Internet trolls show cowardice in attacking Stevens|Opinion

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Phantom and John Wilkes Booth ride again.

Three years ago, Vicksburg football coach Alonzo Stevens talked about the nameless posters on Internet message boards and how they can spew anonymously any venom they care to spout.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or e-mail

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“They’re cowards,” Stevens said in 2006. “They can get on there and sign their name ‘John Wilkes Booth’ or ‘The Phantom’ and no one knows who they are. Sign your name if you have such an opinion.”

They’re back.

The vultures are circling Stevens, if you read the message boards or even the comments section on thanks to the Gators’ 0-4 start.

Do people forget that the Gators finished last year with a playoff berth and a 9-3 season? Rebuilding was the primary theme when a 32-man senior class departed the Vicksburg depth chart after last season.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Gators have had to fill vital roles with underclassmen and played a brutal non-division schedule that offers little in the way of daylight.

Ocean Springs is a talented team that will be a factor in the Class 6A playoffs. Richwood (La.) will be in the postseason, too, and is ranked No. 9 in the Louisiana Class 3A prep poll. Tylertown has been at the top of the Mississippi Class 3A Associated Press poll for weeks now. Lawrence County was a highly touted team in the preseason.

The only break the Gators have gotten this season was the MHSAA-mandated bye week after Week 1.

Did Stevens and his staff suddenly forget how to coach in the space of one offseason? Not likely. A better explanation is that the Gators lack the experienced talent they had in years past. With only three — now reduced to two — starters back from last year’s team, continuity was going to be an issue, even if Bill Belichick, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi, John Heisman or George Halas were coaching.

Building a new offensive line, breaking in a new starter at quarterback and trying to fill other key roles on the two-deep is not something that happens overnight.

It’s not the x’s and the o’s, it’s the Jimmys and the Joes.

Just ask Barry Switzer, who won Super Bowl XXX in 1995 with the Dallas Cowboys dynasty that Jimmy Johnson built. Switzer then went 16-16 in his next two years on the job before resigning in 1997 as time and decadence caught up with the Cowboys.

Switzer’s coaching acumen was not the reason why the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. Three interceptions by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell and a group of hall of famers named Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman were the reasons Dallas took home the Lombardi Trophy.

Conversely, Stevens has neither quarterback Les Lemons, the Gators’ lead offensive threat last season, or two-time Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year Carlos Williams at linebacker. You don’t lose players of that caliber and improve the next season.

So Internet posters, man up. If you’re going to call for a man’s job, at least have the courage to sign your name along with your opinion.

Because any coward can throw bombs from the cloak of anonymity.