Page 2 columnist
Editor's note: This article originally ran on February 21, 2002.
Please keep in mind, everything you're about to read came from actual e-mails sent in by readers over the past few weeks. And as always, thanks to everyone who takes the time to send in an e-mail.One more thing: Today's USA Today contains an interview with my main man Moochie Norris about... his hair! Are you kidding me? Here was my favorite quote: "I have so many varieties. I give you braids. I give you half in, half out. I give you flat-out Afro. I give you the ponytail. I got a new style I'm going to bring out next week. It's pretty wild for somebody out there playing basketball." I'm not just asking for a "SportsCentury and Beyond: Moochie Norris" show, I'm demanding it. On to the e-mails... If you could go back in time and pick three sporting events to attend, which ones would you pick? As an added kicker, let's say that when you sat in your seat, you didn't know the outcome. My three: 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team vs. Russia, Wilt's 100-point game and Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man Alive" speech. A distant fourth: Homer Simpson bowling a perfect game. -- Greg Sawicki, Clarksboro, N.J.
SG: I agree with you on the USA-USSR game from 1980; that's my first choice as well. That game was like combining the endings of "Hoosiers," "The Longest Yard" and "Rocky IV," then multiplying the dramatic effect by 100. Will it ever be topped? Probably not. The first Frazier-Ali fight would be No. 2, just for the historical significance and the vaunted "buzz" at MSG in the minutes leading up to the fight. And the Patriots beating the Rams in the Super Bowl would be No. 3. Oh, wait, I was there.(Pumping my fist.) In my fantasy football league, we have a friend who tries to get away without paying his dues (transactions fees, fines, etc.) each year. He was late again this year and still owes some money to our winner from two years ago. Somehow, we still let him in the league, mostly because we need a certain amount of guys. Do you have any interesting ideas on how to penalize him next year when we go into the draft? --Tony P., Boston SG: First you have to determine if he's tardy on his fees because A.) he's just absent-minded, or B.) he's trying to get out of paying them because he's cheap (so he hopes the longer it drags on, the better the chance that people will forget that he owes money). If the answer is "A," keep sending him caustic e-mails ... eventually, he'll grow tired of you badgering him and remember to pay up. If the answer is "B," boot him out of the league and don't remain friends with him. Who wants to be friends with a scumbag? Guys have very few rules, but "Pay up when you owe somebody money" is one of them. Just for the record, here are 10 more "Guy Rules" (if you stick by these, you're all set):
- Don't operate the remote control at someone else's house, unless they give it to you.
- Don't ask to borrow a porn movie under any circumstances.
- Don't even think about hooking up with a friend's ex-girlfriend or sister.
- When you're sharing a bed with another guy, sleep as far away from him as possible.
- Don't use somebody's towel when you're using the same shower, unless there's absolutely no recourse.
- Don't drink the last premium beer in someone's fridge, unless they give you the OK first.
- Don't ask to borrow a DVD, unless it's someone you see at least two or three times a month.
- Don't call to make fun of them after their sports team suffers a tough loss.
- Don't let your friends keep buying rounds without stepping up to the plate yourself.
- Don't order a seven-course breakfast when everyone else is eating bagels, then say "Let's just split the check evenly" when the bill comes.
SG: What about Rickey Henderson? Bill Simmons can't believe you forgot about Rickey! Bill Simmons is incensed right now! Bill Simmons is beside himself!Other than Rickey, I would vote for Peja Stojakovic (the least dynamic interview in years); Moses Malone (for obvious reasons); Shaquille O'Neal (something about his monotone delivery always kills me); Brian Billick (more over-the-top than one of the villians from "Road House"); and everyone on the Clippers (Sunday night, 10 p.m., ESPN, just trust me). But nobody comes close to Rickey. Even Dikembe. I'm sitting there with the my car keys in my hand. My shoes are on, and I'm even pointed toward the door -- except for my head, which is still fixed toward the TV. No, I'm not waiting for halftime so I can leave ... instead I've trapped myself by turning on a movie which I cannot possiblystop watching and leave the house until my favorite scene comes up (in this case, in the flick "Heat," where Val Kilmer and Robert DeNiro fight their way out of a bank that's surrounded). Can you name another movie that prevents you from turning off the TV until that scene has come on ... even if it's two hours into the film and the rest of the film is junk? --Darren Sullivan, Fullerton, Calif. SG: Just for fun, I'm mixing this answer with the answer to another question I received recently: "What's the most embarrassing chick flick that you secretly enjoy watching, even if you would never admit it?" My answer: "The Bodyguard," indisputably one of the 15 or 20 worst big-budget movies of all-time. I mean, any movie that has Robert Wuhl playing himself as the host of an Oscars telecast is destined to bomb. What were they thinking? And it's just two hours of mindless, absorbing crap, with Costner mailing it in (he's wearing one of those "I can't believe Whitney Houston is so tough to work with" looks all movie), with the moronic plot, with the climactic scene at the Oscars, that was so farfetched that you can't even believe they filmed it. But here's the scene that always works for me: When Whitney gets on the plane at the end ... and the beginning of "I Will Always Love You" starts up ... and Whitney tells the plane to stop ... and she runs out and jumps into Costner's arms as the song kicks in. TREEEEEEE-mendous ending for a chick flick. If I'm flicking channels and I see Robert Wuhl hosting the Oscars, I'll keep checking back in until that final scene comes on. Let's move on before I start questioning my manhood ...
My friend Dan and I recently started the "Fredo Hall of Fame," a mythical place where the screwed-up brothers of famous people congregate to celebrate their less-than-triumphant achievements. It also includes a Fredo of the Week category. Without a doubt, Jeremy Giambi getting nailed on a pot beef the same day his brother signs the big deal makes him one of the all-time greatest Fredos. Do you care to submit your list of Fredos? Others include: Brett Lindros, Ozzie Canseco, Chuck Cunningham, Roger Clinton and Neil Bush. --G. Gregory, Winnipeg, ManitobaSG: Some glaring omissions: Billy Carter, Steve Sanders' half-brothers on 90210, everyone in Snoop Dogg's family and Eddie Bird. And how can you leave out Frank Stallone? He weaseled his way onto the "Staying Alive" soundtrack and the first four "Rockys" before Sly finally filed a career restraining order against him. And where do all of Don Shula's sons fit into this? Or the Schottenheimer family? Shouldn't this be expanded to include all family members? This idea needs some work. When you're playing "Madden 2002," is it ethical to look at which plays your opponent is scrolling through (as you're picking a defense)? --Joe Moran in Rhode Island SG: That's one of the age-old dilemmas of life, right up there with "How much should you tip a cab driver?" and "Is it OK to read while you're getting a haircut?" It's never been solved. I have no answer for you. Who do you think is the biggest waste of talent in the history of sports (preferably the last 50 or so years). Not who died young due to drugs or got killed or anything like that, but who just dogged it so much during their career that they literally wasted all of their God-given ability? Also, who is the biggest waste of talent currently? --Adam Harrington, Washington, D.C. SG: No question: Derrick Coleman. He could have been the best power forward of all-time, and he just didn't give a crap. At least Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry could blame their problems on chemical dependencies. Another ultimate waste was David Thompson, a high-flying, explosive guard for the Nuggets who was probably my favorite non-Celtic of the late-'70s (he was MJ before MJ was MJ). Nobody ever mentions him anymore, because he did enough coke during his career to put Tony Montana to shame. Too bad.
What are your thoughts on conspiracy theories, in sports and beyond? I'm talking UNLV throwing the '91 Final Four game to Duke, Puffy killing Biggie, World War II being a hoax, etc.? -- Dan O'Connor, New YorkSG: I love 'em. Too bad the potential for a libel suit prevents me from discussing any of my favorites. I will say this ... my two favorite conspiracy theories that I can mention both involve David Stern: 1. That Stern fixed the 1985 Lottery so Patrick Ewing would end up in New York. Have you ever seen a tape of the '85 Lottery? Of course not ... all tapes have apparently been destroyed. As the legend goes, they were seven envelopes in the Lottery Bin (back in the pre-ping pong ball days), and they froze the Knicks envelope in dry ice. So when Stern was pulling out the envelopes, he knew to avoid the Knicks until they were the only envelope left. Ingenious. 2. That Stern forced MJ to leave the NBA in '93 for 18 months (because MJ's gambling problems were much worse than we were led to believe). A de facto suspension without calling it a suspension. Let's face it ... MJ leaving the league in his prime to play minor-league baseball was just too far-fetched. It didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now. (Obviously neither of these "conspiracies" can be proven ... maybe Mulder and Scully need to get involved.) Two questions ... first, while compiling lists is done elsewhere on Page 2, who are your least favorite pointless and annoying female movie characters? You mentioned Adrian from "Rocky," which brought Wendy from "The Shining" to mind (did anyone not want Jack to give her the axe? Let Danny escape, but please take Wendy down!). Other notables might include Maggie from "Caddyshack" and Brenda from "The Highlander" (more obscure reference). But I'd be interested in your list. --Jeremy Mario, Chapel Hill, N.C. SG: Back on my old website, I had a running joke centered on this theme -- a book of annoying female characters that ruined my favorite movies called "T'anks For Nothin', Danny!" -- so I don't mind treading down this road again. You forgot four of my favorites: Bruce Willis' girlfriend in "Pulp Fiction" (excruciating); Nick Nolte's girlfriend in "48 Hours" (why was she even in there?), Barbara Hershey in "Hoosiers" (maybe the most hateful sports movie character of all-time), Gretchen Mol in "Rounders" (a career-ending performance), and Rosie Perez in "White Men Can't Jump" (just a human hand grenade). What's your favorite sports video game? I'd have to go with Tecmo Super Bowl. --Sean Schaefer, Quakertown, Pa.
SG: PGA Tour III for Sega Genesis (from the mid-'90s), narrowly edging NHL '94, Madden 2002 and the original Tecmo Bowl. It was the only golf game that moved pretty fast and didn't try to make things too complicated ... you could play an entire round by yourself in 20 minutes ... you could roll off a tournament in less than two hours ... the crowd noises were tremendous (especially when you missed a birdie putt: "Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!!!") ... you had seven courses to choose from ... there was legitimate "choke" potential when things got tense during the final holes, especially if you were gambling ... you could play up to four players, making it the greatest "Drunken Late Night Video Game" of all-time (the trash-talking potential was off the charts) ... and even if you shot a 58, you always felt like you could have done a little bit better.Quick PGA III story: My buddy Gus and I would play skins against Tommy Armour III, one of the pros in the game, as well as the worst real-life athlete in the history of video games. I'm telling you, they made him intentionally terrible. So we would be on the 17th hole with a seven-hole carryover, and suddenly Tommy would swoop in with an eagle to steal every skin. It never failed. One of the all-time strange phenomenons. (Speaking of Gus, PGA III was the game that really spawned the "Pulling a Jackie" phenomenon, as described in my World Series diary of Game 7 last October. We would be bunkered down in the 70th hole of a back-and-forth tournament, and suddenly Jackie would appear out of nowhere, asking questions like, "Did we pay the phone bill this month?" and "Have you seen my car keys?" as Gus immediately started hooking four-irons into the woods. Always high comedy.) What is your favorite "serious" sitcom episode? By serious, I mean when they try to address a serious topic and end up with an unintentionally hysterical turn of events? My top three: Gordon Jump's episode of "Diff'rent Strokes" (as the bike store owner who gets a little too friendly with Arnold and his buddies), "The Silver Spoons" holiday episode (where Ricky ... I mean Rick ... finds the family living in the cave), and "Gimme a Break" (where the oldest daughter gets gonorhhea). -- Tony Bosch, Edgewood, Ky. SG: That's a no-brainer. Nothing tops Gordon Jump playing a child molester, then getting poor Dudley to take his shirt off right before the cops busted into the room. Now we know it as the unintentionally funniest sitcom episode of all-time, but back then, I remember seeing that as a kid and being legitimately terrified. Kids were so freaked out that I don't think Gordon Jump ever worked again. I'm serious. They need to re-release that on DVD with commentary from Jump, Conrad Bain, Gary Coleman, Shavar Ross and Al Skinner. Has Grand Theft Auto 3 completely warped your mind the way it has mine? I seriously don't drive my car the same way anymore. When I'm driving now, and I see a jogger on the side of the road for a split second, I think "Hey, I'm gonna hit them." It's scary. --Matt C., Charlestown, Mass. SG: No question about it ... that's one of the reasons I recently FedEx-ed that game to one of my buddies, just so I could get it out of my house. I knew things had gone too far when I completed all my missions and beat the game, then ended up heading over to the ammo shop, purchasing as many weapons as possible, and heading to an abandoned parking garage to shoot as many people as possible, before the police helicopters, army tanks and FBI agents came after me. And I did this while walking 3.8 miles on my treadmill for 45 minutes straight. That's a cry for help. A great idea for an article would be Grand Theft Auto IV, the sports edition. One of the missions could be go deliver some packages to the Clippers. Another mission would be go pick up Terry Glenn and bring him to practice. --Bob, Natick, Mass. SG: I'm down with that. The possibililites here are endless: Rush to a Tampa jail to bail out Doc Gooden ... take R Jay Soward to his weekly drug test ... help Al Davis whack Jon Gruden ... blow up the Knicks team bus to clear their salary cap ... steal $5,000 from Deuce McAllister ... help Brian Billick kidnap Elvis Grbac ... get to Barry Bonds before he breaks the HR record ... help the Flyers beat up Eric Lindros ... and the final mission would unquestionably involve Mike Tyson. Can you please explain the phenomenom that occurs during a lap dance that convinces you that you actually may have a chance for romance with the dancer? -- Tony Calandra, New York SG: Sure. It's called "alcohol." If Sam Malone, Sonny Crockett, Dylan McKay, and Mark Cuban all went out on the town for a month straight, who would get the women and why? -- A. Gray, Boston
SG: Sonny would nab all the high-quality older chicks. Dylan would nab all the betties under the age of 25. Sam would have the inside track on every bimbo and floozy. And Cuban would probably try to block all of them by barging into their conversations, laughing at his own jokes, hitting on prospective females when the other guys were in the bathroom, repeatedly mentioning to everyone how he's worth a billion dollars and owns his own NBA team, trying to hop into their cabs as they left with somebody and so on. Sonny would punch him out within a week.By the way, after "Sidelines" finishes with the Clips, they really need to follow Mark Cuban around for a few weeks. Does he ever comb his hair or brush his teeth? Has he bought new clothes since he became a billionaire? Does he actually land chicks? Do the Mavericks players actually let him hit the town with them, or do they make up excuses so they won't have to hang out ("Ah, geez, we're turning in early tonight, because we have a big game tomorrow, um..."). We need to know these things, don't we? I know I do. What announcers would you choose to do play-by-play and color commentary for some of your best personal sports moments? Personally, I'd choose Kevin Harlan and Bill Walton to cover my 18-point explosion against Roosevelt Elementary in sixth grade (I had potential, but puberty had other plans). Can you imagine Harlan reeling off his "With no regard for human life" line as some 11-year-old drives by "hopeless defenders"? -- Alexander, Minnesota SG: I would choose Chris Schenkel for play-by-play the time I rolled a 199 at Greenwich Lanes -- I had a 191 going into the 10th frame, knocked down eight pins on the first ball (one away from a 200), and had the Nos. 7 and 9 pins standing about a foot apart ... somehow I rolled my second ball right between the 7 and 9 pins without even grazing either of them. It was absolutely unbelievable. The most catastrophic turn of events for a meaningless "Not really a sport" sporting event in my entire life. Just out of curiosity, some buddies of mine and I were wondering about your abilities on the wiffleball field. I insist that you're a junk-ball pitcher, who probably features a wiffle slider complemented with a slow knuckler. However, some of my friends argue that you make your living at the plate with a sneaky Tony Gwynn-like approach (a lot of scouting and getting the opposing pitcher hammered). And then there are the naysayers who insist that your game would be more painful to watch than listening to Eric Dickerson give the State of Union Address. -- M. Jacques, Boston SG: I'm an effective junkballer out of the Gaylord Perry/Eddie mode. And my arm is made out of rubber -- I can throw more innings than Jack Chesbro. (By the way, if there were ever a decathlon for pseudo-sports -- pool, shuffleboard, wiffleball, Monopoly, stickball, HORSE, ping-pong, miniature golf, bowling, darts and croquet -- I'd be the next Bruce Jenner. I keep waiting for ESPN to launch a "Pseudo-Sports Century And Beyond" series, so I can finally get my proper due.) And the final question, which needs to be delved into in detail ... We've all been dancing around the most controversial breakdown of our generation. Yeah, that's right ... "Cheers" Vs. "Seinfield." Dr. Jack, the floor is yours. -- K. Fitzgerald, Manchester, Conn. SG: Damn. And you thought the "Who would win between Hickory High and Carver High in a seven-game series?" question from last summer was tough. All right, let's break this down, Dr. Jack-style:
Stars: Jerry Seinfeld wasn't really acting, was he? Wasn't he basically playing himself and shifting his nightclub act to the small screen? Wasn't he more of a straight man, a facilitator? As for Ted Danson, he created a memorable, multi-dimensional, likable, hysterical character. ... I mean, it didn't get much better than Sam Malone. Jerry needed the actual material to make you laugh; Sammy could make you laugh without saying a line. I would even call him a borderline comedic genius. And he could go serious on you, too. Frankly, it's no contest. EDGE: "Cheers."Supporting Cast: Elaine, Kramer and George. That's a murderers' row. You could make a case that Elaine was the funniest female TV character of all-time; Kramer was the funniest "wacky sitcom character"; and George was the funniest TV character of all-time, period. Who was funnier than George Costanza? He's the only sitcom character who ever made me consistently laugh out loud ... and yes, I'm including Screech, J.J. Walker, Joey Tribbiani and Jack Tripper. He kills me to this day. And I liked all of the running fringe characters (George's parents, Newman, Puddy, etc.) except for Mr. and Mrs. Seinfeld (who never brought anything to the table and should have been put out to pasture after the two-part raincoats episode). "Cheers" probably matches them for running fringe characters though (Harry the Con Man, Eddie LeBeck, Nick Tortelli). As for the "Cheers" supporting cast, Norm Peterson was my second-favorite sitcom character of all-time (nobody had a better entrance). Diane Chambers worked perfectly in the early years, but ultimately became overbearing. Cliff Clavin was a tour-de-force, one of the more original sitcom characters out there. Same with Frasier (do you realize Kelsey Grammar is going on 17 years playing that guy? Has to be a record). I enjoyed Carla as long as they weren't revolving an episode around her. The only characters I never really liked were Rebecca Howe and Lilith, but "Cheers" was running on fumes for those last few years.
And then there was Coach, the heart and soul of that show; it was never the same after he left (Woody was a poor man's version of him). I always thought "Cheers" was a show until Coach died, then it became a sitcom, if that makes sense.At gunpoint, I have to go with the "Seinfeld" cast. I just can't imagine any scenario in which the Elaine-Kramer-George trio could be topped. It's impossible. EDGE: "Seinfeld." Best Celebrity Cameo: Both shows played this card beautifully over the years -- Kevin McHale, Keith Hernandez, Roger McDowell, Jon Voight, Wade Boggs, George Steinbrenner, Terry Hatcher, Marlee Matlin, etc. -- but the best celebrity cameo was from the two-part "Seinfeld" episode when Hernandez dates Elaine ("I'm Keith Hernandez ... I won the MVP in '79"). Other than Joe Montana's doing the "That's OK ... I'm going upstairs to masturbate" sketch on SNL in the mid-'80s, Hernandez's appearance destroys everything else I can remember -- that was one of the five best "Seinfeld" episodes of all-time. You know it's good when I'm ranking it ahead of McHale playing for the "Cheers" hoops team. EDGE: "Seinfeld." Main Set: Jerry's apartment versus the bar from "Cheers"? Puh-leeeze. Throw in New York versus Boston and it's no contest. EDGE: "Cheers." "Jump the Shark" Factor: "Seinfeld" jumped when Elaine straightened out her hair and Kramer revealed that his first name was "Cosmo"; "Cheers" jumped when Sam and Diane got engaged. Both of them were still watchable after these things happened ... they just weren't nearly as good. Hey, it happens. "Cheers" might have jumped sooner than "Seinfeld," but "Cheers" did a better job of integrating new characters and remaining somewhat fresh, whereas "Seinfeld" drove its four main characters into the ground. Couldn't they have thrown in a steady girlfriend for George or something? EDGE: Even.
Sexual tension: As good as Elaine and Jerry were, they can't come close to Sam and Diane. Their relationship fueled that show for three consecutive years and banged home the "Women are utterly and completely insane" concept for me as a fledgling teenager. Thank you, Diane Chambers. BIG EDGE: "Cheers."Consistency, originality and durability: The "Seinfeld" re-runs hold up much better these days; better-written, more original, more modern, outright funnier shows. But "Cheers" was hindered by the limits of sitcoms in the '80s -- one set, one plot, one resolution -- so it's tough to really blame them for that. And it showed a little soul and a little emotion from time to time, which "Seinfeld" simply wouldn't and couldn't do. "Cheers" remains the last great old-fashioned sitcom, the finest of its kind. They don't make 'em like that anymore. EDGE: Even. Cultural Significance: Has there ever been a water cooler comedy quite like "Seinfeld"? And what about all the phrases from "Seinfeld" that became part of pop culture (like "Not that there's anything wrong with that"), or the quirky one-shot characters (the close-talker, the virgin, etc.). BIG EDGE: "Seinfeld." Watershed Episode: Tough call for "Cheers"... I'd probably go with the Thanksgiving episode when everyone threw food at one another at Carla's house. Some inspired comedy there. For "Seinfeld," it's obviously "The Contest," in my opinion, the second-funniest sitcom in history (behind Larry Sanders' "Roast" episode). There's comedy, there's high comedy, there's transcendent comedy, and then there's George Costanza visiting his mother in the hospital just so he can peek in on the lady getting the sponge bath. EDGE: "Seinfeld." Final Episode: "Cheers" ended things pretty well. Not great ... but OK. The final "Seinfeld" episode ranks right up there with "Rocky V," "Another 48 Hours" and "Fletch Lives" for me ... in other words, let's just pretend it never happened. EDGE: "Cheers." Final Verdict: "Cheers" was a more complete all-around show (funny, heartwarming, well-acted, not afraid to introduce new characters), but "Seinfeld's" ceiling was just a little higher (groundbreaking, unique, unpredictable, and consistently great for five or six years). Much like they're might be another Michael Jordan, but there will never be another Larry Bird... there might be another "Cheers," but there will never be another "Seinfeld." EDGE: Seinfeld. Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.