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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Updated: June 7, 6:25 PM ET
Part 5: Dodging bullet points

By Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman
A Page 2 production

Editor's Note: This is part 5 of Bill Simmons' running email exchange with pop-culture writer Chuck Klosterman of Esquire and Spin magazines. If you missed part 4, part 3, part 2 or part 1, click here to go back to their other email exchanges.

This is the final set of emails, wrapping up the exchange.


Bill Simmons
To: Chuck Klosterman
Subject: RE: Face Off
Time: 3:45 p.m. ET

All right, I'm entering the "My head hurts, and I can only write in bullet points" stage of Face-Off. I feel like Nick Nolte in the beginning of "North Dallas Forty" right now. This was grueling. OK, that's a complete lie. I just need coffee. Which reminds me, you might be the first writer I've ever met who doesn't drink coffee. I was floored by that revelation earlier today, which seems like about six years ago. Please tell me you smoke cigs or do copious amounts of drugs.

FACE-OFF
Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons will exchange emails all day long, and we'll post a new letter every 45 minutes. Here's what they've done so far:

  • Part 1: Does America just totally suck?

  • Part 2: Who would try to kill Sonny Crockett?

  • Part 3: The Unambitious Stoner Guy

  • Part 4: Defending "Singles," ducking Scientologists

  • Part 5: Why is Bill so addicted to "Real World"? Can Chuck help him?
  • To the bullet points ...

  • I'm with you on the tangential information from the old ESPN Classic games. During Game 6 of the Blazers-Sixers series frrom '77, Musburger keeps breathlessly promising to send us to the Kemper Open as soon as the game ends. He's more excited about the Kemper Open than the deciding game of an NBA Finals. It's unbelievable. But my favorites are the Fox baseball games from the late-'90s, when they would plant the lead actors from their Crappy New Show Du'Jour, then pretend the cameras just happened upon them in the fifth inning, as Joe Buck says, "Hey, look, it's the cast of the new hit Fox drama, 'Firefly!' "

  • For Kelly Taylor, you wrote that "This is a woman who joined a cult, got amnesia, was almost burned alive (and then almost became a lesbian), dated a heroin addict, dated a gambling addict, became addicted to cocaine, and (I think) was trapped at the bottom of a Midland, Texas, well for 58 hours in 1987." Somehow you managed to leave out the drive-by shooting that led to her amnesia; her dangerously unhealthy addiction to diet pills which led to her fainting in the women's bathroom at the Peach Pit; the time she was raped and then subsequently gunned down that same rapist; the time she was kidnapped by a lesbian stalker; and the multiple times she pretended to enjoyed Brian Austin Green's music. This could be a longer book that Richard Ben Cramer's opus on DiMaggio.

    Nirvana
    Like Dr. J in the 1970s, Nirvana defined the early 1990s.
  • I agree with your takes on poker and the Pumpkins. As much as it hurts. Although I still believe that their best 10 songs are better than Nirvana's best 10 songs, the fact remains, Nirvana came first and paved the way. It's like comparing David Thompson to Doctor J. The stats might back you up, but you still can't do it.

  • I disagree with your take on Red Sox fans. The great thing about Sox fans is that, much like you described Vikings fans, we're always convincing yourselves that this is the year. It's just that, when it doesn't happen, we react as poorly as possible and question the meaning of life for about two months. Then we're right back at it again. I've written about this roughly 500 times.

  • On "Rocky:" I always thought his defining fight was against Spider Rico in "Rocky," when he survived a vicious head-butt and nasty smoking habit and somehow rallied back for the inspiring win. He didn't even have a trainer at the time. And he was 20 pounds overweight. It's a yeoman's performance. Although I disaree with your dismissal of Clubber Lang as just another Biuster Douglas. If anything, Clubber was like Mike Tyson, the menacing bully who couldn't be beaten, then fell apart as soon as someone started punching him back. They should have a deleted scene on the "Rocky III" DVD where Clubber judges a Miss Teen Black USA contest.

    I'm leaving you with two questions/requests:

  • What would be the most shocking sports scandal of all-time? I mean, if you had to make one up from scratch? And they have to be realistic -- it can't be something like "Kobe is accused of raping Luke Walton in the team shower." I'm talking about something along the lines of the running back in the "Last Boy Scout" pulling out a gun and shooting people on his way to the end zone -- unrealistic, but not improbable (especially if you garnered enough gambling debts and took enough painkillers). Anyway, I would go with the Simpson-Goldman murders ... even 10 years later, I can't imagine how anything would top that one. We can't be surprised by anything after that happened. Short of Kobe raping Luke Walton in the shower.

  • What was your favorite "Real World" season? Mine was San Fran, and here's why -- it was the last season that actually felt like "the real world," since all of the roommates (except for the pathetic, inexplicable Cory) had jobs and/or at least a semblance of personal ambition. Even Puck had a job (bike messenger) and an ambition (to make himself famous from being a total jerk on the show). So when Puck started stirring things up, there was still something real about it. He was the roommate from hell that everyone's had before.

    Now the show exists solely to glamorize one-dimensional personalities who have no real basis in reality, as you wrote in your book. I still watch it -- don't get me wrong -- but I can never shake the feeling that everyone (repeat: EVERYONE) uses the platform so they can appear on those lame VH1 list shows and and maybe even get picked for the "Real World/Road Rules Challenge," all to avoid filling out a W-2 form for one more year (the old Mizz Scholarship). This show exists for the same reason the Paris Hilton-Rick Solomon porn tape exists, or Lindsay Lohan's implants, or Wilmer Valderrama doing his Duritz impersonation, or the Olsen Twins' inevitable "We're eating again" comeback movie, or even the fact that Jen Scheft has appeared on the cover of US Weekly five times already. This is the celebrity climate we've created: people who are famous for no real reason. And the Real World helped as much as anything else to start it.

    Again, you touched on this in your book, but I felt left out and needed to chime in. I'm beginning to truly despise the show ... and yet I watch it every week when it's on. Please explain. Please help me.

    And on that note... it's been a pleasure. I just can't believe we never found time to discuss the Basketball Jesus. Maybe next time.

    Your friend in absurdity, Simmons

  • Chuck Klosterman
    To: Bill Simmons
    Subject: RE: Face Off
    Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

    Bill,

    OK, now this is a great question.

    Thus far, I would say the greatest sports scandal has been the Pete Rose affair, as he (a.) seemed to define what was great about all sports, only to (b.) do the single-worst thing any athlete can do. If Pete had shot Mike Schmidt during the 1980 World Series, it would not have hurt the integrity of the sport as much as his gambling. Rose should never be reinstated into baseball, even posthumously. The second greatest sports scandal of all-time is O.J., but that has very little to do with sports and more to do with what's wrong with the entire human race. The third greatest sports scandal is the fact that ESPN Classic still hasn't devoted an episode of SportsCentury to Roger Staubach.

    However, there could certainly be a larger scandal than any of these. If Tiger Woods called a press conference and then (a.) retired from golf, (b.) said he was gay, (c.) made several casual anti-Semitic remarks, (d.) punched a female golf reporter in the face, and then (e.) refused to comment on any of these issues (to anyone) ever again ... that would be pretty shocking. If it turned out Michael Jordan was secretly a woman (and always has been), that would blow my mind. If there was a terrorist bombing at the Olympics, and it turns out that one of the athletes was actively involved with this bombing, we (as a society) would have to do a lot of soul searching. These would all be considerably scandalous scenarios.

    J.J. Redick
    How could Team USA spell relief in Athens? J.J. is the answer.
    But I think there is a possibility of something even bigger: What if it turned out that an entire baseball season was scripted?

    Like ... let's say the nation was really depressed and troubled, and everyone became obsessed with alienation and despair. And let's say the government realized this was happening, so they decided to buoy the national spirit by secretly fabricating an incredible baseball season (the whole year -- every single game). Some big, dumb white guy would hit 80 home runs; some unknown rookie from the inner city would hit safely in 60 straight games and bat .400; some aging beloved pitcher would throw 20 no-hitters. This would captivate the world, and America would forget its troubles and just embrace the National Pastime. We would all be able to feel good about something. Yet it would all be a mere construction; it would just be the government's way of distracting us from what was really going on. Reality would not exist as we know it.

    Granted, this is unlikely. But it's not that different from trying to go to Mars.

    As for the "Real World" question ... "RW III: San Fran" is my favorite as well, but I've already written about that subject more than any man should. Right now, I'm more obsessed with "Big Brother 5," which might be the most socially reprehensible thing I've ever seen on TV. I love it.

    But anyway, it has been nice talking with you, Mr. Simmons. Enjoy those Counting Crows B-sides.

    Your pal,
    Chuck

    P.S. You know who should be on this Olympic basketball team? J.J. Redick.

    This concludes our broadcast day. Thanks for following along.

    Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated on ESPN.com every day Monday through Friday. Chuck Klosterman is a columnist for Esquire and Spin Magazine, and well as the author of the best-selling book, "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs." You can reach him at cklosterman@spin.com.