My good friend Mike just moved to Illinois with his girlfriend. He signed a lease and picked out a desk, so this could be it for him. I needed to give him a nice going-away present. What could be better than a surprise visit from our long-lost buddy Rich?
When we were growing up on the tough streets of Grafton, Rich and Mike spent an astounding amount of time together. Rich always liked to act like he was the boss, but he was a nice guy with a great sense of humor, so it never bothered anyone. Eventually we stopped listening to him altogther. When we reached high school, still trying to be the man, he found a new class of kids to order around. By the time we were in college, he was hanging out in California. Nobody had seen him since 2002, when he unveiled a cheesy mustache and complained that nobody would take him seriously anymore. But thanks to an email from a mutual friend, I found him. And better yet, I convinced him to surprise Mike and wish him luck. I had to grease the wheels a bit, but what the hell?
So I shot an email to Chicago:
"(An old friend) told me he'd be calling you at some point in the next seven days. He said his number might come up as unavailable, but to pick up. I know this sounds ridiculously shady, but you'll understand what it's all about when you find out who it is. Just don't screen him. I think you'll want to take this one. That's it for now."
That night, my phone buzzed. It was Mike, as I expected, in hysterics.
"What's up, Agin? I just got a call from Dennis Haskins. He said he knew you. I just want to know what that was all about, so give me a call."
That's right -- it was Mr. Belding on the phone. Courtesy of HollywoodIsCalling.com.
Between Tom Candiotti, Cindy Margolis, Kato Kaelin, Richard Hatch ... looking back, there were so many options, I could have hired a washed-up celebrity to call every one of my friends. For instance, I nearly had Laser from "American Gladiators" tell another friend, Johnny, to get off the couch and start looking for a job. But Mike deserved this brush with non-greatness more than anyone else. He'd been there since the "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" days. He even made up a 188-question test in college that included things like 'What prevented soup from spilling on Grandma Belding?' I have no idea what the answer is, by the way. Regardless, a custom message from Laser was ten bucks more.
This thing didn't totally go off without a hitch. Despite being explicitly told not to screen the call, Mike mistook Haskins for a telemarketer, said he wasn't there, and had to settle for an immediate call-back and a voicemail. No need to feel bad, though.
"For another twenty bucks," I said, "He can always call you back."
Put it this way: He's available.
* * * * *
A few follow-up notes to last week's column before we hit the links ...
1. Nomar.com. Thanks to the diligent bit of research (not my own) I found out the domain was registered by the late John Henry Williams. Figured you'd want to know. But that's all the information I have. Make what you will of it, including at least one frozen computer joke.
2. Khaaan.com. On the same link, I left out an 'a' and sent everyone that clicked on my "Seinfeld" punch line to Khaan.com, the self-proclaimed leading genealogy site on the net. I can see why you weren't laughing. I'm sorry about that, dog.
Now onto (the rest of) the links ...
CBS Sportsline (8/17) -- A Kansas City jury ruled against Derrick Thomas' family -- all of them -- in their lawsuit against General Motors that stemmed from his death. If the defense wanted to prove Thomas was reckless, I think asking his next-of-kin to stand up might have done the trick.
Newsday (8/17) -- So why DID Craig Kilborn sign off after four years at The Late, Late Show? This column delves into the question that has everyone in America, um, not talking. Maybe the biggest news was that Kilby suddenly left "Jimmy Kimmel Live" as the late-night show with the most maddening theme song. "Dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-DAHHHHHHH!" And while we're on the subject ...
CNN (8/12) -- ... it's not looking so hot for John McEnroe.
Yahoo! News (8/17) -- To celebrate the release of the special edition "Goodfellas" DVD, Warner Home Video threw an Italian feast in L.A. From a comedy standpoint, I think surprising Henry Hill with egg noodles and ketchup would be worth getting shot at.
CBS.com (8/17) -- CBS gives us our first look at the castaways from "Survivor: Vanuatu: Islands of Fire," and the results are ... grainy. I'll take a closer look at this when the bio pages go up. But one of the contestants is a 22-year-old "mechanical bull operator and model" from L.A., meaning American unemployment is officially down by one.
Houston Chronicle (8/16) -- Things not to do on your vacation to South Boston: walk into a barbershop and ask for The Roger. One way or the other, a broomstick will be involved. Not for sweeping up your hair up, either.
SciFi.com -- "It's basically Transformers meets Ninja Turtles meets The Powerpuff Girls." Now add the voice of Corey Feldman. Still not sold, eh?
Yahoo! News -- I've never met anyone who has gone there -- even for a weekend -- but Albany was rated the Nation's Top Party School for the second-straight time. If they do things right (which they won't), the Olson twins could put NYU on the map next year with their new Greenwich Village pad, which is, no joke, 24 times the size of my freshman dorm room. That's a lot of extension cords.
IMDB.com -- Nothing is quite as unsettling as watching a celebrity put on 250 pounds. Especially when it's Billy Bob from "Varsity Blues," shown backwards in a slideshow.
Las Vegas Review-Journal (8/16) -- Nicky Hilton getting married at 2:30 a.m., Lindsay Lohan barking "I'll kick your ass right here" to a photo-seeker and a drunken Tara Reid jumping off a diving board during a dispute with Lohan. I've got an eye patch somewhere. Does Norm Clarke need a lackey? And more importantly, don't hold out on us, Simmons. What's it like in The Real World suite at The Palms?
Washington Post (8/15), registration -- Never woulda guessed a girl who carries a Crown Royal sack around D.C. would sleep with a bunch of guys and write about it on a blog. Says LewTang, my friend at CNN: "If she represents the future leaders of America, then my future as a Washington correspondent looks pretty steady. That being said, I challenge anyone outside the Los Angeles area to find a more sexually-charged work environment than Capitol Hill." Ever substitute teach high schoolers?
(Note from Simmons: "We're halfway through the column and the Intern has already dropped the names of 25 different friends. I think I've created a monster. Is this how Rocky felt midway through 'Rocky V' when Tommy Gun started hanging around with the redheaded bimbo and the Don King Ripoff Guy? Oh, wait, 'Rocky V' never happened. Forget we had this conversation.")
Arizona Central (8/15) -- You have to hand it to a guy that celebrates his 21st birthday six days a week, then breaks out of rehab the seventh. Long overdue, Andy Dick makes his Links of the Week debut. Here's the San Francisco Examiner account of the same incident, followed by this nugget from The N.Y. Post about Dick booting on a club-goer the following Monday: "'It came out like a rope!' he proudly announced to the editor, whose $200 jeans he ruined. Then, suddenly embarrassed, he whispered, 'Did anyone see me?' before staggering off to the bathroom."
Indianapolis Star (8/15) -- How Ron Artest spent his summer vacation: hanging out at the mall, firing his agent, producing a country-and-western single with a 78-year-old, landing an endorsement with L.A. Gear(?!?). But don't you get the feeling that if Jermaine O'Neal were to ask him, Artest would say, "Aww, y'know. Same old, nothin' good." He'd mean it, too. Link of the Week. I'm feeling it.
(From Simmons: "Okay. Done deal.")
CBS2Chicago.com (8/14) -- A Packers fan puts up a billboard calling out Green Bay's' "cream puff" defense. Meanwhile, an anonymous bricklayer sabotages a wall in Oklahoma State's stadium. Advantage: college football.
SportsPickle -- "U.S. Grants Puerto Rico Statehood in Hopes of Winning Basketball Gold"
Washington Post (8/13) -- Columnist Sally Jenkins completely brutalizes Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. You know you've written an effective piece on doping when I actually get to the end of it. But let's be fair: A sports writer giving anyone a hard time about abusing a shrimp buffet is absurd. If they served shrimp in the press room at Fenway, it'd be Krzyzewskiville in Boston 81 times a year.
(From Simmons: "Boy, I hope this doesn't affect Dick Pound's standing in the Bubba Franks Memorial 'Guys Whose Names Make Them Sound Most Like a Porn Star' Hall of Fame.")
Sports Illustrated (8/13) -- Four out of four columnists agree: The NBA screwed up the Olympic Team. On Aug. 4, Simmons said that Michael Redd, Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Tayshawn Prince, Brian Cardinal, Fred Hoiberg and Corey Haim would be better for Athens. Since then, Marty Burns put forth Redd, Brent Barry, Shane Battier, Miller and Cardinal. Michael Wilbon thinks some combination of Barry and his brother Jon, Hoiberg, Cardinal, along with Casey Jacobsen would work. And Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel wanted Redd, Prince, Battier, Miller, Hinrich and Jimmy Chitwood.
To recap, that's three votes: Redd, Miller and Cardinal. Two votes: Hinrich, Prince, Hoiberg, Brent Barry, and Battier. One vote: Jon Barry, Chitwood and Haim.
I feel like Jeff Probst. Next link!
(BANNED BY THE ESPN EDITORS - 8/12) -- Sadly, we can't link to this. Let's just say that if you went to a website that involves the name of a weapon and an adjective for people who use cigarettes, you'd be in the right place. Anyway, this was just what David Stern needed: a sex scandal involving Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
Here's a quote from his deposition: "She said, 'You are so cheap. Every other man has spent so much money on me.' And she said, 'You know, when I lived with Mike Tyson, I had a hundred pair of shoes. I had this. I had that.'" Somewhere Lamar Odom is smiling. And Quentin Richardson. And Michael Olowokandi. And Andre Miller. And Danny Manning. And even Eric Piatkowski.
LA Times (8/12) -- Sad but true: Amateur baseball (a.k.a. Little League) now ranks sixth in popularity in the U.S. behind basketball, soccer, softball, football and volleyball, with lacrosse in the rear view. Luckily, the electric George Will is on the case.
Tom Wilson U.S.A. -- I never thought I'd be floored by the guy who played Biff, Griff and Mad Dog Tannen. Then I read,"There is an undeniable magic that surrounds pieces of clean, colorful plastic," and it wasn't about a hover board.
Gamespot -- An in-depth breakdown of ESPN 2K5 versus Madden 2005, and the conclusion may surprise you (or not, because I've just ruined it). My own personal conclusion: If Plaxico Burress played a little less Madden, he might catch 90 balls someday.
(BANNED AGAIN BY THE ESPN EDITORS) -- Remember that cigarette/weapon website from before? If you went there, you'll probably be able to find some quality video recordings of an imprisoned arch criminal visiting with his family. I'll give you a hint: It's not Joshua Jackson.
NY Daily News (8/11) -- A few notes from Mark Kriegel's upcoming bio of Joe Namath, including that he was considered for the role of Sam Malone and the host of "Family Feud" (they went with the more "erudite" Richard Dawson instead). Also, if the rest of Buster Olney's book "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" is as good as the Steinbrenner-Cashman stuff that ran in last Sunday's N.Y. Times (gotta pay for it now), it could be worth a read. It's amazing what a boss can get away with by saying, "I'm just trying to make you better." Not that I would know.
***If you have a suggestion for "The Links," mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.***