Letters, calls and the roar of the crowd:
Roger Dettmer, Annapolis: Nobody loves a smart ass. Except, maybe, the face in the mirror. One of the first lessons I got [when I was in the newspaper business] was: Answer your mail politely. The angrier the mail, the more disarming you ought to be.
Since the [Charlie] Sheen screed was mailed to you -- not presumably as a formal Letter to the Editor -- [you] might have bled privately or written the offending misspeller [a] cleverly abusive reply. But no, [you] make a self-serving column out of it . . . and come off smelling more like last Sunday's crab shells than a rose.
It wasn't a surprise; just an ill-considered cheap shot.
COMMENT: Darn. I usually try to consider my cheap shots very carefully.
And I thought Charlie Sheen would be a perfect target. The first lesson I learned in the newspaper business was: "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
And who is more comfortable than Charlie Sheen? Here is a pampered Hollywood star, who brags about how his mother got him off first on drug and weapons charges and then on credit card fraud charges, who drops out of high school and by 1988 is asking $1.5 million per picture.
And what does he do with his money? In 1992, he buys the baseball that skipped through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series for $93,500.
And a few weeks ago, Sheen writes a letter to me that begins: "ROGER -- READ YOUR 'COMMENTARY' REGARDING THE SOUTHLAND FIRES OF LAST WEEK. Expletive deleted."
Is this a guy with too much time on his hands or what?
Then, last week, Vanity Fair prints an interview with Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss in which Fleiss allegedly says that Sheen hired prostitutes from her.
"He liked to hire a blonde dressed up in a cheerleader outfit who would pretend she had a big game the next day," Fleiss said.
Sheen denies this. But I wonder if he ever considered that if he had stayed in school, he could have dated cheerleaders for free.
Ken Schroeder, Port Deposit: I am pleased to say that I've survived another hunting season without being thinned out, though I am quite sure this news is dismaying to you.
You, Roger, like the other humans on this earth are imbibed with a predatory nature, instilled by 5 million years of evolution.
Granted you do not actually go out and kill hunters -- such hands-on violence would taint your pristine transcendence of nature -- but I do sense in you a tone of delight in the news of hunters' deaths, and this seems to be the emergence of a dark, predatory nature that you're having a difficult time holding back.
Go kill a deer next season, Roger. Sit in the woods, affirming your existence by feeling the bite of the cold. Then, when and if you see a deer, put your sights on it and . . . kill the deer and experience a catharsis.
COMMENT: Naw. Unlike you and President Clinton, I don't have to go out and kill an animal to show how human I am.
But while we are on the subject, I have been noticing a disturbing trend in the "sport" of hunting. These two stories appeared last year:
"Connellsville, Pa. (AP) -- A man said he accidentally shot his wife to death as the two hunted deer in southwestern Pennsylvania.
" 'We were walking and when I turned, the gun went off for some unknown reason,' he said. 'I don't know what happened, the gun just went off.'
"The Pennsylvania Game Commission was investigating the shooting. No charges were filed."
"Alexander, W.Va. (AP) -- A woman trying to drive a deer toward her husband was shot to death Friday when he fired at a noise he heard in a thicket, officials said.
" 'She was trying to drive a deer toward him through a pine thicket,' said Natural Resources spokesman Hoy Murphy. 'He heard a sound and fired at it, hitting his wife.'
"No charges were filed."
Now I'm sure the shooters in both cases were absolutely innocent of any intentional wrongdoing.
But here is my advice to anyone whose spouse suddenly suggests a nice hunting trip to rekindle the fires of their marriage:
( Suggest bowling instead.