John Elway is mad at me.
Since April, I have been trying to get a comment from the former Denver Broncos star quarterback about his losses in one of Colorado's many colorful Ponzi schemes.
Last week, he finally emailed me one.
"Here's a comment for you," Elway wrote. "You are a scumbag!"
I have never gotten a pro-football Hall of Famer so angry. I now watch my back in the locker room, worried Elway might sneak up and give me a wedgie.
I understand why he's having his hissy fit. The last thing anyone needs after losing millions to a Bernie Madoff wannabe is someone writing about it. Makes you feel, I don't know, stupid.
I am certain Elway would like to snap a wet towel over the column I wrote in October that began: "The only thing John Elway can throw farther than a football is money."
I enumerated some of Elway's money-losing misadventures, including the Colorado Crush arena football team and Laundromax, a chain of upscale laundromats based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that took itself to the cleaners.
I am sure Ol' No. 7 didn't appreciate this journalistic pile-on after losing millions more to a local huckster with no college degree and a pitch to beat the market with an amazing day-trading strategy that came with little or no risk.
But then Elway never talked to me.
Even former presidential and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo talked to me when he got creamed in a Ponzi scheme last year. Tancredo is a stand-up guy and told me all about it, embarrassing or not.
Elway and Mitch Pierce, business partners in an Ontario, Calif., car dealership had invested with Sean Mueller for years, according to court records. If I am a scumbag, I wonder what words they reserve for Mueller.
In March, they gave Mueller an additional $15 million. Then in April, Mueller sent investors an email saying most of the money was gone. And then Mueller was thwarted by police in an apparent suicide attempt.
The only thing worse than getting into a Ponzi scheme is getting into a Ponzi scheme last. One minute you're writing a multimillion-dollar check. The next, you learn you've written it to a delusional head case.
Mueller pleaded guilty to felonies and faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced Monday. But Mueller's cooperation doesn't get anyone their money back.
His victims must now fight for what's left. Mueller's company had nearly $9.5 million in the bank before Mueller realized his lifestyle in a Cherry Hills Village, Colo., mansion was unsustainable.
Elway and Pierce filed a court motion claiming this money was theirs. Their motion would have put them ahead of about 65 other victims trying to collect. But last week, a judge denied it, putting Elway in line with less famous folks who probably can't even throw a Nerf ball.
I asked Elway for a comment on this legal development, and that's when he'd apparently had enough of me. I don't know how I will maintain my positive outlook on life knowing what Elway has personally deemed me.
I've been called worse, but never by so cherished an athlete.
I still drive a car I bought from the former John Elway Toyota. I occasionally eat at Elway's steak house. I still pay sales taxes to pay off the Bronco's new football stadium, where Elway led victories in back-to-back Super Bowls, then quit.
All I wanted was an interview. All I wanted was to know how someone so big could be taken by someone so small, and if others invested after learning Mueller had Elway's money.
I thought I could portray Elway sympathetically if he approached the subject with candor. He was, after all, an undeserving victim of a crime. But Elway is also a celebrity who should know how to handle a basic interview request.
For months, I kept his name out of the story at great risk of being scooped by my competition as folks gossiped about Elway's losses all over town.
Luckily, I was first to publish Elway and Pierce as victims, but I didn't do it until I had to--just before they filed their motion in court, outing themselves.
I thought I was being nice. I thought Elway would appreciate my forbearance and invite me to his restaurant for a beer summit.
This was highly delusional on my part. But then, what would any Ponzi tale be without delusions?
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. The column is published each Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)