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Friday, September 15, 2006
Updated: October 13, 11:44 AM ET
The Art Shell e-mails

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Okay, it's official, The Art Shell Face needs to be inducted into the Pantheon, if you haven't done so already. Being somebody who is in the 22-and-under age group, I have never experienced The Art Shell Face before ... until Monday night. The multiple camera shots of Shell's blank, expressionless face were almost funnier than the Raiders play on the field. Almost.
--Jeremy Morgan, Cape Cod, Mass.

Being 21 years old, I'm not old enough to remember Art Shell's first stint as a head coach. Well, the Art Shell Face lived up to your hype. Every time there was a shot of him on the sidelines, my roommates and I were cracking up: The Raiders were getting blanked at home on Monday Night Football and he seemed completely oblivious. He barely spoke to anyone, showed no emotion, and seemed to be just staring into space most of the time. The moment that defined the game, in case you missed it: Shell has his back to the field, and he's talking to Randy Moss. Randy glances over Art's shoulder and points at the field. Shell turns around and seems startled to see a game going on, so he dutifully put on his headset and strolls back to the edge of the field. Absolute comedy gold, and the fact that his team looked incompetent only made it funnier.
--Jonathan Holloway, Raleigh, N.C.

I just stumbled upon pure Drinking Game gold. Every time the camera goes to Art Shell and he doesn't say a word or open his mouth, take a drink. This is incredible. The Art Shell face is amazing. I love football and I love drinking and now I love Art Shell!
--Victor Silva, Tempe, Ariz.

I didn't think the Art Shell era could possibly live up to the hype, but it greatly exceeded it. Watching the Oakland offense was like watching a kid play Madden '07 that doesn't know which button to push to throw the ball. How many weeks before Vegas takes all Raiders games off the board?
--Mike Peters, New York

I fall into that demographic (I'm 22) of people who were too young to remember when Shell coached the first time. Everything you said was 100% correct. I would say Shell looks like a deer in headlights but that would be an understated cliché. Shell looks like a 14-year-old boy who got caught by his grandma pleasuring himself. I say he's gone after this season and will be joining the professional staring contest tour.
--Edan, Melville, N.Y.

Is there any proof that Art Shell is in fact able to communicate with other humans? He is the Helen Keller of the NFL.
--Alex Rosenblatt, Los Angeles

When I was younger, I only remember Art Shell from a Topps football card where he was staring off into the distance with no expression on his face whatsoever. I always assumed that the Topps people just snapped a pic during some preseason drill while Shell was busy just killing time. Little did I know until tonight that it was more likely an action shot from a real game!
--David Sanders, St. Louis

Does Art Shell talk? There were at least a dozen head shots of him and I didn't see his lips move once. Do you think he was at least grunting?
--Doug, Boston

I would pay money to read the notes Art Shell was writing to himself during that Monday night game.
1. Try not to get sacked so much.
2. SCORE
3. Get high with Randy Moss later
4. FAKE OWN DEATH
--Andrew Stehle, Pine Hill, N.J.

You weren't kidding about the Art Shell Era! I've been watching the game for three hours now and you know how many facial expressions I've seen? One. I feel like I'm watching Weekend at Bernie's.
--Eric V, Cerritos, Calif.

After watching Art Shell's lifeless stare on the sidelines Monday night, I'm convinced the Raiders should hire Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman to prop him up on their shoulders for the remainder of the season.
--J Trask, Natick, Mass.

I'm 19 and have never been given the opportunity to experience Art Shell. HOLY LORD ... YES. He is incredible. When he's listening to that headset he reminds me of Alan Arkin in the car scene from Glengarry Glen Ross. The one where Ed Harris keeps blathering on and Arkin, dumbfounded and slow, can only nod and reply, with conviction, "yes" to each comment Harris makes. Except, at least Arkin has some sense of undeserved pride, like he's contributing something.
--Mikey, Boston

My favorite part: Moss talking to Shell on the sideline when Moss suddenly stops, points toward the field and nudges Shell -- who then quickly puts his headphones back on and walks back toward the field with an "Oh yeah, I'm coaching a game now" look on his face. Good times are here again in Oakland!
--Joe K., Marlton, N.J.

Art Shell's face ... priceless is the only way to describe this work of art.
--Jeff, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Projectile Poo. The common thread between my 4-week-old daughter and my Raiders. Boy, did you nail it with the Art Shell stuff or what? I'm sure he's just staring out into space thinking, "I wonder if it was all those chicken wings that's giving me this gas pain." The new season of "Lost" should just feature Art Shell by himself.
--Ewan Clow, Los Angeles

Since I'm only 18, I don't remember Art Shell from his first go-round in Oakland. So I didn't really understand your comments on how he just stands on the sideline, face expressionless, not saying a word. I thought it was just exaggeration... but oh no. That was the best part of that game, sitting there laughing at Shell. Me and my friend counted the number of syllables we saw him speak all game -- there were only two. Hilarious.
--K. Hood, Lee's Summit, Mo.

God bless Al Davis for giving young guys like me the chance to see Art Shell's comical blank stare. I can't wait until I get to see it in a close game when real clock managment skills matter (if the Raiders ever get in a close game this year). Also, I know it's dumb to speculate this early in the season, but what would you think of setting the over/under on Raiders wins this season at 1.5?
--Billy Jones, College Park, Md.

I'm just watching MNF and I'm now convinced that Art Shell is the spawn of the Junkyard Dog and the Barbara Streisand robot from South Park.
--Nick Tedeschi, Canberra, Australia

My favorite part was watching Art Shell right before a commercial as Brad Nessler proudly quips, "This guy has been there before, and the look on his face tells the whole story". Excuse me? Been where before? Art had the face of a guy who was wondering, "Am I really qualified to coach an NFL team at this point in my life?" or, "Do you think I can parlay this MNF appearance into a 20% off coupon from my dry cleaners?" The best part was that half the time he was donning the classic Art Shell face and the other half he had his head buried in his clipboard. It was almost as if the offensive coordinator was whispering into his headset, "Hey Art, instead of the blank stare, why don't you pretend like you are writing something down?" Just classic.
--Mike Hq, San Jose, Calif.

I am 23 and just got done watching the first game of the Art Shell era ... thanks so much for the betting tip! Combine Shell with Brooks and this situation is a gold mine!!!!
--Stephen D., Charlotte, N.C.

Art Shell busted out the "Art Shell Face" with precisely 12:30 left in the first quarter. It was incredible. I couldn't tell if his clipboard contained possible plays to run or the menu of the local Applebees.
--Thomas, Oxford, Mass.

You talked about it, you talked about it some more, and when you were done with all of that, you talked about it again. I still didn't believe you when you talked about that Art Shell face (I was too young to remember/care before). But I just watched the Monday Night game and I'm not sure he said a single word in the second half. The cameramen must have realized how funny this looked because they just kept going back to him. Somebody has to go back through their TiVo and give us a percentage of times that he was shown and didn't say anything.
--Kaveh, Gainesville, Fla.

As a 24-year-old NFL fan with hazy memories of the 1st Shell era, I wanted to thank you for introducing me to the combo of Aaron Brooks and Art Shell! I'm going into work tomorrow and emptying my 401(k) into my newly established "Raiders + anything" account! Much safer money. Can't wait to see this duo on the road! Thanks again.
--Ben, Chicago

Is there any chance Art Shell left Monday Night's game early and watched the majority of it from his own home? Since every sideline shot of him looked exactly the same (blank stare off into space), I'm convinced it was a video shot of him taken sometime during pregame, and them fed into a loop like the police used in "Speed" to make it look like the passengers were still on the bus. Maybe Art's really a Superhero, and was called into duty shortly before kickoff. There's just no way anyone could look THAT disinterested while coaching an NFL game. Can you check into this? Any major calamities in the Oakland area last night?
--Eddie G., Plano, Texas

Thank you to the guy who pointed out that Art Shell never talks or barely moves on the sidelines. My wife kept asking me why I was giggling every time they showed him. He'll be great at his next career as the silver painted statue guy at Venice Beach.
--Jon Betti, Santa Monica, Calif.

I just want you to know how happy the Art Shell face made me tonight. Too young to remember it during his last tenure, I can't understand how I ever watched football without it. The best part is how it never changed the entire game, no matter what happened. I might have to find a way to see all of their games this year just so I can keep enjoying this.
--Ryan, Austin, Texas

Holy crap. Did you see Art Shell tonight? I'm only 23, but never before have I seen an NFL coach have less of a reaction to his team being demolished. Art didn't even look angry. He looked like Helen Keller out there. He didn't know whether to be happy, sad, or pissed off as he just stood there like he was listening to AM Jazz on his headset. Thank God for teaming him and Aaron Brooks up for me to gamble on. I'm pretty sure I'll have an erection during this entire NFL season.
--Joseph Stevens, Minneapolis, Minn.

Am I crazy, or did every single prediction you made about Art and the Raiders actually happen on Monday night? As a newcomer to Art Shell's brand of football (born in the '80s) I thought that perhaps you had exaggerated some for a laugh. Apparently you were not joking. As a result. I decided not to gamble on the game. I will now go into my living room and drop my coffee table on my adams apple.
--Derek Wolfgruber, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Just wondering what music you think they are piping into Art Shell's headset? Based on his facial expressions (or lack thereof) it's clear that the coordinators aren't even keeping him in the loop on their strategies or decisions. I'm thinking he's listening to a mix of Sade, Extreme and Huey Lewis and The News. How long until the camera catches him singing along to Smooth Operator or Hip To Be Square?
--Jason L., New York

I am 19 years old and was too young to remember Art Shell's first coaching stint with the Raiders, and after reading your NFL preview where you described Shell's blank stare during the game, I was skeptical that an NFL coach would do something like that. Well, I was watching the Monday night game and was in total shock with how inanimate he was throughout the game. I will never question you again.
--John Heasley, Pullman, Wash.

During the fourth quarter. Art looked like he had just walked in on his wife sleeping with Pauly Shore.
--Brett Smiley, Syracuse, N.Y.

You were right about 22-year-olds (such as myself) having the good fortune to experience Art Shell's frozen demeanor for the first time. It was like poetry in non-motion every time a shot of him popped up. Aaron Brooks lobs another pass over Randy Moss for a would-be first down? Blank stare. Another false start penalty makes for another third-and-long? Blank stare. I couldn't believe it and I couldn't stop laughing. On a couple occasions I saw him "writing" stuff on a clipboard, but my guess is that he was scribbling orders down for whoever was making the McDonald's run. Then two hours and seventeen minutes into the broadcast, I actually saw him say three words to an assistant. I thought for a second he was trying to right the ship, until I realized what he was in fact saying was "Whopper with cheese."

If I were Jerry Porter, I would want out of Oakland too, if for no other reason than having to endure three hours of the Art Shell face (which I guarantee will be in the Pantheon by the end of the year) every week. I swear, Art and the Raiders staff were cryogenically frozen since his last firing and haven't watched any football since. He seems flabbergasted that the NFL has decided to employ fast defensive lineman all of a sudden. I'm just waiting for him to re-implement the wishbone. On the plus side, Art won't have any clock management gaffes this season if he keeps getting shut out.
--Ryan, Grand Rapids Mich.

I just watched Art Shell on Monday Night Football and saw his sideline demeanor for the first time since I was 11. This guy should have been cast for the movie Titanic, standing there telling the 2nd class passengers to just be patient and wait for the next lifeboats that don't exist. His team couldn't muster anything offensively while he stands there as an ambivalent observer with the thought, "Wow, these guys in the black jerseys suck."
--Brett Bitsko, Elizabethown, Pa.

Watching Art Shell's return to the NFL was brutal. I get the same feeling when an old person is on the Price Is Right -- you pull for them to do well, but odds are they have no clue what's going on.
--Justin, Shelton, Conn.

You were right, the Art Shell face is unbelievable...he didn't flinch the entire game as Aaron Brooks was getting skewered by the Chargers D. I think all the horrible NFL coaches should just wear an Art Shell mask for the comedic value. Also, that way, when they get fired and inexplicably re-hired you won't have any idea who it is; you'll just know that they suck and that you'll get to see the Art Shell face all the time.
--Anil, New York

As a 21-year-old I got my first real chance last night to see Art Shell on the sideline. Wow!! I counted at least 5 times in the 1st quarter where the camera zoomed in on him and he had the same expression on his face as the Colonel does when he sees Dirk Diggler's "member" for the 1st time. Hilarious!! Thank you Eddie!
--Roche, Iselin, N.J.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.