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Mail call: Favre bashers, backers do battle and a surprising take on Vick

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So how are we going to handle the nine e-mailers, pro and Kong, represented here? I tried the debate number when I was ripped for my Vikings pick, so that angle is shot. How about if we choose up sides and make it like a softball game at a picnic -- shirts against skins, fats against leans, married vs. single, like that? OK? Agreed? And for our umpire, selected for his unbiased, level-headed opinion, I give you Michael Schumacher of Kenosha, Wisc. Fait attention, mesdames et monsieurs, s'il vous plait!

"I have a friend, a recently retired firefighter," he writes, "and I asked him how it would go over, after a short while in retirement, if he decided he missed the firehouse camaraderie and the occasional rush he got from doing something others couldn't or wouldn't do. Could he go back to the chief, announce that he wanted to come out of retirement, and perhaps, best of all, pick the firehouse where he wanted to work? My friend, a decorated vet with a reputation of being one of the best in the department, just laughed. Maybe McCarthy and the Packers' front office should do the same."

OK, I admit it, I stacked the deck and appointed an ump favorable to my cause. But geez, just look at the Murderers Row lineup I have to face:

• Corey from Green Bay: "You're an idiot." (Right. Continue, please.) "Your recent column is nothing more than biased bullcrap." (Redundant.) "Favre is the greatest player ever to play" ... with about two more lines of the same. (Who'd you ever see pre-1970, Corey?) "Your column sucks." (So that was the noise I heard.) "Quit writing you hack." (Needs a comma separating the phrases.)

• Larry of Atlanta: "I look forward to watching him prove you wrong." (We all have things to look forward to.) "And screw this legacy crap." (Sounds like you'd have to be double-jointed for that.) "His legacy is set in stone... why don't people just quit harping on this legacy BS and enjoy watching one of the greatest players of all time?" (Because there are few things I enjoy more than harping on this legacy BS.)

• Pamela of Norfolk, Va.: "If Favre retires, shouldn't you too? (The question I always ask the Flaming Redhead is, why do women e-mailers hate me so much?)

• Dwayne of Picayune, Miss.: "Do you agree that we'd all be better off if you retired to?" (No, I don't, but a lot other people do.)

• Diego of Toledo: "Why are you still writing?" (Out of habit.) "If anyone should retire it should be you and not Brett Favre." (Diego of Toledo. Has a nice, Conquistador ring to it, doesn't it? "Your highness, may I present Diego of Toledo." Man, I could go places with a title like that.)

And now the jungle answers back. Time for my team to come to bat.

• Bernie of Chicago: "As always, you hit it right on the head with Favre." (Better than using a hammer.)

• Tommy D. of Albuquerque, who applies some praise and ends with, "This coming from a diehard Packers fan excited for the Aaron Rodgers era to start and tired of the quarterback I watched for 17 years of my life being more dramatic than T.O." (Just to set this straight, I never questioned Favre's ability as a player. Dramatic? Well, maybe, but so what. It's those weird interceptions I found hard to take.)

• Finally, Hans R. from Sioux City, Iowa: "Dr. Z, don't ever retire." (Hans, I swear to God that even when I'm dead my byline will still be on the column. It'll be an El Cid type of situation. I just have to convince the Redhead that she'll be up to it.)

• Having had the final innings of the great Pro-Anti-Z-athon called by rain, we move to softer topics. First, let me introduce you to my co-E-mailers of the week. A big New Jersey round of applause for Scott of New Mexico. (Man, how many times I gotta tell ya...I need last names for prospective award winners.) "Let's see," he writes, "Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and now Jason Taylor all proved they're light on their loafers from their turns on Prancing With the Farce (Linda, is that really what it's called?), then Favre bawls like a baby at his retirement, only to decide about five minutes later that he wants to play again. Tell me, are there any tough guys left in pro football or just a bunch of sissies?"

Come on, the linemen are tough guys, but they look like me when they try to dance. And they don't retire. They have it done for them by the coach or GM.

• And now a big Garden State bouquet of roses for our co-award winner, Andrew LaBrecque -- "En garde, monsieur!" -- from San Diego. "Dr. Z," he writes, which is a sensible enough beginning, "do you actually have a PhD or MD? My guess is that you use the title simply to get priority seating at fancy restaurants. Your readers await your reply."

You mean the ones that are still awake. Nope, I'm not a real medico or braino. And you're right, I do try to use the title in restaurants, which usually gets the Redhead and me a seat midway between the rest rooms and the drug store, which is what they call the station in which they keep the silverware. This is perfect, because then I can dip in to my heart's content, when nobody's watching, and have a nice collection of forks and spoons to bring home.

• Tough Michael Vick question from Mookie of San Francisco: He "despises" Vick's dog-fighting role and is saddened "when I see all these fatherless athletes manage their lives in a self-destructive way." But he feels that Vick has suffered enough -- jail, bankruptcy, suspension from the game -- and would like to see him get another chance to play. What's my position?

Well, here's the smartassed answer. Did the dogs Vick and his buddies killed ever get another chance? But that doesn't help anything. The problem is that it's hard to believe he's really sorry. Oh, sorry, he got caught. No question. And he'll make a great show of sorrow when the time comes. But he was riding high, living the life of the super-sport at the dog fights, know, as I'm writing this I'm not believing the conclusion I'm headed for. He committed a crime, he's paying the price, and he shouldn't have to pay it forever. I say let him back in the game, after he's served his time. Let him earn a living. Just keep him away from the dogs.

• From Richard of Huntsville, Ala.: "It looks like Reggie Bush is going to be exactly what I thought he'd be in the NFL, a faster version of David Palmer. Why do people think that a guy who couldn't be on the field for every snap in college will be great in the NFL?"

Palmer was 5-foot-8, 169 pounds. Bush is 6-0, 203. With Palmer it was just a case of being too fragile. But before you hang that tag on Bush, give him a chance to be at his most effective -- as a spot player. They never expected him to be heavy duty, not with Deuce McAllister on the squad, but when the Deuce went down, Bush was forced to do too much.

I know, I'm copping out for a guy who shouldn't need it, but I still think the Saints can use him as an effective change of pace guy. I mean, although he's a completely different type of player, Marion Barber was hell on wheels coming on for Julius Jones last year. And Maurice Jones-Drew technically was Fred Taylor's reliever. What happens sometimes is that the guy gets hot, coming off the bench, and he stays in there for a while and remains effective.

(Well, I've read through that pretty essay I just wrote, and the Redhead just asked me "If you were a reader, who would you think is closer to the truth, Richard of Huntsville or Dr. Z?" Hmmm, I might be leaning toward Richard.)

• From C. Smith of Ashburn, Va.: "Why do you dislike the Redskins so much?" Two words. Daniel M. Snyder. Or is that three words? Linda, can a letter be a word? (No response.)

• Greg of Sacramento wants my top five offensive lines. Patriots are No. 1. Then, not in order, Vikings, Cowboys, Chargers, Colts.

• John of Newark, Del., noting the mishmash around the Favre retirement, wants to know of past retirements I found "very elegant." He mentions that of Barry Sanders. I didn't find it elegant. He just left. Same with Jim Brown. Some were very moving. As a beat man, I was very close to the Jets, and Winston Hill's retirement reached me in a personal way because we were very tight. Usually, though, they're ugly things, guys being forced to leave, etc. Ex-Jet guard Dave Herman said it best. "The NFL is like life. You come in crying, you go out crying."

• Chris of Davis, Calif., would like to know all about the Hot Read, its genesis, advantages, disadvantages, etc. I don't know when hot reads started. I remember rushers pouring in on passers in the 1940s, and the poor guys looking around frantically for someone to throw to.

Marion Motley was Paul Brown's hot read on the old Browns. They rushed in hot, he read 'em and cold-cocked 'em. When I was at Stanford in the early 1950s we had no hot reads, but I wouldn't have known about it anyway because I could barely understand my own assignments, let alone those of the QB. But at Columbia in 1954, under Lou Little's much more sophisticated system, there was a whole progression of audibles and hot reads and whatall.

The advantage is that the ball gets to the receiver before the blitzer gets to the QB. The disadvantage is that if the QB is dumb or the hot receiver blows the call, well, that's when the letter goes out to the grieving parents.

"We're extremely sorry about what happened to your son, but you see, the wideout missed his hot read."

• From Debjit of Chicago: "Are you a fan of other sports? Did you watch the men's Wimbledon final?"

Yeah, of course I did. I was a big fan of the sports I covered, in addition to football. Boxing, basketball, tennis (my first beat on the Sacramento Bee) and especially track and field. I'll watch just about any sport when the stakes are high. Soccer especially. Well, maybe not hockey on TV. Too hard to see what's happening around the cage.

I don't get real interested in the NBA or baseball until the playoffs. I love the relaxed way of watching grand slam golf tournaments on TV, but the announcers' softball approach drives me nuts. Rugby, oddly enough, is a much better participants sports than spectator sport, although Linda and I watched our share of championship level rugger in New Zealand. The greatest head to head betting sport is sumo wrestling. When my son, Mike, and I were in Hawaii we watched a whole evening of televised bouts, betting a quarter on each one. I always took the fatter guy.

• Mark of Colorado Springs wants to know how serious Jay Cutler's diabetes could be. It can cause fatigue. Most athletes who have had it and competed, i.e., Arthur Ashe, former QB Wade Wilson, etc., did fine They had to keep monitoring it, though, and had to adjust their lifestyle. Michael Sinclair, a great pass rushing end for the Seahawks, admitted that the disease sapped a bit of his strength, but he still lasted 11 seasons with the Hawks and played in three Pro Bowls.

• Wine questions from Michael of Los Olivos, Calif., who's very proud of the local Andrew Murray's big syrahs, as well he should be. If I were in your shoes, which would place me in Los Olivos, I would join Murray's Best Barrique Club and get the good discounts, particularly on the high priced Hillside selections. And that taps me out because I know zero about Isosceles from Justin Vineyards, or Charles Woodson's wines, mentioned by Sid of Naperville. Is this on the level, Sid, or are you just fooling around with the poor old Doc?