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Thursday, December 19, 2002
Updated: May 31, 2:16 PM ET
Mailbag: Four hours from Vegas

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Greetings from Hollywood, where it's 70 degrees in December, NFL games start at 10:00 in the morning, and SportsCenter comes on at 8:000pm. What planet am I on? Since I moved out here last month, my mailbag has become a little engorged, so we should probably take care of that right now. But before we begin, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and alert you that the four greatest X-mas songs of all time -- "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Bruce Springsteen, "Little Drummer Boy" by Bing Crosby & David Bowie, and "Blue Christmas" by Elvis -- are now all on the same CD, called "Now That's What I Call Christmas!" Does it get any better than that? I didn't think so. Who needs snow when you have a CD like that?

Onto the mailbag...

Q: At the end of a recent Vegas trip, we uncovered the following amazing statistic: My friend Tim's dad was on Vegas soil for 84 hours, and the MGM Grand had him down for 50 hours of table play, mostly at three-card poker. If you figure 12 hours for meals (10 normal ones and a nice dinner) and 20 hours of sleep over four nights, that leaves 52 hours. He spent 96.2 percent of his free time at a table, usually drinking scotch. Doesn't he deserve some kind of recognition for this incredible display of stamina? -- John Halpin, NY

Las Vegas
Vegas, baby. Vegas.
Sports Guy: Absolutely! Could somebody create the Vegas Hall of Fame? For the first round of inductees, I'd like to induct Tim's Dad ... my buddy Hopper (for driving Norv Turner from a $25 blackjack table) ... the person who invented the "Every hotel room comes equipped with two overpriced water bottles right next to the bed, for when you wake up on a Saturday morning and you're so dehydrated and hung over that you couldn't possibly stand up and walk towards the bathroom" idea ... Ben Affleck (who used to experience seven-figure swings during his Vegas drinking binges, right before he went on the wagon and J-Lo strangled him with a Doug Christie Jersey) ... Fredo Corleone, for juggling two cocktail waitresses at a time ... and myself, because it's my idea and nobody loves Vegas more than me.

(Have I mentioned that I'm a four-hour car ride from Vegas yet? Were you aware of this? Four hours? 240 minutes? I told you that, right?)

Back to the e-mail ... I love the "96.2 percent stat," just for the fact that the reader carried it over an extra decimal point for the sake of accuracy. Wouldn't Vegas trips be more fun with a stat guy from the Elias Sports Bureau keeping "Compustat Punch Box"-type numbers -- hours spent gambling, number of drinks, amount of money spent, rejected lap dance overtures at the O.G., etc. -- and then, after the trip is over, you could examine a printout of everything that just happened? I think I would pay, like, $200 for that after every trip. Seriously.

Q: Now that you're cutting back with Page 2 columns, what recommendations do you have for your loyal readers who will be going through Sports Guy withdrawal? -- Keith Myers

SG: Um ... work? How 'bout working?

Q: Who was the first player that made you say, "Oh, my god, I am getting old." I'm 19, and when I saw that Shaq was in his 11th year in the NBA, I had to sit down and put a cold compress to my forehead. I think the day Favre retires, I'll feel like I need a walker and I'll start playing bridge.-- Paul Budnick, Ohio

Ken Griffey
Remember this Junior? The one currently on the Reds seems to have forgotten.
SG: Mine is Ken Griffey Jr, mostly because we're almost the same age. Seems like just yesterday when Junior was this happy-go-lucky kid who played on the same team with his Dad, wore his hat backwards, and seemed on pace for 5,000 hits or 900 homers. Now he's 33, plagued by injuries, miserable and bitter, on the downside of his career, and his team can't even give him away. It's just plain depressing. Ten years from now, when he's coaching first base for the Mariners with a scowl on his face, I'm flying to Seattle and pulling a William Ligue Jr. on him, just to put us both out of our collective misery. God, I hate getting old.

Q: Have you ever noticed that the annual Miami Dolphins collapse is like Hannukah? Nobody ever knows exactly when it starts, just that it happens sometime in December and it's a traditional occasion for celebration and glee. -- Seth E., Hartford, CT

SG: And best of all, Jay Fielder is involved either way! I actually think the Dolphins are for real this year. When you think about it, who else is coming out of the AFC? Pittsburgh and New England are Good Bad Teams -- good enough to beat the other bad teams, not good enough to beat anyone worthwhile. The Jets looked like a bonafide sleeper until they fell on their own sword in Chicago. Denver has been too up and down (terrible coaching job by Shanahan this season -- very surprising). The Raiders are too creaky and too banged up -- I can't see them getting 20 quality games out of those old-timers. And I can't wait to bet against Indy in Round 1. (Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy in a big game? Where do I sign up?)

So suddenly, it's between Tennessee and Miami. And sure, everyone has flaws in the AFC, but it just seems like the Dolphins have the most going for them -- not only is Ricky Williams playing better than anyone right now, but if Fielder hadn't been injured, and if it hadn't snowed in Buffalo two weeks ago, they'd probably be 12-2 right now. They also prevailed in two of the toughest, best-played games of the year -- the Sunday night game in Denver, and last week's win over Oakland. That counts for something, right?

(Of course, if they squander a classic "Look ahead to next week" trap game in Minnesota this Saturday, the last two paragraphs are moot. Wacky season. Then again, isn't every NFL season wacky? Just the fact that Dave Campo and Dick LeBeau still have coaching jobs and it's Week 16 makes this the wackiest season ever. What do these guys have to do to get fired? Show up late for a game? Show up drunk? Defecate on themselves on the sidelines? What line needs to be crossed here?)

Q: How could you not mention Game 6 of the 2002 World Series in terms of your Levels of Losing? The Giants suffer possibly the most devastating defeat in all of sports since That Game, and you make no note of it whatsoever? -- John Dugan, Tacoma, WA

SG: You're right, you're right ... I should have mentioned something. As far as the "Levels of Losing" go, Game 6 was unique for incorporating so many different "Levels" in the same game. Even though the Giants were nine outs away from a championship, their bullpen was shaky enough and the Angels had been resilient enough that you couldn't help but think, "All right, this isn't over yet." It wasn't quite a Guillotine Game, but the warning lights were definitely flashing. Then Spiezio's three-run homer (the Broken Axel) cut San Fran's lead to two, and you knew the Angels were winning after that ... so it was probably a "This Can't Be Happening Game" over everything else. Every Giants fan knew that their team was cooked. That's why Game 7 immediately became a textbook "Dead Man Walking" game.

Bill Buckner
Bill Buckner's choke lives eternally in baseball infamy.
Here's the weird thing: Back in '86, the Sox blew a two-run lead in the 10th at Shea, the immortal Game 6, widely considered the biggest gag job in baseball history. San Fran blew a five-run lead when they were nine outs away from the title, but there wasn't a definitive "choke moment" -- like a grounder rolling through J.T. Snow's legs, or Rob Nenn throwing a wild pitch to allow the tying run -- so everyone quickly forgot about it (except for Giants fans). Did the '86 Sox choke any more than the '02 Giants did? Of course not. And yet the Sox are the choke artists and the Giants get a free pass. Go figure.

Q: I am recently married to a sports fanatic. Actually, I'm married to the guy whose friend wanted to visit the Hoover Dam on the bachelor party. I want to be the best "Sports Gal" I can be. Any suggestions? -- H. Halpin, New York, NY

SG: I think this is Chris McKendry writing under an assumed name, trying to get me in trouble again. Let's just move on.

Q: For the longest time, our image of The Sports Guy has been the "Backward Red Sox cap" Sports Guy and the "Looking drunk off his a-- at the Super Bowl" Sports Guy. Then we saw the new picture of you in a suit. A suit!!! A friggin' suit!?!?! You have no idea how much e-mail conversation this suit picture sparks. Have you gone corporate, has the man finally gotten you? Say it ain't so Sports Guy, say it ain't so! -- David from Cincy

SG: Those "corporate pictures" spawned more e-mails than just about anything over the past few months, short of my L.A. move and the Christie-Fox fight. Here's the deal: This summer, ESPN sent a photographer to my apartment so they could have a high-resolution photo for the magazine column. They ended up taking pictures of me in different outfits, almost like a fashion shoot, maybe the most humiliating hour of my life. I kept waiting for them to ask me to take my shirt off, just so I could start sobbing like Irene Cara in "Fame." Anyway, my editors are gleefully torturing me by running as many of those suit-and-tie photos as they can find. Not good times. Bad times.

Q: I hate Will Ferrell, too. Sorry, but I just don't get him. As far as I'm concerned, his departure from "SNL" qualifies as another example of your Ewing Theory. Whoever is impersonating W now is a hell of a lot more dead-on than Ferrell, who resembles Jeb more than George. -- Ken Hornack, Daytona Beach

SG: I deleted the next part of Ken's e-mail, which read, "And another thing ... what's all the fuss about this Jennifer Garner? Everyone knows that Queen Latifah is the hottest thing going right now!"

Q: One of my best friends moved out to Vegas last August for grad school. He's 24 and has quite the penchant for sketchy women. Good times, right? I can't wait to go out and visit him, right? No. He's not there two months before he meets an 18-year-old Mormon and falls completely in love. He calls me up and says he's not going to drink or gamble any more. In Vegas. Two months later, they're engaged and he's converting; I'm the best man for the June wedding in Utah. How can I plan a Mormon bachelor party that doesn't include drinking, gambling or female entertainment? -- Dave V., Bloomington, IN

SG: Well, you could have the party at Ken Hornack's house. But if that falls through, just remember, there's no such thing as a Mormon bachelor party. It's an oxymoron. Without drinking, gambling and/or female entertainment, the phrase "bachelor party" becomes impossible. My suggestion would be 36 holes of golf, followed by massages and dinner at a fancy steakhouse. Of course, the evil side in me is saying, "Slip Rohypnol in your buddy's drink, make the strip joint rounds and bring your camera," but I'm fighting that off. Go with golf, massages and steak. And bring a flask for yourself.

Speaking of Vegas, this e-mail cracked me up, courtesy of DB Foot: "Do you realize what a watershed moment we almost had in the "Real World"? If Trishelle's EPT test had been positive last week, she and Steven would have given us the first true child of reality TV. Can you imagine this kid watching tape of his parents in 12 years? Realizing that Mum was a gigantic slut and his Dad really didn't give a crap about her? Seeing grainy surveillance tape of himself being conceived? Seeing tape of Mum "refunding"? Seeing Dad hit on everything that moves, only to come to bang Mum, because she's "in the apartment"? Seeing his parents in a hot tub orgy with their roommates on the second night they've met?"

(Plus, the kid would have been most excited by his Dad's comment before the EPT test results: "I'm ready to have a kid ... it would give me, like, a purpose. I need a purpose, you know?" Always a good reason to have a kid. Even Michael Jackson's kids wouldn't have been as screwed up as the first "Real World" baby. I almost feel disappointed.)

Q: I feel like some of my friends ignore my e-mails. To that end, I have begun putting subject lines in most of my daily e-mails that leave the recipient with no possibility of ignoring the e-mail. Examples of subject lines that I have been playing with, "A message from Margot Kidder,""ESPN announces Mark Madsen reality show,"and finally,"Marv Albert to join cast of Rent."Would the Sports Guy open any of these e-mails? -- Gregory Trieste, Brick, NJ

SG: Absolutely! I actually got suckered into a similar one this week -- somebody sent me an email with the subject heading, "BOSTON GETS COLON!" Like an idiot, I assumed that the Red Sox had traded for Bartolo Colon ... but enclosed in the e-mail was an article about a inflatable, 40-foot colon (I'm not making this up) that's traveling around the country to promote colon cancer awareness. Hopefully, that's the only time in my life that I'll say the words, "Damn, it wasn't about the Red Sox, it was about colon cancer!" Although somehow I doubt it.

Liza and David
The UCF meter peaks whenever Liza and David are around.
Q: What would happen if two perfect 100s on the Unintentional Comedy Scale combine? For example, hypothetically, what if David from "Real World: New Orleans" had performed "Come On Be My Baby Tonight" at Liza and David Gest's wedding? -- Nathan Millner, Minneapolis, MN

SG: And what if that song was followed by a best man speech by Dikembe Mutombo? You're right ... this would be pretty scary. There's probably some sort of Uber UCR Scale for those moments where two UCR moments collide in the same place. Like the "Saved By the Bell: E! True Hollywood Story" episode -- you had Dustin Diamond and Mr. Belding both ranking in the mid-90s. There was that one sequence where Mr. Belding explained how he grew his (painfully crooked) mustache so he wouldn't be typecast as Mr. Belding, almost immediately followed by a clip from the famous "Dustin Diamond Plays Chess" video. Honestly, that was like seeing Ruth following Gehrig for the '27 Yankees. You couldn't even believe it was happening as it happened. Unquestionably the TV highlight of the season.

Q: Please settle an argument for me. What do you consider to be an "acceptable level of porn" in a single male's home? I contend that anything less than a "stack" is OK. -- M. Bingoldsby, Boston

SG: I don't have a problem with anything just short of a stack, as long as it's a stack of something relatively harmless (like Celebrity Skin or Penthouse, fun for the whole family). As for an "acceptable level," I would stick by this rule: If you collected so many magazines and tapes, you had to purchase one of those wooden chests from Pottery Barn to house them all ... I think that's going a little too far. And if you're buying something from a video store, convenience store or porn shop that sells dirty magazines and videos, and the guy working the counter sees you and has a glint of "Hey, it's this guy again" recognition in his eyes, you probably need to re-evaluate things.

(Quick aside: For me, that's been the worst part about having this gig -- since people recognize me from time to time, and since there's a decent chance that somebody could recognize my name on my driver's license or credit card, I'm basically out of the porn-buying business. Not worth the risk. And it's not that I would have bought porn in the first place ... it's just that I don't even have the option anymore. Kinda ticks me off. It's like accidentally blocking the option to pay-per-view porns in a hotel room, even though you didn't intend to order one ... but you still feel cheated, anyway. Know what I mean? Am I sharing too much here?)

Hubie Brown
I've got your upside right here!
Q: I hope life is nice for you out on the West Coast. Still look for you every day on Page 2 ... just hoping. After reading some of the archives, you really are a psychic. Not only was there the Left Eye thing and the Patriots stuff, but in the NBA preview you did your "Hubie Brown Analysis" of the Grizzlies, then he actually became their coach. Will you just mention Josh Cohron and attractive college girls in a column sometime? -- Josh Cohron, Lexington, KY

SG: I'll do you one better ... here's Hubie Brown talking about Josh Cohron:

Okay, I'm Josh Cohron. I'm a late bloomer with a tremendous amount of upside. Maybe I'm not getting a lot of action right now, but I'm gaining confidence EVERY DAY and it's only a matter of time. I know I'm going to a Southern school with an INORDINATE amount of attractive women, so the law of averages are with me. If I can keep working HARD and doing what I'm doing, the sky is the limit for me. Again, I am just BRIMMING with upside right now."

Q: I have this problem with buying sports jerseys. Every time I buy a jersey (or T-Shirt jersey), the player ends up going into the worst slump or funk imaginable. Who are the best misses in your personal Sports Guy jersey collection? -- Josh from Boston

SG: Practically my entire collection is a "Best Misses" collection! There's my authentic No. 81 Pats jersey of Tony Simmons ('98 season), which has been rendered doubly obsolete -- not only did they waive him last year, but they changed their colors. One hundred and sixty bucks, down the drain. Then there was the authentic Packers jersey I bought back of Wayne Simmons -- (a panic purchase when I trekked to Lambeau in '93) -- not only did he get traded a few years later, he actually died this year in a car accident. Let's just say that I don't break that one out too often. There's my game-worn Pervis Ellison jersey from the '96 Celtics season, which speaks for itself.

Translation: I need new blood. I've actually been hitting eBay three times a week looking for a game-worn jersey -- either a Pats jersey from the '80s (the good old days -- blood-red colors, the comedic value of the Pat Patriot logo, and if I ever found an Irving Fryar jersey, I think I would wet myself), or an embarrassing NBA jersey from the '80s or '90s (like Sprewell's Warriors jersey, or a Lloyd Daniels' Spurs jersey, something along those lines). I'm still kicking myself for not breaking the bank for a game-worn Chris Washburn jersey last year. That was like a once-in-a-lifetime event.

You know what's amazing? There's a whole market for throwback jerseys now -- either game-worn stuff or "recreated" throwback jerseys, started after Puff Daddy wore an old Chamberlain Sixers jersey at All-Star Weekend last February. You wouldn't believe the prices on these babies ... a brand-new, throwback Bullets jersey of Wes Unseld was going for $400-plus last week. Plus, you always know when someone has fallen on hard times when you see, like, six of their game-worns for sale at once. That always kills me.

Uh-oh, Sherman Douglas is running late on his mortgage payments again ...

Q: Something about "The Natural" has always bothered me: In the movie, we have no idea what Roy Hobbs does for those 15 or so years after getting shot but before making it to the Knights. It is hard to think that getting shot would warrant 15-plus yrs of rehab. Some friends and I have our own theories, but I was wondering if you had any guesses? -- David from Atlanta

Roy Hobbs
Max Mercy heard a rumor he was in acrobat in the circus.
SG: Sounds like you're looking for a prequel (a mid-quel?). I always pictured Roy Hobbs playing semi-pro ball in the middle of nowhere, running a general store or something in his spare time, and spending a ton of time walking around wistfully with his hands in his pockets. And because of his fear of committment after the Lady in Black, he probably didn't date much. I just see him going through the motions of life and being bummed out, but for like 15 years, which is why they didn't address it in the movie.

By the way, that "What did Hobbs do for 15 years?" question is right up there with "What happened in 'Field of Dreams' after all the cars arrived at Kinsella Field at the end of the movie?" Where did everyone park? Where did they stay? What did they do between games? Did they understand that it was a baseball game of ghosts, or did Costner have to explain the premise individually to each patron? How much did they charge for tickets? Was there a riot because not everybody could get seats? These are the things I think about.

Q: I must have missed a column or something, but can it be true that you haven't commented on Slamball yet? We may have a 4th major sport in America soon, -- and its name is Slamball! -- M. Hauer, Philly

SG: The only thing I mentioned before was a prediction that Slamball would have the horrific ACL injury by which all other ACL injuries would be measured. As much as I liked it, I can't shake the feeling that it's a Short Dose Sport -- fun to watch for about 10 minutes a few times, but not something you'd really sit down and devour for a full hour. Almost akin to having those Short Dose friends -- guys you like having a beer with, but not people you would want to spend four straight days with in Vegas. They know who they are.

And you know what? We started this mailbag with Vegas ... we mentioned Vegas in the middle ... and we're ending it with Vegas. Vegas, baby.

(Have I mentioned that I'm four hours away? You heard about that, right?)

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, and he's a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live, premiering Super Bowl Sunday on ABC.