Unveiling your 2010 TV lineup
The Mailbag is back with plenty of reader pitches for riveting television
Two straight Fridays, two straight mailbags. I'm 54 away from DiMaggio. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: After hearing you and JackO talk about how unfunny athletes really are in a recent podcast, doesn't there need to be a new ratings scale known as "Athlete Funny"? I derived this after I listened to a Cubs fan tell me how funny Ryan Dempster is. Just because you can crack up people on "Cold Pizza" with your Dr. Evil impression (i.e., an impression of an impression) does not make you funny.
-- Chad, Los Angeles
Sports Guy: Good idea. I tinkered with the Athlete Funny Scale and came up with this
0.0 -- Comedically Dead
Don't even attempt to engage them. Examples: any PGA golfer, Marcin Gortat, Adam Morrison, Chauncey Billups, most female foreign tennis players, LaDainian Tomlinson.
1.0 -- Comedically Ambivalent
They kinda get it, they're not opposed to humor, it's just that they're not funny themselves. Examples: Phil Mickelson, Michael Phelps, Roger Federer, Dirk Nowitzki, Eli Manning, the Klitschkos, Jason Kidd.
2.0 -- Woefully Unfunny
These athletes want to be funny but keep getting it wrong and end up being slightly creepy. They're 1.0s trapped in 2.0 bodies. For some reason this increases the odds that they might be a presenter at the ESPYS by 2,000 percent. Examples: Dennis Rodman, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Barry Bonds.
3.0 -- Comedically Deceiving
Even though it seems they should be funny, they aren't funny at all and don't try to be funny. But yet, there's something slightly funny about them. Just slightly. Examples: Johnny Damon, Yao Ming, Brad Miller, every NHL player, Philip Rivers.
Seemingly humorless guys who show occasional signs of possibly being funny in private, only we can't be sure and you wouldn't bet on it. Examples: Tiger Woods, Donovan McNabb, Roger Clemens, Brett Favre, Derek Jeter.
4.5 -- Maria Sharapova Funny
Covers any attractive female athlete who tries to be funny in a light way and fails, only we don't care because she's hot.
5.0 -- Learned Funny
Humorless people who learn how to be adequately sports-funny in the right situations by mimicking the behavior of others, whether it's by developing an overboard fake laugh, yelling "Daaaaaaammmmmn!" after someone else makes a joke, repeating funny jokes that other people said first, or making virtual videos of ideas that other people wrote. They can fool you on the right day. Example: Kobe Bryant (for every non-Lakers fan).
6.0 -- Formulaically funny
See Chad the Reader's story about Dempster in the original question. This is the most common group: basically 5.0 guys, but with just enough savvy to possibly parlay this pseudo-funniness into a post-retirement TV career that will inevitably annoy you. Examples: Tony Siragusa, John Salley, Michael Strahan, Scot Pollard, Steve Lyons, Scot Pollard again.
7.0 -- Clubhouse Funny
Guys who keep it loose in the locker room by laughing hysterically at everyone else's jokes, using nakedness as an ongoing comedy crutch or by continually convincing their dumbest teammates to check out what's in the toilet in stall No. 2. FYI: I love 7.0s and have my entire life. One of the top four best things about playing on a sports team is hanging out with 7.0s. They're the greatest. Still, it's pretty easy to learn how to be Clubhouse Funny. Example: David Ortiz, Michael Irvin, all NFL offensive linemen, all foreign NBA centers except Marcin Gortat, Sean Casey.
8.0 -- Sneaky Funny
Athletes who can be legitimately funny behind the scenes (usually stars or superstars) but do an excellent job of hiding that side publicly. Usually it seeps out later in their careers. Example: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dwyane Wade, CC Sabathia, Peyton Manning, Steve Nash, Greg Oden.
(Note: Kevin Garnett is apparently in this category, but I didn't include him because you wouldn't believe me. Just know that I have heard eight to 10 fantastically funny KG stories, and he might be the Redd Foxx of his generation.)
9.0 -- Unintentionally/Intentionally Funny
Self-explanatory. The best example is Delonte West. He makes me laugh and intends to make me laugh, but he's only in control of 75 percent of my laughter; the other 25 percent comes from the fact that he's unintentionally funny, too. Now, that ratio can sway in other ways: For instance, Ron Artest is 25 percent in control, and 75 percent unintentional. Ultimately, we're all winners. I swear that made sense when I wrote it. Other examples: Chris Kaman, Gilbert Arenas, the Lopez brothers, Stephen Jackson, Clinton Portis, Kevin Millar.
9.5 -- Legitimately Funny
Teammates rave about how funny they are. If they get miked up, they'll always have one or two good lines. Even their interviews are good if they're invested. Would they be one of your three funniest friends? Probably not. But they're still funny. Examples: LeBron James, Dustin Pedroia, Chris Webber and Gary Payton (only when together), Nick Swisher, Rasheed Wallace, Shaq, Kobe Bryant (for every Lakers fan).
10.0 -- Laugh-Out-Loud Funny
Just Charles Barkley and Kevin McHale. We can't even come up with a Mount Rushmore for this category and maybe that's for the best.
Q: Read your Clips' curse column. As a "Lost" fan, I am surprised you didn't notice that in the very first move of your timeline, the Clippers fired a "Dr. Jack" and replaced him with a "Locke." Coincidence? I think not!
-- Evan, St. Paul, Minn.
SG: Even creepier: They made that coaching change in the summer of '76. The following year, the "Lost" crew traveled back in time and tried to blow up the island, rendering everything that happened afterward moot which, in retrospect, wouldn't have been a bad idea to do with the Clippers. In the final episode, do you think the Dharma Initiative is going to sign Allen Iverson? Wait, don't answer that.
Q: Is nobody willing to acknowledge the fact that Ivan Rodriguez and many of his 1990s Rangers teammates were all juicing while President Bush was their owner? That's a story right there.
-- Johnny, New York
SG: And in this case, there's a chance he actually DID know they were using weapons of mass destruction! Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all mailbag.
Q: I'm 18 and just graduated high school. When my college decisions came in in April, I narrowed down my choices to Dartmouth and Princeton and had no idea what to do. Whether it's teenage indecision or my relative laziness, the only thing I could think of was your pure hatred for Princeton. So I chose Dartmouth. You, Bill Simmons, made the biggest decision I have ever made. Most likely, you will be responsible for whatever shenanigans I go through in life. Just wanted to let you know and say thanks.
-- Sam, New York
SG: I couldn't be prouder. To think, I saved you from a terminal case of insufferable "dooshdom." Now I want to offer my services as the deciding vote for anyone's college choice. Wouldn't you watch a "Judge Judy"-type show in which high school seniors went on, told a "Judge" (in this case, me) a little bit about themselves, rattled off the colleges that accepted them, and then Judge Simmons made the decision? Then we could have moments like this
Me: "OK, we're back on 'Judge Simmons.' So Michael, you're debating between Duke and Princeton. You seem like a good guy. I read your bio. You like sports, you have a lot of friends and I enjoyed your essay in which you vowed not to get married until you're 40 because love is overrated. I was particularly impressed that you were the commissioner of three fantasy leagues, and that you were suspended four months ago for trying to organize a wet T-shirt contest with girls from your prep school's sister school. They called it offensive, I call it ingenious. Anyway, I can't let you attend Duke or Princeton. Everyone hates Duke and the list of insufferable jerks from Princeton is longer than all the other Ivies combined.
"Therefore, my decision is this: I'm enrolling you at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. Maybe it's not Ivy quality, but it's a good school and you'll get to wear shorts to class every day. Also, every day when you're walking around campus you'll think you're a judge on 'America's Top Model.' Just trust me. This case is dismissed. And remember, folks, as always, it doesn't matter where you go to college, just what you did when you were there and that the weather was warm. Until next time on 'Judge Simmons'!"
Q: You wrote that no current celebrity would get the same reaction as Michael Jackson did when he died. What about Oprah? I'm thinking that the entire free world might stop.
-- Tom K., Red Bank, N.J.
SG: She wouldn't top Michael because Oprah wasn't an artist; the music and videos were what made Michael's death resonate for three solid weeks. But you made me think of something: Did you ever notice how the first 72 hours after a tragedy or a death that gets 24/7 coverage is always the best time for other celebs to get in trouble? For instance, if I were Mel Gibson and wanted to get another completely inappropriate, possibly career-ending drunken rant to police officers out of my system, or if was Christian Bale and felt like reaming out the prop guy on my movie set, you'd definitely pick the 72-hour Post-Megatragedy window, right?
Q: It's July 14. Happy Curmudgeon Liberation Day!
-- Corey, Salt Lake City
SG: A belated thank you! A year ago this week, when CBS parted ways with Billy Packer, I deemed it Curmudgeon Liberation Day. Only Corey remembered. That could be enough to win him 2009 Reader of the Year. Of course, this guy is also in the running.
Q: I need an official ruling from you. Me and my buddy Lawson have been arguing over the proper title for our obsession with the glory that is hard-throwing Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard. He suggested Bardoner and I countered with Bardner. Recently we have reached an agreement on Bard-on. What do you think?
-- Ethan S., Boston
SG: I'm in! You're talking to the same guy who once blessed the phrase "Papelboner." Just an FYI: If the 2009 Red Sox bullpen lasts for more than four hours, please consult a doctor.
Q: Ever messed around with the NBA Trade Machine and tried to determine what trade would give the absolute highest possible increase in John Hollinger's projected wins to a team? Ultimately, I was able to add 58 projected wins to the Knicks by sacking Portland, Cleveland and the Lakers of their valuables. Please don't ask me how long that took. My challenge to you is simple: TOP THAT.
-- Jon, Edison, N.J.
SG: Jon, Jon, Jon, Jon, Jon you made two ginormous mistakes here. First, you brazenly challenged the Picasso of the Trade Machine. Never a smart move. Second, you challenged someone whose profession allows him to waste copious amounts of time figuring out dumb things to, as you so foolishly put it, "TOP THAT." Your big mistake was not pillaging the Zombie Sonics; for my fake four-team deal, I used the Zombies, Cavaliers and Magic to "TOP THAT" and ended up adding 66 projected wins to the Knicks. Good news, Knicks fans: Not only did I get you LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Mo Williams, Delonte West, J.J. Hickson, Jordan Hill and Wilson Chandler on next season's team, but you're projected to go 96 and minus-14. Things are looking up! As always, never challenge the Trade Machine Picasso.
Q: My girlfriend has been making me watch "The Bachelorette" and I'm not even ashamed. Isn't it easily as good as any other Monday night comedy? Plus, there's Jillian and the unending internal debate in my head as to whether she's hot or not. Literally every shot of her evokes a different reaction from me. I'm amazed at how intriguing the show is.
-- Mike B. Brighton, Mass.
SG: And you left out Wes, the two-timing country singer who wasn't there for the right reasons, as well as the appropriately named Ed, who couldn't rise to the occasion with Jillian in a sleepover date and now is headed for a double-bathtub ad with her for Cialis. But I had to follow up on your Jillian comment. Never, not ever, not in the history of mankind, has a TV or movie star vacillated back and forth between "not attractive" to "super attractive" this frequently. If you charted it, it would be like an EKG exam gone haywire. She's cute. She's not cute. She's hot. She's smoking! Yikes, I wish her face didn't just do that. She's cute. She's not cute. She's super cute. A genius selection by the show's producer. No wonder Ed couldn't come through on the sleepover date; even his organs were confused by Jillian's looks.
Q: Simmons, you amaze me. You are either the embodiment of the American Dream or a sure sign of Armageddon. You write for ESPN, yet you break no stories, have no sources, offer little analysis. Instead you write superfluous pieces of fluff that are only your half-baked opinion, offer no proof and constantly write about the NBA, the Red Sox and Pats to the exclusion of anything else of substance. To top it off, you seem as mature as a horny, pimply 14-year-old. I don't get it.
-- Rick D, Saint Joseph, Mo.
SG: That was this month's winner of the Backhanded Compliment Award, as well as a great quote for the back of "The Book of Basketball:" "You are either the embodiment of the American Dream or a sure sign of Armageddon." Why thank you!
Q: What is your starting lineup of stars from 1992-2008 that you would be shocked to find out used PEDs?
-- (Name accidentally deleted)
SG: Are you crazy? A whole lineup? For me, it's really just Jeter and Griffey. Of all the big guns, that's it. You could talk me into anyone else cheating. I have to say, it has been nice to watch Griffey's career unfold in an old-school, pre-PED way; instead of belting 57 homers at age 39, he's barely hanging on to a job. It's refreshing. It's the human body doing what it's supposed to do at that age: fail. Thanks for sucking, Ken Griffey Jr. And I mean that in a completely genuine way. I swear.
Q: I am a die-hard soccer fan living abroad and agree with your theory that international soccer could take off in the States. But not everyone listens to your podcasts, so could you please make the same case in one of your columns so everyone can see it? I think it's important. Thanks and cheers from the UK!
-- T.J., Leeds, England
SG: Sure. I'll do it in five short paragraphs and 500 words total. The theory goes like this
1. Americans enjoy watching the best (fill in any sport). We are elitists. That's why we like the Olympics, that's why we enjoy any finals, that's why we watch Wimbledon and the Masters, that's why we don't care about sports like the WNBA, MLS or arena football as anything other than a niche sport. International soccer plays into this. It's the best of the best. Hell, we even liked "The Best of the Best" even though Eric Roberts was the biggest star in it.
2. The games zoom along: no commercials, no sideline reporters, no corporate tie-ins, no four-hour games like in baseball, no "takes 20 minutes to play the last two" like in the NBA. You can sit down for a soccer game and say, "I'm going to spend the next two hours watching this and then I'm going to do something else." Like watch more TV.
3. Give credit to ESPN for committing air time in non-Cup years to elite international soccer tournaments like the UEFA Cup. I know that's how I started paying more attention. If you like sports, you cannot NOT get caught up in the level of play, the maniacal crowds, the intensity and tension and everything else. It's impossible.
4. Widescreen TVs make it easier to see the field; HD makes it easier to see faces and numbers (and the grass looks green and vibrant); and better camerawork (and also more cameras) make the games more intimate. Now you feel like the players are flopping right onto your living room rug! Just kidding, soccer fans. Seriously, settle down. Jokes.
5. International soccer never took off here for the simple reason that American sports fans had trouble following anything they couldn't attend in person and/or watch on television at their leisure. Now? We're turning into a sofa culture; since it's more expensive to go to games, many of us find it just as rewarding to stay home, save money and watch games on a nice TV. Throw in the Internet, DirecTV, fan blogs and everything else and you really can follow soccer from across the Atlantic.
That's why, over the next decade -- starting with the World Cup in 2010 -- I predict international soccer takes off to a modest degree in America during the '10s. Not to compare everything to "The Godfather," but for America, the NASL was Sonny (exciting, impetuous and ultimately self-destructive), the MLS is Fredo (weak) and international soccer is Michael (the heavy hitter who was lurking all along). That's how this plays out I think.
Q: I would like to add an idea to the great things you have suggested to improve NBA officiating: an NBA ombudsman, someone affiliated with the league, but who could sort through complaints (both internal and external) without an agenda, and criticize the league when it needs to be criticized. Le Anne Schreiber did such a great job for ESPN, I would love to see the NBA hire someone to do the same thing.
-- Mike Rensink, San Diego
SG: Sorry; you have a better chance of seeing David Stern dress for the 2010 draft like The Gimp from "Pulp Fiction."
Q: Do you think Joe Buck and Tim McCarver look like a couple who live in Sweden and design a currency for cats and dogs?
-- Evan, Boston
SG: The best part would be hearing McCarver sell that currency to interested investors: "So here's a $1 bill with a border collie on it, and here's a $5 bill with a black Lab on it. You can buy MORE with the $5 bill than the $1 bill. IN FACT, if you have four $5 bills and four $1 bills, you could buy FIVE TIMES as many dog treats with the $5 bills. You would have $20 which would be more than four "
Q: I watched UFC 100 and was thoroughly entertained. A pretty great night for the UFC, methinks. Then I read all over the Internet that what Brock Lesnar did after his match was unacceptable, unprofessional, etc. Really? It was unacceptable? This is the freaking UFC, not the PGA Tour! Who do they think they are fooling? Can I get you, Sports Guy, to give everyone an official "settle down" on this issue with Lesnar?
-- Tony N., Minneapolis
SG: Well, this was the same card in which Dan Henderson coldcocked Michael Bisping and gave him a flying elbow three seconds later for good measure, then later told reporters the elbow was to "shut him up a little bit." What possible line could Lesnar have crossed after that? I appreciate the honesty of the UFC guys -- unlike boxing, if someone trash-talks you in the weeks leading up the fight, you don't just shrug it off right after the fight like it was "part of the promotion" or some crap. There's a code of honor to it. You talk crap about me, fine. But I WILL make you pay, and after it's over, I'm not going to just shrug it off and forget what you did. Isn't real life a little like that?
Besides, I have been pushing for real athletes to embrace a "heel" character for years. Why not? Bill Laimbeer made a career out of it. He wasn't out there to make friends. He didn't play by the rules. His opponents hated him. Well, do you remember watching him? I sure do. He was great. He made the league more fun, even as you wished for one of his ACLs to split like an atom. Lesnar wasn't winning that UFC 100 crowd over, he didn't care, and he had fun with it. He ended up turning the night into "The Last Night Frank Mir was a Decent-Looking Guy" and positioned himself as the single biggest "sports bad guy" since Mike Tyson. I loved it. And if you didn't feel the same way? Then SETTLE DOWN!
Q: Since DeJuan Blair has no ACLs to tear, what would happen if the Clippers drafted him?
-- Tyler F., St. Louis
SG: It would be like crossing the streams in "Ghostbusters." Buildings would blow up and Ernie Hudson would be covered in marshmallow when it was over.
Q: I need your expertise here. I was lying in bed with my wife one night and she caught me staring at her chest. My wife was blessed with large breasts (which I am thankful for) and she was wearing my Giants Super Bowl championship sweatshirt (that was not meant as a dig). When she asked me what I was staring at, I said, "What? You know I love the Giants." I instantly realized the wonderful double meaning of what I said. Can you think of another team that would have worked as well in this situation? The best I can come up with is the Twins.
-- Dave, New York
SG: Those were the two best ones, with an honorable mention for the "Magic," "Jets" and "Rockets." (Also, the "Padres" and "Chiefs" are funny if you think about them long enough.) Here's a better question: What double-meaning team name would have offended her somehow? I see it as a three-way tie between the Grizzlies, Cubs and Packers.
Q: I'm taking Sports Leadership taught by Charley Casserly at Georgetown next fall. What percentage of the class is going to be on "How to draft a defensive end from N.C. State even when a running back from USC is available"?
-- Rawiri, Washington
SG: Hold on, hold on, hold on Charley Casserly is teaching at Georgetown??? This is the last straw! What's next -- Trevor Ariza's agent and Lamar Odom's agent teaching a class in sports law? For years, I've been waiting for some college or university to approach me about teaching a class called "Sports Column Writing 101," "How to be Lazy and Succeed" or "Weaving Pop Culture and Sports to Your Own Literary Detriment." Did I get one offer? Did UCLA ever say, "Let's give Simmons a class, I bet 30 kids will be dumb enough to sign up?" Noooooooooooooo! But failed GM Charley Casserly gets to teach kids at Georgetown, the school I wanted to attend that brutally rejected me in 1988? That makes me want to skin sheep in front of a PETA rally. I'm so bitter right now.
Q: Thought of this after Michael Jackson's death: Which famous singer would have dominated "American Idol" the most had he/she started his/her career as a contestant on the show? I thought MJ around the "Off the Wall" era, but then realized he would not have been eligible because of his Jackson 5 fame. So who? Please don't tell me John Mayer, circa 2005.
-- Cliff, Portland, Ore.
SG: Come on, Cliff, 2005 Mayer would have rolled through that show every week, caused a national riot and had Paula whipping her ovaries at him. Anyone non-threatening with undeniable talent who can play guitar, play the piano or belt out tunes is going to succeed on "Idol." Young Alicia Keys would have crushed "Idol." Same for the dude from Maroon 5. Norah Jones would have done well. You get the idea. But there is one answer for your question and only one: Whitney Houston.
She's like Michael Jackson in this respect: All the craziness with her personal life these past 12-15 years ended up overshadowing the eight to 10 years before it. Young Whitney was like LeBron crossed with Tiger. Actually, you can't even compare her to anything. Let's say you rated a young female singer from 1 to 50 in five categories: likability, attractiveness, singing voice, pedigree and stage presence. Young Whitney was a 50 in all of them. Has anyone else ever cracked 45? One of the many fascinating subplots of the mid-80s: you had a male singer (Jackson), a female singer (Whitney), a boxer (Mike Tyson), a baseball pitcher (Dwight Gooden) and an actor/comedian (Eddie Murphy) who peaked at precociously young ages, convinced us they were headed toward becoming the "greatest (fill in the genre) of all time" only none of them made it. Not one.
I would argue Whitney barely edges out Gooden as the biggest tragedy of the five. Eddie had a phenomenal nine-year run of "SNL" episodes, movies and comedy specials before his movie career went Barry Zito on us. Tyson had a number of memorable fights and made such an impact that I have been pushing for ESPN to have "Tyson Week" (like Shark Week) for this entire decade. Jackson had all the Jackson 5 stuff, "Off the Wall," "Thriller" and "Bad" before things started getting weird. But Whitney should have been the black Streisand: an iconic singer/actress who aged with her audience, lasted for decades and was mentioned in the first breath any time someone asked, "Who were the biggest female performers ever?" Instead, it was over for her in eight years. Incredible.
Anyway, let's say 1985 Whitney shows up for "Idol" tryouts next January. Only 21 years old, she comes out for her audition, smiles at the judges and belts out "Saving All My Love" like she does in this Letterman clip. Can you imagine the reaction? Wouldn't the judges have been a stammering puddle like Letterman was after that? I say '85 Whitney pulls away from the field like Secretariat in the Belmont, trounces '05 John Mayer, crushes Alicia Keys, obliterates the Maroon 5 guy. Nobody touches her. Not for a second.
One last Whitney story because I think it explains the "you had to be there" aspect of Whitney's brief apex. My father took me to visit Tufts University right around the time her first album came out. Dad was looking for parking and "Saving All My Love" had just come on the radio. About halfway through the song, he found a spot and I thought we were getting out of the car. He told me to hold on until the end of the song. When I made fun of him, he explained simply, "Whitney really belts it out in this one." You have to know my dad. He never, EVER says things like this. And you know what? He was right. I didn't even challenge it. I just don't think there's ever been another singer who would have kept two people in their car during a random winter day in New England like that. Just Whitney.
Hold on, we're not done.
Q: My buddy and I have had a theory for a while about how things would have been different if Michael Jackson would have died in 1987 after "Bad" was recorded and mixed but BEFORE it was released. Think about it: no Bubbles the chimp, no Neverland Ranch, no "Free Willy" soundtrack, no fake chin, only one or two nose jobs, no arranged marriages and, of course, none of the kid stuff. Doesn't he go down as the greatest artist of all time if this happened? Nobody could have topped "Off the Wall" through "Bad," especially if "Bad" was released posthumously. Michael Jackson would have been the cornerstone of our society's existence.
-- Brett, Madison, Wis.
SG: You're right. I've written before about how death can be a good career move (Kurt Cobain, Chris Farley, Heath Ledger, etc.) but can't remember twisting the premise around for "What would have been the optimal time professionally for someone to die?" We could call it the Eddie Wilson Corollary after the dude from "Eddie and the Cruisers." Jackson (if it happened right after he finished recording "Bad") leads the list, but here are some other good ones: Murphy (right after "Beverly Hills Cop"), Whitney (right after she filmed "The Bodyguard"), Robert De Niro (right after "Heat"), Hulk Hogan (right after Wrestlemania 6), Roger Clemens (right after his second Cy Young with the Blue Jays in 1998), Michael Jordan (right after "The Shot" in 1998), Jason Alexander (right after Season 6 of "Seinfeld"), John McEnroe (right after winning '84 Wimbledon), Tyson (right after the Spinks fight), and, of course, Pete Rose (right after the 1980 World Series).
(FYI: Don't send me any "What about Bill Simmons right before his basketball book comes out?" e-mails. You'll feel bad if I get run over by an 18-wheeler or something. You will. Don't do it. I'm warning you! Speaking of books )
Q: If you could choose any athlete (not including Larry Bird) to ghostwrite an autobiography, who would it be? Assume that he or she will be completely candid with you about everything. I bet my brother $10 you will say Charles Oakley. I would pay $100 to read that book!
-- Chris, Mobile, Ala.
SG: Come on! How could the answer to this question not be Ron Artest? He's even in L.A. right now! You're telling me that you wouldn't pre-order "Man in the Mirror: The Ron Artest Story" by Ron Artest with Bill Simmons on Amazon if I gave you a link right now? The best part would be getting calls from Ron like: "Hey, Bill, it's Ron. I can't make the writing session today, I'm on T-Pain's boat -- we're shooting fish in international waters with machine guns. I'll call you when I get back."
Q: I am sure you remember the reality show "Temptation Island" with Mark L. Walberg. My idea is called "The Real Temptation Island." Basically, you find 12 heterosexual guys and put them on an island with 12 strippers, porn stars and escorts. The guys have to go the longest without having sex or even touching a woman sexually (and they have to be masters of their domain). You have two competitions -- the guy who goes the longest wins a prize (say $100K) and the woman who eliminates the most guys wins a prize (say $50K). It would be perfect for cable. Wouldn't Cinemax love it?
-- Dan, New York
SG: Yes. This is a show. You're talking to one of the five people who was furious when "Temptation Island" got canceled. I'm in. My only tweak would be that you shouldn't limit the idea to pay cable; this could easily be an MTV or Spike show and they could just "blurcle" out any sexual activity. Can't limit our options here.
Q: How about taking a group of mid-20s guys (I came up with this talking to my friends and we would DEFINITELY be the group) who live in a house with a D-II/D-I women's basketball team, training and getting ready for a big game against the women, complete with trash-talking. It has to be with guys who are ADAMANT that there is no way they could possibly lose to women. Softball, soccer, it could all work.
-- Murph, Livermore, Calif.
SG: We are now programming Spike TV in the summer of 2010. Need three more shows. Actually, two if you count "Judge Simmons." Keep 'em coming.
Q: What if Dr. James Andrews was betting on games? Tim Donaghy just called fouls; Dr. Andrews could remove players for an entire season! This guy has the power to tell someone such as Peyton Manning or Tiger Woods that they need to sit out a year with a bogus surgery. I could just imagine Selig, Goodell, Stern, Bettman and every other owner and commissioner sitting at their desks, writing their resignation letters and wondering: How the hell did James Andrews get the best of us?
-- Kyle Potter, Boston
SG: You either just described the next great sports scandal or the best idea for a sports television show ever. Imagine an F/X series along the lines of "Nip/Tuck" -- a sports surgeon slowly turns evil and takes bribes to make improper diagnoses of superstar athletes! Starring Tim Robbins as Dr. Andrews, Seth Rogen as Will Carroll, Vanessa Williams as Stephania Bell, James Cromwell as Lester Munson, Kobe and Vanessa Bryant as themselves and Joe Pesci as the evil mob boss who corrupts Dr. Andrews. I would watch this show. We have a whole Tuesday night planned now!
Q: I'm in Hawaii for my fifth anniversary and reading your live draft article and had a thought. When they bring polygamy back, will you be my second wife? My current wife could handle all the sex, cooking, cleaning, and you could just have the responsibility of watching sports with me all day. Sound good?
-- Spencer, Utah
SG: Sorry, Spike; I'm selling this idea to HBO and calling it "Big Love II: Super Creepy."
Q: OK, so it's 2009. Josh Baskin is now roughly 34, the same age as when he was dating Elizabeth Perkins, who's now roughly 50. Did they get back together when he turned 18? Did they look each other up later on in life? Did she realize that she inadvertently had sex with a 13-year-old and become scarred for life, or perhaps just move on and marry someone her own age? Did he realize that she's too old now and he'd rather sleep with hot young chicks? This has been bothering me for hours. To answer your question: Yes, I'm drunk.
-- Andrew, New York
SG: I can answer all of those questions with two sentences. After she dropped Josh off and watched him turn back into a little boy, it sent her into a tailspin that ended with her gaining 150 pounds, leaving advertising and becoming a women's field hockey coach. Meanwhile, the suddenly experienced Josh plowed through every girl in high school and college, started his own advertising company right out of college, was bored sexually by the time he was 25 and ended up getting arrested on Sunset Boulevard for picking up a transvestite at 5:30 in the morning. This is our worst-case scenario for "Big II," especially if Brian DePalma or David Lynch directs it. Which reminds me.
Q: What unmade movie sequel would you just know would be the worst sequel in history before it even came out? Use the following criteria: (A) Only one movie had been made previously (can't be part 3 or 4); (B) the original is well-loved by almost everyone you know; and (C) you will watch the original 100 percent of the time when it comes on TV even though you've seen it 437 times already.
-- Anthony F, Ontario
SG: Good one. I have three runner-ups and then a final answer:
Runner-up No. 3: "Big II"
The conventional Hollywood way to re-do it: Josh becomes young again; Perkins misses him so much that she hunts down the Zoltar machine and SHE becomes young again; she starts attending Josh's school, only by this time, Young Josh is already involved with the blonde girl; an awkward love triangle ensues. This would suck.
Runner-up No. 2: "Rounders II"
Only because Damon would never be in the sequel, and the guys who wrote "Rounders" are too successful now to ever dare writing a Damon-less sequel. That means you're looking at a bad script with someone like Sawyer from "Lost" as the main guy. Not working. Although John Turturro just read this paragraph and signed on to play Knish without even seeing a script.
Runner-up No. 1: "Heat II"
Turns out De Niro didn't die! He just went to jail, he just escaped, and now De Niro and Val Kilmer are planning more bank robberies and only Al Pacino (two weeks away from retiring) can stop him! Everyone would be more bummed out by a "Heat" sequel then the latest Favre comeback. I think the nationwide groan would be even louder, actually.
The winner: Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee Sex Tape II
Even Hideki Matsui wouldn't watch this.
Q: The guys in my fantasy league were discussing how Al Davis would do as a member of our league and we decided he would finish dead last. Go Raiders!
-- Jeremy H, Jacksonville, Fla.
SG: Can you imagine if I showed a Raiders fan that e-mail in 1983? What would have been their first reaction? Would it have been
- 1. "There's fantasy football?"
2. "What's e-mail?"
3. "Al Davis is going to be alive in 2009?"
4. "Wait, our proud franchise will have sunk to those depths?"
(I think the answer is "4." And I also think they would have refused to believe it.)
Q: My buddies and I returned home today with a few dozen steamed crabs from a beach adventure this past weekend that involved three cougars, two Hooters waitresses and a hotel room that could only be rivaled by the room in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" or the more recent hotel room fiasco in "The Hangover." After watching four straight hours of the "Entourage" marathon leading up to the Season 6 premiere, we waited for the HBO content screen in anticipation of the "N for nudity" to appear. When it did, we were all thrilled and spent the next 27 minutes trying to figure out who it would be ahead of time (wagers were made and odds went off as such: Sloane 10-1, Meadow Soprano 4-1, Ari's wife 15-1, random Vince slew 1-5). When the episode ended boob-less we then argued about whether the chick Vince had in the Escalade might have actually been naked. As I sit here typing, I am looking at my TV realizing HBO has since changed the content screen to no longer say there is nudity in the episode. This should be either illegal or made good with one of the above three naked in a subsequent episode. What are your thoughts on this shafting HBO put on all of us?
-- Dave, Baltimore
SG: Uh-oh, we're in range.
Q: I'm already excited enough when you write a new column. But your new picture? Your bright eyes gazing deep into my face. Your intense glare penetrating into my soul. I not only feel touched by your beautiful words
but also by the inner Bill Simmons. Something more than the sports columnist, some ungraspable, intangible feeling. I am ready to read.
-- Neal R., Oak Park, Ill.
SG: Coming in for the landing
Q: I am a recent college graduate who is depressed with the fact that I am no longer in college, and that Kevin Garnett's knees are about as healthy as the current job market. To make up for that fact, I do exactly what I used to do in class at home now -- read the archives of your articles. One of the articles I came across was your 20 worst fans at a baseball game, with No. 1 being the a-hole on his cell phone. I am e-mailing you to say that I did it at a local minor league game a few weeks ago. The guy was so excited to be on Rhode Island public television, and I got so angry that his $12 seat was being consumed by such a jackass. So I walked up, took the phone out of his hand and threw it to the ground. The man was more confused than anything, which was not the reaction I was expecting at all. I am now no longer allowed at PawSox games for the rest of the season. They have my picture. I hope you're happy.
-- Brian F, Rhode Island
SG: Yup. These are my readers.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy's World.
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