Has it really been eight months since the last mailbag? Eight? I'm fining myself $50,000. That's ridiculous. I apologize. Anyway, please keep in mind that everything you're about to read came from actual e-mails sent in by readers over the past few months. As always, thanks to everyone who takes the time to write in. Onto the e-mails ...
Q: Feel my pain. It's now two hours after Game 5 of the Spurs losing on the Derek Fisher miracle shot, and I had to check your "Levels of Losing" column for perspective. Was this a clear-cut Level II "Stomach Punch"?
--Rick Romo, Missouri City, Texas
SG: Funny you should ask -- I wondered about this even as Fisher was sprinting off the court. I can't remember a group of fans going from "Sheer Ecstacy" to "Complete Shock" in a smaller time frame, with the possible exception of A) the '72 Olympic game between USA and USSR, or B) Knicks fans finding out that Scott Layden had been fired and replaced by Isiah Thomas.
Four other things I need to mention before we get to the verdict:
1. Not to sound like Jesse Palmer, but Duncan's go-ahead basket was an amazing shot. Wasn't a heave, either. Even though he was flying to his left, soaring through the air with a hand in his face, he still took the extra split-second to straighten his body and follow through. If the Spurs had won the game that would have ranked among the greatest pressure shots in history -- considering the circumstances, the setting and everything else -- right up there with Jerry West's halfcourt heave in the '70 Finals, Reggie Miller's 3 against the '98 Bulls, MJ's shot at the end of the '98 Finals, Magic's sky hook in the '87 Finals and everything else. Alas.
2. How does Gregg Popovich NOT guard the inbounds pass? How? How? HOW????? Do you really need to double-team Kobe there? It wouldn't have been more helpful to have Horry jumping up and down and trying to tip the pass? A few readers mentioned this, but it's worth mentioning again -- after Laettner made The Shot against Kentucky, I always thought that was the last time we would ever see the inbounds passer left alone. Apparently not. And where was Bruce Bowen in the final second? Did they keep him on the bench so he could make the Thomas Hill Memorial "I Can't Believe That Went In" Face?
3. It was ironic that Fisher made the shot -- he's been the third-best Laker for the entire playoffs. Nobody ever mentions him. They will now.
4. Is there another sound in sports like the sound of a home crowd having its collective heart ripped out? First, the two-second shriek of disbelief, then the sound disappearing into a vacuum: Whooooooooosh. Dead silence. You get to hear that happen maybe five times a year.
Anyway, here's the verdict: It was definitely a "Stomach Punch" game, although the fact that the Spurs won the title last year tempers it just a little. For instance, if this happened to Minnesota or Sacramento, it would have been on par with the Byner Fumble and Hendu's Homer. But Spurs fans are in Year 1 of their five-year grace period ... it's hard to feel too sorry for them.
(And yes, I still think the Spurs can win the series. Remember what happened when the 2002 Celts came back from 28 down against the Nets, when it seemed like the Nets couldn't possibly bounce back? For some reason, I think the residual effects of a Stomach Punch Game are 10 times worse in baseball. No idea why.)
Q: How many pounds does Stan Van Gundy need to put on before he starts looking like Ron Jeremy?
--Al Shaw, Pawtucket, R.I.
SG: Ummmm ... zero?
Q: You're in Hollywood, you MUST make this happen: Find five smoking hot actress/singers (Beyonce, Gabrielle Union, Ashanti, Vivica Fox, J-Lo) put them all in a Doug Christie replica jersey-dress and heels; give them seats in the Sacramento wife/girlfriend section; then let the fireworks begin as Mrs. Christie goes ballistic -- the proceedings must be recorded and would beat all the Wrestlemanias combined.
--Tyler, Trenton, N.J.
SG: See, I keep hoping Ashton Kutcher tries to get the Christies on "Punk'D" -- similar scenario as you described, only Mrs. Christie starts cleaning house, and then Ashton comes running out with that big "We got you!" smile on his face, and an enraged Mrs. Christie buries a high-heeled shoe in his temple like the chick from "Single White Female." I like that scenario more because it ends with Ashton Kutcher having a high-heeled shoe embedded in his temple.
Q: I've got this friend who constantly writes to online columnists because he thinks it's cool to get his name published in their column. When they do quote him, he sends out a mass email to all of our friends proclaiming how "cool he must be." Please, somewhere in your next column could you just write "Jeff Dorman Sucks!"
--Brian Yanites, Tucson, Ariz.
SG: Come on ... there can't be somebody out there who actually does that. That's ridiculous. But if it happens, sure.
Q: So Adam Sandler and Chris Rock are headlining a remake of "The Longest Yard." Sandler is playing the part of Paul Crewe ... aka, Burt Reynolds. Now, Reynolds is a former football player; a '70s sex-symbol; the masculine icon for that decade. So naturally, the choice to replace him is ... Adam Sandler? Are they kidding?
--Jeff, Shawnee, Kansas
SG: Here's what bothers me: Why remake something that was great in the first place? They could never top the original "Longest Yard." It's impossible. And they know that. So the only way it could make money was to make it more of a comedy, which is how Sandler and Rock became involved. But since they're already losing out on every sports movie fan who loved the original one and would never support a bastardized version, that means they'll try to "mainstream" it and appeal to everyone, which can't possibly work. And then you have Sandler playing Paul Crewe, which is like remaking "The Shining" with Chris Klein. What a disaster.
If they really want to remake a movie from the '70s or '80s, why not pick a memorable idea that either A) didn't quite work for whatever reason, or B) has a theme that needs to be re-explored? I would pick these five:
1. "Silent Rage" -- Doctors bring an evil serial killer back to life ... now he's indestructable and running amok in a small Texas town. And only the sheriff can save the day. So here's my question: Which A-list action hero wouldn't play the sheriff? Doesn't this have The Rock written all over it?
2. "The Running Man" -- Fantastic idea, didn't quite work. I'm not sure if the special effects were lousy, or if Richard Dawson was a little too over-the-top. Maybe it was a little of both. By the way, the lead character in that movie? Now my governor. It's true. I know, I know ... hard to believe. Imagine how we feel. He's taken 35 vacations in six months. He's not kidding when he says "I'll be back," he just keeps forgetting to add "... from Hawaii, in about seven days."
3. "Escape from New York" -- Believe me, I loved this movie. It's in my top 50 all time. I just want to see what would happen with a $200 million budget and 21st-century special effects. It's worth thinking about, anyway. And what about Vin Diesel as Snake Plissken? Or is the Vin Diesel Era officially over? Can I get a ruling on this?
4. "Teen Wolf" -- Not as a movie ... but as a TV show. Seriously, who wouldn't watch "Teen Wolf" every week? It would be like a cross between "One Tree Hill" and "Alf." Sign me up.
5. "The Breakfast Club" -- They should remake this every 20 years. Just to see where we're at with high school kids. For instance, these days, Molly Ringwald's character couldn't be a virgin, simply because that species has gone extinct in high school. Maybe they could say that she's never been in a three-way before, or she's the only girl in her group who doesn't have a tongue piercing and a tattoo of a rose garden in the small of her back.
(By the way, if somebody remakes this movie, please remove the scene when Emilio Estevez's character breaks the library conference room window with his scream. Just trust me.)
Q: We just love your stuff. My buddies at work voted your columns best "poop material." We actually plan our poop and work around your writing. You completely crack us up!!!
--Billy K, Washington D.C.
SG: I've said it before, I'll say it again: There's nobody bigger in bathroom stalls than me. If they ever made printer paper that doubled as toilet paper, all hell would break loose.
Q: Your articles really speak to me as long as I'm stoned ... thanks a lot, man
--JB, Flint, Mich.
SG: Poopers, stoners ... I'm telling you, my parents have never been prouder.
Q: Wait a minute, you wrote there are three major rules that guys should never break -- can't be attracted to your buddy's sister, girlfriend or ex-girlfriend (if he had genuine feelings for her). But "90210" broke all of them as well. So, why did you continue to watch "90210" and not "Friends"?
--Mike Manzi, Sparta, N.J.
SG: That's an excellent question. Here's the big difference -- "90210" was a ridiculous show. This was a world where David Silver could be a successful singer; Steve Sanders could be a college student when he was 40 years old in real life; Andrea could get knocked up by a Mexican bartender in her freshman year of college, drop out of school, and none of her friends would be anything other than happy for her; and Tori Spelling (Tori Spelling!?!?!?!?) could step in at the last minute and model at a fashion show.
This was a world where Kelly Taylor joined a cult; was badly burned in a fire; miscarried; became addicted to diet pills; got shot and suffered amnesia; was raped and date-raped; and became a coke whore in the span of seven years. This was a world where Dylan was able to plan a wedding in 10 days, became a widower after his new bride was accidentally murdered by her own father, then left town on a motorcycle -- bringing only one duffel bag -- but not before giving the keys to his house to Brandon and telling him, "Lock up for me."
In this kind of world, all bets are off. And if you know that going in, I think it's OK. More importantly, the love triangle with Kelly DID affect Brandon and Dylan's friendship. They were never the same after that. They even ended up growing sideburns that were different sizes. Clearly, there were repercussions. Unlike with "Friends."
Q: Is it just me, or does Diana Taurasi's voice sound exactly like Ralph Macchio in the "Karate Kid"? I had SportsCenter on one morning and had my head turned and wasn't really paying attention -- Taurasi was on the Hot Seat and I had to whirl around and look at the TV cuz I thought it was Daniel-san espousing his love for Mr. Miyagi. Seriously, dude. You have to look into this for me.
-- Marvin Gapultos, Valencia, Calif.
Q: Regarding your list of great non-finals NBA performances: What about Larry Bird's Game 7 against Bernard King and the '84 Knicks? 39 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. The great Hubie Brown said that this was the game that elevated Larry from mere future Hall of Famer to mythic, legendary status. Also, I think decisive games should count more than others.
--Seth B, Jonesboro, Ark.
SG: Agreed. You could also argue that Game 5 of the Indy series in '91 should have been on there -- he banged his head on the floor, made the Willis Reed comeback and outbattled Miller and Person. It's tough to narrow it down to one or two memorable Larry playoff games, though. It's like picking a favorite "Chappelle Show" episode -- do you go with Charlie Murphy's story about playing hoops against Prince, or the one with Wayne Brady, or the one with the Black Real World ... I mean, how can you choose?
Q: Help me complete the trifecta ... I've been published by Peter King and John Donovan already this month, but you're my Kentucky Derby. Is there such a thing as "Old Man Strength," and if so, when does it kick in? My dad can still beat the hell out of me even though I'm 25 and he's 55, and I outweigh him by 30 pounds. Do your forearms just start growing as soon as you have a kid, or is there an age cutoff? It baffles me.
--Jeff Dorman, Cleveland
SG: Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks! Jeff Dorman sucks!
Q: While being subjected to the "Survivor All-Stars" finale last weekend, I couldn't help but think that it could have turned out to be one of the greatest moments on television if Amber were to win the vote and the million, then pull out a Yankees hat and tell Boston Rob that she used him the entire time.
--Ted Schneider, Seattle
SG: I like how you said it would have been "one of the greatest moments on television." I'm pretty sure that never would have been topped. By the way, what were the odds that the diehard Red Sox fan would end up losing 4-3 -- the same way the Sox lost in the '46, '75 and '86 World Series, as well as the 2003 ALCS -- then be credited for dominating the game all season and outwitting everybody, even though he fell just short in the end? This has all the makings of Dan Shaughnessy's next depressing book.
Q: Is the NBA pimping "Van Helsing" 24/7 because it stars Toni Kukoc as Van Helsing?
--Charlie B, Green Bay
SG: Speaking of foreign NBA players, when they're interviewed during games, don't you get disappointed when they don't live up to the stereotypes of their respective countries? Like Tony Parker -- when Michele Tafoya grabs him, he should quickly slip on a beret, start chain-smoking and say rude things to her. Or Manu Ginobili -- he could quickly put on one of those white Miami Vice drug-dealer suits and smoke long cigarettes. Dirk Nowitzki could wear a lederhosen with a feather in his hat. Pau Gasol could put on one of those purple man-blouses and a cheesy black leather jacket. And so on. I think ratings would skyrocket. It would be especially fun watching them put the costumes on.
Q: Love your columns, but just curious as to why no love for Pearl Jam? In your column titled "No Love for Sleepy," you mentioned the Blender magazine "50 Worst Songs of All Time" list and said that you would've personally voted for Pearl Jam's "Spin the Black Circle." What's wrong with that song?
--John D, Dayton, Ohio
SG: Wait a second ... Pearl Jam is my favorite band of all time. So calm down. It's not just that "Spin the Black Circle" was a dreadful song -- they released it as the first single off "Vitalogy" because they knew it was a dreadful song, and Eddie Vedder was trying to prove that, after two enormously successful albums, they had become famous enough that they could release ANYTHING -- even that horrible piece of crap -- and radio stations would play it, anyway, and their fans would crank it and make believe that they thought it was a good song. He was proving a point. I will always believe that.
(See, this is why I never write about music -- you can have strong opinions about sports and movies, but when you bring music into it, people go bonkers when they don't agree with you. That's why I usually avoid opening that can of worms. But in this case, I'm right and nobody else can convince me otherwise. So there.)
Q: Why in the heck haven't you been given the keys to ESPN Classic for a day?? Think about it. You could show games like this and expose people to what the NBA used to be like before the Knicks and Heat destroyed the league. I know I would watch. You could even give one-minute intros to the games. This would be good all around.
--Tom, Kansas City, Mo.
SG: Last year, I e-mailed one of my ESPN bosses and pitched that exact concept: Give me the keys to Classic for an entire weekend. I had a schedule of games and everything. It would have been like when Joel Stein took over Trio for an entire week, with the added bonus that I'm not Joel Stein. But they didn't bite. Don't they realize that I would bring them the pooper and stoner demos? Maybe I need a twin brother, some goofy glasses and dozens of over-rehearsed one-liners before I'm ready for prime time.
Q: OK, Sports Guy, I've got a question for you on behalf of conflicted NBA fans across the land: Is it finally OK to like watching the Miami Heat now??
--Daven Kang, Santa Barbara, Calif.
SG: Yes. Just remember who predicted it would be a tough series. (And yes, forget some of the other predictions, but remember that one!) I don't think I could be more excited about the Dwyane Wade Era. It's not possible. Pat Riley should throw a parade for himself after that pick. It's funny, we spent the whole year arguing about 'Melo and Darko, but Wade would have been a better fit for the Pistons then both of them.
(Then again, he couldn't have come close to approaching Darko on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Does anyone else think NBA Entertainment should make a DVD called "Ultimate Darko" -- featuring every minute that Darko played this season, plus some of his best high-fives and shoulder-slaps on the Pistons bench, along with director's commentary from Darko, LaRue Martin, Sam Bowie and Steve Stipanovich? I would spend up to $14.99 on that one.)
Q: I don't live in a cave or anything, but I noticed that Page 2 no longer shows you as a writer for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in the little sentence at the end of each column. I've heard nothing about the show going away, but nothing about you leaving, either. What's going on?
--Matt Karpowitz, Olathe, Kansas
SG: Remember when MJ came back to the Bulls in '95 and put out that two-word press release? Well ...I'm not MJ. So I can't do that.
But yes, something is going on. Two weeks ago, I left Jimmy's show, and I'm signing a new contract with ESPN. When it came right down to it, I missed writing my column and wanted the chance to pursue some additional opportunities with ESPN (none of which I'm allowed to mention yet -- although sadly, the launching of ESPN6 isn't one of them). Between working 60 hours a week for a TV show and trying to keep my column alive, there just wasn't enough time in the week. And I felt like my writing was starting to slip -- I just didn't have enough time to work on columns or even think about them (which is three-fourths of the writing process). So something had to give.
On a sad note, I'm leaving behind one of the best experiences of my life. I can't possibly explain what it feels like to help launch such a massive enterprise from scratch. People come, people go, people panic, people flip out, people screw up, people screw up some more ... somehow the show keeps moving along. It's a little like building a house. Things eventually take shape, and somewhere along the line you think to yourself, "Wow, this is starting to look like a house." If you have a creative bone in your body, it's one of the most satisfying feelings you can have. I was lucky.
I would tell you more, but devoting anything less than 100,000 words to everything I loved about working for this show would belittle the impact that everyone had on me. You'll have to wait for the book. Sure, I'll never write it, but you'll have to wait.
Anyway ...I'm back. (Now I wish I had gone with the two-word press release.)
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN the Magazine