By Bill Simmons
POSTED 4:15 p.m., AUG. 10
Clearing up some stuff from the past few weeks ...
I've never been happier to be 3,000 miles away from Boston. Just like I predicted in last Monday's column, NomarGate has been dragging on ... and on ... and on ... and on. We're now on Day 10 and Dan Shaughnessy has written close to 45,000 columns. The WEEI guys are feuding, everyone is taking sides, and Boston's front office is even getting testy and showing hints of potentially throwing one another under the bus. As Penny Lane once said, it's all happening.
Nomar continues to be the talk of the town in Boston.
From what I'm hearing from everyone back home, Sox fans are split into four groups:
Group A: Nomar was the defining athlete of their generation, they're never going to believe anything bad about him, and they can't believe he got traded. This group is made up of people under 25 and my buddy J-Bug, who's under 25 emotionally. For them, Nomar was their Larry Bird.
(I can understand this, I guess. When some negative stuff came out about Larry Legend during the '89-'90 season -- after his heel surgery, when unnamed teammates were leaking that he was shooting too much and not deferring to Lewis and McHale enough -- I remember wanting to kill everybody and fight Jim Paxson with my bare hands.)
Group B: Loved Nomar, defended him for years . . . can't decide whether he's to blame or not. These are the wishy-washy fans like my Dad.
Group C: Loved Nomar, defended him for years . . . now they feel like he sold the team out.
Group D: Nomar deserves to be drawn and quartered like Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Hitcher."
I already wrote enough about this last week. Nomar was unhappy, he wanted to leave, and nobody can convince me differently. Instead of moping around and being the proverbial Black Cloud, he should have sucked it up and asked for a trade, and he definitely shouldn't have pretended that he was heartbroken about leaving Boston. That reaction made him seem conniving at worst, and disingenuous at best. For some Boston fans, it's going to be his legacy for them (instead of the .357 and .372 seasons).
Like Gammons, I think Schilling summed it up best: "Which would you rather have -- 30 to 40 games of Nomar or 60 games of Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz? It's a no-brainer."
I agree. Now if we only had a manager and a third base coach . . .
Speaking of Gammons, in his NomarGate column yesterday, he wrote the single greatest paragraph of his entire career. Here it is.
"The fact that Mia was training for the Olympics and away for most of the season may have intensified the hardening of (Nomar's) feelings toward the Red Sox. He missed her and her strength."
Translation: Poor Nomar is more whipped than Funny Cide.
One last Red Sox note: I was having Those Ideas last week. You know, those "Catching the Yankees" ideas.
And then Wednesday rolled around.
I was TiVO-ing the Sox game because I was writing a column . . . suddenly my phone rang at around 7 o'clock. I picked it up, and my buddy Hench was screaming like a full-fledged lunatic. I couldn't even understand him. Turned out that Dale Sveum had just sent Dave Roberts home from second (down 5-4) on a line drive single to center. With no outs. Hench was so angry, I kept getting images of those crazy speeches that Hitler used to give, when he would be screaming and spitting and his face would turn bright-red.
Needless to say, we lost the game. Then Dotel blew a lead in the ninth to the Yankees, who ralled in extra innings to beat the A's. A two-game swing. No more of Those Ideas. I have this sinking feeling that Hench's angry phone call could end up as one of the defining moments of the season for me, along with Nomar sulking on the bench in Yankee Stadium and Foulke giving up back-to-backs in Seattle (followed by Bret Boone's "You knew it was coming" grand slam against Leskanic). What a disappointing season. There's nothing worse than following an "Either we win 10-4 or lose 4-3 team," unless you live in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Montreal or Toronto.
(And yes, this team is 45-44 in its last 89 games. With a $120 million payroll. It's true.)
On to unhappier things . . .
Did you see the odds for the USA Hoops team in Athens? 1-to-4???? In other words, you have to wager $400 on them just to win back $100. Incredible. Has anyone WATCHED this team? They don't have a single outside shooter in a tournament where you need to make 10-to-12 threes a game just to keep up. I'm telling you, they're going to get waxed. It's a formality. I'm leaning towards Argentina (6-to-1) or Lithuania (5-to-1) to take this thing, although I need to do a little more research.
Which raises the bigger question: Is it okay to bet against the United States?
Here's how I rationalize it: My ultimate goal is for the USA Committee to start picking true 12-man teams with shooters, rebounders, role players and energy guys, as I wrote last Wednesday. There's only one way this happens: We get embarrassed in Athens, followed by a week of columns and TV/radio shows around the country questioning this entire selection process. In the long run, it's better for us to get walloped over these next two weeks. It's for a greater good.
The U.S. Olympic team couldn't handle Dirk Nowitzki.
Speaking of the Nightmare Team, Wednesday's game against Germany had to be one of the most entertaining international games ever. Nowitzki was simply unconscious. If you drew up a power forward from scratch for international rules, he would the guy. In fact, he was so good in this game, I'm willing to re-think him as a franchise player. He was positively Bird-esque. Almost makes you wonder why we haven't seen something along the same lines in Dallas. And then Iverson made the halfcourt shot to win it -- missed by the international feed, of course -- followed by the USA players celebrating like they'd just won a free All-You-Can-Smoke hash buffet in Amsterdam after the game. Really, would MJ, Magic and Bird have been rolling around like that? Gimme a break.
Two more notes on the Nightmare Team . . .
1. Although Duncan has been predictably steady, the most surprising player over these past two weeks? Carmelo Anthony. He's been as good as Dwyane Wade has been disappointing -- a much better all-around player than anyone realized (and that includes defensively). In the Germany game, he was the only American player who didn't seem terrified down the stretch. I can't believe I left him off my Ultimate Dream Team last week. It's haunting me. If I had to do it over again, I would bump Amare Stoudemire, keep 'Melo and go with a smaller team. Poor Amare can't even get off the bench.
2. There isn't a more intriguing player on this team than LeBron. There just isn't. Terrible shot selection, out of control at times . . . and yet he does so many productive things that I can't imagine keeping him on the bench at crunch-time in Athens. He's the best passer AND the best athlete on the team. Unless Wade settles down, it's looking like a crunch-time lineup of Iverson, 'Melo, LeBron, Boozer and Duncan in Athens. Outside shooting be damned. That's my prediction.
One more NBA note: There's a reason you haven't seen the "Gary Payton is joining the Celtics!" press conference yet. It's because he hasn't decided if "Gary Payton is joining the Celtics!" yet. He's still furious about the trade -- not about playing in Boston, but at Mitch Kupchak for lying to him (that he would retire as a Laker) and not telling him about the deal ahead of time. (He found out from a media member.) Apparently, GP just moved his family from Seattle to Los Angeles this summer and planned on setting up shop there, even enrolling his oldest daughter in an L.A. school. Now his life has been turned upside down.
Anyway, the Celtics have been actively working on backup deals in case A.) GP decides to retire, or B.) GP refuses to accept the trade. Nobody sees him walking away from a guaranteed $5.5 million, and the Celtics front office certainly isn't budging on this. They also have Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers lobbying him heavily behind the scenes. But just in case, they're sniffing around. So stay tuned. Could be an interesting week.
Most common e-mails over the past three weeks:
1. A variation of this take (from Kevin G. in Boston):
"I was watching the new show 'Entourage' on HBO last night and wanted to see what you thought about the portrayal of the Green Room atmosphere on Kimmel's show in terms of accuracy, and if so, was the Sports Gal aware of this?"
OK, a couple of things here: First, that wasn't actually our Green Room (or any of the stuff backstage). They used a studio to film that stuff. The actual Green Room is about three times as big. As for the talent IN the Green Room . . . that was pretty accurate. Maybe it doesn't look like that every night; but at least two nights a week, it does, depending on the bands or if there's a bonafide celebrity appearing on the show.
Here's a good example: Lenny Kravitz played on the new outdoor stage last night. I didnt go -- mostly because I always thought he was wildly overrated -- but I can guarantee there were about 25-to-30 smoking-hot groupies there. In fact, I asked my friend Paul (a writer on the show) about it and here was his e-mail response:
"Ridiculous (expletive) last night. Voluminous."
For God's sake, this is Hollywood. Take all the hot women, groupies and bimbos from any major city, multiply them by 100, and you have Hollywood. So there you go.
(As for "Entourage," I'm waiting until Episode 6 to write about it, thanks to the Six-Show Rule: "Never judge a show until it's been on for six weeks ... unless it's 'Inside Schwartz.'")
2. A variation of this take (from New Orleans reader Dane Bono):
"Thanks for the Fe-mail bag -- more unintentional proof that it takes a woman three paragraphs and her life story to ask a simple sports question."
Honestly, that was one of the reasons we had the Fe-mail Bag. I was hoping that message would come across. Which reminds me . . .
3. A variation of this take (from Richmond reader Andy B.):
"With your letter to Esther in San Diego, I feel like you just betrayed all of your single or dating male audience. EVERYTHING YOU LISTED WAS EVERYTHING I ALWAYS HATED THAT GIRLS DO FOR SEEMINGLY NO REASON. Perhaps I'm just a moron for wanting to hear it straight. If I'm not paying someone enough attention, then just tell me. It's like you gave her a free pass to drive the guy completely nuts. I dunno. Is there another level to this joke? Please tell me there is. I feel betrayed."
Wow. I was surprised how many people missed the point here. By making it seem like I was giving Esther sound advice -- and yes, I was just telling her what other women do in the same situation, which wasn't sabotage or anything -- I was actually alerting every male reader about the four things women do when they want more attention. Basically, I tipped all of their pitches for you AND made it seem like I was trying to help her out. I thought that was pure genius. No female reader even saw that coming until right now. So there. Unfortunately, many of the male readers didn't understand the motivation because at least 40 percent of my readers are stoned at all times.
Believe me, there were definite reasons why I devoted two parts and nearly 9,000 words to an all-Fe-mail Bag. It accomplished everything I wanted it to accomplish. Let's just leave it at that.
Look at those meathooks!
4. A variation of this take (from Waltham reader Chris Carty):
"I just watched the end of some VH1 show in which Hulk Hogan's daughter gets one of her songs played on the radio. At the very end, the Hulkster is tearing up in a limo with his daughter as her song is announced and is playing (I'm man enough to admit that I was moved). But what happened next baffled me. Hogan actually said, 'I don't care how many belts I've won, that was the greatest moment in my life.' Do wrestlers believe pro wrestling is real? I don't want to take away from the workouts they have to do to get to the WWF and to be a championship-level performer, but would that mean Sly Stallone can say, 'I was heavyweight champion of the world and nobody can take that away from me?' He, too, went through the pains of intense workouts and ended up the victor of a pre-determined, scripted bout. Can you explain this?"
Um . . . no. I can't. But it sounds phenomenal. Just for the record, we receiuved a ton of e-mails about this show -- by all accounts, it's a solid 95 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Apparently, Hulk's daughter makes Ashlee Simpson sound like Whitney Houston in the mid-'80's by comparison.
One final thought from my friend Christian back in Boston:
"I noticed an unusually high number of "Teen Wolf" references lately. But did you ever notice that Michael J. Fox wears uniform No. 42? Of course you have. My theory is that, much like Redford wore No. 9 in 'The Natural' as a nod to Teddy Ballgame, Fox wore 42 as homage to Jackie Robinson. Because to the best of my knowledge, he was the first werewolf to play organized, competitive basketball. Really a pioneer, if you think about it. Much like Jackie, he paved the way for thousands of werewolves to come."
(Yep . . . these are my friends.)
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.