(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
On Saturday, the NFL draft will provide an outlet for starved football fans who want a chance to put on their colors and root for a superstar who will lead them to the Super Bowl. It won’t matter that most of the picks might not ever crack the starting lineup.
My Raiders had the number seven pick but traded it to Minnesota for Randy Moss. It might be a gamble, but not as big of a crapshoot as the draft.
Oakland might have come up snake eyes with a trade they made Tuesday however, involving second-year star cornerback Philip Buchanon. This fantastic news came with the caveat that they had been trying to move All-Pro Charles Woodson but couldn’t find any takers.
I can only surmise that by wanting to trade their two best defenders, they intend to turn the defense over to Warren Sapp.
(That was a punch line. Feel free to giggle, guffaw or groan.)
Of course, Sapp came over from the Bucs last year and immediately failed to live up to expectations. He contributed with 32 tackles and 3 sacks. There are roughly 35 times per game a defensive tackle has an opportunity to make a play in the NFL, and Sapp took advantage almost never.
His best year was in 2000 when he finished with 16 sacks, but he crashed back to earth in 2001 with just six. Despite the drop in his play, Sapp was still adored by the fans. With his portly stature and jovial nature, the former Hurricane seemed like Joe Everybody in a storm of Meaty Muscleheads.
He in turn loved the fans so much that he gave an unopened, 5-pound box of fan letters to PSC Collectibles in Tampa.
A story broke Wednesday of how the letters have now wound up in the possession of Kincaid Auction Company because PSC filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. After the letters have been authenticated, they will be sold to the highest bidder.
I tried to find out how PSC came to have the fan letters that only Warren Sapp should have seen. The only conclusion I can draw is Sapp had to have given the letters away. Was he paid for them? Maybe. Did he trade them for a pair of Air Jordans or a vintage Lee Roy Selmon jersey? Possibly.
The only thing he should have gotten for them is the sense of adulation that must come when busy people take time out of their day to write a letter because you play football well.
I’ll admit I didn’t like Sapp before he became a Raider. That changed the minute he suited up in the silver and black, but this has altered my opinion of him again.
Professional athletes owe their livelihood to the fans that pay to watch them play. Not to mention all the merchandise profits and endorsement deals that come their way. Without the fans, Sapp would have never been elevated to the height of celebrity that he clings to today.
Five pounds of letters. Pick up an envelope then imagine how many it would take to weigh five pounds. A lot. And they meant so much to Sapp that he never even opened them. I realize that not every professional athlete can answer all of his fan mail. That may be true, but to just give them away? You can’t tell me he doesn’t have enough free time to sit and read.
If I were someone that wrote him one of those letters I would rather he had set them on fire. At least that way my thoughts would have remained private. Now one of the rabid fanatics that loved Sapp so greatly that they had to write to him, gets to have their words read by some anonymous Warren-weirdo who has enough disposable cash laying around to spend on unopened letters to someone else.
And let’s not even get into the hypotheticals of if there was a letter from some dying child or anything morbidly depressing like that.
With karma turning around and heading Sapp’s way, my prediction is: He’s done. He’ll never reach the plateau of individual success he has become accustomed to.
Maybe it’s not too late for Oakland to swing another trade before the draft.