for both except when they play each other and then root for Auburn by a little bit.

  4. From Teddy Allen: Coach, you are too short for my liking. Please remove me from your mailing list.
    (Keep up the good work. Rachel can read these things 30 years from now: amazing. Wish more people would write stuff down. I’d pay a bunch of money for such info from my parents. Plus, selfishly, I like to read your words TODAY. winner winner chicken dinner.)

  5. From Sid Huff: No one -- NO ONE -- will ever please everyone. Please continue to be true to yourself. You'll sleep better at night if you do. I am happy that we were able to reconnect after 40-plus years. I CAN say that neither of us has gotten any better looking.

  6. From Maxie Hays: I really enjoy reading your blog. Am always interested in what you think. Almost never disagree but every now and again I do. And I love your Dad's story. ... Keep up the good work.

  7. From Joe Raymond Peace: I don't comment on all (the blogs). What I read I like. I like opinionated people; I trust your opinion, not that I would agree with everything. That is what makes us all better and stronger.

  8. From Tommy Canterbury: Good job Nico. If we don't look at some things differently, sometimes we should write our own blog and be sure of eternal happiness. It's like reading our autobiography over and over. Anyway, it seems much to-do over nothing, to quote another old author. Interesting people to me are those who provide interesting information; my interpretation is that (your blog) is a separate pleasure and hopefully fun or thoughtful, certainly not fuel for anger. As you noted, this is America and people died for us to enjoy such. My humble opinion.

  9. From Sylvia Pesek: I really enjoyed reading this one ... guess it reflected some (OK, a lot) of how I feel. ... I am a person who has some strong opinions, but I like to believe that they're backed up by thoughtful analysis and careful study. I realize that there are a lot of folks who disagree utterly with what I think ... especially folks with whom I grew up.

  10. From Leo Van Thyn: While I am not familiar with a lot of the folks about whom you write, I do share some things with you. We share the same last name, the same birthplace, the same faith, our love of sports -- although my focus is Canadian -- and, the same family history. Your blogs about Louis' Holocaust experiences are critical in reminding us of how ugly hatred can become and the extent of man's inhumanity to man. Keep writing, cousin.