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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Updated: May 31, 2:19 PM ET
'Good times never seemed so good'

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

My editors insist on intros for these mailbags. Of course, these are the same people who hired Graham Hays to write a "Why you should be watching women's sports" column, which was like Source Magazine running a feature titled, "Why you should be listening to Clay Aiken." Way to know your audience, guys. And if that wasn't bad enough, they ran a picture of the TMQ guy posing with cheerleaders half his age, then neglected to include the theme music from "American Beauty."

I don't get it. What's going on back in Bristol? Did they hire Grady Little as a consultant? And where was the tribute to the late Gordon Jump on yesterday's page? Here's a guy who guest-starred in the creepiest sitcom episode of all-time -- nearly molesting Arnold and Dudley on "Diff'rent Strokes," terrifying an entire generation of kids in the early '80's -- and he doesn't even get mentioned in the Daily Quickie? The man had Dudley's shirt off, for God's sake!

Well, I was thinking of him. More importantly, it's time to delve into another mailbag. Without further ado ...

Roger Clemens
Clemens got a standing ovation at Fenway. Never happened.
Q: Did you see what happened at Fenway on (Clemens's last appearance), when they applauded Clemens as he left? It looked like the climactic scene from "The Warriors." All that was missing was the leader of the Gramercy Riffs saying, "We thought you were s---, but you're good, real good." What was your reaction? Did you even soften a little bit on Clemens? I know I didn't. -- Samuel Chamberlain, Manchester, NH

Sports Guy: Please. That was one of my lowest moments as a Red Sox fan; after it happened, I drove around sobbing and listening to James Ingram's "Just Once" like the Last American Virgin. Seriously, just once, can we figure out what we keep doing wrong? Why the good times never last too long? Where are we going wrong?

Here's what bothers me about the "Let's stand like a group of morons and cheer the guy who stabbed us in the back and spent the next seven years ramming that fact down our throat" logic: If you're going to cheer Clemens and thank him for those great years in Boston -- and despite what happened from 1993 through July of 1996, they WERE great, and let there be no doubt -- then they should have done it seven years ago. Remember his first return to Fenway in the summer of '97, when he whiffed 16 Boston batters for Toronto, then stared down the owner's box on his way to the dugout? Why didn't they "appreciate" him then? Where was the "classy gesture" then?

Instead, here's what happened: Clemens spent two years kicking our butts with Toronto, then he spent another five pitching for our arch-rivals. For much of that time, he performed at a higher level than he did from 1993 through 1996. I just don't see what's changed in the past seven years. If anything, our collective antipathy for him should have festered and gained strength. Why boo him then and cheer for him now? He certainly hasn't extended an olive branch our way. I don't get it. I said Clemens was the Anti-Christ back in May 2001, and I'm still sticking to that theory.

Regardless, "Clemens getting a Standing O at Fenway during a pennant race" was an emergency addition to the "Things That Never Happened" list, right there with "Rocky 5," "48 Hours 2," the last season of the "White Shadow," the time I saw Johnny Pesky butt-naked and everything else.

Q: My whistles go 'Woo'. How do your whistles go? -- Dennis M, Philadelphia

SG: My whistles go "Wooo wooo!"

Q: Just wondering if you've cashed in your "Somebody in Slamball will suffer a horrific injury" stock? Granted, it wasn't a knee, but a guy's foot almost completely detaching at the ankle should qualify. -- Brett Maynard, Detroit

SG: I rolled over those winnings and put them on a "This season in the NFL, one of these 375-pound defensive linemen will fall on a QB's leg at the wrong angle, subsequently making the Theismann-LT replay look like a slightly sprained ankle" wager. I can just feel it coming.

Speaking of injuries ...

Q: I am wondering why you always hear coaches and commentators say " ... barring any unforeseen injuries." When was the last time you saw a franchise player go down with a blown ACL and then heard the coach in the post-game interview say, "Well, I'm just shocked by this. We knew he was going to rupture his spleen in Week 13 against the Dolphins, but I'll be honest, we never saw this one coming." Are there ever any "foreseen" injuries? -- Nate Jones, Springfield, MO

SG: Only the annual one when Junior Griffey rounds third and something terrible happens.

Madonna
Madonna's eyeing second base ... with Britney perhaps.
Q: Ever have one of those "Uncomfortable Movie Moments?" You know, a likable movie is on, you watch the whole thing, except one scene that is just too unreal, goofy, or you're just so embarrssed for the characters that you HAVE to change the channel 'til it goes away? Mine has always been "A League of Their Own," a totally entertaining movie I'll watch anyday ... but when they're in the baseball HOF at the end ... and they start singing that goofy song ... Click. Any other classics you can think of? -- John Z, New Jersey

SG: Since I enjoyed your question, let's pretend you didn't just gush about "A League Of Their Own." Here's what I came up with:

Honorable Mention: Gene Hackman planting one on Barbara Hershey in "Hoosiers" ... everything that happened during Adrian's coma in "Rocky 2" ... every scene with Bruce Willis and his girlfriend in "Pulp Fiction" ... Mr. Holland singing to his son in "Mr. Holland's Opus" ... every scene with Michael Corleone and his girlfriend before Sonny got shot ... the ending of "He Got Game" ... the answering machine scene from "Swingers."

Special Mention: The three-way hug from "The Battle of Shaker Heights" that ended up getting chopped out of the movie, but supplied us with a great name for a roto team.

Runner-up: The scene near the end of "The Breakfast Club" when they're dancing to the Wang Chung song, then Emilio Estevez smokes some pot -- so he runs around the library, shuts himself in the music room, then screams at the top of his lungs, shouting so powerfully that he shatters the glass window. I still can't believe this happened.

Winner: The scene in "Beautiful Girls" when everyone sings "Sweet Caroline." And it's not just because the whole scene is so forced, you actually feel sorry for the actors as it's happening. It's just so cliched and awkward, and you just want it to end, but it keeps going, and everyone's trying to seem so damned happy ... God, I'm getting the shakes just thinking about it. Plus, the Sports Gal loves this scene and we've actually fought about whether it's good or not. This one brings everything to the table.

(By the way, is the chorus to "Sweet Caroline" running through your head right now? Good. Now you know how I feel.)

Q: If I told you I was a Fordham grad who was in the Hart Center when the Rams beat Holy Cross in the 1991 Patriot League Final on Jean Prioleau's three at the buzzer, and that I'm a Mets fan who was at Shea when the ball rolled through Buckner's legs, could we still be friends? -- Walter Harvey, Highland Mills, NY

SG: No.

Q: You wrote a whole column about "Paradise Hotel" without mentioning that Dave is known in Boston as 'The Crunch and Munch Guy' from the Fleet Center? After seeing his idiocy at Celtics games, I think everything he says on "Paradise Hotel" is an 11 out of 10 on the Unintentional Comedy Rating because I can't get the thought of him dancing down the aisles yelling about 'Crunch & Munch' out of my head. -- Sam, Boston, MA

Dave
Somebody please boot him off.
SG: I'm with you. Believe me, it wasn't an oversight -- I only have 725 words for those magazine columns, which doesn't leave me much time to mention anything, much less describing Dave's history as the most loathed vendor in the history of Boston sports. His consistent abrasiveness even inspired me to write a column about him -- for my old "Boston Sports Guy" website in January, 2000 -- that ended with this paragraph:

"As for the Crunch 'n Munch guy, I hope he's enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, because they're almost up. I only hope he's there at the Celts-Grizzlies game tonight so I can sidle up to him and congratulate him on his new website ... all while desperately trying to pass the flu onto him."

Turns out that I was wrong about the 15 minutes: I couldn't have imagined that the 'Crunch N' Munch Guy' was destined to become one of the biggest losers in reality-TV history. I'm just happy to say I knew him when.

Q: Do you think that Corey Dillon goes home every night, fires up Madden 2004, and plays through a season with himself traded to any team other than the Bengals, muttering to himself as he breaks every rushing record in the books? -- Derek, Washington, DC

SG: Is that a rhetorical question? That reminds me, have you ever wondered what someone like Jon Kitna does when they're playing a game like "Madden"? I mean, you would have to play yourself in a video game, right? So what happens if you suck? Would there be anything worse than having a crummy rating, or watching your character make terrible plays and repeatedly let his team down? It's like a constant reminder that you're a failure at your own possession.

Q: Do you know you have a problem when you can put in your initials in the Golden Tee machine in under two seconds? -- Justin Askins, Fort Worth

SG: Actually, it's when you make a condescending remark to your buddy because he can't do the same. That's when you've gone over the edge.

Q: My college buddies and I have an ongoing game that involves naming certain foods after athletes. For example, a bacon-cheddar-'roni- with-sour-cream-on-the-side-pizza (if there is a better late night college meal, I have yet to sample it) would be dubbed "The Marshall Faulk," because it can hurt you in so many ways. This strikes me as a game you may be good at ... any ideas? --Tim Collins, Boston, MA

SG: This question reminds me of my favorite sports bar from back home -- the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse in Brookline -- which featured two of my favorite inventions: Laminated baseball cards (always fun to peruse at the bar when you're semi-coherent) and sandwiches named after athletes. I'll never forget the time my old college roommate JackO was visiting me. I brought him to the Clubhouse, where he ordered the Rick Robey (a pastrami sandwich named after the burly former Celtics center), scarfed it down in 10 seconds, held up his hands and said, "My God, I just ate Rick Robey!" You just can't put a price on that kind of fun.

Anyway, here are six sandwiches I would suggest for the Clubhouse:

1. The Lamar Odom (taco salad). Always looks good on paper ... always lets you down. Either it's too messy, or there's too much sour cream, or the taco shell is stale, or the meat sucks. It's always something. Somehow, I'm always willing to give it another chance -- although I definitely wouldn't sign the taco salad to $60 million over six years.

2. The Robert Horry (peanut butter & jelly). Nobody ever talks about him, but he's always there when you need him, and he almost always comes through in the clutch. Just like the Peebee And Jay.

3. The Chris Webber (chicken caesar wrap). Looks great, puts up huge numbers on the Taste Scale ... but it always disintegrates before you're done. Either the wrap falls apart, it gets soggy, it starts dripping all over the place, or there's not enough chicken on the bottom. It always self-destructs in the end.

4. The Pedro Martinez (prosciutto with provolone). There's always that one sandwich out of five, when it's a perfect cut of meat and you're thinking to yourself, "Man, there can't possibly be a better sandwich on the planet than this." Same with a Pedro start. Maybe once a month, he's throwing beebees, plowing through hitters, painting a masterpiece and making it feel like '99 all over again. And there's no place you would rather be.

5. The Thrilla in Manila (chili cheese dog with chili cheese fries). Eating this combination makes you feel like Ali and Frazier after the Thrilla in Manila. In other words, it may have been an unbelievable fight, but you're never the same again. It's that debilitating. I still have nightmares about ordering the Thrilla at the Hubba Hubba in Portchester, NY, plowing through them with my buddy Jim in a drunken stupor, then watching him throw up on his front porch 20 minutes later. Good times!

Bernard King
It was good to be King in 1984.
6. The Bernard King (corned beef, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and a dash of spicy mustard). Why? Because this is the greatest sandwich that nobody ever talks about, just like Bernard was the best basketball player that nobody ever talks about. Seriously, who wouldn't enjoy both halves of the Bernard King sandwich? And why hasn't this taken place in the Sandwich Pantheon, along with the "French Dip" and the "Turkey BLT" and everything else?

(As for Bernard ... well, that's a whole other column. If you're judging guys just by how good they were at their absolute apex, then Bernard King has to be considered one of the most unstoppable scorers of the past 30 years. From the fall of 1983 to the spring of 1985, nobody could guard him. End of story. And yet nobody ever talks about him. Thank God for ESPN Classic. Check out Game 4 of the Knicks-Celts series in '84 some time -- he puts up 46 and he's triple-teamed the whole game, by a team that ended up winning the title, no less. Amazing stuff.)

Q: Your articles are funnier when I'm stoned. -- Johnnie B., Coral Spring, LF

Q: I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but the highlight of my work week is printing out your column and reading it while on the crapper. -- Joe S., New York, New York.

SG: As you can tell, we had a two-way tie for the winner of the "Backhanded Compliment Award" this week.

Q: Where does Larry Bird firing Isiah Thomas rank on your all time greatest moments of your life? Does it top the Patriots winning the Super Bowl? It must have been a "Kennedy was shot" moment for you. Exactly where were you when it happened and how will you remember it? -- Chris Shumaker, Davenport, Iowa

Isiah Thomas/ Larry Bird
Two egos too many for Indiana.
SG: I was in Hawaii when I heard the news. That's right ... it was my belated honeymoon. Literally. I remember that it was 3 in the afternoon there. I went online because one of my whatifsports.com teams was in the playoffs -- I was checking my pitching rotation as the Sports Gal yelled stuff like "How can you be online, it's our honeymoon?" and "I hate you!" And during the middle of this mess, I noticed the "Bird fires Isiah" headline on ESPN.com.

Here was my reaction: "Damn."

I had been waiting for October, when the conference odds come out in Vegas, because I was going to place $200 on Indiana to win the East. The Basketball Jesus ended up screwing up my plans -- now their odds will be lower, mostly because the Vegas wiseguys know how dangerous Indiana will be with a competent coach. Larry Legend understood this, which was why he acted quickly. Sure, if he was black, he'd be just another GM ... but I think he still knows what he's doing.

Q: Give me your thoughts on the show "Around The Horn" on ESPN. And if your honest thoughts would be axed by your editors, please just reply with 'No Comment'. -- Noel Nitecki, Anderson, IN

SG: No comment.

Q: Once again, your NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE predictions don't add up. You have all teams in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE going a combined 257-253-2. Wouldn't all games have to add up to a .500 record? I know, I know, when all else fails, you're an idiot. -- Jeremy H., Lima, OH

SG: Actually, you're the idiot. When I screwed up the records in my 2002 Preview, I noticed that a handful of readers added up my totals, then e-mailed me to say I was a few games off. That cracked me up for some reason. This year's "mistake" was intentional -- I made my collective totals two wins higher than .500, then waited to see how many people would e-mail me about it. The final number? 22. That's 22 people who clearly had a little too much time at work that week.

(By the way, none of the above is true, except for the part about 22 people. I screwed up my totals again. Never forget, I'm an idiot. Don't forget this for a second. But at least I have the company of 22 readers.)

Q: Are Jay Williams and Grant Hill now officially the best backcourt in wheelchair basketball history? -- Dave Reynaud, Chapel Hill, NC

SG: (Afraid to say anything.)

Q: Why is Mick allowed to stand under the basket while Scott Howard shoots his free throws at the end of "Teen Wolf?" This has always bothered me. -- Dave Baksi, Mechanicaburg, Pa

SG: Wait a second ... out of all the things that happened in "Teen Wolf," THIS was what bothered you?

Fred the Baker
"Time to stop making the iced coffee."
Q: As I sat in my 8:30 class staring at the hottest girl for a solid 20 minutes, I began to wonder what day of the year Dunkin Donuts stops making iced coffee and everyone switches back to regular hot coffee. Is it the Albanian lady who struggles with your order every morning? Is she the one who decides it's getting too cold for iced coffee? Is it the manager that you feel bad for because he's so stressed out by 7:30 a.m. each day? Or could there be a correlation with the end of iced coffee and the time when the Red Sox fall out of the pennant each year? -- Casey C., Worcester, MA

SG: Brilliant question. I like the Red Sox corollary, but the good people at D & D usually stop making iced coffee in mid-October, after it's been a little Nipsy Russell outside for a few weeks. The bigger question: How do they know? How can a group of people who rarely grasp anything instinctively know when to stop making the iced coffee? I'm guessing that it's a collective Epiphany, almost like birds deciding to fly south for the winter. That's the only way it makes sense.

Q: You know how we all have that buddy who can't keep his mouth shut -- the guy that everyone is uncomfortable having around your girlfriend following a night out with the guys? Well, the Las Vegas Tourism Board is officially That Guy. "What Happens Here, Stays Here"? What type of slogan is that to be throwing across the TV three weeks before I head to Vegas with the guys? -- Jeff McFarland, N. Weymouth, MA

SG: Great point. Every time that commercial comes on TV, the Sports Gal practically stops breathing. Could that be a MORE counterproductive ad? Who would possibly think up such a thing? What's wrong with a generic "Vegas, baby!" ad? Would that have hurt anybody? It's like somebody was working for an ad agency and couldn't get himself a girlfriend, so he decided to ruin everyone else's fun in the process. He's like the Patient X of Vegas.

Q: Which is more emotionally painful?:

1. The Red Sox bullpen

2. Favreau's answering machine scene from "Swingers."

3. Jennifer Connelly's "love scene" with the bachelors in "Requiem For a Dream." -- Scott Barlow, Canada

SG: The Red Sox bullpen. At least the other two choices ended within five minutes. The Red Sox bullpen has been there, day in and day out, since the beginning of April. If you're looking for a movie comparison, try Andy Dufresne getting jumped by the Sistas for the entire year of 1947. Remember when he's walking in the yard with a black eye and bruised cheeks, looking like he just wants to find a place to hang himself, and Red narrates, "I do believe that year was the worst for Andy"?

Well, that's what watching this Boston bullpen has been like all season. I can only hope we're sipping beers on the warden's roof when everything's said and done.

Q: My buddy Ringo has an idea that he believes will revolutionize the NFL, but he is leery of sending email from his work computer so here goes ... "At the end of every season, the two worst teams should play one another in what shall henceforth be called the 'Pooperbowl,' to be played the day before the Superbowl. The catch is that the winner of the Pooperbowl gets the No. 1 pick in the next draft." Ringo asked me to bring this to your attention because Mr. Tagliabue won't return his calls. It bears mentioning that Ringo spends the bulk of his disposable income on cheap beer and low odds betting. -- Jeff Seley, Portland, OR

SG: Yup ... these are my readers.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, as well as one of the writers for Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC