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posted: Oct. 25, 2005  |  Feedback

Wanted to cover a couple of quick things from yesterday ...

1. The Baseball Crank answered the "How many pitchers were ruined by a memorable postseason hit" challenge with an extended post on his web site. Let's just say that he covered every conceivable situation, although I wish he had separated the moments into levels of significance ... and only because there's a big difference historically between someone like Donnie Moore or Calvin Schiraldi and the Luis Sanchez's of the world. Still, it's a masterful, comprehensive list and worth your time if you like baseball.

2. After yesterday's "SNL" mini-rant, coincidentally, I received a copy of Aaron Sorkin's spec script, "Studio 7" -- his secret project that caused near-chaos in Hollywood when he suddenly started shopping it a few weeks ago. Everyone loved it, everyone said great things, and after reading it ... I couldn't agree more. It's already my new favorite show even though they haven't started casting it yet -- like "Larry Sanders," only if it was about "SNL." In a viciously clever way, Sorkin's pilot script pretty much obliterates SNL and everything that happened to the show over the past few years, as well as TV networks and the post-Janet Jackson/FCC Era in general. It's a masterpiece. It's perfect. I can't say enough about it. When this show debuts next year (or whenever), it will be impossible to take SNL seriously anymore. I'm telling you.

Just for the record, I hate playing the "jumped the shark" card, the most overplayed angle on the web -- everyone is in a big race to say that something or someone isn't good anymore, whether it's a TV show, movie, musician, writer, web site or whatever -- and that mentality ties into how hostile the Internet has become in general. Everything sucks, everyone sucks, everyone's mailing it in, and so on. You just can't win. In the case of SNL, because I still watch it every week, obviously it can't suck that much. On the other hand, I love sketch comedy shows, and let's face it -- SNL has a monopoly on this format. If I like late night talk shows but dislike Jay Leno (which is true), I can watch Letterman, Stewart/Colbert, Kimmel, Conan, even Carson Daly. If I enjoy a late night show with sketches, fake news and musical guests, I have SNL and that's it. So when the show stinks, there's nowhere else to turn ... at least until HBO wises up and challenges the SNL monopoly some day with a bawdier, riskier version of the show.

That's why I take SNL's demise so personally, and that's why others take it so personally, I think. Ever since Will Ferrell left the show, it's been consistently sub par -- unimaginative and uninspired -- and nobody over there really seems to care. It's almost like they're saying, "Hey, people are gonna watch, regardless, so screw it." Well, people are watching because A.) it's the only show out there like it, and B) they keep hoping it will get better. Nope. It's a stale and predictable show, the same two qualities that SNL always promised to avoid when it started back in 1975. I hate what has happened here. I really do.

Anyway, that brings us to this week's book recommendation, which isn't a sports book, but remains one of my ten favorite books of all-time, as well as the book I probably have read the most over the past 20 years. It's almost plays out like a sports book, because the original SNL cast and writing staff resemble a sports team in some ways, right down to the seasons, the championship year (1977-78), people leaving and everything else.

Here's the book: Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad.

Just to clarify: This is NOT the oral history that was released two years ago. As much as I enjoyed that book and all the stories, it doesn't even approach the Weingrad/Hill book, which was released in 1984 and painstakingly traces the first five years of SNL (as well as the debacle of the 1980 season and Eddie Murphy single handedly saving the show from 1981 to 1983). Six things stand out about this book, at least for me:

1. It's fascinating to read the nitty-gritty stuff about how the show started (the launch, all the censorship battles and everything else), then compare it to the predictable crap they're showing now. SNL meant something then, and Lorne Michaels in particular took great pains in weighing the show's cultural significance, as well as its place in cutting-edge comedy, with just about every decision he made. When you read these stories, you just get the feeling that 1975 Lorne Michaels would hang himself if he knew what would happen to the show 30 years later.

2. The Belushi stories. One of my all-time favorite people -- even 25 years later, there has never been anyone quite like him.

3. The Michael O'Donoghue stories. Absolutely the lost genius of that comedy era. Nobody even knows his name anymore. Read the book, you will understand.

4. The drug stories -- phenomenal. Who doesn't love a good drug story? About 100 pages of this book plays out like a fantastic "E! True Hollywood Story."

5. Even 20-plus years later, this remains the best book about what it's like to write for a late night TV show -- dealing with censorship, celebrities, constant pressure, lack of credit, lack of sleep, competitiveness, testosterone, egos and everything else. My experience on Kimmel's show was relatively tame compared to this stuff, but I think every TV writer deals with these same basic realities ... so if you ever want/wanted to write for a TV show, and you DON'T read this book, I don't know what to tell you.

6. The chapter about Chevy Chase's departure from the show, simply called "Fame," remains the best thing ever written about how becoming famous can screw up your mind and your life. That's one of the overriding themes of this book -- how becoming successful and famous can actually be one of the worst things that can happen to some people.

If you love the show, or even if you like the show, I can't imagine how you wouldn't enjoy this book. Sadly, it's out of print ... but you can find copies on Amazon.com, abebooks.com, and eBay. Good luck.

posted: Oct. 25, 2005  |  Feedback

Some funny moments from the first two games of the World Series, including ...

• The McCarver/Buck exchange right before Podsednik's walkoff homer Sunday night, which definitely goes down in the pantheon of Eerie Broadcaster Moments. Buck said something like "Do you think Lidge still has the taste of that Pujols homer in his mouth?" -- quickly followed by McCarver saying, "I don't think that taste is there." Within like 0.000000000045 seconds, Podsednik was slamming the game-winner. I don't think everyone else combined in the history of sports broadcasting has jinxed as many pitchers as Buck and McCarver over the last few years. It's unreal. The 1965 version of Sandy Koufax couldn't pitch a no-hitter against the team from "A League of Their Own" with Buck and McCarver announcing.

(The big question: Does this dynamic transfer to other sports? What would have happened if the announcers yesterday's Giants-Broncos game and McCarver said something nice about Eli Manning right before the final play?)

• Jeff Bagwell getting the charity start in Game 1, with predictable results. Vaguely reminscent of McNamara leaving Buckner out for the 10th at Shea because he wanted him to celebrate with the other guys when they won. That was a nice gesture, too.

• Jeanne Zelasko wearing one of Michael Irvin's mink coats from the 1992 Cowboys season in last night's pregame show. Fox should have her wear theme outfits for every game. Like, for Game 3, she could be dressed up as a Vegas showgirl. For Game 4, she could be a hippie war protester from the late '60s. And so on. These are the things that would happen if I were running my own network.

• Aaron Rowand's ecstatic dugout celebrations ... highest of high comedy. I wish we could hire this guy for personal appearances; I want him in the house for the first time my daughter says "Da-da," or even for when I beat the Colts in "Madden." He's like a cross between Mark Madsen, Jack Haley and every sidekick in Cobra Kai, only he actually starts for them, plays center and has an impact on games. This is really uncharted waters.

• The awkward cut to "Prison Break" star Stacy Keach in the stands during the sixth inning ... it's almost like Fox is trying to parody itself at this point. I don't even think ESPN would do something like that. Seriously, can you imagine Mike Patrick pointing out Michael Madsen and the stars from "Tilt" in the stands during a Sunday Night Football game as Paul Maguire chimed in, "I'm gonna tell you something right now, that's a good TV show!"

(Wait, don't answer that.)

• Me TiVo-ing Game 1 so I could try out the new "Warriors" video game -- which is absolutely jaw-dropping, by the way -- and being unable to figure out how to get Rembrandt beyond the opening stage where you learn how to beat guys up. I mean, I'm all for beating guys up, and it certainly makes me feel better, but is there a way out of this stage? I'm a pretty smart guy -- if I can't figure it out, how will anyone else figure it out?

(And by the way, if I ever get divorced, don't think the Sports Gal's deposition won't include the sentence, "October 21st ... he claimed he had to watch the World Series for work on a Saturday night, then I caught him playing a video game in which he was beating the hell out of gang members, then he became belligerent when I told him that he was too old to be playing a game like this.")

• Every big Paul Konerko moment, as his winter pricetag continues to rise, as does the inevitability that he'll be hitting .224 for the Angels next June as announcers say things like, "Here comes Paul Konerko, last year's World Series hero ... just hasn't been able to get it going this year ... the Angels would LOVE to see him get it going ..."

(And if he's batting .224 on the Red Sox next June, I'm going to jam a kabob skewer into my own throat.)

• The non-controversy of Jermaine Dye's 3-and-2 HBP which may or may not have hit his bat, immediately followed by a truly fantastic baseball moment -- Konerko's grand slam -- followed by Buck immediately calling it a controversy (umm, can I enjoy the grand slam replays?) and 400 replays of the last Dye pitch. OK, this wasn't funny. Not at all. But does everything have to be a controversy? Who's to say Dye wouldn't have walked on the next pitch? Wasn't the story there how Houston switched pitchers in the biggest moment of the game -- against the only legitimately dangerous hitter on the White Sox -- and brought in a guy who immediately gave up a grand slam? No second-guessing at all there?

• Speaking of announcers noticing things, I was on the phone with my buddy Gus during the top of the ninth, when the Astros rallied for two to tie the game. Before Jose Vizcaino came up to pinch-hit, Gus points out that we were in "Jose Vizcaino territory" and adds, "Remember, he had the big hit in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series against the Mets." Well, that's a significant piece of information -- you would think that this would come up at some point during the at-bat, with video cued and everything. Nope. So Vizcaino singles to tie the game, and about 3-4 minutes later, McCarver makes the Vizcaino/2000 connection. Interesting.

• Speaking of buddies noticing relevant things, my buddy Sal noticed something during the ALCS: The Astros don't have a single African-American player on their playoff roster. Not a one. The lesson, as always: Roger Clemens hates blacks. (I'm just kidding. He doesn't hate blacks. Just looked funny in print.) But that is pretty strange. All white guys and Latin players? I'm dying for Buck to read a graphic like, "Time for today's Old Spice Fact of the Day: The last team to win a World Series without any African-American players was the 1949 New York Yankees."

• Has there been a sports-related commercial that provoked more barbs and sarcastic comments in the last 25 years than A-Rod and Vlad having that HR contest for Pepsi? I giggle every time it comes on -- the only thing it's missing is a scoreboard that has A-Rod's team up by eight runs.

• I can't decide whether Clemens's Exit Stage Right after two innings of Game 1 counts in his historic resume of coming up short in big games ... after age 40, isn't he playing with house money at this point? With that said, I enjoyed it immensely. I wish you could wager on things like "Clemens will not make it past the fifth inning." Oh, wait, you can. (Nodding happily.)

• Just throwing it out there to sidetrack the Baseball Crank's day, but after Brad Lidge's second demoralizing walkoff homer, is there any way to figure out the ratio of "Closer eventually bouncing back and becoming effective again" to "Closer who was never the same"? For instance, Calvin Schiraldi was probably the best pitching prospect in the Boston farm system before the '86 playoffs -- look at his regular-season stats in 1986 compared to everything that followed in his career. And what about Byung Hyun-Kim, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, Mark Wohlers, Tom Niedenfuer ... really, the only guy I can remember who kept chugging along was Dennis Eckersley after the '88 World Series. Anyway, let's see what the Crank can dig up on this.

• On an unrelated note, what's happening to Saturday Night Live is almost tragic. This season makes the Charles Rocket season, the Anthony Michael Hall season and the Janeane Garofolo season seem amusing by comparison. Remember the days when the sketches were funny, cast members could pull of celebrity impressions and the Weekend Update hosts didn't laugh hysterically at their own jokes? It's like Lorne Michaels went back and studied every mistake with every bad SNL season, then incorporated it into this season of shows.

Way too many cast members (check) ... cast members breaking up during sketches (check) ... gratuitous celeb cameos for no real reason (check) ... sketches written solely in the hope that they could becoming a running sketch (check) ... Horatio Sanz (check) ... generic political-based openings that seem the same every week (check) ... Weekend Update hosts giggling at their own jokes (check) ... niche cast members with no real star power (check).

Put it this way: I stumbled across Mad TV's parody of "House, MD" on Saturday night ... other than Bill Hader's Pacino impersonation in the first show, that "House" parody was better than anything I've seen on SNL all season. How scary is that? And by the way, I would be 10 times angrier about this SNL thing if it wasn't for TiVo -- you can just easily fly through every bad sketch. For example, it took me about 10 minutes to watch Saturday's show. That's better than 90, I guess.

• Quick reminder about the book tour: Stops in Westwood, Calif. (Borders) on Tuesday and Santa Monica (Sonny McLean's) on Wednesday. Also, if you live in the Boston area and wanted an autographed copy, I signed a bunch of extras at the Downtown Crossing Borders when I had my signing there. Or, you can just wait until mid-December for "East Coast Tour: The Sequel."

More tomorrow.


posted: Oct. 20, 2005  |  Feedback

After last night's Astros-Cards game, it looks like I have to come up with a new Level of Losing: The "Wait, This Wasn't The Plan!" Game.

There's a precedent for this one: Game 7 of the 1982 Philly-Boston series, when the Celtics came back from a 3-1 deficit and took Games 5 and 6 for the second straight season, and the Boston Garden fans were so confident during Game 5, they chanted "See you Sunday!" at the Sixers. Well, the C's won Game 6 at the Spectrum, the Sixers came back to Boston for Game 7, everyone assumed they were cooked ... and the great Andrew Toney singlehandedly kicked the living crap out of everyone in the building. Nobody could stop him. At one point, the Celts even put Kevin McHale on him -- didn't work. And somewhere during the third quarter, it started to get quiet, and everyone was thinking the same thing ...

"Wait, this wasn't the plan!"

Last night's game reminded me of that: Roy Oswalt heading into St. Louis and pulling an Andrew Toney on the entire city. I thought the Astros were done; so did just about everyone else. But Oswalt saved the day. I have to admit, I was stunned by the whole thing. Congrats to the Astros for pulling off a reverse Dead Man Walking.

(And the lesson, as always ... well, you knew already.)

Some other quick thoughts on a Thursday...

• Today is the one-year anniversary of Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, or as I like to call it, Bastille Day. Warrants mentioning.

• Everyone keeps asking me if I'm excited that Milwaukee hired Dale Sweum away from the Red Sox ... don't you realize, it's tradition for the Red Sox to have completely incompetent third base coaches? Believe me, the next guy will be just as inept, and he'll drive everyone just as crazy. There's no doubt. I think they just stick Johnny Pesky there -- he'll be just as bad as anyone else, only nobody would dare to rip him because he's such an institution. If that doesn't work, hire Nelson De La Rosa or a smoking-hot chick like Maria Menuonos, or have a contest where a different fan comes out of the seats to coach third base every game. Why not have some fun with this?

• I quickly zoomed through some e-mails last night (been traveling all week) and was surprised by the number of "What do you have against St. Louis?" e-mails. Could sort of see their point since Tuesday's column was sympathetic to the Astros and ignored a basic reality of that game -- for Cardinals fans, Poo Holes's homer was one of the all-time greatest baseball moments -- but I didn't think that column was anti-St. Louis or anything. I definitely have taken shots over the years at La Russa and Martz, and a couple of the announcers that came up from that area, um, bother me a bit ... but overall, I like St. Louis. Even thought about buying a St. Louis Spirits/Marvin Barnes throwback once before I remembered that I'm white.

But since we're on the subject, I'm a little confused by something: What was with all the "The best part about winning Game 5 was that we get to see Busch Stadium one last time" stuff? Busch Stadium? What? Was there a single identifiable thing about Busch Stadium? Riverfront, Three Rivers, Veterans, Busch ... these were all the exact same stadiums, weren't they? What am I missing here?

• From the "I just can't win" department: I planned on doing a blog for Wednesday about "The Contender," got carried away and turned it into a column. Late Tuesday night after my San Fran book signing, dinner and drinks until 1:30 a.m., I had to log in on a 28K modem phone line from my San Fran hotel to send my column ... and the only thing I was worried about was whether Burt Young was using a stage name and was really Italian or not (remember, I'm half-Italian, I know how Italians get about these things if I was wrong). I tried to load IMDB.com, and the process took so long that my connection got timed out and I was knocked offline. Finally I gave up, rolled the dice that Young wasn't Italian, mailed the column and went to bed.

Fast-forward to an e-mail from Fairfield reader SM: "As a proud Italian-American, I can tell you many Italians faced intense discrimination upon arriving in this country. As a result, they often Anglicized their names to seem less Italian. This practice often carried over to Italian-Americans wishing to crack into show business. People such as Dean Martin (Dino Paul Crocetti), Anne Bancroft (Anna Maria Louisa Italiano), and Tony Bennett (Anthony Dominick Benedetto), whose real names were considered too ethnic for whitebread American audiences, adopted more Anglican-sounding stage names. Young is no exception. His real name is Jerry De Louise; he is, in fact, Italian-American. Nice fact checking, jackass."

• Quick update on the book: The second printing finally arrived this week, which means four things ...

1. If you go to your local bookstore, they will now have it.

2. If you ordered it from Amazon.com, you will be getting it this week.

3. If you WANT to order it from Amazon, it will be delivered within 24 hours (not 2-3 weeks).

4. If you were at the Washington or Bristol signings where we ran out of books (so you paid for one and signed a voucher for a signed book), I'm getting the books tomorrow, signing them this weekend, mailing them back to ESPN early next week, and you should have them by the end of next week or the beginning of the following week. Thanks for your patience.

The San Fran and Denver signings went great, highlighted by a celebrity cameo at the Denver signing that I will reveal as soon as they send me the digital picture. This one floored me. Anyway, the West Coast swing wraps up over the next five days: Friday, we're hitting San Diego (Borders Mission Valley, 6:00 p.m.); Tuesday we're hitting Westwood (Borders, 6:00 p.m.); and Wednesday we're hitting Sonny McLean's in Santa Monica to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Jeff Suppan wandering off third base (6:00 p.m.).

Couple of notes if you're coming to a signing: Yes, you can bring your own book if you already have it. Yes, I stay until everyone leaves, so if you show up late (like 8:00), I was still be there signing away and wondering if I need Tommy John Surgery after this is over. And yes, I sign more than just my name -- so think of something interesting for me to write in your book. For 3 straight weeks, I've asked people, "What do you want me to write?" and they freeze for a second, then cop out with something like "I don't know, you're the writer" or "Write something funny." Come on. Throw me a bone. Come up with something good -- for instance, in Denver last night, a girl requested that I write "Real women don't marry Yankee fans." That's funny. So the pressure's on -- if you're coming to one of the next three signings, bring a witty sentence with you.

• Finally, I need to get the "Sports Book Recommendation of the Week" going again, so here's one of my all-time favorites since we're coming up on the 30-year anniversary of the last ABA season: "Loose Balls" by Terry Pluto.

If you're one of the few NBA diehards, and you haven't read this book ... I mean, I don't even know what to tell you. So many books try to do the "oral history" thing, but it's a harder concept than you think -- you need funny stories, and it needs to be organized in the right way so everything makes sense -- and it's much easier to screw up than pull off. But this book was just fantastic; I think it's a top-20 sports book.

First of all, the ABA was a goofy, ridiculous, once-in-a-lifetime league, and if you don't know all the stories, or even some of the stories, it's worth reading. Second, any book that glorifies Doctor J, Connie Hawkins and David Thompson is worth your time, since those are three of the most underappreciated basketball greats. Third, you couldn't even make up some of the ABA characters (Warren Jabali, John Brisker, Joe Caldwell, Wendell Ladner) in a million years, and the Marvin Barnes section ranks among the funniest chapters in any sports book (my favorite is the story where he misses the team plane, charters another one and shows up 10 minutes before a game holding a McDonalds's bag, wearing a mink coat and his game uniform underneath it). And fourth, few appreciate how influential this league was (the style of play, the 3-point line, the underclassmen, the promotion of individual players), or how devoted these guys were to fighting the good fight (battling the NBA and doing everything they could to make sure the league would survive long enough for a merger). Plus, since there was pretty much no TV coverage, and few remaining game films, this league almost happened in a vacuum. It's like the lost great league.

I'll go this far: in my opinion, all the NBA titles from 1970-1976 (including two Boston titles, by the way) should have an asterisk next to them because so many talented players were in the ABA. For instance, in 1976, when a really shaky Celtics team won the title, the ABA was so loaded that 10 ABA players (of a possible 24 spots) made the 1977 All-Star Game following the merger (and guys who did NOT make it included Moses Malone and Artis Gilmore). For whatever reason, everyone forgets this.

Sadly, it seems like it's out of print: Amazon has some copies, and you can also find some on Barnes and Noble and Abebooks. And there's always eBay. But if you're looking for an entertaining hoops book to get you psyched for the season, this is it.

Back tomorrow with a new column.


posted: Oct. 17, 2005  |  Feedback

In case you missed Friday's post, we're having a West Coast book signing this week -- San Fran (Tuesday), Denver (Wednesday), San Diego (Friday), LA (Tuesday). Click on that Friday link for details. Sorry about some of the locations but they were the best we could do on short notice.

Anyway, I have to comment on the USC-Notre Dame game ...

Some of you might find this astounding, because I mention college football about as often as I mention women's golf, but I've actually been watching the USC and ND games this season: Notre Dame because of Charlie Weis, USC because they're so huge in Los Angeles right now and it's the only sports-related subject that anyone cares about. I'm also fascinated by Pete Carroll's ongoing success, as I've written many times -- it's just completely inexplicable to me. When Kiefer Sutherland became the best TV cop of all-time, I wasn't surprised because he was so good in "The Vanishing" (and even "A Time To Kill" and "A Few Good Men"). The seeds had been planted, you know? But this Pete Carroll thing ... I can't even comprehend what's happening here. It's like watching Horatio Sanz leave "SNL" and immediately make five straight $400 million comedies. How can you adequately prepare for something like this?

Anyway, I was excited for the USC-ND game because of the Patriots connection with the coaches: Weis vs. Carroll. When Carroll left New England, he was like Fredo Corleone, the guy you never thought could run his own casino. When Weis left, he was like Clemenza -- good guy, loyal, savvy, valuable, clearly worthy of the chance to run his own family. In fact, you could even imagine Weis saying something like "Leave the gun, take the cannolis." So I was excited for the Fredo-Clemenza matchup, and I thought it would be a better game than people realized, for two reasons -- first, USC has shown a disturbing habit of falling behind in first halves, and second, the Irish should have been undefeated going into the game (I still can't figure out how they lost the MSU game, at home, after such an astounding comeback).

And it really seemed like Notre Dame had the game. They come up with the big drive, Brady Quinn makes some big plays, Weis makes some big calls (loved the draw plays) ... and then Leinart threads the needle on the 4th-and-8 and breaks their backs. (Phenomenal play by him -- wouldn't you take him over 15 NFL starters right now?) And then the ending was especially cruel -- the bizarre helicopter tackle/fumble by Leinart which seemed like a contrived play from a sports movie, followed by the second effort sneak that was "The Longest Yard"-esque. Awesome game, surreal finish -- one of the games where you realize even as it's happening that you're watching an all-time classic. I can't remember another college game quite like it, actually.

But here's the weird thing: I STILL can't shake the feeling that Pete Carroll sucks as a coach. I know, I know ... he's great in college. It's indisputable. He gives his team a certain level of confidence that other teams just don't have, and they never stop pushing the envelope. Still, watching him stomp around on the sidelines as the game was seemingly slipping away, I was talking on the phone to my father, and Dad was giggling and saying, "Look at Pete, we've seen that deer-in-the-headlights routine before, haven't we?" And we both started laughing. Keep in mind, the guy has won like 28 straight games in college. Then, when Pete was "pretending" to call for the fake spike on the last play -- and the NBC announcers believed him, even though it seemed like his acting coach was Andrew Shue -- I just couldn't handle it. HOW IS THIS GUY A GREAT COLLEGE COACH???? What's happening here? He's the EXACT SAME GUY as he was in New England?

I mean, is it really that easy to coach college football? And if it is, does that make Dave Wannstedt the worst football coach of all-time, since he can't even handle the Big East? I might spend the rest of my week mulling this over. There has to be an answer.

• Two more notes on USC:

1. It's impossible to overemphasize how huge Leinart is in Los Angeles, and I only know that because I live here. Forget about the fact that he's the most popular athlete of any LA-area team (college or pro); with Shaq gone and so many people souring on Kobe, there isn't anyone else out here who even approaches Leinart. It's incredible. Including every movie star, TV star and singer out here, he still might be one of the top-10 most popular celebs.

Think about it -- he stayed in school to play another season and maintain his monopoly on smoking-hot Hollywood chicks under the age of 28 (a decision everyone out here respects and applauds). He's taking one class -- ballroom dancing -- another decision that everyone loves. He hangs out with Nick Lachey and has his own bodyguard. He's even supposedly involved with the chick from "Laguna Beach," although nobody knows for sure -- you always hear impossibly crazy stories about him like, "I heard Matt Leinart was in a threesome with Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel," and even though you know they're not true, there's just enough there to make you think, "You know what? He probably could pull that off!"

I'm telling you, Matt Leinart is a cross between the 1980's Joe Montana and Vincent Chase out here. Nobody has a better life than him. It's impossible. The only way his career will get derailed is if he's murdered by an insanely jealous Jesse Palmer.

2. With all of that said, Matt Leinart isn't even the most important player on his own team. Reggie Bush is. Of course, nobody in Los Angeles could pick Bush out of a police lineup. These are the days when we especially miss Ralph Wiley -- he would have had fun with this whole thing.


• I don't want to become That Guy who starts telling you to watch TV shows, and only because I can't enjoy "Arrested Development" because so many people have implored me to watch it, I have to do it on my own terms (much like with "24"). So I'm just laying this out there -- "My Name Is Earl" is my favorite TV comedy since the first two seasons of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Do with that information what you will.

• Finally, I have a Code Red alert about the new "Warriors" DVD. When I heard it was a Director's Cut, I figured it would include the original opening -- when the original warlord of the Warriors (Cleon, who may or may not have been beaten to death right after Cyrus was shot, it's one of those unanswerable movie questions) gives detailed instructions to each member heading into Cyrus's summit -- which they always show on the basic cable version (the one that runs on TBS, TNT, Spike or wherever. It's a really cool scene and I will never figure out why it was chopped from the movie. I would have purchased the DVD for that scene alone.

So what's in the new "Ultimate Director's Cut?" Two readers explain:

From Pennsylvania reader Keith Miller: "I have never been more disappointed in my life. The Warriors is a favorite of my buddies and I. We grew up with the movie. Collectively, it is our favorite film. Two years ago it played for one night at a local theater. We all made cheap vests and went as different Warriors. Needless to say, I was looking forward to its release."

(Note from Simmons: I was going to make fun of this guy for that, then I remembered that I dressed up like Michael Myers when "Halloween H20" came out. Whoops! Back to the e-mail.)

"What I was most excited for was seeing the scenes that were added for the TV version that are missing on the original DVD release, such as the opening scene on the Boardwalk when they are all told what their roles will be ('Cochise, you're heavy muscle'). All we are treated to in this DVD are some scenes that are lighter than before, destroying some of the original feel of the movie. Also, there is a new opening before we see the Wonder Wheel. It is a book, telling the story of some Greek soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines during a war. This is supposedly what the Warriors was based on. Also, director Walter Hill gives some crap about how the Warriors is actually set in the near future (complete bs). Anyway, save your money. And if you want to see the deleted scenes, TiVo the movie if you ever catch it late night on TNT. What a ripoff."

From New York reader Kevin Stone: "I know this is probably the 1,000th Warriors review in your mailbox, but I feel SO strongly about this, I am compelled to stop you, I only wish that I could send a foot soldier from the future into the past (ala Terminator) to A.) stop me from buying this and wasting my money, and B.) erase the now tainted memory of a truly classic movie. The Warriors Ultimate Directors Cut is terrible, nay a TRAVESTY. The Genuises at Paramount video, have issued a version that is identical to the first, with the exception that they have added comic book panels. Yes, that's right COMIC BOOK PANELS to the action that pop up annoyingly at various times of the movie. Case in point -- the scene in which the Warriors encounter the Furies, a scene that unfolded with full tension slowly, and the great musical score added to the mood. At least that is how it happened originally ... because in the new version, at the second when the tension starts ramping up, the "new" film freezes and transforms into a stupid comic book panel stating "Holy (Bleep) the Baseball Furies!". That's how bad the new Edition is. This is hardly even the worst example. STAY AWAY. Save your memories!

So there you go. It's 2005 -- how can they keep screwing up these special DVD's? Don't they know we want deleted scenes over anything else? Ridiculous. Stay away from "The Warriors" DVD.

Back tomorrow with some thoughts on the baseball playoffs.

posted: Oct. 17, 2005  |  Feedback

Maybe you remember my mailbag from mid-September that included this e-mail exchange about Tedy Bruschi:

Q: Does anything about this Tedy Bruschi-on-the-sidelines routine smell funny? Doesn't this seem like a WWE-style ploy by Belichick? What if we get to the first round of the playoffs, with the Pats on the road, and they need a lift? Wouldn't the triumphant return of Bruschi be the spark they need to get the three-peat? Couldn't the Pats hire Jim Ross for the night, just to have a "Good God, that's Tedy Bruschi's music!" moment?
-- Bart Shirley, Dallas

SG: Loved the idea, but I think you screwed up the timeline. Bruschi is eligible to be activated after Week Six. Realistically, he could scrimmage in all the closed practices without anyone knowing, and then emerge from the tunnel during that Week 9 game against the Colts at Foxboro, which, in my opinion, would be the single most exciting moment in Patriots history if it happened -- even better than both Super Bowl kicks -- as well as football's first Willis Reed moment. The Colts would be finished. D-U-N done. I'm getting the chills just thinking about it.


Flash-forward to this morning: the CBS affiliate in Boston reports that Bruschi will return to the practice field within the next three weeks. I'm not saying anything else because I don't want to jinx it.

Also, I received a barrage of e-mails from the Pacific Northwest yesterday, so I might have to make it out there this month (didn't realize there were so many Boston transplants out there). Here was my favorite e-mail though:

Yo, Bill, come to Portland, we have a six-foot bong with your name on it!
--Sincerely, the Portland Trail Blazers

All right, I made that up. But we'll figure out something. In the mean time, here's the tentative schedule for the next two weeks. I broke it up a little bit so it didn't destroy my column schedule like the last trip did:

Tuesday, October 18: San Francisco
Borders (Mission Bay) -- 6:00 PM

Comments: My favorite city other than Boston. Really looking forward to this one.

Wednesday, October 19: Aurora, CO
Borders (Aurora) -- 6:00 PM

Comments: Not sure how many people will show up for this one -- I'm a little worried. This has Spinal Tap potential.

Friday, October 21: San Diego
Borders Mission Valley -- 6:00 PM

Comments: Thinly veiled excuse to drive down to San Diego that morning and take my daughter to the Zoo. What's a consistently funnier dynamic than the monkey cage? Have you ever had a bad time watching apes/monkeys/baboons/orangutans interact?

Tuesday, October 25: Los Angeles
Borders (Westwood) -- 6:00 PM

Comments: We wanted to do the giant Barnes and Noble at the Grove as well but couldn't work it out. Maybe in December.

Wednesday, October 26: Santa Monica
Sonny McLean's -- 6:00 PM

Comments: This is tentative -- details to come next week. We might push it to Thursday since that would be the one-year anniversary of World Series Sweep/Lunar Eclipse Night.

As for the Portland/Seattle swing, I'm aiming for November to time it with a Blazers and/or Sonics game ... stay tuned.


posted: Oct. 13, 2005  |  Feedback

Have to get some quick book stuff out of the way...

1. We set up some West Coast book signings for the next two weeks. The list includes San Fran (Tuesday the 18th), Denver (Wednesday the 19th), San Diego (Friday the 21st), Los Angeles (Westwood, Tuesday the 25th), and probably a Sonny McLean's stop in Santa Monica (ether the 24th or the 26th). Full details to come on Friday. We thought about including Seattle and Portland as well, but I think I've gotten like 10 e-mails from the Pacific Northwest in the past five years, so it seemed a little risky -- I didn't want to be stuck in an empty bookstore with two dudes wearing Soundgarden T-shirts.

2. We have been getting a number of e-mails from people reporting that A.) the book is on back-order at Amazon, and B.) they've been unable to find it in their local bookstore. There's a reason for that -- we didn't print enough books with the first printing. The second printing rolls out this weekend and should take care of the numbers problem, but I'm apologizing, anyway -- few things are more annoying then going down to a store to buy something, only to find that they ran out of it. For instance, I went to three L.A. stores this week looking for "The Warriors: Director's Cut" and all were sold out. How can you not have enough DVD's available for the most underrated action move of the past 30 years? If anyone's seen it, send us a review please.

Speaking of the book, belated thanks to everyone who showed up at the signings in Manhattan, Stamford, Bristol, Worcester, Boston, DC and Chicago. I had a blast meeting everyone -- it was much more fun than I thought it would be, even if I still haven't regained feeling in my right hand.

Some things I learned on the tour ...

1. At least 88% percent of my male readers in Massachusetts are named Sean, Patrick or Michael.

2. Remember my running joke about all the ways to spell "Antoine" in sports? Well, I think the name "Caitlin" is the white/female version of that -- there's Caitlin, Katelyn, Katelinn, Kate Lynn, Catelyn ... I kept waiting for someone to ask me to sign for a "Kate'lin." All the Caitlins need to get together and decide on one spelling. And while we're at it, same goes for Jennie/Jenny, Shaun/Sean/Shawn, Kelly/Kellie and Kristin/Kristen. Strangely, the Kristins/Kristens had the biggest attitude -- when I asked them how to spell it, each side would say "With the e!" or "With the I!" like they were completely incredulous that I had to ask.

3. A surprisingly number of Yankees and Mets fans read my columns -- I'm glad we can all get along. Also, I was disappointed with the lack of wispy mustaches with the Yankee fans. Maybe that's gone out of style.

4. My readers are thoughtful. For instance, one person brought me the actual record album of the "Fast Break" soundtrack. Two girls brought me a "DONNA MARTIN GRADUATES" t-shirt that they made up themselves. Another guy brought me a "Put the Lotion in the Basket" t-shirt with Jame Gumb that's fantastically creepy. Yet another gave me a single trading card from the "Rocky 4" set (of Ivan Drago's manager).

5. Probably my favorite random moment: You might remember a mailbag from like two years ago where someone outed one of their friends (Jeff Dorman) for bragging about getting letters published in various columns, then implored me to write that "Jeff Dorman sucks." In that same column, I ran an actual Dorman e-mail, then ran those three words as my response.

Well, the same Jeff Dorman showed up at the DC signing -- he seemed to have a good sense of humor about that mailbag, although there was a touch of a Steve Bartman-y look about him (like his friends had been ragging on him for two years straight about the mailbag). Actually, for about five seconds, I thought he might stab me to death with a pencil. But we hashed everything out. The best part was my buddy House was sitting next to me with a "Jeff Dorman ... wait, where do I know that name? ... isn't he the guy who sucks?" look on his face for about 45 straight seconds. I'm telling you, this book tour was phenomenal.

Here's the sad thing: I kept a little notebook on the trip where I jotted down a bunch of notes to remember for this blog after the fact ... and that notebook is nowhere to be found. (During my two-week trip, I lost that notebook, my cell phone charger and my backup laptop battery ... I am just not a good traveler.) Too bad. I had some funny stories and I can't remember any of them -- the whole 9-day stretch was a giant blur.

By the way, I'm coming back in December for another East Coast swing -- and don't think I'm not passing through Philly this time.

A few more notes and then I'm done...

• I'm glad that last night's ridiculous ending in the White Sox-Angels game happened. Starting next year, we'll have instant replay ... which should have been installed about five years ago. So this is good, I think. (Seriously, how can there NOT be instant replay? It's not like we don't have the technology, and the logic of "We didn't have this back in the 1940's, so we can't have it now" makes no sense at all. There can't be a dumber sport than baseball -- it's astounding to me that this sport continues to survive despite the people running it.) And while we're here, thanks to the White Sox for playing out of their minds against Boston, then playing like crap against the Angels for two straight games just to give me those, "Man, what if the White Sox had played like this against us?" thoughts. Just what I needed.

• I was thinking about the whole White Sox/1917 thing. For the past 15 years, Red Sox fans had to deal with this ridiculous theory that Babe Ruth somehow cursed our franchise because we sold him, which makes no sense if you think about it because going to New York was the best possible thing that could have happened to him on every level (I cover this in my book -- did you know I had a book out?).

Meanwhile, the Black Sox throw the 1919 World Series, violate/destroy/obliterate the sanctity of the game and nearly kill professional baseball as we know it, and since then, 86 years (and counting) have passed without them winning a championship ... and nobody ever brings up a potential curse with them? Who could have possibly angered the Baseball Gods more than the 1919 White Sox? If any baseball franchise is "cursed," wouldn't it be them? When we watch these White Sox playoff games, as Williamstown reader Rob points out, "Where are all the montages of the 88 years of futility? Where are the floating heads of Chick Gandill, Eddie Ciccote, and Joe Jackson?" He's right, how do the White Sox fans get a free ride this October? Imagine if the 1919 Red Sox threw the World Series? How many times would McCarver and Buck have brought it up during last year's playoffs? 700? 800? I'm confused.

• Speaking of Fox, it's not that I'm against Lou Piniella in the three-man booth or anything -- but what's the point? Doesn't the playoffs seem like a strange time to introduce a completely random person into your No. 1 baseball play-by-play booth as the third wheel? What's the thought process behind this? During the NFL playoffs, would Fox ever say, "All right, we have Aikman and Buck for the NFC Championship Game ... hey, let's shove Joe Gibbs in there just to mix it up!" Would that ever happen? So why do they take these dramatic gambles with baseball broadcasts? Just seems odd to me. If you think McCarver and Buck need some extra help for a big game, maybe you should have hired someone else in the first place.

(One exciting subplot for Piniella: Does anyone keep praying for McCarver to disagree with him on something, followed by Piniella's voice raising, and the discussion continuing to escalate ... and finally Lou just starts dropping f-bombs and screaming things like, "Yeah, I'm sure you bleeping know more than me, Timmy, I've been managing for the last 20 bleeping years, you're been sitting in a bleeping broadcast booth twiddling your bleeping thumbs, let's go with your opinion on this one, you BLEEPING BLEEP BLEEPER!!!!!" I think this is my sports wish for 2005, actually.)

• I made my virgin appearance on a late night talk show this Monday -- going on Jimmy Kimmel Live on the same night as the immortal Freddie Prinze Jr. When I was walking out and going to shake Jimmy's hand, I forgot that there was a one-step drop and nearly went flying on my butt, which delighted Jimmy to no end -- in fact, he's sent me five different MPEGs of the clip in the 48 hours since it happened. I don't think it counted as a full-fledged trip, more of a momentary stumble. But it was still funny -- hopefully we can figure out a way to show it on ESPN.com. The rest of the interview was pretty uneventful, although they cut out the part when I made a joke that Jimmy was a control freak. Which he is. See, that's why they cut the part out.

• My final ruling on the 18-inning Braves/Astros game in the Levels of Losing ... all things considered, it was one of those rare games that combined Levels 2 thru 5 on the list. The grand slam at 6-1 made it a "This Can't Be Happening" Game, as well as a Broken Axle Game. Ausmus's two-out homer definitely made it a Stomach Punch Game. The next eight innings earned it "Guillotine Game" status. And then Chris "Corky" Burke's game-winning homer was a full-fledged, Defcon 1 Stomach Punch moment. That was simply brutal. Almost unprecedented, actually.

• In Tuesday's posting, I mentioned how Clement wasn't the same after getting hit in the head. As many Sox fans pointed out, that wasn't exactly accurate -- he pitched three of four crummy starts before that Tampa game, then wasn't terrible in his next four starts after the Tampa game. I should have researched that and didn't -- that's why I hate writing these blogs sometimes, it's a race to get them up, and sometimes the facts are sloppy. Although I will stand by the statement to a certain degree -- after that Tampa beaning, his demeanor seemed different to me, and once he started flinching on fouls balls that were hit straight back, it was all over. But mid-September, he had officially reached "I hope we don't have to start this guy in a big playoff game" status.

Another inaccuracy from Tuesday's blog, from my comment on Gammons' riff about those mid-80's offenses -- actually, the '84 Tigers, '85 Cards and '86 Mets scored a ton of runs, even though they weren't your traditional bangers like the '95 Indians or something. The Baseball Crank elaborates:

"OK, you knew you'd hear from me when you quoted Gammons saying the '86 Mets weren't a traditionally dominant offensive team. The Mets led the league in runs scored, scoring 15% more runs than the league average and 44 more runs than the next closest team. They led the league in batting, slugging and OBP (the latter by 13 points). They led the league in walks. They were 3d in the league in home runs and 4th in doubles. And they did this while playing in Shea Stadium, one of the league's best pitcher's parks (they scored 4.68 runs/game at home, 4.99 on the road). Their team OPS+ was 116, compared to 111 for the 1999 Indians and 114 for the 2004 Red Sox. It was 116 again in 1987. It was 117 in 1988. On the days when Howard Johnson or Kevin Mitchell played shortstop, the 1986 team could field a whole lineup (except pitchers) where the lowest OPS+ was 114, that being Wally Backman with a .320 average and a .376 OBP. The Mets, within the context they played in, beat the crap out of people."

• Check this out: Three weeks ago, my old college (Holy Cross) re-ran one of my old 1992 columns from the school newspaper (The Crusader) to coincide with my speech at Holy Cross. For whatever reason, it's online here -- so if you want to read one of my columns back when I had no idea what I was doing, here's your big chance.

The one enjoyable part to me was the George Blaney potshot -- he was our men's hoop coach back then and I made it my goal in life to turn the campus against him, so I took unprovoked shots at him in just about everything I wrote. Amazingly, incredibly, he ended up getting hired by Seton Hall after I graduated, where he subsequently drove the program into the ground before they canned him. Now he's an assistant for Jim Calhoun at UConn. But that man drove me bonkers. During one home game, I even made a sign that read "CALL A TIMEOUT GEORGE!" that I held up every time the other team would go on one of those patented 10-0 runs where George would just stand there watching as the game slipped away. I'm getting worked up all over again just thinking about it.

New column coming tomorrow.


posted: Oct. 11, 2005  |  Feedback

Even though the series ended four days ago, I wanted to discuss the Sox. Not the Red Sox ... the White Sox.

It wasn't just the sweep that impressed me, or all the different players who stepped up at various times. The way Chicago dismantled Boston was almost Belichickian. Did they screw up a single time in three games? Was there a play that wasn't made? How many times did someone come through when they needed it? I just loved the way they played baseball, even if they were constantly reminding me of the staggering inadequacies of my own team.

Looking back, that matchup was eerily reminiscent of some of the Colts-Pats games from the past few seasons -- maybe the Red Sox were more explosive, maybe the White Sox didn't seem as dangerous on paper ... and then the games started and the White Sox kept popping them in the mouth, making big plays and doing the Little Things. And after it was over, much like Colts fans after any of those Pats games, the Red Sox fans were torturing themselves with comments like, "Man, if only that play didn't happen, we would have won that game" and "Man, if only he had come through in that spot, that game would have been totally different" but the bottom line was this: The Red Sox weren't good enough to beat a team like Chicago. That Game 3 ended with Boston scoring three runs on three solo home runs -- I mean, if that didn't sum up the entire Red Sox season, I don't know what does.

(As I wrote two weeks ago, without Big Papi's heroics, this was an 82-85 win team. There's absolutely no question that this team overachieved, and there wasn't a single thing that stood out about this team other than the staggering amount of comeback wins and the Ortiz-Manny combination, which ended up yielding nearly 100 homers and 300 RBI in 165 games. Every other aspect of this team was average or below-average, and that includes the front office, which botched this 2005 season in ten different ways and made the unconscionable decision to tinker with a championship team that everyone loved. This franchise could potentially be screwed for the next 3-4 years because of decisions made over the last 10 months. But that's a whole other story.)

The question remains: Can the White Sox win the World Series?

In his Sunday column, Peter Gammons alluded to a new direction of baseball -- the post-steroids brand of play, where the Little Things (baserunning, defense, clutch hits, quality starts, reliable relievers) have taken precedence again -- and wondered if we're headed for a stretch like the mid-80's, where teams like the '84 Tigers, the '85 Cards and Royals, the '86 Mets, the '87 Twins and the '88 Dodgers competed for championships even though none of them were dominant offensively in a traditional way. And there's something to that, I think. This summer, when I watched the 12-game DVD of the Sox-Yankees and Sox-Cardinals series from October, I couldn't believe how poorly all three of those teams played in some of those games -- for instance, Boston was downright sloppy in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series (remember the four errors in Schilling's start?), and Game 5 of the Yankees series (although dramatic as hell) contained an inordinate amount of screw-ups and bad baseball plays. But Boston's bats made up for everything.

The biggest difference between the 2004 Sox and the 2005 Sox? The 2004 lineup coould always bail them out -- from top to bottom, all of those guys could get on base, all of them could come through when it mattered, and they always kept extending those pitch counts and wearing out starters and relievers. This year's lineup was a two-man show (Ortiz and Manny), with everyone else underachieving by year's end (especially Varitek, Damon and Nixon, all of whom looked cooked). Throw in the defensive downgrade in the middle infield (Cabrera and Bellhorn to Renteria and Graffanino), as well as the dramatic difference in pitching staffs (that's a whole other column), and there was no way this 2005 Boston team could hang with a team playing as well as the White Sox last week.

At another time, we'll tackle what the Red Sox should do this winter. It's easy to overreact after a sweep in the playoffs, and you can't overlook the fact that A.) the two most important pitchers from the 2004 team (Schilling and Foulke) were complete non-factors this season; B.) there was no way to predict that Nixon, Bellhorn and Millar (one-third of last year's championship lineup) would break down like that; C.) Clement was never the same after getting nailed in the head in Tampa Bay; and D.) if you believe Theo Epstein, Renteria was battling back problems all year (although that excuse seems a little too convenient after the fact, if you ask me). Without Ortiz's ongoing heroics and Jonathan Papelbon's unexpected emergence down the stretch, this team wouldn't have come within 7-8 games of a playoff spot. There's no way.

(And with that said, they easily could have won Game 2 of the White Sox series with a little luck, and Game 3 was right there for the taking... oh, man... I promised myself I wouldn't do this ...)

Three things made me feel better after the Red Sox season ended ...

1. It was refreshing to watch my baseball team get crushed in a playoff series, including two old-school Sox moments (Graffanino's error and the bases loaded/no outs/El Duque debacle), and not have to deal with announcers rehashing the Curse of the Bambino crap, high-fiving in the booth and showing 200 different replays of the Buckner Era. The boys didn't play well, the season ended, and that was that.

2. I didn't fully realize it until afterwards, but that was a particularly stressful Red Sox season: Foulke's unequivocal meltdown and subsequent Section 8; the collective demise of Bellhorn/Millar/Embree; Dale Sweum practically baiting Sox fans to pull a William Ligue Jr. on him; the neverending Manny soap opera; Pedro thriving in New York; Jay Payton's struggles (followed by his renaissance in Oakland); Schilling's painful-to-watch comeback, accompanied by the gradual realization that he wasn't the same pitcher anymore; the ongoing horror of watching a seemingly washed-up shortstop on the hook for $40 million through 2008; stiffs like Remlinger, Harville, Halama, Mantei, Neal and Gonzalez pitching in big spots; Clement falling apart after the Tampa game; Kapler's unfair achilles injury that abruptly ended his season; the Yankees turning things around with Small and Chacon (17-3 combined!); Mike Timlin (God bless him for pitching 81 games, by the way) trying to close games without the capability to pitch with guys on base; Varitek and Damon wearing down in September ... I mean, this had to be the least enjoyable 95-win season of all-time. In a weird way, part of me is glad that it's over.

3. The Yankees falling short in Anaheim, followed by the inevitable winter of good-natured A-Rod bashing. In fact, here's a sample from my mailbox last night:

I am just steaming right now and I have to get this off my chest. I'm a die hard Yankee fan, and I have to say one thing ... give Papi the MVP. While watching the bottom of the ninth as the Yanks trailed 5-3 tonight, the first 2 at bats completely summed up the values of Jeter and A-Rod to the Yankees as an organization, it was almost eerie. Maybe Jeter will never put up the numbers that A-Rod can put up over 162 games. But when the Yanks need a baserunner, he gets on base. A-Rod blew it. A-Rod vs Ortiz? Forget about it. This postseason I watched A-Rod's teammates play their guts out and A-Rod let them down. I also watched David Ortiz play his guts out, and his teammates let him down. There's a huge difference. Big Papi gets my vote.
-- David, New York, NY

Right now, somewhere in New York, a five-year-old kid is wondering if the Yankees will win a championship in his lifetime.
-- Dan Bock, Durham, N.C.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA...HAHAHAHA...HAHA

HA...phew.

Oh, man. I haven't laughed that hard since I was a little girl.

I think you really need to devote a column to the A-Rod face. It's like little fairies came down from the heavens riding milk-white chariots, their only mission: to beat a look of disgust and pain on number thirteen's face -- a look so magical that you could bring it to Tiny Tim and he wouldn't be want for food or drink.

If you bottled it and sold it, hunger would be driven from the land. People would make it their mission to bring the A-Rod face to third world countries. They would hold it out infront of them, like Perseus holding Medusa's Head in "Clash of the Titans," and suddenly crippled children would jump up and dance and barren women would find out they were pregnant.

HAHA, OK, that's enough. I'm losing it.
-- Jim B., Boston, MA When the Yankees obtained A-Rod, I reacted like Richard Gere did in "Unfaithful" when he went to that French guys house and found out about his wife. As a lifelong Yankee fan I knew full well the difference between Roy White, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, Thurmon Munson, Don Mattingly, Jim Leyritz, Paul O'Neil ... and A-Rod. A-Rod is a curse -- he left Seattle, they won 116 games ... he left Texas, they won a bunch of games ... he gets to NY and they blow a 3-0 lead to their archnemisis, something never done before ... until A-Rod arrived. The best thing that could've happened to the Yankees was to let Boston have A-Rod, wait a year, sign Beltran and make a real effort to retain Clemens, Pettitte and Wells. In the words of Richard Gere before he bashes the French guy's head in, "I think I'm going to be sick."
--Jason S, Phoenix, AZ

I just watched the Yankees lose Game 5 of the ALDS with my Yankee fan roommate. I love that THE BIGGEST CHOKE IN SPORTS HISTORY has forever changed the demeanor of Yankee fans. Usually they have that smug "you know they're gonna win this game somehow" look on their faces. But that has totally changed since last year's egg laying to the Sox. He was yelling things like "another fly ball? Good job Popsui," and "Nice weak throw to the plate Giambi, should've juiced up before the game," and my favorite "effin' A-Rod! A bazillion dollars a year and he grounds into a double play in the 9th, he sucks ... him and his purple lips." Have you experienced the NEW Yankee fan or am I alone on this one?
--Chris M., Newton, MA

I was all for the A-Rod for MVP thing during the regular season. I was blinded by the whole playing the field argument and gave his defensive play too much weight. The breakdown should be somewhere around 99% batting and 1% based of fielding performance. That being said, I can't imagine that there is a single Yankee fan out there that would have rather had A-Rod hitting in the top of the 9th last night instead of Papi. Even with the same results I would have felt a lot better having Papi batting in that situation. Am I being too critical on a guy that hit 2 for 15 in the postseason this year? I don't think so. Papi won the MVP last night.
-- Royce, New York, NY

I'm at Game 5 of the ALDS and it's headed to the top of the ninth with the Angels up 5-3. I see Jeter, A-Rod and Giambi are coming up for the Yankees against K-Rod and I turn to my buddies I'm at the game with (one of which is a Red Sox fan, the other of which is just a Yankee hater) and tell them, "10 bucks says Jeter gets on to bring up the tying run and then A-Rod (screws) it up."

Right on cue, Jeter singled and A-Rod hit into a double play. In hindsight, it was probably the least bold proclamation I've ever made. It's uncanny the way Mr. Quarter-Billion seems to only be able to hit when the game has long since been decided.
--Chirag D., Los Angeles, CA

As I sit here just completely unable to fathom how a team could lose their starting pitcher in the 2nd inning to an injury, give up 2 runs in that same inning, and still come back against the "dreaded" Yankees, I just can't sleep because it makes me sick. See I'm a Yankee fan. I went through high school and college watching Jeter, O'Neill, Bernie, Tino, Sojo (had to throw him in there), Mariano, Pettitte, etc. come through time and time again in clutch situations.

I'm just telling you that as a Yankee fan, we are starting to turn on some of our players brought in to win the big games for us ... more specifically A-Rod. Let's forget the fact that he was 2 for whatever in the series for a second and take a look at the last two times around the order. In the 7th, with the Yanks down 5-2, Jeter comes up and smacks a shot over the center field fence to cut the lead to 2 ... typical October Jeter stuff. A-Rod comes up with some momentum on his side and weakly grounds out to shortstop. Now we head toward the 9th with the score still 5-3. Jeter leads it off with a frozen rope hit to left for a single. You just knew Jeter was getting on. I think Angel fans knew Jeter was getting on. So now A-Rod has his guy on first base. He's gotta do something, right? Nope ... 5-4-3 double play. And the thing is ... I knew it was coming as a Yankee fan. Should I have been sitting there hoping that my MVP candidate doesn't ground out into a double play? No ... I should have been hoping he could get on and keep the rally going. Instead, I found myself thinking things like "Just get it in the air A-Rod" or even "If he strikes out, at least there will still be only 1 out." This is my supposed MVP candidate. We got rid of Soriano because of his ineptitude in the postseason in 2003 to get A-Rod, but he clearly isn't the answer. I guess what I'm saying is that after watching that series ... as a Yankee fan ... Ortiz gets my MVP vote.

(I can't believe I just typed that last sentence, but it's so true)
--Mike L., Chevy Chase, MD

• Finally, my predictions for Round 2 of the baseball playoffs: Houston over St. Louis in 6; Chicago over Anaheim/Los Angeles/California in 5; Prison Break over OC for "Most Fox Promos"; me getting a press pass for a Sox-Angels game solely to find out how in God's name "Rocky 5" is Chone Figgins's favorite sports movie; McCarver calling Chris Burke "Chris Berkman" at least once; and 500 readers sending me an e-mail about how Bartolo Colon looks like Andre the Giant.

Back tomorrow with a new column.

posted: Oct. 4, 2005  |  Feedback

Hey, it's me! Remember, the guy who used to write a column for ESPN?

Right now I'm flying from Boston to D.C. for the next stop of my book tour, which takes place tonight (Tuesday) at the ESPN Zone. I know, I know ... you're tired of hearing about the book. Well, I'm tired of talking about it. Tired of answering questions about it. Tired of signing it. Tired of thinking about it. When I was trying to fall asleep on Friday night, I was so tired that I started having this weird pseudo-dream (you know those dreams when you're not quite asleep yet, only it feels like you are?) that I was signing books for people, and I just wanted to fall asleep. Only people kept shoving books in front of me, and they kept going faster and faster, and after a few minutes, I started to feel like Tom Cruise in "Vanilla Sky."

I'm telling you, there isn't a weirder process than selling a book. Not only do I hate pimping myself under any circumstances, I like to keep a relatively low profile -- a lethal combination for the PR people in charge of promoting any book -- so it's been a struggle from beginning to end. I am of the opinion that, other than the signings, none of this crap matters -- if people are going to buy the book, they're going to buy the book. But the book industry feels the exact opposite about the process, and who knows? Maybe they're right.

The best part about releasing a book? The signings. I like meeting everyone, seeing the people in line, seeing the gender breakdown of my readers, that kind of stuff. In fact, we're probably going to add a West Coast swing later in the month because the signings are always enjoyable -- even if my right hand is slowly morphing into a claw.

The second-best part about releasing a book? Seeing it displayed in a bookstore. I can't possibly explain what that feels like -- I don't know if you ever get over the, "Holy s--t, I wrote that!" feeling. The first time was at the Grove's Barnes and Nobles in Los Angeles, where it was featured in the "New Releases" section in the front. After staring at it the same way drunk guys stare at a knockout stripper in Vegas, I ended up taking up a spot about 15 feet away, then standing there to see if anyone would pick the book up. I think it was the most self-centered moment of my life. Finally one guy walked over and started thumbing through various new releases, and I was just standing there watching him, thinking, "Pick mine up, go ahead, pick it up, come on, you know you want to ... " before realizing that I had briefly lost my mind. So I left.

Anyway, I had a chance to quickly zoom through some e-mails, and an inordinate amount of people seem to be ticked that I haven't been writing as much lately. Trust me: This part of the book process is an all-consuming thing. It isn't just the signings as much as the never ending e-mails and phone calls -- I spent so much time on my cell phone over these last two weeks, I think I'm going to end up with one of those giant tumor/scars on the side of my head like Kimberly in "Melrose Place". So give me 7-10 days and my column schedule will be regular again -- please bear with me. I don't ask for much. Other than for you to buy the book, dammit.

While we're here, some random thoughts from the past week or so ...

• During Saturday's game, some of the Red Sox employees were kind enough to bring me and my buddy J-Bug into their offices to show us the 2004 trophy. At least, I think that's what happened -- laying eyes on that trophy was like seeing someone remove their head, then hand it to you and say, "Hey, here's my head." There's simply no adequate reaction other than complete disbelief -- not just that it was the World Series trophy, but that it belonged to the Red Sox.

The poor thing is pretty banged up, actually. After touring all over the country and hitting every town in Massachusetts, it's covered in fingerprint residue, and some of the flags are bent... basically, it's the Tara Reid of trophies. When the season ends, they need to "restore" it before it completely falls apart. The trophy also weighs about 40 pounds, and you're nervous holding it to begin with, so you end up handling it like a 40-pound newborn baby -- you're cringing the entire time.

They gave it to me first. I clutched it to my chest and gave birth to the "Good God, I'm holding the 2004 World Series Trophy that the Red Sox won!" face. After about ten seconds, I freaked out and handed it to J-Bug, who hugged it before his eyes started misting up, finally saying, "I have to put it down" so he could wipe his eyes. I saw his reaction after the Pats won their first Super Bowl in 2001, and I saw his reaction when I explained to him how the Internet was really a convoluted excuse to look up copious amounts of porn in 1996 ... he looked more excited than both of those moments combined. Finally, we picked up the trophy again. Good times all around.

• For the first time in three years, I can honestly say that another team out-and-out walloped the Patriots. That game wasn't a fluke. More in Friday's football column ... but I'm very depressed about this. Football is an unforgiving sport -- sometimes, you can lose one too many button-pushers and you're not the same team anymore. I also think that the last two years (38 games in all, a bullseye on them in every one) could be finally catching up to them. They looked dead in the second half against San Diego -- even Belichick looked resigned to what was happening. I will now chew broken glass.

• Caught the first 30 minutes of SNL on Saturday night -- some new cast member (can't remember his name) did a world-class Pacino impersonation. Absolutely nailed it. I'm intrigued. Speaking of TV, back in L.A., my TiVo has been (hopefully) recording all the relevant shows from the last 8-9 days (and counting) ... I'm way out of the loop with Survivor, Lost, Curb, SNL, My Name Is Earl (tremendous show) and everything else. So don't e-mail me about any of those shows. Or I will have to kill you.

• Speaking of e-mails, the reaction on Friday's column seemed to be split -- some Boston fans were disappointed in my Belichick-Theo comparison, and upon further review, I'm agreeing with them. The comparison itself was important and relevant, but I didn't explore the studio space enough with it. It should have been its own column and demanded a more worthy treatment. The way Belichick has constructed the Pats can be applied to any sport, I just didn't do a good enough job of explaining this. So I'm going to take another crack at it (in a Cowbell) when I get back, and only because Halberstam's book was that fascinating to read.

• Stopped by Bristol on Thursday ... it's officially a Division I campus. Huge. So many ESPN buildings that they have shuttle vans to drive everyone around. I'm not making this up. If they make "Austin Powers 4," Dr. Evil needs to set up his offices here.

• I spoke at my old college (Holy Cross) on Thursday, which was terrifying for about 90 seconds until they were willing to laugh at every one of my jokes. Then I was fine. Turned out to be a special night for me ... although the football team was VERY upset over some recent comments I had made to a local paper about the demise of the program, so we hashed that out after the signing. I couldn't have felt worse because it's not the fault of the players that the H.C. administration doesn't give a crap about the program (and hasn't for 14 years), so I should have been more careful about how I phrased things. On the bright side, we beat Yale this weekend, so maybe I should rip them more often.

• From a baseball standpoint, last weekend was pretty anticlimactic. We headed into it feeling like it was do-or-die, but then the Indians started shoving giant wads of chicken bones down their own throats and that was that. (Note: Normally I would poke fun, but the poor Cleveland fans have suffered enough -- they have officially replaced Red Sox fans as the most tortured fans in the American League.) Saturday turned out to be the key game of the Yankees series, as any Sox fan knew we were in trouble from the moment Wakefield's knuckler wasn't knuckling.

Two things stood out from the game ...

1. An MVP performance from A-Rod, who waited until the Yanks were up 6-2 before he ripped a long home run, then followed that up with two more big hits. The weird thing about A-Rod is that there's nobody more terrifying in a big game ... when you're down by 4 runs. There really isn't. It's like he goes to another level.

2. Since Mirabelli was catching Wake, you would have thought Francona would stick Millar in right, play Big Papi at first and DH Varitek against the Big Unit, right? Of course not. He sat Varitek and played Nixon, who stinks against lefties -- with all due respect to Trot, the Sports Gal's favorite player, I think Cynthia Nixon would have a better chance hitting Randy Johnson. Meanwhile, Torre did a masterful job handling Randy Johnson, even coddling an extra out from him (Ortiz) in the eighth before sending him off. If Francona had the upper hand over Torre last October, it appears Torre has the upper hand right now -- any time you can coax 95 wins out of a season in which you used 75 starting pitchers, that's a pretty good managing job.

• Speaking of that, some predictions for the playoffs:

National League
I like Houston. This feels like we're headed for one of those goofy World Series where every score is like 9-7 or 10-8 (a little like '93 with the Phillies and Jays); I could just see Minute Maid having a 22-18 WS game and Joe Buck's head exploding.

Yanks-Angels
I hate saying this (seriously, you have no idea), but the Yankees, as presently built, have the best Round 1 team in the American League. In a short series, you need 4-5 reliable bats, one money starter, two decent starters, one quality set-up guy, one quality closer, some luck, a manager who won't kill you, and that's about it. They have all of those things. Can't say the same for Anaheim/California/Los Angeles.

Sox-Sox
Fascinating series. One of the things that made the White Sox such a great regular season team was their pitching depth -- they didn't have one crappy reliever, and they had so many starters that Brandon McCarthy (one of the more talented young pitchers this season) didn't even make their playoff roster. Well, here's the thing about pitching depth -- in a five-game series, it's irrelevant unless you're playing a 12-inning game (which seems inevitable because I just jinxed it). And when you throw in their bats (meager on paper, somehow they always manage to scrape together 3-4 runs), it's hard to see how they would translate well in a short series.

On the other hand, you have the Red Sox ... somewhat of a mess right now. Their Game 1 starter (Matt Clement) hasn't been the same since that line drive nailed him in the face in Tampa last July. Their two most "reliable" money pitchers (Wells and Schilling) are a combined 70 years old. Their 39 year-old closer (Timlin) pitched 81 games this season (and counting) and can't come into a game with guys on base. Their flame-throwing set-up guy (Papelbon) has been superb, but nobody truly knows how he will respond this week. The rest of the staff is shaky at best, although Bronson Arroyo's CD was spectacular. Offensively, Big Papi, Manny and Damon have been the only reliable bats down the stretch. Varitek wore down as the season went along, and Nixon and Millar never really got going. Graffanino has been a pleasant surprise (like an Italian Marty Barrett), although my Dad grumbled this weekend, "Most of his hits come when we don't need them." (I don't agree, but we'll see.) Mueller is okay. Renteria ... ugh. And so on. It's certainly not the same running-on-all-cylinders offense from last October, that's for sure.

Still, it's the Little Things that kept hurting this team -- Renteria's staggering errors (30 in all), poorly-timed defensive plays (like Millar botching the line drive on Saturday), double plays that aren't made, runners getting thrown out at home by 20 feet, Francona stupidly bringing in Timlin in the middle of innings ... you get the picture. For instance, on Saturday, with Johnson's pitch count edging over 80 after four innings and New York's decrepit middle relief corps looming, Renteria/Ortiz/Manny swung at 5 pitches combined in the fifth inning. What??? That NEVER would have happened last season.

With that said, they're still built for a short series better than the White Sox, mainly because of the Wells-Schilling combo (does anyone think these two won't show up this month?), and the brilliance of Big Papi, and the fact that Manny is currently in one of those red-hot Manny Zones (giving the Sox two dangerous hitters, back-to-back, that can win this series pretty much by themselves). If and when they lose, it will be because of the Little Things. I just don't think it's happening this week.

The pick: Red Sox in four.



Bill_Simmons
Bill
Simmons
October 2005
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