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Friday, October 12, 2001
Mailbag: Drop the Chop

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Please keep in mind, everything you're about to read came from actual e-mails sent in by readers over the past few weeks. If you would like to submit a question for the next edition of "Ask Sports Guy," click here and follow the instructions.

On to the e-mails ...

Atlanta Braves fans
Ahhh, ahhhhh ..... Stop it! Stop it now, for crying out loud.
I want to start an "anti-chop" movement here in Atlanta. Not because of the Tomahawk Chop offending anyone, but just because I think it's really annoying and a crude reminder that Deion Sanders ever played for the Braves. Any suggestions?
-- M. Collins, Atlanta

I'd love to help! Other than the Jumbotron, the Tomahawk Chop was the most heinous sports development of the '90s. It's just this droning, disorienting, horrible noise -- like the soundtrack to "Cobra," but 10 times worse. Four things drive me bonkers about it (and I know I'm not alone here):

1. The Chop never seems to end. It just will not go away; it's the crowd version of VD. It's like being trapped in a hospital waiting room with someone who's whistling, when you want to tell them to shut up, but you can't, so you shoot him mean-spirited glares and hope for a vein to burst in his forehead ... and they never get a clue. Know what I mean? It's driven me to the point where I can't even watch a playoff game that takes place in Atlanta anymore. Seriously. It's that brutal. I hate it. I'm breaking out in hives just writing about it.

2. As if the grating noise isn't bad enough, the mere knowledge that these moronic Atlanta fans perform a mock chopping motion while they make this excruciating sound ... I mean, as Chandler Bing would say, "Could you guys be bigger losers?" God, take a look in a freaking mirror for once.

3. That reminds me, has there ever been a bigger group of bandwagon fans in sports history than Atlanta Braves fans? Remember when they were drawing, like, 5,000 a game during the Bob Horner Era? During those days, your average Atlanta citizen couldn't have picked Dale Murphy out of a police lineup. I can't tell you how much it kills me that fast food franchises like the Marlins and Braves captured championships in the '90s, while the drought continued in genuine baseball cities like Boston, San Fran and Chicago. Life just isn't fair sometimes.

(With the Braves getting older, you can almost picture their fans monitoring Michael Vick and the Falcons, saying to themselves, "When should we make the jump, next year? 2003? When's the best time? Should I start selling my Braves stuff on eBay now, just to get a jump on everyone? You wouldn't want to buy my replica Andruw Jones jersey, would you?")

Florida State Seminoles fans
Not that it's worth bragging about, but Florida State had the Chop first.
4. Here's the kicker ... the Braves fans didn't even come up with the Chop themselves! They stole the idea from Florida State! What's worse, that they're annoying or unoriginal? Frankly, it's a coin flip. And when you consider that Atlanta made The Chop and Jerry Glanville famous in the same decade, that's possible grounds for our second Civil War.

Anyway, here's what you can do, M.Collins: Paste this portion of the mailbag into an e-mail and send it to some of your Atlanta friends, for the simple reason that Braves fans don't seem to realize that the rest America despises them with a startling passion. Trust me, Atlanta -- everyone hates you. You're the Ivan Lendl of sports cities, and it's because of this damn Chop. Get rid of it. Please. We're begging you.

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Who would you want in your celebrity foursome, dead or alive (you included), and which course would you play (Bushwood Country Club is an acceptable answer)?
-- J. Schluchter, Tampa

Charles Barkley
We'll take fun-loving Charles Barkley, at right with John Smoltz and not looking like he's planning a comeback, in our foursome any day.
Obviously, I would choose Bushwood. If they never repaired the course after Carl the Gardener blew it up, I'd choose the River Highlands course in Connecticut, where I shot that staggering 52 on "PGA Tour '95" on Sega Genesis six years ago.

As for the foursome, it kills me to leave out greats like Ian Ziering, John Belushi, Dr. Jack Ramsay and Sebastian Janikowski, but I'm going with this Skins match-up: Me and Larry Bird vs. Charles Barkley and Jack Wagner.

Bird makes the cut even though I could potentially pull a "Chris Farley Show" routine for 18 straight holes. ("Remember that time when you stole the ball against Isiah? That was awe-some.") Barkley and Wagner would be the toughest non-pro celebrity pairing to topple, because 1) Wagner's the greatest celebrity golfer of all-time (how has ESPN not produced a "SportsCentury" on him yet?), and 2) Barkley would be tossing out barbs every 30 seconds, and making it impossible for anyone else to concentrate. And as an added wrinkle, we would probably all be drunk by the fifth hole.

(One possible fun switch: Bill Laimbeer in Wagner's place just for the awkward moment when we're choosing up teams for Skins and nobody wants to play with Laimbeer until Barkley finally says, begrudgingly, "All right, I'll play with him.")

If The Man couldn't make it as my partner, I'd probably choose Bill Clinton. The former Prez always seemed like one of those "Secret Fun Guys" to me -- Chris Rock once compared the experience of meeting Clinton to "meeting the president of a record company." Plus, the thought of Barkley busting on Clinton about Monica Lewinsky's looks while Jack Wagner giggled in the background ... I mean, could you put a price on a moment like that? I think not.

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Bobby Cox
All games are created equal in the Bobby Cox Theory.
Can I suggest a new theory to go along with your Ewing Theory, called "The Bobby Cox Theory"? That describes any manager or coach who treats the regular season like the postseason. Cox micro-manages all 162 games and gets the absolute most out of every player, then when the playoffs start and every other team turns up the intensity, the Braves have nothing more to give. Every other manager in the playoffs is pulling out new tricks and pressing for every run; Cox is doing the same thing he did all season. Then he's on the bench scratching his head saying, "This worked all season, why isn't it working now?" 

Other candidates for the theory include: Dusty Baker, Pat Riley (Elmo could've coached the Lakers to more titles), Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Cowher and Ron Wilson. All big regular season winners, and playoff busts.
-- Frank M., North Arlington, N.J.

Very astute e-mail -- you have my endorsement to spread the gospel of the Cox Theory.

(And you're waiting for me to add a joke in here ... "The Cox Theory" is just hanging over the plate like a Chuck Finley curveball ... lemme tell you something, I am reining myself in right now ...)

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Is Dominique Wilkins not the most underrated NBA player ever? Does anyone realize how good he was and that the best players he ever played with were Doc Rivers and John Battle? 
-- J. Disher, Columbus, Ohio

Dominique Wilkins
For better or worse, Dominique Wilkins was a one-man scoring machine.
That's an excellent call. 'Nique somehow became one of those "Slip Through the Cracks" guys, along with Gus Williams, Andrew Toney, Paul Westphal and even Moses Malone (who was more dominant than Kareem, year in and year out, from 1977-1988, and for the love of God, I will not argue about this). Nobody ever mentions these guys anymore. It's mystifying. Thank heavens for NBA.comTV.

Four things you need to know about 'Nique:

1. MJ may have been better at controlling his body in the air and creating a shot from nowhere, but 'Nique was the greatest "in-game" dunker of all-time. Nobody dunked on people as consistently and violently; he made it an art form. Just an electric player to watch in person. There's nobody in the league right now quite like him. No, not even you, Vince.

2. The Hawks won 50 games or more for three straight years ('86 through '88) during the league's strongest period, when there were only 24 teams, the Bird/Magic/Moses/Isiah generation was still thriving and the MJ/Hakeem/Malone generation was coming into its own. Watch a tape of the '88 All-Star Game some time: Kevin McHale, Barkley and Patrick Ewing came off the bench for the East. Yikes. Anyway, during that time, 'Nique averaged 30.0 points-per-game and doubled as the only bona fide All-Star on his team, during a time when most contenders had two, three, even four stars. Quite a feat.

3. 'Nique averaged 26-plus points for 10 straight years ('85 thru '94). Remarkable.

4. On a personal note, I have probably attended 500 to 600 NBA games in person over the years, and Wilkins made the single most spectacular play I've ever seen: During the '88 playoffs, he bricked a jumper from the top of the key, jumped from (practically) the foul line and rammed home the rebound over at least two Celtics. I can't even properly describe it; everyone in the Garden made this low-pitched "Oooooooh" noise when it happened, almost like a "Swoooooosh." We didn't know what to do. He jumped like 50 feet. I'm not kidding.

So how did Dominique Wilkins not get selected for the NBA's "Top 50" a few years ago? For one thing, he never even played in a Conference finals, which hurts the cause. And he battled the stigma of being a "Me First" guy; Doc Rivers once claimed that you could stand in the huddle with Wilkins during the final 30 seconds of a one-point playoff game and ask him, "'Nique, how many points do you have?" and Wilkins would respond with without missing a beat, "37 ... and I would have 39 if they called that foul back in the second quarter."

If that wasn't enough, Wilkins never displayed the all-around brilliance of some of his contemporaries; he could score points with anybody, but he always seemed to make a better foil than anything. It's somewhat fitting that his most memorable game happened during an eventual Hawks loss ('Nique's famous shootout with The Man in the '88 playoffs). But to say that Wilkins wasn't one of the best 50 NBA players of all-time ... that's just absurd.

Put it this way: Had Wilkins and Clyde Drexler switched teams back in 1985, Wilkins would have been the one playing for the Dream Team in '92. Case closed.

(And don't even get me started on Bob McAdoo's omission ... that's a tale for another time ...)

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Is there a worse show that you simply cannot stop watching than "Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage?"
--RJ Hoff, Massachusetts

Love Cruise
Crewmates on "Love Cruise" include, from left, Jeanette, lying, eyeball-bulging Toni and Laura of light hair fame.
No. It's the "Perversely Entertaining Show to End All Perversely Entertaining Shows." Any time a group of dumb people get thrown together and have to outwit one another to win money, it's mesmerizing TV ... but when the people are really dumb, and they're isolated on a yacht to boot, it's even more mesmerizing. It always kills me that people like Toni (the conniving, lying eyeball-bulging, implant-flaunting psychopath) think that it might be a good idea to appear on a reality-TV show.

(By the way, there's comedy, there's high comedy ... and then there's Anthony -- the aspiring screenwriter -- sitting on the deck during the first episode and ad-libbing poetry to everyone else on the boat. The funniest reality TV moment since David sang that "Skeedopple Bee Dopple Bee" song on "Real World: New Orleans" last summer. Damn near killed me. And Laura ... with her hair so light ... it shines under the moonlight ...)

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You mentioned you were a big David Letterman fan in the '80s. I was too. I don't know if you remember this, but Letterman used to have Jay Leno on his show all the time back then, like every three weeks (this was before Leno stabbed him in the back for Johnny Carson's job). And they did this segment where Letterman asked Leno, "What's your beef?" and Leno would vent about something that was "sticking in his craw," as he said. So I ask you, Sports Guy, what's sticking in your craw these days?
-- Mike S., Chicago

Of course I remember those bits! That was back when Leno had his fastball; now he's hitting about 71 on the radar gun. Anyway, very good set-up -- that was like Duane Ward circa '92. Other than the Tomahawk Chop, here's what's sticking in my craw this week ...

Recently, during a wedding reception dinner, I watched my buddy, Jim, pick off the top part of his salad because it was loaded with "things," as he put it (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and olives). Finally he started shaking his head: "This salad has too many things on it. Why can't they just have salads without things?"

Well, I feel the same way about football. Every Sunday I'm trying to watch football and there are "things" all over my TV. One network has black score panels stretching across the top of the screen. Another has transparent score boxes popping up out of nowhere, like the sports version of that annoying "Pop-up Video" show. Yet another has the jumbo-sized score panel on the top left. Even the Good Guys have some sort of 22nd century, multicolored score panel coming out of commercials that are about as easy to read as hieroglyphics.

So here's my question: Can I order my football games without the "things," please?

Is that possible? What about the crazy concept of an uncluttered screen with a tiny, transparent box in the left corner that features the score and that's it? No network symbols, no exploding stat boxes, no rotating graphics that change color ... I mean, is this too much to ask?

Five years from now, you wonder if our TV screens will be littered with 27 different score boxes and statistical comparisons, a pulsating 3D game clock, cartoon characters of the faces of each announcer popping up as they speak ... and the actual video of the game will be tucked away on the middle left portion of the screen, almost like an afterthought. It's enough to drive you crazy. And that's my beef.

(We'll be back on the Sports Reporters with Dick Schaap's "Parting Shot," after these messages ...)

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Jim Miller
Jim Miller keeps the mustache alive.
I'm a suffering Bears fan, but watching Jim Miller with that awful mustache lead them back against the Vikings was great.  As far as I can tell, the solo mustache (with no goatee) on pro athletes is a look that has faded away. I was wondering if you had a list of all-time favorite pro athletes that pulled off that suave mustache-look?
-- Dogger, Arlington, Va.

Sure. Rollie Fingers, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, Dick Tidrow, Hulk Hogan, Lanny McDonald and Ben Davidson obviously make the cut from the '70s and '80s. Gorman Thomas and Pete Vuckovich had those phenomenal "I just killed someone and left them in a ditch" fu manchus going in the early-'80s. Larry Bird's stash would have rated an 11 out of 10 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale, if not for fear of giggling and getting hit by a lightning bolt. I loved Jeff Hostetler's cheesy porno stash during the late-'80s (the Tom Byron look!). Armon Gilliam had the Billy Dee Williams look going. And you can't forget Jeff Fisher or the immortal Dave Wannestadt, who's still waiting for that second side to grow in.

But my favorite stash of all-time belonged to Craig Whelihan, the crappy San Diego QB from the late-'90s (career passing rating: 52.4), who apparently bought Hostetler's old mustache on eBay and pasted it on to improve his chances. Transcendent comedy.

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Do you think that "Friends" has gone to the "jump the shark" stage of its show with this whole "Rachel's pregnant" saga?  My opinion is that Joey has been carrying that show for the last year and a half, and it's definitely in trouble. 
--J-No, Stratham, N.H.

I always thought "Friends" reached that stage when Chandler moved in with Monica and was summarily emasculated. Just disturbing. But you're right about Joey. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Joey Tribbiani is one of the underrated comedic geniuses of recent times. Matt LeBlanc must have the most incompetent agent in Hollywood.

While we're here, some other things with "jump the shark" potential: Kurt Angle; Carson Daly; Red Bull; the FX Channel; Amanda Coetzer; the Torre Era Yankees (you can feel it coming); Mariah Carey; Jeff Fisher; reality TV shows; "West Wing" (that preachy "special" show last week -- ugh); Felix Trinidad; Bill Maher; Pedro Martinez (as much as I hate to say it); Tina Fey; Chris Kattan; and obviously Michael Jordan (I think he's going to surprise people, but the potential for disaster still exists).

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Who would have a better sitcom, Carl Everett or Jeff George?
-- K. Secaur, Watertown, Mass.

Hmmmmm. I really like the idea of a George sitcom. I keep imagining scene after scene of coaches trying to explain their offenses to George while he nods vacantly, or George falling asleep during film meetings, or George screwing up playcalls in the huddle, all while he's making the Jeff George Face. Then he goes home and his sitcom family (wife, 17-year-old daughter, 13-year-old son, precocious 8-year-old daughter) would bitch at him and make his life miserable ... and he'd still be nodding vacantly and falling asleep during family dinners and stuff.

And there could be scenes where his youngest daughter gets her eyebrow pierced for attention, or the older daughter runs away from home to join a radical cult, or George plays catch with his son and ends up leading him too far on a pass and into a patch of poison ivy ... and he's still totally unmoved by everything that happens, even after his wife and kids leave him at the end of the first season. We could call it "The Jeff George Show" or "By George." A definite sweeps winner.

Carl Everett
Carl Everett's jibber jabber would no doubt get under Mr. T's skin.
I'm not sure the Everett sitcom would work ... unless you teamed him up with Mr. T as two mismatched roommates living in an apartment in Florence Henderson's house or something. I might watch that, just for the exchanges between Mr. T and Carl:

"I thought you went out and got the mail."

"I haven't gotten around to it."

"Why not?"

"Stop ridin' me, old man!"

"Look, don't give me no jibber jabber, Carl Everett!"

"Shut your mouth and sit down, fool!"

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Who would be the best fantasy sports player from a movie? I'd have to go with Shaq's character from "Blue Chips." Yeah, he'd kill your free throw percentages, but he'd easily put up big numbers in points, blocks, rebounds, and field goal percentage.
-- F. Dunn, Medford, Mass.

Another good question. Shaq's character, Rod Tidwell, the Wolf from "Teen Wolf" and Willie Mays Hayes would all get drafted in the first round. And don't forget about Bernard King as Hustler in "Fast Break." At that stage of his career, Bernard had a more polished game than either Penny Hardaway or Shaq in "Blue Chips" (he was good for 30-35 a night and 10-12 boards, easy).

But my No. 1 choice for "best fantasy player in a sports movie"? Roy Hobbs. In fact, the question, "What were Roy Hobbs' stats during his one season for the New York Knights?" has to rank among the most mindless-yet-fun sports movie arguments, right up there with "How many points did Jimmy Chitwood average for Hickory High?" and "What did Danny Noonan shoot on the back nine at Bushwood after he replaced Al Czervik?"

To answer the Hobbs question, you need to figure in a few variables:

  • The Knights called Hobbs up to the majors after the season started; once he joined the team, Pop buried him on the bench for the first few weeks behind Bump Bailey, even barring him from batting practice. So that cost Hobbs at least a month of the season before Bump Bailey's tragic death pushed him into the starting lineup.

    Roy Hobbs
    Don't refer to Total Baseball for Roy Hobbs' statistics.
  • If you want to pinpoint an exact date for Hobbs' first game, following his four-homer barrage in Chicago -- when Hobbs reunited with Glenn Close's character and snapped out of a long slump -- the movie showed one of those highlight-newspaper clip montage scenes, and one of the papers said "July 5" on it. Since he'd been in the lineup for a few weeks, that means Hobbs probably didn't start playing every day until mid-May at the earliest.

  • We also need to factor in his late-June slump (when he started dating Kim Basinger).

  • The movie showed at least 17-20 Hobbs home runs during the season. Warrants mentioning.

  • Without any protection hitting behind him in the Knights lineup, Hobbs probably drew a ton of walks (like Barry Bonds this season).

  • Redford was painfully slow as Hobbs, so he didn't beat out many leg hits (think Ted Williams in the late-'50s).

  • If he were hitting over .400 near the end of the season, they probably would have alluded to it in the movie.

  • Hobbs missed three games in the final week with abdominal pains. And since baseball only played 154-game seasons back in the '40s, that means Hobbs lost out on another eight possible games.

    So taking everything into account, I would imagine his stats looked something like this:

    
    
    G      AB    R    H    BB   K    HR   RBI    AVG    OBP     SLG
    115   400   92   140   75   85   44   106    .350   .447    .750

    Here's the scary thing: Barry Bonds' numbers from this season were much more impressive. I mean, much more impressive.

    And frankly, I'm not sure what to do with this information.

    Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.