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Monday, July 30, 2001
Sports Guy's Book of Lists

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Why write a coherent column when you can just make lists? For instance ...

Six nonmovie sports themes from my childhood that still get me fired up and should probably be released on CD at some point
Magic Johnson
Nothing caught the spirit of Magic Johnson and the Lakers quite like the theme to "St. Elmo's Fire."
6. The first "SportsCenter" theme
It cruised along like a bad adult film ... and then, suddenly, the chorus would come flying in: "DAH DA! DAH DA!" It's never been topped or even really approached.

5. The Masters music
Soothing, pleasant, always reminds me of happy moments, like the Golden Bear in '86. Bonus points here, because it was ripped off beautifully by Sega Genesis for "PGA Tour '95," unequivocally the greatest golf video game of all-time (and nobody will soon forget the "52" I slapped on River Highlands, but that's another story for another time).

4. Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger"
WWF superstar Hulk Hogan used "Tiger" for his entrance music back in the early-'80s, back when the Hulkster had his fastball and Gorilla Monsoon would scream in the background, "This place is electric!" as he entered the ring. Good times ... good times.

3. CBS's old NBA pregame music from the '80s
Happy and peppy. Reminds me of the days when the Celts were good and Larry Bird ruled all. Remember the ending to the first stanza? "Duh duh dahhhhhhhhhhh.... (pause) duh-duh-DAH!"

(This doesn't count, but special bonus points here to CBS for those special NBA Finals intros they made in the mid-'80s -- music from either "Terms of Endearment" or "St. Elmo's Fire" playing in the background, as Brent Musburger set the scene: "Magic Johnson and the Lakers thought the Celtics were done after running them off the floor in Game 3 ... but they underestimated the will of Larry Bird and the Celtics, who stormed back for a memorable win in Game 4 ... now the stage is set for the Boston Garden and Game 5 ...")

2. The music from any NFL Films show from the early-'70s
With special emphasis to "Autumn Wind" (yes, I looked it up on the 'Net), the classical song they always played with John Facenda rasping along and saying things like, "But Kenny Stabler had a resilience that couldn't be measured by numbers."

(Come on, hum it with me: "Da da DAH da-da-da DAH da da da-duh ... da da DAH da-da-da DAH da da da duhhhhh ...")

1. The theme for the closing credits for "This Week In Baseball" during the late-'70s
Remember that one? Classical music playing in the background as Freddie Lynn made that diving catch in slow motion and Pete Rose came chugging around the bases to slide into third base? My goosebumps just got goosebumps.


Four terms that should be used by baseball fans the same way we use "The Closer" and "The Stopper"
4. "The Jobber"
In wrestling, the phrase "jobber" refers to those down-on-their-luck wrestlers who inevitably get their butts kicked from week to week -- the lowest members of the wrestling food chain. For baseball, it could work for any of those "Throw the White Flag" relievers who only seem to pitch when your team's trailing/winning by six runs or more. And just for the record, Shag Crawford and Frankie Williams were my two favorite jobbers of all-time.

3. "The Cooler"
This one was suggested by reader James Donaher, who asked, "Can we come up with a new role, you know, the guy who comes in during a tense moment before the ninth inning and shuts down a potential rally? We can call it 'The Cooler,' like (Patrick Swayze's character) Dalton in 'Road House.' "

(This works on four levels: We would be paying homage to "Road House," one of the greatest bad movies of the past 20 years; the term "set-up guy" just doesn't work; the Mike Stantons of the world would finally feel important with their own label/gimmick; and the term "Cooler" just sounds fun. Can you imagine? "Looks like Jimy Williams is going to his Cooler ... Rich Garces is coming on!")

2. "The Fluffer"
Don Zimmer
Don Zimmer, also known as Joe Torre's consigliere.
In the adult film industry, fluffers "prepare" the stars for a scene (the oldddddddd-fashioned way). In baseball, the bullpen catchers prepare the starters before a game. Yawn. Wouldn't it be more fun if announcers said things like, "I watched Randy Johnson throwing to his fluffer before the game and it looked like he was throwing in the high-90s"?

1. "The Consigliere"
You know how we refer to Don Zimmer as Joe Torre's "bench coach"? When you think about it, he's really performing that "Robert Duvall in 'The Godfather' "-esque advisory role, isn't he? This is a no-brainer. Can't you see them sitting next to each other on the bench -- expressionless, motionless, almost looking like wax dummies -- as the announcer says, "There's Yankee manager Joe Torre, sitting alongside his consigliere, Don Zimmer"?


Five tips that you're listening to two generic baseball announcers on the radio
5. They're both older than 50. This is mandatory. It's apparently impossible for anyone to broadcast a baseball game unless they're past 50.

4. They have corny exchanges like this:

Announcer No. 1: "Here comes Jeremy Giambi, who's 2-for-4 today."

Announcer No. 2: "The Giambi brothers have five hits combined this afternoon."

(Long, awkward pause)

Announcer No. 1: "Oh, brother."

3. If anyone on the opposing team does anything remotely impressive, they downplay the moment as much as possible and sound like they're making a doctor's appointment: "There's a long drive to left ... that's gonna be gone ... and it's a tie game ... that ball went over the Wall, out of Fenway, over the Mass Pike, over the B.U. campus and into the Charles River ... he got a hold of that one ..."

2. They never challenge the home team's manager, ever, under any circumstances. Even if the manager decides to play all eight of his defensive players in right field, you'll only hear something like, "Curious move here."

1. If the Blue Jays are visiting and Jose Cruz Jr. comes up for the first time in a series, one of them will bring up Jose Cruz Sr. within 10 seconds with one of those corny "Boy, his Dad sure could swing the bat, huh?" lines. Bonus points here if there's anyone whose grandfather also played in the majors, which could spawn a 10-minute conversation about "the late, great Gus Bell" or whichever grandfather was involved.


Four NBA trades that need to happen, and yes, all of them work under the cap
Anfernee Hardaway
Penny's return to Memphis makes sense, if not cents, for Anfernee Hardaway, the Suns and the Grizzlies.
4. Phoenix trades Penny Hardaway and Vinny Del Negro to the Grizzlies for Bryant Reeves and Michael Dickerson ... Penny's emotional return to the Memphis area, the perfect place for him to blow out his ACL one final time.

3. Washington trades Richard Hamilton and cap filler (Loy Vaught, Etan Thomas, Tyrone Nesby) to Portland for Scottie Pippen ... MJ & Scottie, the Sequel.

2. A five-way deal: Boston gets Derrick Coleman, New York gets Vin Baker, Memphis gets Kenny Anderson, Charlotte gets Bryant Reeves and the Sonics get Larry Johnson ... five untradeable guys get moved around for no reason whatsoever!

1. Seattle trades Gary Payton to Portland for Damon Stoudamire and a No. 1 ... think about it. The salaries match up. Seattle gets younger. Portland gets a proven veteran who could legitimately become hooked up to the Juvenation Machine in a "Barkley in 1993" kinda way. Payton and Shawn Kemp would have the most emotional reunion since Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada donned motorcycle helmets again for "Chips 2000." And Payton and Rasheed Wallace could be the first NBA teammates to come to blows on the court in my lifetime.)


Top-10 most devastating on-screen deaths of all-time

10. Apollo ("Rocky 4") -- Throw the damned towel! Throw the damned towel! For the love of God, throw the damn towel

9. Cyrus ("The Warriors") -- Somebody needs to remake this movie, keep Cyrus alive and examine what might have happened if the city gangs tried to take over New York back in the late-'70s. I think Cyrus and the Gramercy Riffs could have pulled it off, personally.

8. Manny ("Scarface") -- Pound for pound, still the most startling moment in movie history. I always thought the actor who played Manny (Stephen Bauer) really did die in this movie until he turned up in "Traffic" last year.

7. Hooch ("Turner and Hooch") -- I mean ... did they really have to kill Hooch? This one gets me every time.

6. Mickey ("Rocky 3") -- The only positive outcome from Mickey's death was that we finally found out his last name (Goldmill).

5. Goose ("Top Gun") -- I'm making the Tom Cruise "Purse my lips and bulge my eyes to signify that I'm trying not to cry" face just thinking about it.

4. Buffalo Bill ("Silence of the Lambs") -- Along with Machine from "Eight Millimeter," Buffalo Bill was one of Hollywoods's unintentional comedic geniuses of our lifetime. I still like to break out the "Now it places the lotion in the basket... it places the lotion in the basket... Put the (expletive) lotion in the basket!" at parties.

3. Fredo ("The Godfather") -- Just devastating. I can't even rationally discuss this one.

2. Brian Piccolo ("Brian's Song") -- "I loved Brian Piccolo ... and I hope you love him, too."

1. Champ ("The Champ") -- "Wake up, Champ. Champ. Champ? Wake up, Champ? (pause) Champ! Champ! Wake up, Champ!"


Nomar Garciaparra
As Nomar Garciaparra says, no one wants to play in Boston anymore.
Top-three reactions in Boston during Sunday's Red Sox game
3. No-mah!"

2. "No-mahhhhhhhh!!!!"

1. "No, seriously. No-mahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!"


Four reasons I thoroughly enjoyed the MLS's "All-Star Skills Challenge" from San Jose at 12:30 a.m. ET Saturday
4. My buddy Rob "The Stoner" Stone was host of the show (along with former MLS coach Dave Dirr). Any time you have a good friend serving as host for a late-night TV show when you've just gotten back from a bar, that's about as exciting as it gets. And you think I'm kidding.

3. They play a two-men-per-team game called "Air Soccer" which can best be described as a cross between volleyball, soccer and human ping pong -- not only are the players required to use either their heads or their feet, the ball must be sent over the net within three touches. As bizarre as that sounds, it's absorbing as hell. Actually tense at times.

2. "The Goalie Wars" is unequivocally the coolest All-Star event in any sport (at least until the NBA wises up and institutes H-O-R-S-E into All-star Weekend). Here's the format: Two goalies stand about 50 yards away in their respective nets (which face each other), and they're trying to either kick or throw the soccer ball past the other goalie.

(I'm telling you, this could become the next obscure Olympic sport if it's marketed properly. Endurance, luck, skills ... you need it all. Then again, I'm the same guy who watches women's billiards, so you probably shouldn't trust me on this one.)

1. During a pre-"Goalie Wars" demonstration of the event, Dave Dirr dominated an overmatched Stoner (who looked red-faced and ready to drop an F-bomb at one point). Probably the highlight of my weekend.


My top five, OK six, favorite "SportsCentury and Beyond" shows so far
5. Greg Norman -- Fascinating to see all of his collapses strung together over the course of an hour. It's like a one-hour car crash.

4. Jerry West, Isiah Thomas (tie) -- Two interesting, complex guys who had a bunch of things happen to them over the course of their careers. The West episode was especially gripping for me because I didn't know a lot about him.

3. Jack Nicklaus -- Do you ever get tired of the '86 Masters footage? Me neither.

2. John McEnroe -- Just plain absorbing, especially with some candid comments from Johnny Mac. Out of all the episodes I've seen, this one stands out for me more than any other -- there's just a special feel about it.

1. Larry Bird -- The sports documentary equivalent of the Bible.


Top five things I'll miss about watching Deion Sanders play
5. Hoping he'll get plunked in the back by a fastball.

4. Hoping he'll return a punt for a TD . . . and then it will get called back by a holding penalty.

3. Hoping he'll get burned on a long touchdown pass.

2. Hoping he'll steal second base and the catcher's throw will inadvertently hit him in the head.

1. Hoping he'll get nailed by a cheap-shot tackle after calling for a fair catch.


Top-10 least convincing athletic performances by an actor in a sports movie
(Note: We're only concentrating on relevant sports movies here from the past 25 years, so the John Goodmans, Tony Danzas and Janet Joneses of the world get a break for the time being, as well as the William Bendixes and Anthony Perkinses from way back):

10. Ray Kinsella's Dad ("Field of Dreams") -- The whole movie builds to this surreal climax -- Ray finally getting to make up for the fact that he never got along with his dead father by having a catch with him -- and then the actor portraying Ray's Dad looks like he just learned how to play catch that day on the set. Always bothered me.

9. Jonathan Lipnicki ("Jerry Maguire") -- Remember the last scene of the movie, when they're walking in the park and Lipnicki picks up a loose baseball and unleashes that allegedly superhuman throw? It looks like he's having some sort of epileptic spasm.

8. Ralph Macchio ("Karate Kid") -- No way Macchio defeats a just-entering-his-prime Billy Zabka at the All-Valley Karate Championships in real life. Puh-leeeze.

7. Matt Damon ("Legend of Bagger Vance") -- Let me put on my Robin Williams beard: "Matt, it's not your fault ... you're not a golfer ... it's not your fault ... it's not your fault ... it's not your fault ... it's not your fault ..."

6. Joe Don Baker who played The Whammer ("The Natural") -- That scene would have worked much better if you didn't have the nagging feeling that you could have struck out the Whammer.

5. The guy who played crafty veteran righty Eddie Harris ("Major League") -- Was he even cracking "40" on the radar gun?

4. Dwayne Schintzius, Greg Ostertag ("Eddie") -- Come on ... we're supposed to believe that these guys could have been actual NBA centers? What are we, stupid?

3. Tim Robbins ("Bull Durham") -- Looked like he was auditioning for the "Run, Throw and Catch like a Girl" Olympics. Irrevocably tainted the movie for me.

2. Mac Davis ("North Dallas Forty") -- See the above paragraph about Robbins, with the added bonus that Davis was playing an NFL quarterback and couldn't have been taller than 5-foot-6. If he turned that role down, Dudley Moore would have been all over it.

1. Michael J. Fox ("Teen Wolf") -- The watershed "I can't believe this is happening" sports movie performance of my lifetime. Fox literally couldn't even dribble without looking at the ball ... and yet the last 10 minutes of "Teen Wolf" somehow remains one of the more entertaining sports movies sequences of the '80s. I've stopped trying to figure it out.

Until next time.

Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.