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Foley's 'Final' Friday Mailbag: March 26, 2021


I wrote the first Foley's Friday Mailbag nine years ago on April 13, 2012. I had graduated from journalism school in 2009 and had spent a majority of the next two years traveling to traditional wrestling events and writing for outlets like ESPN and FIGHT! Magazine. The money was terrible, and I wasn't writing often enough to feel like I was staying sharp.

The mailbag was a suggestion from a journalism professor who thought if I could find an outlet willing to host me each week I could work on the writing and grow an audience. The money still was not great, but the idea that I would have a platform to work on ideas was compelling. I needed forward momentum and the mailbag was at least a chance to create something for myself.

Almost a decade later I have submitted more than 400 mailbags and written more than 600,000-plus words. Some sharp, others dull, but all committed to creating a conversation.

But, as tends to happen, things need to change and so today will be my last column.

The wrestling community is unique. We greet each other with underhooks, make fun of each other's weight gain, and show off our cauliflower ears as badges of honor. All communities have their quirks, but at their core they are a collection of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and the experiences, controversies, and key moments we choose to commemorate. In starting the mailbag I'd hoped to sharpen my skills, but quickly realized that I was given the opportunity to be the first editor on the story of our community.

The weekly platform is the perfect length to both live inside a moment but be given enough time to consider its impact. A tweet about a wrestling match can feel as disposable as a book about the top champions of the sport can feel distant. But a weekly review of meaningful topics is well-positioned to strike a balance between the passion of immediacy and the benefit of hindsight. I hope the mailbag juggled those charges well.

I also benefited from having a platform where I could write clearly about topics that bothered me and the community. After wrestling was unceremoniously booted from the Olympic program, I fired off a few thousand words on why the IOC had made an error in judgement. We all felt that same anger, but I had the platform, and felt it was my responsibility to share with anyone who could read the article. That article got me recognized by someone trying to improve the wrestling's visibility internationally and it was read and shared widely on the internet. To this day it is by far my most-read article or column.

And there were a lot of columns, which taught me a lot of discipline as a writer. To gather questions, answer them, and to formulate an opening is always challenging. What was more difficult was doing the mailbag while holding down a full-time job that had me traveling 150-plus days a year. I have sent mailbags from an airport lounge in Tehran, from the back of a taxi in Tunis, and on vacations with family and friends. I have never not taken my computer with me on a trip. Not once.

Still, for me writing and submitting the mailbag was like making weight -- you just do it. In nine years I never forgot to write a mailbag, but a few times the attachments would not send, or I'd accidently place them in my drafts folder. On those occasions, my editor Andrew Hipps and I would get early morning emails from readers asking if I was OK. That made me smile and I think it's something I'll miss.

Less smile-inducing was the comments section. While I avoided reading too many of the notes, plenty of friends would screenshot the best insults from members of the community. The vitriol and conspiracy-minded outlook about the broader world remains my biggest criticism of our community. When I called out a famous club coach for being a Sandy Hook denier, I thought it would be something like a breaking news story and was stunned to find out his conspiracy posts were widely accepted. I was disappointed then, but I have seen now that our community has grown colder and more combative, with a sharp bend towards autocratic leadership, crass language, and a general tone of anger.

Despite the blowback and the pleading of a few readers, I didn't avoid the political side of sport, in part because they weren't separable. The decision of a state legislature to not sanction women's wrestling is one that deserves comment. A prominent wrestling team posing with a presidential candidate known for saying dangerous things about Muslims, women, and immigrants is not something we should ignore -- this is a community. Speaking out against those negative ideas and challenging the norms probably cost me readers, but the ideas discussed in the column were always intended to be more inclusive, and to help inspire a sport that aimed to grow, rather than contract. Sometimes I came up short in explaining my thoughts in a way that would welcome more people to my side of the argument, which was a missed opportunity.

With a column you can't have a favorite moment. There are too many questions and takes, and even those that felt satisfying at the time tend to stale over time. Like advocating for women's wrestling or an out-of-bounds rule for college wrestling. Both sparked furious responses from readers, but now that former seems to be a settled issue, while the latter is quickly following suit. That said, my favorite topics to write about were rule changes and the history of the sport. I always thought knowing more about those topics could really help the sport to grow and improve. Again, it's tough to know the impact but I'm hopeful my words helped.

In choosing to shut down the column I know I'm giving up my platform, but it's been a long nine years. When I started this column, I was single and lived with a college teammate in small Chicago apartment. Since then, I've been to 70-plus countries, moved twice, met and married my wife, bought an apartment, and best of all met my beautiful daughter. During those changes the thing that remained unchanged was the mailbag and so it's a little nerve-wracking to give up this habit of sharing my thoughts weekly. The column is something that I really enjoy composing and I'll miss the conversations with readers (here's looking at you, Mike C.). But I also have to look at what I'm gaining. My Thursdays will now be available for me to research how to install in-wall dehumidifiers, or maybe help my daughter build a Frozen-inspired castle out of Magna-Tiles. Thursday is my oyster.

Next week (April 1), my friend and colleague Willie Saylor will be taking over at InterMat, assisted by Earl Smith as its editor. They are passionate and knowledgeable about wrestling and will do a wonderful job in taking this site to the next level. My choosing to end the mailbag has nothing to do with them as people or editors. I really just think nine years is a long time and they have earned the right to make this site be whatever they desire.

While I'm no longer writing this column, I am still covering of the sport. My team at United World Wrestling is busy preparing for Olympic Qualifiers, Continental Championships, and the ultimate prize -- the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. We have some cool documentaries in the works and our on-site coverage is always robust and informative.

Finally, thank you. Thanks to everyone for your readership and kind words over the last decade. I'm grateful to have had this opportunity and feel humbled that so many of you were interested in this column and my ideas. I'm excited for the future of our sport and proud to be a member of our community.

See you soon and stay in touch.

Comments

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jtjohn89 (2) about 2 weeks ago
I purchased a subscription to Intermat just for the mailbag - been reading it every Friday morning. Thank you for giving us your time for 9 years. No matter your opinions, I learned that we all have something in common - The pursuit and passion of seeing our sport thrive and rise above the rest.

As a new dad (to a baby girl) I appreciate you focusing on your family first and advancing womens wrestling as well (our ladies can scrap!). Enjoy your time Foley, and best of luck to you!
dbestsport (4) about 2 weeks ago
Good riddance.
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
"but I have seen now that our community has grown colder and more combative, with a sharp bend towards autocratic leadership, crass language, and a general tone of anger."

Exhibit A. Always nice to see those contented in life to offer well wishes to someone departing, eh, folks?
dbestsport (2) about 2 weeks ago
Crass language and tones of anger are your trademark.
Why don't you take a page from Foley and depart yourself?
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Crass language and anger, eh? Any examples of such that you can find on the Intermat, as it's, ironically, a trademark of mine to NOT do such things.

Depart myself? CANCEL CULTURE! Q!
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Actually, and come to think of it, you'll get your wish, as Saylor and Earl Smith have advercated for rasslin cancel culture of my dangerous words for decades. After my membership expires, they'll be certain to pracktick cancel culture on ol' dangerous Ban.
dbestsport (1) about 2 weeks ago
Although ignorance can be dangerous, I don't think you're dangerous. No, you're just annoying. You post a lot, but rarely contribute anything of value.
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
"Ignance can be dangerous..." Such as saying, "you can't make this stuff up," only to have actually made it up? LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That was a GEM!

"Anything of value..." Such as offering a "good riddance" to someone who is departing?
dbestsport (1) about 2 weeks ago
It was only 'made up' in your narrow mind.
But I am not going to waste any more time on you.
I will close with the following words from a famous author...
"The exclamation mark is certainly not an uncomplicated piece of punctuation: but this is no sophisticated colon... The exclamation mark lacks the rigor of the life-breathing comma... No subtlety for the exclamation mark.
It is anyone’s guess why the Tweeter of the Free World is so free with his exclamation points. There’s admiration there, for sure, and wonderment, but there’s fear, too, it cannot be denied: fear and sneer."

'Nuff Said
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Oh, I knew you'd fall for it! Enjoy reading this one, folks! You can't make this stuff up! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dbestsport: "But the stupidest thing he (Obama) said - in front of a room full of people, after praising thousands of people for being out on the street protesting - is it's too dangerous to get out and vote.
You can't make this s#@t up."

Me: "First, you said this, "But the stupidest thing he said - in front of a room full of people, after praising thousands of people for being out on the street protesting - is it's too dangerous to get out and vote.
You can't make this s#@t up."

Then, we learn THESE are his exact words, His exact quote... "This election will be dependent on mail in ballots so people don't get sick."

As I said before, he didn't say what you lied about, and, ironically, told us that you can't "make this stuff up," which you clearly did. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
All to be found right here, folks, for your entertainment! intermatwrestle.com/articles/23796
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Here is the entire Obama quote. Nowhere did he even HINT that it's too dangerous to get out and vote, and you said, "you can't make this $%#@ up," which you did. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Obama first stated, “We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot. But even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive I.D. laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
dbestsport (1) about 2 weeks ago
"...an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
Any rational, open minded person would interpret that comment as a 'Danger' sign. But you lack both of those qualities.
The hypocrisy of this phony was in the same speech he praised people for "helping to lead this summer's demonstrations" in the face of a pandemic, never once mentioning the risks that large crowds of people exposed on the American public. And of course the lie that "the federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators", never once mentioning the more than $3 billion of damage levied on small and predominantly minority owned businesses by these so called peaceful protestors.
He is a phony just like you. He distorts facts just like you do.
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
"...an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”

What's that out of context quote have to do with, "you can't make this $%&# up," then proceed to actually make-up a quote?

This is what you said and made up. It wasn't Obama's quote. dbestsport: "But the stupidest thing he (Obama) said - in front of a room full of people, after praising thousands of people for being out on the street protesting - is it's too dangerous to get out and vote.
You can't make this s#@t up."
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Q! DOMINION! HUNTER BIDEN!
dbestsport (1) about 2 weeks ago
I never said it was a quote, you made up that lie.
I said he was a hypocrite, which he most certainly is.
But you are one of those idiots who regurgitates what he hears on CNNN or reads in the Washington Post. Of course they both make up quotes too.

Washington Post panned for massive correction to Trump-Georgia election story: 'So, they made up quotes'

www.foxnews.com/media/washington-post-correction-trump-georgia-votes-election

I am done with you. Keep using all your exclamation points so in your mind you will believe you are making a point. You are a joke.
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Would you prefer that I and those "news" sources that you mention lied to you a grand total of 30,573 times? Would THAT finally give me and them the respeck that you give Deuce?

SOLYNDRA! BORDER CRISIS! PO BOYS!
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Sorry, folks, that I keep clustering this up, but it's so fun using his words against him!

"I never said it was a quote, you made up that lie"

Did you NOT say that our Commander in Chief Obama said this, sir? dbestsport: "But the stupidest thing he (Obama) said - in front of a room full of people, after praising thousands of people for being out on the street protesting - is it's too dangerous to get out and vote.
You can't make this s#@t up."

Now, you seem to REALLY have a grasp on what extlertation pernts are, but when it comes to quotes, perhaps you should do some reviewing as to their use.

Got it now? Good...
AO_CoachPhil (1) about 2 weeks ago
You will be missed. I've enjoyed reading your open minded positions and critique of all things.

Be well, and keep writing.
pancakefor5 (2) about 2 weeks ago
Happy Trails. Reconsider, take some time off or come back once a month.
eet5017 (2) about 2 weeks ago
Bummer. You wrote some pretty good stuff. Any chance you start a wrestling blog or stay connected to the wrestling community in some other way?
tonyrotundo (1) about 2 weeks ago
Tim works for/with UWW.
DannyClarke (2) about 2 weeks ago
Good for you Foley. Good luck on the next phase of your life/career. Thanks for the words... and WAHOOWAH
Husky (1) about 2 weeks ago
Filet,
Always looked forward to Friday and your column, and you will be missed. I didn’t always agree with. Your positions, but for the most of the time I did.
Unfortunately most wrestling coaches tend to lean a little far right for me.
Good luck to you in your new pursuits. Stay safe.
Pantherlight
BadgerBoy (3) about 2 weeks ago
I have enjoyed your columns and insights and appreciate your efforts to inform and improve the wrestling community. You will be missed. Unfortunately, anonymous comment platforms seem to attract an ever-increasing number of rants from angry bullies.
Thanks for your efforts and best wishes to you and your family,
coachmarsh (1) about 2 weeks ago
Best of luck in the next phase of your life and career. And absolutely you should enjoy your family! I have enjoyed reading the Mailbag the past 9 years. I look forward to observing your work with United World Wrestling.
djhart69 (4) about 2 weeks ago
I've always loved this column, loved Foley's takes on political and social issues and respect him as a writer. But, ya know what? They are still wearing singlets.
ronswanson (2) about 2 weeks ago
Thank you for your work. Your contributions provided our community with self-awareness and introspection that is desperately needed. You'll be missed and I wish you the best.
AceStallion (1) about 2 weeks ago
You have a beautiful family Foley. I myself have a 5-month old daughter and she along with my wife are everything to me. Best of luck to you and your family.
matt04ca (1) about 2 weeks ago
Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Thank you for the mailbag, it's been a pleasure to read it every Friday, it and you will be missed. Best of luck to you in your next iteration, and enjoy the time with your family! I'll keep an eye out for your next endeavor.
bbb4ut (1) about 2 weeks ago
Before FRL there was Foley’s Friday Mailbag. It is an Institution! It definitely drew subscription dollars. And it will be missed! Thank you, TR! I did not always agree with your takes but I certainly respected your opinion. I wish you great success in your future ventures!
jabcpa23 (1) about 2 weeks ago
I enjoyed reading the mailbag every Friday. Although I didn’t always agree with the views, the column was always entertaining and well thought out. You are an excellent journalist so keep at it. Enjoy the time with your daughter as they do grow old quickly!
jhaley67 (2) about 2 weeks ago
I am saddened by this news, and will miss your commentary. Please keep fighting the good fight!
Keyser Soze (2) about 2 weeks ago
Been reading every week since inception. I love wrestling almost as much as football and this is a really great site. I just wish the politics could be left out, the political angles you introduced in your articles were completely unnecessary. While I respect your opinions and everyones for that matter, imho just like in a calculus class at university, politics don't belong here.

I wish you well in future endeavors.
ban basketball (1) about 2 weeks ago
Translation: I believe in rasslin cancel culture.
johnmac47 (2) about 2 weeks ago
You and your column will be greatly missed. I have read quite a few of the peoples responses and all I can do, for the most part is to feel sorry that their are people like this on earth. Everyone thinks they know everything however the truth is they know nothing. These people thrive on anonymity so that they can hide behind their ignorant comments or responses. These people will get their just reward when life comes to end. In conclusion it has been a pleasure reading your mailbox for all these years and I sincerely wish you the best. For the negative/nasty responders I wish you NOTHING - which is what you deserve!
Matthewazinger (1) about 2 weeks ago
Foley I always thought that you underestimated coach Sanderson and his team, making you a complete tool bucket in my book! Lol I, however found myself like many others, looking forward to Friday morning to see what you had to say. Tells me that you're damn good at what you do. Good luck in the future.
ched64 (2) about 2 weeks ago
While I get really tired of politics being introduced to every aspect of our lives, I must say I will really miss reading your Mailbag every week. As you said more than once, this was your work and you were entitled to take it any direction you wanted to. You did that with great consistency and anyone who didnt like it was equally entitled not to read it. That said, the comments section is there to “comment”. Agreed that vitriol and hatred should be frowned upon but sadly neither side of any issue is free from such things these days.
Congrats on a great run and a plethora of really insightful observations over the years. Your rallying of the troops for the retention of Olympic wrestling is a real feather in your cap. Best of luck going forward. It must be very exciting for you to chart a new course. You will be missed here however.
PALAESTRA (1) about 2 weeks ago
Sorry to hear you are leaving. I, too, signed up for the Intermat subscription because of the mailbag. Always enjoyed your insights. Fridays became even more enjoyable. I wish you and your family the best. Keep writing.
P.S. Regarding your detractors, "Lupus non timet canem latrantem".
CoreyCA (1) about 2 weeks ago
Never liked your dismissal of people who don't agree with your world view. If you had just concentrated on wrestling you wouldn't have had to deal with the vitriol. Goodbye, good luck
jimharshawjr (2) about 2 weeks ago
Well done, brother. You've served the wrestling community well and will continue to do so.
LowSingleOTW (1) about 2 weeks ago
Foley...

All the best w your new endeavors...

While we differed greatly on political views im mature enough to still give props and tip my hat to someone who had their heart in what they felt was the right place for the betterment of our sport...

As a military member and vet of four tours overseas I embrace the right of each individual to share their thoughts and ideas freely and w out discourse...

Until the next time Foley...

All the best...

#TeamMilkovich
#YoungestNCAAChampEver