Friday, August 27, 2004
Updated: May 31, 2:24 PM ET
Cleaning out the mailbox
By Bill Simmons
And so we reach the final weekend of the 2004 Contrived & Slickly Pre-Packaged Summer Olympics.
Back in the old days, they showed most of the events live, and you barely knew anyone until they accomplished something. Now you watch tape-delayed coverage and find yourself saying things like "Wow, he might be able to get his own Doritos spot if he keeps this up," and "Was that the woman who got naked in Playboy?" It's impossible to trust anyone. Even when Michael Phelps gave up his spot in the final swimming relay, the cynical side of me was convinced that his agents and PR people convinced him to do it.
But we keep watching. The ratings have been higher than Sydney in 2000, as NBC kept milking the gymnastics, even showing one of those "All the medalists come back and perform half-assed routines with no pressure" shows in lieu of actual Olympics events. That's OK, I didn't want to see the decathalon or anything. And the tape-delay taints it for me, for the same reason I wouldn't want to watch the World Series eight hours after the fact, or the Masters, or anything else. Where's the drama when you can go right on ESPN.com and find the result? That's no fun.
While we're on the subject of pet peeves, I vent about this every Olympics, so forgive me for covering old ground ... but really, have you seen some of these sports in the Olympics this month? Wind-surfing? You get a gold medal for this? Freaking wind-surfing?!?!???!?! Are you kidding me? And how did beach volleyball become an Olympic sport when we already hand out medals for team volleyball? Isn't that like making three-on-three hoops an Olympic sport? In fact, why don't we just do that? And touch football, too. And wiffleball. Where does it end?
I mean, last week I threw something like 79 consecutive tennis balls down the sidewalk to the Dooze, using that ball flinger contraption they sell at Petco, and none of those 79 throws accidentally bounced onto the street. Can that be a sport? I honestly think I could beat anyone in the world at this. I'm like the Eric Gagne of tennis ball flinging. So where's my gold medal? How can I show off my talents in 2008? At the very least, they should adopt my idea of making gold medals different sizes, depending on the importance of the event. Like if you win the Decathalon, you get a Gold Medal so big that Beenie Man would wear it. But if you win for wind surfing, your gold medal would be the size of a nickel.
Anyway, I like the Olympics. I hate tape-delay. I hate contrived sports. I hate the pre-packaging ... but I'll get over it. Compared to crap like "Fear Factor" and "Extreme Makeover," it's a breath of tape-delayed fresh air.
Now that we have that settled, let's go to the mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers ...
Q: I caught "Karate Kid" on Saturday night after a day at Wrigley and a pig roast. That's important because my alcohol intake gave me a level of clarity that I never had while watching "Karate Kid." So here's my question: Why did Daniel-san and crazy mom move to California? Are you telling me that it was so Daniel's mom could get into a restaurant's managerial training program in a crappy area of California? There were no similar jobs in Jersey? She made her kid uproot his life for a restaurant managerial training position? Has anyone looked into this?
|Coming to 2008, tether ball and lawn darts!|
--Ryan Jacobs, Chicago
SG: That's just a fantastic "1980s Movies" question, right up there with "Why were Buddy's parents gone for the entire movie (from 'Just One of the Guys')?" After much deliberation, here's my answer ...
I think Mrs. LaRusso realized early on that her son had a singular destiny -- to be picked on by more people than anyone in the history of mankind. He needed to move somewhere where he was an outsider, where an entire dojo would want to destroy him, where billionaires would devote their lives to destroying a teenage karate champion. This stuff couldn't have happened in Jersey. Instinctively, she knew this. And that's why they moved.
Q: Have you started a pool yet for which one of the kids named after ESPN will be the first to become a serial killer?
|FANTASY DRAFT FUN
Note to anyone who's bored on Sunday afternoon: We're having my East Coast fantasy football draft on ESPN.com at 2 p.m., ET. As lame as this sounds, you can monitor everyone's picks as they happen by clicking on this link, which will be active as of 1:30, ET, on Sunday afternoon. I can't imagine why anyone would do this, unless ...
A.) You wanted to watch a draft unfold to prepare for your own;
B.) you're hoping I screw up every one of my picks; or
C.) You have absolutely no semblance of a life.
But it's there if you want to watch. And yes, my team is named "The Karolyi Ranch" this season. I couldn't resist.
--Jason, Roanoke, Va.
SG: I vote for the second ESPN kid, since he'll be called ESPN2 and, invariably, "The Deuce," which means he'll be dealing with a lifetime of "Dropping the Deuce" jokes. And just imagine the abuse when he's eating cold pizza. By the time he turns 25, he'll know what it feels like to be covered in someone else's blood.
Q: I DRIVE A DODGE STRATUS!!!!
--Joe, Portland, Maine
SG: I'm a division manager! I'm in charge of 20 people! People are SCARED OF ME!
Q: I've come up with a legitimate rule to determine whether or not a given activity is a sport. If a girl who's say, at least a B cup DOESN'T need a sports bra in order to participate, it's NOT a sport. This definitely rules out activities such as bowling, billiards and golf. (The only exception here is for sports that take place in water, as the swimsuit acts as a sports bra.) Note that this can only be applied to eliminate activities as sports -- there are definitely activites out there that require a sports bra but aren't sports -- like say, jump rope. Otherwise, I think it works well. What are your thoughts?
--Elizabeth M., Munter, Ga.
SG: I like any sports definition that relies on sports bras and cup sizes to succeed. You need a few more guidelines though:
1. If you can smoke and/or drink while you're competing, it's not a real sport.
2. If you don't need to shower after you're finished competing, it's not a real sport.
3. If judges are deciding the winners and losers, it's not a real sport.
4. If competing at a world-class level means you have to give up your childhood, as well as eating three times a day, having a menstrual cycle, having body hair and breasts, and being taller than 5-foot-3, it's probably not a sport.
5. If you're wearing a shirt that has your name written on the front pocket in script writing, it's not a real sport.
6. If one of the announcers for the sport spawns questions from viewers like, "Hey, is that Ant from 'Last Comic Standing'?" and "Wait a second ... is he crying?", then it's probably not a real sport.
So I'm with you, Elizabeth. Some things should be called "sports," other things should be called "competitions." Both sides can operate under the same sports umbrella ... we just need to remember the difference between the two.
Q: Is "Sean" becoming the new "Antoine"? I know you've got Antoine, Antwan, etc. But what about Sean, Shawn, Shawon, now Chone? Is Chone Figgins the only Chone in the world? What's going on in baseball?
---Charlie Kellett, Cranford, N.J.
SG: The Chone Figgins thing left me flustered for most of the summer; it's 10 times weirder than Bill Mueller's name being pronounced "Miller." At this point, you could just spell your name "Dwzrtqp" and pronounce it "Shawn" and nobody would question it. That's why I was thinking about pulling a George Foreman and naming all my kids "Bill," only with different spellings -- like "Bill," "Byll," "Bil," "Byl," "Billl," "Blil" (the Dwyane Wade homage), "Bll" (no vowels) and "Bee'all" - until I remembed that I hate kids.
Q: I am thinking about becoming the "token fan" (like Jack Nicholson for the Lakers) for the Atlanta Hawks. Do you have any suggestions how to go about doing this?
|Do you know any other Chones?|
SG: Sure. Just show up at consecutive games.
Q: Have you noticed the parallels between the WNBA and Ashlee Simpson (younger sister of Jessica) on MTV? You have a virtually unknown, less attractive, less talented and unwatched individual that we are mercilessly beaten over the head with promotions for that is riding on the coattails of the preceding empire's success and assuming that they share a fan base! And the boring factor alone about brings tears to one's eyes. Monumentally bad. Plus, their dad gives me the creeps.
--Chris Sullivan; Cedar Rapids, Iowa
SG: You forgot to throw in the weird "I know she's not that cute, but the more I'm watching this, the more I'm talking myself into it" phenomenon that's uniquely peculiar to both Ashlee and the WNBA. Also, neither of them actually have next. Although they think they do.
Q: The most underrated part of "Remember the Titans" is when Julius visits Gary in the hospital and finds out he's paralyzed and utters my favorite quote from the movie "... but you're Superman." It's a really touching moment when you first see it. And then that really evil part of you gets the thought "Wait a minute ... Superman is paralyzed!!!!" I bet Christopher Reeves really hates this movie. Am I the only one who thinks this?
--Parks, Memphis, TN
SG: (Afraid to say anything.)
Q: I noticed in a recent post you mentioned your "Miles Simon/Bo Kimble All-Star Team for College guys whose pro potential I totally misjudged." I'm curious who else is on that team.
--Chris Powers, Syracuse, N.Y.
SG: Let's see ... Simon, Kimble, Bobby Hurley, Joe Forte, Walter "The Truth" Berry, Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner, Christian Laettner, Donald Williams, Bootsy Thornton and Shea Seals. That's my list. But the MVP was probably Toby Bailey from UCLA. For years and years, I was waiting and waiting for him to make it ... never happened. I'm actually still waiting. Haven't given up hope yet.
But don't forget about the reverse team: The Lionel Simmons "I Knew they Weren't Gonna Make it!" All-Star Team composed of the Ed O'Bannons and Shawn Resperts of the world. There are a million of these guys, but Lionel was the best one. I still remember seeing Holy Cross's Jim Nairus (now a doctor) lighting him up at the Hart Center and thinking to myself, "This guy's supposed to be a lottery pick????"
Q: In your estimation, what is the Holy Grail of baseball events to witness live? Great games and World Series are quite common and you can actually plan for them, so I'm talking about the rare, impossible to predict moments. I've seen a triple play but a bench-clearing brawl would be my "die-satisfied" event.
--Jim K., Costa Mesa, Calif.
SG: See, I've already been to a game where somebody hit an inside-the-park home run, then was knocked unconscious by the throw as he slid into home plate. How can that ever be topped? I guess I'd have to go with Red Sox third base coach Dale Sveum getting three guys thrown out at home by a combined 60 feet in the same inning.
Q: Is it strange that I got jealous when I read your first Fe-Mailbag? All this time, I had no idea other women were reading your column.
|"I know it's a bunt and you're on second, but you can jog home Tek."|
--Franci Gardner, Washington D.C.
SG: That was this month's winner of the "Backhanded Compliment Award."
Q: What is the greatest off-the-field athletic moment of your life? Recently I was using a urinal at the bathroom of my school's library -- I had my cell phone in the front pocket of my shirt, which fell out as I reached down to button my fly (left hand over right). I reached my right hand across my body and snatched the phone with a backhanded grab -- before it got moist -- without ever touching the urinal with my hand. Taking into consideration that I had been crammed in a cubicle studying all day, I'm putting that moment higher on the totem pole than Daniel LaRusso catching the fly on his first try and right there with MJ torching the Jazz with the flu. So what's yours?
--Justin H., San Diego, Calif.
SG: Mine's easy: I once drove from my Dad's house (outside of Boston) to my Mom's house (near the Connecticut/New York border) in two hours and four minutes. That's a 175-mile trip from start to finish, driveway to driveway, including side roads and two toll booth stops on the Mass Pike (one to pick up the ticket, one to pay). For years and years, I was trying to break the two-hour barrier. Never happened. I eventually decided that it was impossible; even Dale Earnhardt couldn't have done it.
Still, as the years pass, that 2:04 is starting to look like Williams's .406 season, or Wilt's 100-point game, or even Shannon Tweed's streak of 37 straight Cinemax movies in which she got naked and climbed on top of somebody. I couldn't be more proud.
(And yes, I was in my early-20s at the time. I don't drive this way anymore. As far as you know.)
Q: Have you ever noticed that women's soccer players have names that sound like strippers? Check out a sampling of names from our U.S women's soccer team: Mia Hamm ... Brandi Chastain ... Shannon Boxx ... Kylie Bivens ... Joy Fawcett ... Heather Mitts ... Christie Rampone ... Cat Reddick.
--Alex Hunt, Wiesbaden, Germany
SG: It's always fun when someone named "Alex Hunt" is claiming that other people have goofy porn names.
Q: I was watching "Seinfeld" the other night and wondered: How many dates do you think it took to sleep with Elaine? I say third date and you're in. I think she would go all the way on the second date, but she probably would think that's a little slutty, especially for a woman of her educational background.
--Heath, Hoboken, N.J.
SG: I'm going with two dates ... one if she had enough to drink. She was the best. You know how women watch chick flicks because they want guys to be like Jerry Maguire or the guy Richard Gere played in Pretty Woman -- deep, sensitive, multi-dimensional, funny, rich -- even though we're nothing remotely like that? Well, we had Elaine.
Q: Has Junior Griffey's hamstring passed Fred Taylor's groin as the most unreliable body part in sports?
--John K, Los Angeles
SG: What about Mike Ditka's prostate? That didn't make the cut?
Q: Could you please write a rebuttal to Jason Whitlock's column on Page 2 this week? I never thought I'd read such unfounded crap by a Page 2 columnist. He called you and every other white person a racist for cheering against the U.S. hoops team (because, of course, there were no African-Americans who filled out the Page 2 poll asking whether you are cheering against the U.S., right?), ignoring the fact any fan of the NBA and basketball in general would want the U.S. team to lose so that Stern and company chose an actual team for the next Olympics ... and make it so we don't have to watch Marion chucking up airballs, or hear Carmelo bitch about his lack of PT.
--Jay Detsky, Toronto, Ontario
SG: Wait, you're telling me that you didn't expect that column from someone this week? I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner; you had an all-black team taking heat for three solid weeks before someone finally played the race card. Geez, Ralph Wiley would have written that column before the Nightmare Team even arrived in Athens.
I thought it was a good column, actually. Whitlock took a controversial position, argued it and made a solid case. That's what a columnist is supposed to do. My biggest problem was how he played the "Shut up and support your country" card, which is fine and all, except this is how we ended up spending 13 years in Vietnam. He also ignored the bigger picture, something I tackled nearly a month ago -- how USA Basketball wasted yet another chance to build the best possible team from scratch, choosing to slap together an All-Star team strictly for marketing purposes. This resentment towards the Nightmare Team wasn't a black/white thing; this was about an unimaginative style of basketball that fans don't like watching. They had a chance to change this -- for the better -- with the 2004 USA team. And they didn't. That's why we're ticked off.
Am I rooting against them? Yes. I want them to lose. It's for a greater good. If they win the gold medal, we'll be back here in four years with another All-Star team. And besides, the Olympics aren't about following your country, they're about following sports. Five years from now, I won't remember how many medals the United States won, but I'll remember watching that Greek hurdler standing on the podium -- her eyes filled with tears, her body quivering, the gold medal pressed to her chest -- as the entire stadium belted out Greece's national anthem. Now that was a moment.
Best of all, she was white.
Just kidding. I couldn't resist.
(Quit cringing, I was just kidding. Really.)
Q: With Dave Chappelle signing an eye-popping $50 million deal with Comedy Central, where does '04 Chappelle rank in the Pantheon of Black Comedian Breakout Years? Hasn't he already surpassed '97 Chris Rock and '79 Richard Pryor and is now approaching '84 Eddie Murphy status?
--Travis Barber, Mountain View, Calif.
SG: Whoa whoa whoa... slow down. '84 Murphy was carrying "SNL" and making $200 million movies. '04 Chappelle has a comedy show that everyone likes on cable TV. Big difference. I wouldn't even put him ahead of Pryor at this point. And does anyone else worry about the Erick Dampier-potential of this big contract? Just remember what happened to Eddie -- once he started making the big bucks, he moved to Bubble Hill, stopped hanging out with regular people and his comedy went in the tank. It's never good for a comedian's career to make crazy money. That's why someone like Bill Hicks stayed sharp until the bitter end. He wasn't living in some $15 million mansion having lackies running around to get him coffee and newspapers.
(Translation: White comedians know how to handle success; black comedians don't. Boy, this race card is fun, isn't it?)
Q: Remember in "Rocky IV" when Apollo climbs in the ring after dancing around to "Living in America?" Well when he enters the ring he's in full costume with his boxing gloves on and the very next scene when he's telling Drago "I want you", his gloves have magically disappeared! How many other flaws can you find in "Rocky IV"?
--Corbin, Crisfeld, Md.
SG: You mean, other than the fact that Rocky drove a 35-gear Laborghini without ever looking at the road ... fought in Russia on Christmas Day for no money ... climbed a 55,000-foot mountain wearing running boots ... had the Russian crowd cheering against their own guy ... and singlehandedly ended the Cold War? Other than those?
Q: I'm getting married on Sept. 18. My whole family is made up of die-hard Red Sox fans. My fiance's whole family is made up of die-hard Yankee fans. Of course, the Red Sox play the Yankees the day of the wedding. How do we handle this without the wedding turning into a brawl? And do we put a TV at the reception?
|Honestly, years later, how fun would it be if your wedding ended up like this?|
--Lauri D., Baltimore, MD
SG: Okay, here's what you do: Stick the TV in a smaller room, like one of those smoking lounges that country clubs have. Make sure only eight to 10 people can fit comfortably in there at one time. You'll have four or five people at the wedding who will go down there and watch the whole game. They wouldn't have been fun during the reception, anyway. The rest of the spots will rotate depending on who needs a break from the reception, who's trying to duck some slutty cousin, and who wants an update on the game. But you can't NOT have the TV -- that increases the odds that people will sneak out for the score.
As for the brawling, that depends on the people and the ages For instance, if you're in your mid-20s, and Murph and Sully are the ushers, and Vinny and Mario are chanting "1918! 1918" at the church, so Murph is forced to come back with a "How many Yankees can you fit in the ashtray of a Volkswagen?" joke ... yes, you could have some trouble on your hands. Once you shift into the late-20s, you should be fine.
(Personally, I think you should be rooting for a brawl -- that could get you a feature in People Magazine, or at least your own 20/20 segment with Diane Sawyer, and maybe even a Rick Reilly column with tons of exclamation points, any of which would be much more impressive than a hitch-free wedding. But that's just me.)
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday (except for this week, when he mysteriously disappeared for three days.