By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Got a sobering e-mail from Mike in Vancouver this week: "Could you please stop the ongoing digs at Nash and his MVP award? You are starting to sound like Billy Packer railing against St. Joe's as a No. 1 seed or why there should be fewer mid-majors in the tourney. We all eventually become bitter, but could you at least wait until you get in your 40s?"

Wow. He played the Packer card. That's a wake-up call.

You know what? Mike is right: I need to let the Nash thing go. The NBA is clearly moving into a new direction -- defense doesn't matter as much, point guards matter more than they once did, and someone like Nash is twice as valuable as he was two years ago. Maybe he's not the best player in the league, but he's in the top five or six, and he's certainly one of the most fun to watch. He's also the best teammate alive -- for God's sake, he even rejuvenated Tim Thomas' career. I need to stop nitpicking with him. When Barkley gives him "that's one bad-ass white boy" status, that's saying something.

One more thing while we're here: Nash's supporting cast, even without Amare Stoudemire, is better than everyone thinks. Shawn Marion is a top-25 guy in his prime. Raja Bell is the evolutionary Bruce Bowen. Every team in the NBA would kill to have Boris Diaw, who can play four positions and doesn't need the ball to be effective; he's only 23 and getting better by the week. (He's a mortal lock for my annual top-40 trade value list this summer, by the way.) Say what you want about Thomas, but there are only a handful of forwards who can post up little guys, shoot 3s over big guys and guard both types of players. (If he hadn't been such a dog for the past nine years, he'd be in line for a $50 million contract after the playoffs.) And Leandro Barbosa is the most underrated player in the league -- he scores on everybody, heats right up off the bench (no small feat), plays both guard positions, carries the offense for quarters at a time ... and he's only 23. You're looking at this generation's Vinnie Johnson at the very least.

Here's the point: Maybe the Suns only go six deep, but they're all elite players who mesh perfectly together, and they have a world-class coach who gives his players the freedom to ad-lib (like when Thomas audibled out of the set play and passed to Diaw for Wednesday's game-winner). I still think the Clippers should have beaten them, and I'll always wonder what would have happened if Odom pulled down that rebound in Game 6 in the Lakers series ... but the Suns seem to be gaining steam as the spring rolls on and you can't discount the whole "2001 Patriots/lucky breaks" factor here. Hey, maybe you CAN win the NBA title by simply outscoring everybody and getting a couple of breaks along the way. Two years ago, I remember thinking that the Pistons could never win a title by simply cracking down on defense ... and then they rolled through the Lakers that June. With the new rules, could someone win a title simply by outscoring everyone else? Three weeks ago, I would have ruled it out. Now? I'm not so sure.

NBA's Greatest Game 7s
After the Mavs beat the Spurs in a thrilling Game 7, Bill just had to compile his list of the greatest Game 7s in NBA playoff history.

The Ramblings: A great night of television

Anyway, it's time to crack open another mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: As far as NBA draft-speak goes, is "motor" the new "length"? Seriously, everyone is raving about Tyrus Thomas that he's like Stromile Swift, but with "a motor." What does that even mean? On another note, has "upside" hit its "ceiling"?
-- Dave, Toronto

SG: You're right, "motor" never came into play until this year -- now we're hearing it all the time, although it's too early to say if it will join the ranks of "upside," "length," "stroke," "wingspan," "ceiling," "slasher," "tremendous upside potential" and "basketball IQ" as a draft-day phrase that ends up getting beaten to smithereens. (By the way, I'm not even sure what "Stromile Swift with a motor" means; it's like describing someone as "Rafael Araujo with athletic ability" or "Kevin Federline with talent.") And no, I don't think "upside" has hit its ceiling; there's still some upside there.

As for some other draft terms gaining steam, "tenacity" is becoming the most colorful way to describe someone's competitiveness, as in "Adam Morrison's tenacity is off the charts!" On the flip side, everyone worries about Rudy Gay's "assertiveness," which is a nice way of saying that it's tough to tell whether he's awake. But I think my new favorite word is "freakish." In his top-100, Chad Ford raves about the "freakish wingspans" of both Sene Seer AND Gay. It's too bad Freddy Krueger isn't in this draft.

One word we haven't quite figured out: How to say that someone is more athletic than the typically athletic prospect. I thought of this one while reading Chad Ford's blog, when he wrote about Rajan Rondo's workouts and how teams "were blown away by his elite athleticism and the way he uses it on the court." Elite athleticism? As opposed to middle-class athleticism? I don't think so. I like "uber-athleticism" more because it bangs the point home -- folks, this guy isn't just athletic, he's UBER-athletic. Or, we could come up with a new word altogether; I always liked the word "nuclear." Would you be more enticed by a guy with "elite athleticism" or "nuclear athleticism"?

I also think we should combine "athletic" and "agile" (the two most common draft-day words) into one word: "agiletic." And Chad used the word "jaw-dropping" twice in the same paragraph about Sene Seer's upside this week; I submit that we should reconfigure that word into a cooler, sleeker noun to maximize its effects and give "upside" a break from time to time: "dropjaw."

Watch how nice this sentence reads: "With a freakish wingspan and nuclear motor, the uber-agiletic Ty Thomas has dropjaw with no real ceiling."

(You have to admit, that sentence had some upside.)

Q: What was [Terry] Francona thinking on Monday night? How can you pitch to Mr. March in an eight-run game? Doesn't he know that A-Job bats like .900 in six-to-10 run games? You HAVE to walk him in that situation.
-- Chris, Cincinnati

SG: (Giggling.)

Q: Did you READ Peter King's MMQB column this week? Where on the scale of "most ridiculous unjustified whining well after the game is over" scale do the '05 Seahawks rank? I'd say at least an 8.9. It's been more than three MONTHS and they're STILL whining! Look, it's one thing if the call certainly cost you the game (e.g. the Tuck Rule game, the '72 U.S. basketball team, etc.), but come on. The Seahawks have no one to blame but themselves. Get over it.
-- John Gale, Albuquerque, N.M.

SG: Hear hear. I think Mike Holmgren is keeping it up to deflect attention from the fact that he mangled the clock management at the end of both halves. Seriously, did that game even crack the top-100 worst officiated games of the past 25 years? What about the Don Denkinger Game, or Game 6 of the 2002 Kings-Lakers series, or Game 7 of the 1993 Sonics-Suns series, or the Pats-Raiders playoff game in 1976, or the Jeffrey Maier Game, or the Hart-Michaels match at the 1997 Survivor Series? Let's face it, that was just a lousy Super Bowl -- the officials stunk, but so did both teams. Deep down, the Seattle fans know that their team didn't do enough to win that game. You guys should be worrying about more important things -- like figuring out what the HELL is going on with Felix Hernandez.

QUALITY QUESTIONS THAT JUST DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT
I don't understand why everyone is so hard on A-Rod. He is completely consistent. In fact I just won $20 off my roommate calling his inning-ending, bases-loaded, double play in the eighth against my Mets. Thanks, A-Rod, and keep up the good work.
-- Kyle, Raleigh, N.C.

Here is the good postscript to the piece you wrote about the classic A-Rod moments the last two nights: My friend who lives in Vegas turned to his house full of Yankee fans on Sunday night and offered $10 to ANYONE that E-Rod grounds into a DP. And nobody would take it. If a room full of Yankee fans isn't willing to back this guy, shouldn't Cashman be looking to ship him to the Nationals for Soriano and offering to pick up the rest of the salary that the Rangers aren't already offering to pick up or something?
-- Dave, Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Cheap Seats" is a hilarious show, I don't know what your problem is. Maybe you're just jealous that somebody else got a TV show where they can make smart-ass analogies and you only have an article.
-- Erik, Mill Creek, Wash.

While in Vegas, my buddies and I invented a drink called "The Bonds." It's a beer that's 90 percent head. In fact, I am drinking one now.
-- Al, Eugene, Ore.

Has Hubie Brown ever witnessed a bad call or bad timeout?
-- Matt, Los Angeles

At some point during a Rasheed Wallace interview I expect him to scream into the microphone, "Yes they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell!!!"
-- Jay Stewart, Spokane, Wash.

Just wondering when the Mike Brown "LeBron is getting triple-teamed, and no one else can hit a shot, now what?" Face will be authenticated.
-- Chad Magistro, Columbus, Ohio

Here's my "Lost" question: Who has a better chest, Kate or Hurley?
-- Whitney Goldstein, New York

Just read your column from Monday night's TiVo extravaganza. Good stuff as always, but how come no mention of the Craig Sager/Paul Mokeski interview during Suns-Clippers? Were you too dismayed (as I was) that Mokeski is balding and has lost his '80s perm?
-- Mark, Quincy, Mass.

Wait ... how the hell did Pedro Gomez just win "American Idol"?
-- Shihwan, New York

(As you know, he's the shining light of my AL-only fantasy team, so watching him struggle for these first two months has almost been like watching a son flounder in Little League. But my co-owner Hench and I found solace in an incredible site called USSMariner.com, where the blogger charts the pitches in Felix's starts and has a whole theory about how new Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima has completely screwed up Felix by calling too many first-pitch fastballs (and not enough changeups). Not since Julia Roberts in "The Pelican Brief" has there been a random memo this on target. It's unbelievable. Now I'm resisting the urge to fly to Seattle and slice one of Johjima's hamstrings.)

Q: Of your "eight responsibilities during a baseball game" last week, you mentioned, "don't bring your baseball glove if you're over 13." Now I saw the Sox game last year where Doug Flutie caught that screaming fly ball along the first-base line. And he caught it with a glove. So I gotta ask: Does the fact that Doug Flutie brought a glove to Fenway mitigate those over 13 who break your cardinal rule? Or does it tarnish the record of one of the greatest sports heroes in Massachusetts history?
-- Rod Rocket, San Fernando Valley, Calif.

SG: First of all, great porn name. That's right up there with Dale DaBone and Randy Spears. As for your question, Doug Flutie was so important to everyone in New England in the mid-'80s from his BC days, we ended up cutting him an unbelievable amount of slack over the past two decades. For instance ...

• During the NFL strike in 1987, he pulled a Shane Falco and crossed the picket line to play for the Pats as a replacement QB. We didn't hold it against him.

• During the '88 season, when he was finally given the starting QB job over Tony Eason after we did everything but throw bags of urine at then-coach Raymond Berry, Flutie was incompetent enough that he headed to Canada and wasn't seen for another nine years. We all eventually agreed to pretend that this never happened.

• Not only did he keep the mid-'80s pseudo-mullet going into the mid-'90s, but his wife kept the Shelley Long '80s cut (hair over the shoulders, parted bangs over the forehead, a little too frizzy) going over that same time. We all agreed not to say anything.

• He started a crappy rock band with his brother (a la the Bacon brothers) and we never made fun of him for it.

• He brought his glove to a baseball game at Fenway and caught a foul ball ... nobody made a "Why are you bringing your glove to a baseball game?" joke.

Here's the point: Sometimes you can reach a place in life where you get permanent immunity no matter what happens. I hate playing the "you had to be there" card, but you really had to be there to understand the Flutie phenomenon at Boston College -- it came out of nowhere, took a life of its own, completely electrified BC fans and non-BC fans (including me), followed by everyone in Massachusetts hopping on the bandwagon ... and then the Hail Mary pass in the Miami game happened during Thanksgiving weekend (maybe the all-time "everyone in the state remembers exactly where they where when it happened" Boston sports moment). After that, he was set for life. I'm just glad he passed through mine. And since he retired last week, I had to mention that.

Q: I am getting married and my future wife wants to name our reception tables after authors/writers instead of numbering them. Believe it or not, I actually convinced her to name one of our tables after you (she likes to identify with the Sports Gal and enjoys your takes on the "O.C.," "Real World," etc.). Anyway, along with naming the table, we are going to include a quote from the writer and I was wondering if you could provide me with a quote that I could use.
-- Dave B., Chicago

SG: Sure. How 'bout, "Welcome to hell!"

Q: After watching the season finale of "The O.C." my friend Mike and I debated how long we thought it would be before Mischa Barton ends up doing soft porn on Cinemax. We both agree that five years sounds about right. Your thoughts?
-- Pat, Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.

SG: Funny you should mention this -- when she died at the end "The O.C.," I joked to the Sports Gal, "Next stop: Cinemax!" But there are a couple of mitigating factors here:

1. She's only 20 years old and one of the most attractive women in Hollywood, so her best years might be ahead of her. It's possible. For instance, Neve Campbell couldn't act either, and she wasn't as attractive as Mischa Barton, but she got hooked to the "Scream" franchise and extended her time in the spotlight for another four years. So you can't rule out something like that here for Mischa. If she's smart, she should be reading only horror movie scripts right now.

2. She could shock everybody and make a movie with tons of sex and nudity -- this decade's "Wild Things" -- which would push her career to another level and possibly cause the Internet to shut down. By the way, that movie starred Neve Campbell as well. She had the best agent ever.

3. On the flip side, supposedly Mischa asked for too much money for Season 4 of "The O.C." and they kept saying no and telling her, "Look, we will absolutely kill off your character," and her agents didn't believe them, and finally, they just said "screw it" and killed her off. Making matters worse, she spoiled the surprise on "Access Hollywood" two days before, which is the ultimate Hollywood no-no -- almost like a wrestler refusing to cooperate with the agreed ending for a match. So she might be considered poison because of that. And you can't rule out the residual bad karma either.

My prediction: I see her taking a stab at a movie career and competing with the Jessicas (Biel and Alba) for a couple of years, followed by at least one bad horror movie, followed by the inevitable comeback to TV that doesn't work (a bad sitcom where she works in a bar or something), and then a couple more bad movies, and maybe even one more bad TV show, and then a dramatic 2014 appearance in the straight-to-DVD erotic thriller "Illicit Betrayal 4," where she plays a detective who gets lured into the world of high-class prostitution while investigating the murder of a hooker, at least until the detective's ex-boyfriend and partner (played by Wilmer Valderrama) saves the day.

Which reminds me ...

Q: Where does the MTV show "Yo Momma" rank on the Unintentional Comedy Scale?
-- Eddie D., Charlotte, N.C.

The show itself ranks in the high 70s, Wilmer's hosting job ranks in the mid-90s, and the part when Wilmer says, "Dis is your show ... YO MAMMA!" and crosses his arms over his chest is a solid 100. That kills me. It's never NOT funny. TNT should have hired him and Jalen Rose as the sideline reporters for the Western Conference finals.

Q: How much crueler can that ABC crew get? With the Cavs down 14 with four minutes to play against Detroit (Game 7), they start showing a montage of all the stomach-punch moments Cleveland has endured over the years. Cleveland fans have had enough, you don't need to kick 'em when they're down.
-- Brett, Los Gatos, Calif.

SG: I couldn't agree more -- thought the same thing as I was watching that game, and only because I'm conditioned to notice this stuff after enduring two solid decades of Babe Ruth footage during every nationally televised Red Sox game before the night of October 27, 2004. Now that I'm an alumnus of the whole "let's kick them in the collective groin when they're down" form of sports television production, I can look at it a little more objectively -- it doesn't make me angry or homicidal anymore, I just end up feeling sorry for the fans who are being tormented. It's an incredibly manipulative and insensitive TV device; even worse, it's unoriginal.

"Yeah, if the Cavs fall behind, wait until the game slips away, then we'll show all the bad playoff moments, that will really bang the moment home!"

Actually, no. Here's what it does: All the fans from that city end up hating you. For instance, I will always hate Fox and Joe Buck for what they inflicted on Red Sox fans during the 2003 and 2004 playoffs -- they went out of their way to play the Curse/Babe card, there was no dignity to it, and it was almost pathological in its frequency. I will never forgive them for it. And yeah, I know there's a need for TV networks to dumb the broadcast down for casual fans, someone who might not realize that Babe Ruth once played for the Red Sox (But seriously, by 2003, did anyone NOT know about that?) and I'm sure there's a ghoulish charm to showing the Babe's face over and over again. But I still hate them for it. And I'm sure Cavs fans felt the same way about ABC on Sunday.

I look at it this way: In the big scheme of things, sports doesn't matter nearly as much as we make it seem on a daily basis, although I do believe that it serves a beneficial overall purpose that ranks somewhere between the polio vaccine and Mr. Skin's Web site. At the same time, it DOES matter to people. Too much, sometimes. So when a group of fans is suffering through a traumatic moment -- in this case, the end of a season -- and a network is rubbing it in with footage of other traumatic moments involving these same fans, it's really sort of mean-spirited, isn't it? What's fun about that? Imagine if this happened with other moments in life? Like, you just found out that the sewage pipe in your house burst, and the Roto Rooter guy is telling you, "Yeah, it looks like it's going to be 10 grand to fix it ... and while you're digesting that doozy, let's recap every other horrible thing that's happened with this house! In September of 2004, you had just finished your playroom in the basement when we had some flooding and it was destroyed by water damage! What about April 2005, when you found out you had termites! And who can forget Thanksgiving in 2002 when your Uncle Chuck nearly choked to death in the dining room!"

I mean, would that EVER happen? So stop it, major TV networks. Just stop. We're begging you.

Q: You argued that Carlton Fisk had the best genital injury of all time (in the last mailbag), but you forgot about Jamie McLennan, St. Louis' backup goalie a few years ago. During a practice, Al MacInnis (who will forever be remembered for his uber-powerful slap shot) let loose a one-timer that hit his teammate squarely in the groin, shattering his goalie cup and rupturing not one, but BOTH testicles. Thank the hockey gods that it wasn't during a game. Around the continent, men would have all cringed at once, potentially altering the orbit of the Earth from the sheer reaction.
-- Brian Bunch, Arvada, Col.

SG: Um, I think that's happening right now. I'm going to answer the rest of these questions while I'm doubled over.

Q: While watching women's beach volleyball last weekend, I started thinking about ways to improve it. I think volleyball could use some divisions like boxing or wrestling. How about A-Cup, B-Cup, C-Cup and the heavyweight division of D-Cup and above. Ladies can play down but not up. Plastic surgery would be legal and encouraged. You could apply this idea to gymnastics and other sports too where boobs are a handicap and where the watchability of the sport is greatly improved.
-- Dave, Ashland, Mass.

SG: (Afraid to say anything ...)

Q: I'm at work right now and my buddy and I were just talking on the phone about fantasy baseball and going back and forth checking stats online and my buddy was saying A-Rod is the "opposite of clutch" which led to a discussion of what the word for that is. I tried doing the research on my own and can't find it. So I come to you. What's the word for someone who is "the opposite of clutch"?
-- Tony, Boston

SG: Come on, I just gave you "dropjaw" ... now I have to come up with another word?

All right ...

To figure this out, you have to look at the real definition of the word "clutch" -- it's a verb that means to "grab, clasp or seize." For sports purposes, I'm guessing that it evolved from that form into an adjective that described anyone who "had grasped the moment" or "had a propensity to grasp the moment," although it's impossible to know when it started. According to this 2005 article in the Taipei Times (yes, I did some Googling), William Safire traces the word back to 1929, when the New York Times wrote, "When a batter produces a safe 'blow' at an opportune moment, his fellow players say that he has hit 'in the saddle' or 'in the clutch.' " Somehow that morphed into "clutch," which sounds 10 times better than "saddle."

So what's the opposite of "grab, clasp or seize?" Probably "fumble," which has synonyms that include "grope," "scuffle," "botch" and "mishandle." "Fumble" doesn't work because we're already using it for football. "Grope" makes me think of some lecherous uncle at a Fourth of July party; that doesn't sound right. "Mishandle" is too awkward, and we already use the double meaning of "scuffle" for fights. But "botch" could work -- it has the same "tch" ending as clutch, it sounds like a noun, and it's one of those underrated words that we don't use nearly enough in sports (right up there with "boner" and "fracas"). A-Rod is the premiere botch hitter in baseball. Peyton Manning always seems to come through in the botch. Karl Malone may have scored 35,000 points, but everyone remembers how botch he was in the playoffs.

(Actually, screw this ... it's not working. Sounds too weird. Let's just stick with "he's not clutch," unless you want to go with "arodian" or "arodish.")

Q: If I have to watch one more Barry Bonds montage or see "Baseball Tonight" interrupted by another live Bonds at-bat, I will vomit. There are so many wonderful things going on in baseball right now. Why aren't we talking about the first-place Tigers or Rockies? Or Scott Kazmir doing his best Sandy Koufax impression to start the season? How about the fact that Nomar Garciaparra is batting .360-something? I see Bonds as a washed-up old man who looks bored playing the game of baseball, and look forward to the day he fades out of baseball for good. Then we can start focusing on the things that make this game great, the things that make baseball worth watching, and worth loving.
-- Andy, Boxborough, Mass.

SG: Couldn't agree more. The Bonds saga has broken the record for "biggest disparity between the amount of newspaper/TV coverage on a subject versus the amount of time I've spent discussing that subject with my friends and/or my father." I'm not kidding you -- I haven't spent a single second discussing Bonds with anyone I know over the past two months, except for one time with my buddy Hench when we were talking about how broken down Bonds looks in left, then I wondered if the Tigers (and Jim Leyland) would trade for him this summer to DH, followed by us wondering how much Bonds would go for in our AL roto league as a free agent if that happened. That was it.

Bonds just isn't that compelling anymore -- it's a tainted milestone, he doesn't have any credibility, and watching him play baseball at this point is like watching Andre The Giant in the late-'80s, when he could barely move and wore those tights with the one strap over his shoulder. It's depressing. There's just nothing happy about him. I'm much more interested in Leyland and the Tigers, or the Mets possibly getting hooked up to the Juvenation Machine, or Poo Holes' at-bats, or young flamethrowers like Papelbon and Zumaya ... I mean, I can think of 50 baseball subplots right now that are more compelling than some broken-down dude limping around and trying to break a milestone that he cheated to get. Enough is enough.

Q: Hey, you ever notice during games at Fenway when a lefty is batting, the "Giant Glass" sign behind home plate says, "Giant Ass"? I found it doubly funny when Ortiz was batting.
-- Asher Hayle, Dallas

SG: How dare you.

Q: My friends and I advocate changing Kevin Youkilis' nickname from "Youk" to "KY." Just imagine Jerry Remy saying "KY finds another hole for hit." The awesomeness of KY is magnified when he hits after "Big Wily" Mo Pena. "KY and Big Wily team up for another Red Sox run." Is there anything better than that?
-- Garrett Ebersole, Cheshire, Conn.

SG: I'm on board. Can't wait until KY bats against F-Her (Felix Hernandez) in Seattle this summer. By the way, I graduated from college 14 years ago.

Q: You wrote this week, "Take Dunleavy, whose 2000 Blazers blew a 15-point lead in Game 7 against the Lakers, still the most painful sports collapse of the decade." This was more painful than the Yankees blowing a 3-0 series lead against their most hated rival. Wasn't that in the same decade?
-- Chris, Memphis, Tenn.

SG: You're right, I wrote that poorly. For a single-game collapse, nothing approaches the 2000 Blazers -- they were leading by 17 with 10 minutes to play and fell apart worse than the last 30 minutes of "Wedding Crashers." If you were making a "worst losses ever" list, that's on the short list along with the Donnie Moore/Dave Henderson Game, the Music City Miracle, the Schiraldi/Buckner Game and a few others. The collapse of the 2004 Yankees took four days to unfold (remember, Games 4, 5 and 6 were hard-fought games that could have gone either way), and it's hard to pick out a single moment where you could say, "Wow, they completely choked!" (except for maybe Game 7). And maybe Yankee fans were shell-shocked after it was over, but they had four days to ease into their dismay, whereas Blazers fans had about 15-20 minutes. I still say that's worse.

(Although, from a "big picture" standpoint, the 2004 Yankees was more significant. You know, given that it was the greatest choke in sports history and all.)

Q: I need to recognize my wife's outstanding fantasy assist recently. I was driving home from work and got an e-mail on my Blackberry that phenom Cole Hamels got the call from Triple-A. Since my league only allows you to pick up players once they are in the majors, this was huge. One problem: I was in the middle of nowhere without a Web connection. I called my wife, walked her through the add/drop and snagged Cole before anyone else. The kicker? She is 8+ months pregnant. How cool is that? Now I need to just sell her on "Carl Crawford Filipski" or "Chone Figgins Filipski" for the baby's name.
-- R.J. Filipski, New York

SPORTS GUY LINKS
New York Post -- Did you know we had an American competitor for Kobayashi on July 4th?

TV Guide.com -- Josh Schwartz wasn't happy about Mischa Barton spilling the beans about her "O.C." demise. By the way, bookmark the Auseillo Report, it's always entertaining.

Washington Post -- Thomas Boswell on the new idiot-free Red Sox clubhouse.

The Onion -- Let's just say Isiah Thomas is involved.

WFAN.com -- If you're interested, Mike and the Mad Dog are streaming online every afternoon.

Boston.com -- The annual BC/Holy Cross men's basketball game is over because BC is afraid of us. It's true.

Jackiechristie.com -- Sadly, you can't buy Doug Christie jerseys to torment your friends at their next bachelor party.

NY Times -- Remember the girl from "Real World: Chicago" who had a bunch of, um, on-camera liaisons? Well, she just got married. Skip to the part about why they broke up -- high comedy.

Moonlight Graham -- They revamped the Web site. This is my favorite store in LA.

New Yorker -- Next time, Malcolm Gladwell needs to consult with me before he recommends an NBA book that argues Jerome Williams was among the strongest players of his generation.

Bauercount.com -- A tour de force on a number of levels.

SG: And you wonder why Cole Hamels felt that pop in his shoulder this week. You may have angered the "fantasy gods" with that one, RJ. Although I'm wildly impressed with your wife -- the Sports Gal couldn't even pour herself a glass of water successfully when she was eight-plus months pregnant. In fact, I think this should be its own competition show: The Pregnant Decathlon, featuring women who are eight-plus months pregnant and competing in hand-eye coordination games like pool, ping-pong, darts, miniature golf and shuffleboard, capped off by a 100-yard waddle and then a tiebreaker event to see who can start crying the fastest during a Hallmark commercial.

Q: I'll cut right to the chase. My friends and I have debated what we think Tony Soprano takes home a year. Pre or post-tax, your choice.
--Mike, Watchung, N.J.

SG: Obviously, this question was too important to answer on my own, so I contacted the one person who would know: My stepdad, a diehard "Sopranos" fan (this is an understatement) and the right person for this question on about 10 different levels. Yes, he's 100 percent Italian. And no, he's not in the mafia. As far as I know. Anyway, here was his take:

"Remember, Tony is the top guy. So everyone's kicking back to him on everything they're doing. He's got 7-8 captains working under him, and those people all have people working under THEM, so he's getting kickbacks on every single thing that happens. Just in the last few episodes, Gay Vito offered him 200K to get back into the fold; Paulie mentioned that his cut from the Italian Feast was 30K; and the big fat guy brought them the huge envelope right before they stabbed him. He's getting kickbacks like that every week from every direction. That stuff adds up.

"Then you have to factor in all their businesses. They have gambling obviously. They have those high-stake poker games from time to time. Liquor and cigarettes. The strip joint. Construction and sanitation, which bring in more money than anything else. I'm not sure about drugs, they don't really touch that on the show. But they have those truck heists, robberies and all that other stuff -- like when Paulie killed those guys and found all the money in the refrigerator. And unlike the old days, you don't have to pay off judges and politicians anymore -- that stuff doesn't happen now.

"I would say he clears about $2 million a year. But it's all tax-free because it's all dixie money (under the table) and he doesn't have to report any of it. Remember the episode when the kid wanted to sell his family's construction business and Tony wouldn't let him because that's where he had his fake job that gave him medical insurance? That's probably the only income he reports to the IRS. And since he would be in the 50 percent tax bracket, and he's not turning over half of $2 million, it's really like he's making almost twice that much. The big problem is that it's hard to get rid of all that cash; you can't put it in the bank. So they have to bury it in their backyard or hide it in their house -- that's why Johnny Sack is screwed right now, all of his assets have been seized, he probably has money hidden all over the place and they're selling his house on him. But I say Tony pulls in about two million a year. And that might even be low."

(So there you go. While we're here, please check out this N.Y. Daily News article where the guy who played Vito Spatafore complains that they whittled down his final scene, then adds, "I'm hoping I still get nominated [for an Emmy], I put a lot into it." That's my favorite quote of 2006 so far, narrowly edging the Paul Shirley classic, "I'm too white trash for the Lakers.")

Q: I just read your take on Game 7s and agree that there's no way to rank them. But I was wondering why you left off the 2004 Western semis (Kings-T-Wolves) where Garnett goes for 32 and 21 (with 13 straight in the fourth quarter) and Webber misses a game-tying 3 at the buzzer.
-- Mike, Minneapolis

SG: Excellent call. I missed that one and the Raptors-Sixers' Game 7 in 2000, which was highlighted by a superb VC-Iverson duel with Vince just missing a series-winning 3 at the buzzer, followed by Toronto fans spending the summer wondering if Vince would have made that 3 if he hadn't flown to UNC to pick up his diploma that morning. Game 7 of the Bulls-Warriors series in 1975 (going way back) was also superb from start to finish and features one of my favorite NBA TV moments -- Chicago's Norm Van Lier sitting in a heap near his own foul line in the final seconds (like Andy Van Slyke after the Sid Bream game), unable to get up while the Warriors are attempting their final free throws. Strangely gut-wrenching to watch. I don't know why I'm telling you this.

Q: What's the final ruling on standing vs. sitting at pro sports games? I'm tired of being told to sit down. I'm tired of telling grown men that if they want a totally unobstructed view of a game, then stay home. Give it to me straight for each of the three leagues that matter, and please, find a way to get these rules posted above every entrance in every sporting arena everywhere.
-- Brunz, New York

SG: Fantastic question. We had a problem with an over-stander at the Clippers games this season -- I'm all for supporting your team, but when you're consistently the only person standing in your section, and you're not drunk, you need to reevaluate things. Anyway, the rules are the same for every sport:

1. When the ball is in play, you can't make a unilateral decision for your section to stand. It's not up to you -- you need 3-4 people in your row backing you up, and everyone else in your section should follow suit within 3-4 seconds. If it doesn't catch, sit down. Or else you're being a jerk.

2. During a big play, you can't jump out of your seat erratically -- like, as somebody is shooting a jump shot (not when the jump shot actually goes in), or as the QB goes back to pass (not as the football is in the air). Try to act like a normal person. It's not hard.

3. I'm all for the whole "stand up, wave your arms and try to get everyone in your section to stand up" routine, a valuable weapon that almost always falls into the wrong hands ... but pick your spots, for God's sake. Try to have some sense of the moment.

4. When there are cheerleaders on the floor/field during a timeout, that doesn't make it OK to stand up and ogle them like you were just released from prison. That means that everyone else will have to stand up to ogle them. ... Basically, you're blowing our cover.

5. Coming out of a timeout, it's not acceptable to stand up, then tug violently at the front of your jersey hoping to get noticed by the guy working the Jumbotron camera. Unless you have a mental problem. Then it's OK.

6. I'm all for standing up and yelling at the referees; I'm the same guy who carries a list of their jersey numbers and names in my wallet. But say your piece, belt out your best "hey, ref, bend over and use your good eye!"-type joke and sit down. Don't turn it into one of those endless Lewis Black rants.

7. If you break any of these rules, and someone screams at you to "sit down," you can't turn around, remain standing and start jawing at that person -- they're just trying to watch the game, you're the one who's blocking them. Be considerate and sit down. Unless you weigh 250-plus and can kick everyone's ass. Then you should do whatever you want.

Q: Hey when are you going to have a "Hang Out With Bill Simmons For A Day" contest? Every article I read I think to myself, "Holy crap this guy is my best friend." Seriously. Don't get me wrong, I like chicks and everything but, you need to have this contest.

P.S. YOU'RE THE BEST ... !! AROUND!!! NOTHING'S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN!!!"
-- Jason, San Diego

SG: Yup ... these are my readers.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.




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