By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Instead of the regularly scheduled column, Page 2's Bill Simmons answers reader mail. We'll return you to his regularly scheduled writings next week.

Steve Grogan
"You've gotta learn to deal with those things" or you'll end up like Steve Grogan.

Question: Why can't women work the remote control? In my house, to be able to watch a sporting event (like, I don't know, Game 4 of the NBA Finals), I allow my girlfriend to watch something else during the commercials (so she gets to catch the highlights of... oh, I don't know... let's just say, for example, "American Idol"). If I have the remote, I can flip back to the game within two seconds either way of the game starting up again. Women have no such sense -- they randomly flip with no understanding of the commercial break, so we miss parts of the game. It's a real problem. So why can't women work the remote? And yes, I understand I get the Doug Christie jersey for allowing the remote to leave my hands during the game.
-- K. Kincaid, Washington

Sports Guy: You get the Christie jersey plus a red card for giving up the remote. Never, ever, ever, ever give up the remote. Women can't handle the responsibility -- it's like they become afflicted with Temporary ADD. For one thing, when holding a remote, women lose all track of time (there's no rational explanation for this, other than that they turn into the guy from "Memento"). They also can't remember the actual buttons on the remote. They could be using it for 100 straight hours and it still seems as if they're trying to operate a spaceship.

But here's the biggie: Women can't get easily thrown off track. When they start flipping channels, they try to adhere to that "Hey, I only have two minutes mindset," but then see George Clooney talking to Jules Asner on E!, so there's 60 seconds right there -- just them staring at George, like they have a friggin' chance in the world. Then they see Jules and instinctively despise her, so they ask you if you think Jules is cute, and when you say yes, they come back with something sarcastic like "You would think she's cute" or "Yeah, it's really tough to look good when you have nine people doing your makeup and hair and pampering you; I'm sure she looks great in the morning."

Then they get angry, and suddenly five minutes has passed and you're trying to swallow your own tongue. Plus you're missing the game. Not good times.

Q: What is your favorite nonsensical sports cliché of all time? Mine is "I just let the game come to me." Followed closely by "We just have to take one game at a time."
-- D. Kern, Bronx, N.Y.

Sports Guy: I've always been a fan of "You've gotta learn to deal with those things or you're not gonna be around this league too long," a Steve Grogan staple from the 1970s and '80s. Running a distant second would be, "Well, Rickey's Rickey," which has been said by every single baseball player, executive and manager who has ever attempted to explain something Rickey Henderson just did or said over the past 24 years. Never fails to crack me up. I actually was co-host of a radio show last week in which I asked a question for the San Diego GM specifically so he could say the phrase, "Well, Rickey's Rickey." It was too easy.

Anna Kournikova
More people might be hanging around at the end of Anna Kournikova's matches.

Q: I was just reading your World Cup article... I have a comment on the tradition where the players exchange jerseys after the match. Wouldn't that would be a good way to boost ratings for the WNBA, women's tennis, NCAA women's field hockey and volleyball tourneys ... wouldn't this draw Super Bowl-level ratings? What do you think? Imagine Jennifer Capriati and Anna Kournikova exchanging shirts after a tennis match?
-- Paul, Boston

Sports Guy: (Unable to speak.)

Q: Do you ever think back to the stupid sports arguments you've made over the years, especially when you were younger? It's embarrassing, but funny, kind of like your freshman yearbook picture. I once had an ongoing -- ongoing, mind you -- argument that Chicago's Neal Anderson, by virtue of being a better receiver and blocker, was a better back than Barry Sanders. I can't believe I'm telling you this, actually. I also said that "Rick Mirer is going to be a better pro than Drew Bledsoe." I was very, very adamant about this. I will now go beat myself with my autographed Neal Anderson helmet.
-- K. Cooper, Muncie, Ind.

Sports Guy: My worst one happened after Bill Parcells left the Patriots, when I argued with anyone who would listen that Pete Carroll was a better coach for the '97 Pats because he was "more laid back." I wish I could go back in time, get pumped and jacked, and club myself over the head with a pair of shoulder pads.

One recent example happened just last summer, when I argued that the Celtics made the right move by taking Denver's No. 1 pick (No. 10 overall, used for Joe Johnson), instead of rolling the pick over to one of the following seasons and hoping the Nuggets went in the tank. Just haunting. Here were the star-crossed Nuggets, one of the worst franchises of the past 20 years, with Dan Issel running them no less, playing in the wildly competitive Western Conference ... and somehow I never envisioned a scenario in which A) they might fall apart, and B) they might yield a top-five pick.

(What makes it worse was that my dad was totally against taking the pick; we argued about it all last summer, and he ended up being right. Don't you just hate when that happens? I'm really looking forward to Wednesday's draft, when Dad points out -- roughly 63,435 times over a three-hour span -- how the Celts could have had Chris Wilcox or Caron Butler. Arrrrgh. Let's just move on.)

Q: At what point does a girl that you've been seeing make the leap to girlfriend status? My friend insists it's when they first feel comfortable enough to leave an item or two of clothing at your house. I disagree, I think it's when she's over on a weekend afternoon and you allow her to flip the channel between innings over to USA for a matinee viewing of "Beaches."
-- John L, New York

Sports Guy: Another question about channel flipping? I need to stage a group intervention with my readers. Anyway, I would say they reach "girlfriend status" the moment they leave something at your house and it isn't an accident. During those first few weeks, they always try to leave things and pretend it's an accident, like a dog marking its territory ... but once things progress and you have a conversation that includes the sentences "I thought I'd leave a couple of things here for when I sleep over" and "OK, that sounds like a good idea," then you have a girlfriend. That's the bottom line.

Luis Castillo
Just leave Luis Castillo alone. He's Luis Castillo, after all.

Q: How can we prevent Luis Castillo from breaking Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak? Should we start mailing chicken blood and evil voodoo dolls to the Marlins clubhouse? I am willing to do whatever it takes.
-- M. Howell, New York

Sports Guy: What about setting him up with Martina Hingis, a k a, "The Black Widow"? She'll send him in an 0-30 slide in less than 48 hours. Now there's somebody who should have her own reality TV show. Anyway, I wouldn't worry about Luis. Some things just aren't meant to happen, and Luis Castillo hitting in 57 straight games is one of them.

Speaking of hitting streaks, we're nearing the 15th anniversary of my favorite hitting streak moment: Aug. 26, 1987, also known as ManningGate. Here's the scene: Milwaukee's Paul Molitor has a 39-game hit streak going, playing at home against the Indians. It's 0-0 in the 10th inning. Moiltor still doesn't have a hit. Two Brewers reach base -- first and second, one out, pinch-hitter Rick Manning at the plate, and Molitor on deck with one last chance to keep the streak alive.

So what happens? Manning singles to win the game! Swear to God. Manning singlehandedly ended Molitor's streak! My buddy Gus and I are the only two people other than Molitor who remember this; we always thought it was the all-time Jerk Move by which all Jerk Moves should be measured. I remember watching the highlights in my basement while we were playing MicroLeague Baseball together; we almost went into shock. Just astounding. I still can't believe it. And just for the record, I'm not just asking for a "Baseball Tonight" feature about ManningGate, I'm demanding it.

Q: Your description of the Rachel Griffiths character in "The Rookie" intrigues me because I feel the same way about the Adrian Balboa-type characters (always a staple in sports movies, always irritating). My question is, how many exceptions to this rule exist? Who are the starters on the All-Time Anti-Adrian Balboa Team?
-- J. Reid, Buffalo, N.Y.

Sports Guy: Very good question. Susan Sarandon's character in "Bull Durham" was probably the best example -- not only did she add to the movie and carry much of the story, she even got naked (although Bull Durham bordered dangerously close on being a Chick Flick). Rene Russo added to "Major League." Swish added to "Fast Break." Kevin Costner's wife added to "Field of Dreams." The girls from "Varsity Blues" were good. I enjoyed Hanrahan's wife in "Slap Shot." I would throw Renée Zellweger's performance in "Jerry Maguire" in here, but that would start another "Sports Movie or Chick Flick" controversy about that movie, and frankly, I'm not prepared to settle it yet. Gimme a few more months.

Robert Horry
Study this for your SATs: Robert Horry is to the Lakers as Nate Dogg is to ...

Q: Can we please find a category for guys such as Robert Horry and Nate Dogg? Everything they touch turns to gold, yet neither of them are that great at what they do. I don't think Nate Dogg has ever had a hit on his own, but if you add "Featuring Nate Dogg" to a song the record just automatically goes platinum. Robert Horry has won five championships on two different teams, yet never was the main focus on the team. Probably dozens more of these guys, this list needs to happen.
--R. Nugent, Pleasantville, N.Y.

Sports Guy: Now that is why I love writing this column. Only one of my readers would point out the startling similarities between Big Game Bob Horry and Nate Dogg. Tremendous e-mail. I wish I could give out prizes for this stuff.

Q: If back in 1987, when "Less Than Zero" was in the theaters, I offered you stock in "Jamie Gertz will end up playing Gilda Radner in a made-for-TV biographical movie in 2002" would you have invested? Doubt it, huh? Nothing against Radner, very funny woman but in my opinion was definitely more of a "she's got a great personality" type of person. Dude, do you remember how hot Gertz was back in the '80s? Also, can you name five more hot chicks from the '80s who slipped into oblivion?
-- Rafael Alenda

Sports Guy: First of all, don't call me "dude." I mean, ever. Anyway, yes, I can name five hot actresses from the '80s who slipped into oblivion:

The blonde chick from "Teen Wolf" ... Axel Foley's hot friend from "Beverly Hills Cop" (who you know Axel sealed the deal with but they had to cut it from the movie because America wasn't quite ready for that in 1985) ... Tom Cruise's girlfriend in "Rain Man" (saucy and a cool accent) ... Kelly McGillis, who inexplicably turned into an East German man after "The Accused" ... and the phenomenal Lori Loughlin, maybe my favorite '80s actress and somebody who really brought the best out of C. Thomas Howell in "Secret Admirer." Sure, she had "Full House," but she never really went big-time like Kelly Preston did. You think she ever gets pissed that the girl from "Felicity" ended up having the career that she should have had in the '80s? Maybe there's still time.

Q: If you were a WWE wrestler, what would be your entrance music?
-- Mike H., Redondo Beach, Calif.

Sports Guy: I'd want to come out to Vince McMahon's "No Chance" song, just so I could perform the "I have complete and utter disdain for everyone in this building, and that's why I'm walking with an exaggerated swagger and frowning" routine while 20,000 people lustily boo me. That seems like more fun than humans should be allowed.

Q: Who would you say is the most ridiculous "Guy that Seems Dorky, but Winds up Getting the Girl in the End" in movie history? Personally, my vote has to go to Jason Mellon from "Back to School." Not a redeeming quality about the guy ... goofy looking, annoying speech impediment, drank to much and got belligerent, best friend is Robert Downey Jr., etc. On top of all that, the guy is a diver. I guess as a separate question is there a more shocking event that draws thousands of spectators than the diving meets (or whatever they are called) in this movie? This movie baffles me.
-- John, Minneapolis

Sports Guy: I'm with you on everything. I'll even take it a step further -- you could argue that Jason Mellon was the ultimate "Character that didn't bring anything to the table in a good movie and in fact took things off the table" character of the past 20 years. Did he have a redeeming quality? He wasn't funny, he didn't sell any of Dangerfield's jokes, he was scrawny and nerdy, and you kept waiting for him to turn into Arnie from "Christine." I couldn't stand Jason Mellon. No way this guy punches out Billy Zabka in his prime. It just doesn't happen. He singlehandedly kept that movie from being a genuine classic. I'm getting angry just writing about it.

Q: Is there any way at all to hit on a Hooters waitress, yet maintain some dignity at the same time?
-- Jeff Bailey

Sports Guy: I would say yes. If you're hitting on a stripper ... no, you can't maintain any dignity. It's impossible. But Hooters waitresses are higher up on the phylum; they weren't quite desperate enough to become strippers, but they're still using their body to make a little extra cash, so they're fair game. And since you're not seeing them naked, you're not putting $1 bills into their belt, you're not straining to hear them over the sounds of Guns 'N' Roses or Kid Rock, and they're not trying to lure you into the Champagne Room ... it seems that you can hit on them and maintain some dignity at the same time. I'm willing to hear opposing arguments, however.

Aaron Spelling
Coming this fall, Aaron Spelling's "Charlie's 90210 Melrose TJ Hooker Angels Catch the Love Boat Cruise to Fantasy Island."

Q: Shouldn't there be a great big Aaron Spelling reunion show, where every show the man ever made is incorporated into one great big hodge-podge? Like the casts of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Melrose Place" ride the "Love Boat" to "Fantasy Island," or some such thing? What kind of overnights would that generate?
-- J. Sparks, Minneapolis

Sports Guy: I think you're onto something here: A 10-hour, five-day TV-movie featuring the casts of "90210," "Melrose," "Charlie's Angels" and "TJ Hooker" all going on the "Love Boat," eventually headed to "Fantasy Island." Just the chance to see Ian Ziering, William Shatner, the guy who played Bosley, and the Gay Guy from "Melrose" getting introduced in those little "Love Boat" guest star life preservers in the beginning... that would transcend the concept of comedy as we currently know it.

That reminds me of a story from college ...

(Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert!)

One night during my senior year, I wanted to watch a "Love Boat" rerun and none of my roommates were backing me. Since the show was just starting, I made the argument that we should let the roll call of guest stars (in the beginning of the show) determine whether we watched the rest. If the mere sight of one of the guest stars made us instantaneously laugh out loud, I proposed, we would have to watch the rest of the show. Everyone else quickly agreed just to shut me up.

So the episode starts, and they start showing the guest stars in alphabetical order as the tension mounts. Let's face it, this was the best part of the "Love Boat," the chance to see all these C-level TV stars and has-beens looking ecstatic just to be working, smiling at the camera through those little life preservers. Anyway, just when I was about to give up hope because we had reached the tail end of the alphabet, up pops Vic Tayback, who played "Mel The Cook" in the late-70s sitcom "Alice." Just a classic TV That Guy. So Vic pops on the screen, stares right into the camera with a happy smile... and for good measure, as if we didn't already know that he was happy to be there, he raises his hands and gives us a double "Thumbs up."

And we erupted. You really had to be there. You couldn't make this up in a million years -- Vic Tayback, coming out of nowhere, giving the double thumbs-up. Needless to say, we watched the whole show. Man, I miss college.

Q: I am going to Boston for the first time ever on July 26 to watch the Sox play the Orioles. Being an avid reader, I'm sure that you could direct me to a few do's and don'ts for my trip.
--R. Kloesel, Weimar, Texas

Sports Guy: It's amazing how many people send me similar e-mails like this one. Apparently I'm not just a sports columnist, I'm Julie McCoy. Anyway, the Fenway trip is pretty self-explanatory - it's right in the middle of Kenmore Square, there are a ton of bars around there, you're right near the MBTA and there's plenty to do. I only have three tidbits of advice:

1. Don't wear the jersey of an opposing team to Fenway unless you want Will Hunting's buddies to harrass you for nine innings.

2. Remember, it's "No-mahhh," not "Nomar." Say "Nomar" and people will look at you funny.

3. Bring some Advil. Fenway was built in 1912 -- repeat: 90 years ago, in 1912 -- so few of the seats actually face home plate, they're all wayyyyyy too small unless you're Haley Joel Osment, and it's so crammed that you will be able to identify the various scenes of B.O. around you by the top of the fourth. You will be stiff, sore, sweaty and unhappy by the seventh inning. It's quite a place. Fun for the whole family. I'll never forget the time I left three of my vertebrae in Section 33 during a 14-inning game. Can you put a price on this kind of fun? Of course not.

Q: I recently read an article that mentioned what different celebrities required in their dressing rooms before a performance (Britney Spears demands a private phone line, Jennifer Lopez demands a dozen flowers or whatever). But the one that got me was Busta Rhymes. He requests, and I'm not making this up, a 24-piece bucket of KFC, six bottles of Moet champagne, and one full box of ribbed condoms. Classic. Anyway, what would the Sports Guy demand to have in his dressing room?
-- Dave Culp, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Sports Guy: You mean, besides a 24-piece bucket of KFC, six bottles of Moet champagne, and one full box of ribbed condoms? Here's what else I would need: A 40-inch TV with the PlayStation 2 (with "Tiger Woods 2002" and "Madden 2002," both unopened) ... a big bowl of fresh Sour Patch Kids (with all the green ones picked out and discarded) ... a fridge full of Red Bull and Absolut Vodka (also known as "The Gambler's Delight") ... and since I'd be traveling with my posse, we would obviously need a regulation-sized poker table with poker chips and two fresh decks of cards, as well as the entire collection of the "Girls Gone Wild" DVD's on hand (just for comedy's sake). That's about it. I'm pretty easy.

Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas
Don Johnson, left, and Philip Michael Thomas were the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of 1980s TV.

Q: Is it fair to compare Michael Jordan's present run with the Wizards to Don Johnson's run on "Nash Bridges"?
-- A. Gray, Boston

Sports Guy: I think it's fair. Both of them burst onto the scene in 1984, took their respective industries by storm, became megastars and captured some titles and awards. Both of them struggled with "love of the game" in their primes -- MJ playing baseball, Johnson dabbling with his singing career. MJ ended up winning three more titles and cementing his reputation as the greatest player of all time; meanwhile, during the waning years of "Miami Vice," Sonny Crockett became a ponytailed, amnesiac, Colombian hitman for the best series of episodes in "Vice" history. Even the Scottie Pippen-Philip Michael Thomas parallels are obvious -- two superb sidekicks, both capable of handling their own episode from time to time.

But here's the kicker: MJ disappeared for three years, ultimately returning with the Wizards ... and ultimately, every MJ fan ended up pretending that the comeback wasn't actually happening. Wasn't that the same thing for "Miami Vice" fans and "Nash Bridges"? Seeing a heavy, aging Sonny Crockett solving crimes with Cheech Marin ... was that better or worse than seeing MJ limp around on the same team as Popeye Jones and Chris Whitney? Food for thought.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine.




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