Editor's Note from Jim Henry: I've known David Whitley for nearly 20 years and I value our friendship. David covered FSU with the Tallahassee Democrat while I was on the 'Nole beat for the Tampa Tribune. We later worked together at the Trib before Dave was hired in Orlando. He's considered one of the top columnist in the business.
Of course, ol' Dave has found himself in hot water with FSU fans and others for his column earlier this week on coach Bowden's selection of "Let's Roll" as the team motto. Still, Dave agreed to offer his thoughts in this exclusive column for TheTerritory. Thanks Dave and you are always welcome at our home -- can you arrive after sunset and coast in without your car lights on?? (lol).
Hello. My name is Osama bin Laden, and I work for the Orlando Sentinel.
Actually, my name is David Whitley, though I've been called bin Laden (and much worse) since writing one of those infamous "Let's Roll" columns that have caused such an uproar at FSU.
The name-calling is fine. It happens whenever people disagree with an opinion. What has surprised me is how deeply this particular opinion has touched people.
By touched, I mean upset them. Or pleased them. I guess that's what happens when you combine America's two greatest passions - patriotism and football - and toss them into the media machinery for a few days.
Whenever the topic is this touchy, the message tends to get distorted and lost in all the rancor. And there's been plenty of that from both sides.
I don't mind people disagreeing with me at all, as long as it's for the right reasons. I'm not here to re-hash my opinion, but I'd like to clarify a couple of points that have been misconstrued.
Nobody ever said "Let's Roll" should not be used or that the heroism on Flight 93 should be forgotten. Quite the contrary, it's our duty to remember what people did that day.
It's just I think what they did was so special, the motto that came to symbolize it should be reserved for more consequential actions than winning football games. This, of course, is where the debate comes in. Whether it's appropriate or not is in the eye of the beholder.
Many of the beholders have jumped to FSU's defense because it's FSU. I can't help but wondering if they'd feel so strongly if Dennis Erickson or Bob Stoops were using "Let's Roll" to fire up their teams.
A lot of you would, no doubt. But I've heard from many others who feel as strongly the other way. Some of that is simply anti-FSU rancor from people who'd feel totally different if it were their favorite team being scrutinized.
But some has been from FSU fans who think the motto is inappropriate. They have all asked me to never reveal their names for fear of having Chief Osceola throw a flaming spear in their front yards.
As for the Todd M. Beamer foundation endorsing the motto's use, that's fine by me. But my opinion was never based on what the foundation said. It was based on the gut feeling I got when I heard "Let's Roll" was going to be used as this year's version "Hold The Rope" or "No Excuses."
As they say, people can't help how they feel. And I can't help but feeling queasy about this. If you don't, fine. We're talking opinions here, and there is ample room for honest, thoughtful disagreement.
Unfortunately, it seems this one has morphed into a mud-fight. Bobby Bowden is one of my favorite people. I've defended him in the past, and will in the future. I just happen to disagree with him on this one.
He's been ripped as callous for calling Beamer "That airplane guy." Anyone who knows Bowden knows he often forgets his own children's names, and meant no disrespect.
I don't even mind him calling people who disagree with him "unpatriotic" for thinking the patriotic acts on that day are too sacred to be used as a football motto. To me, it just shows how unaware he was that anyone would find the motto's usage inappropriate.
In closing, I'd like to thank Jim Henry for giving me this platform. I've been asked to do a lot of explaining lately, but I knew Jim is as plugged in to Seminoles athletics as anyone this side of Ann Bowden. And this would be a good chance to reach the opinion-makers in and around FSU.
I doubt I've altered any of those opinions with this, but that's all right. There are two sides to this issue, and everyone is entitled to choose one.
I just wish both sides would accept that fact of life a little more readily. Once emotions cool, maybe they will. But just in case, I think I'll check into FSU's media hotel this season under an assumed name.
It probably won't be bin Laden, however.