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Friday, December 15, 2006
Dear Bill: Enjoy J.D. Drew

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Kris from Pittsburgh writes, "Who cares about your terrible NFL picks and your 10 millionth NBA article. Give us a freakin mailbag!"

Fine, fine, fine. But I have so many useable e-mails from the past four weeks, we're instituting Sports Guy Chat Rules for this column -- more questions and shorter responses. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: For some reason I've started calling Daisuke "Mr. Zero." I have no reason but it sounds fairly sinister and like an anime bad guy. I think it came from this woman my brother was dating. We were dropping her off at her car and when she pointed it out she said, "There it is, the silver bullet." After she got out of the car my brother's friend Daryl said, "Do you think she knows her car's black?" From then on every nickname I've given someone/thing makes no sense. It's almost like her statement completely scrambled my brain waves. Maybe if Mr. Zero has an affinity for shutouts he'll prove me as prophetic. But odds are I'm now as crazy as that woman my brother was dating, which is a bit disconcerting.
--Sean, Washington

SG: Maybe you better stop talking for a while, Champ. But you're right -- Mr. Zero makes for a great nickname for someone. I just don't think Daisuke needs one when we can call him "Dice." As long as we don't call him D-Mat, I'm happy -- especially since that greasy used car salesman, Scott Boras, was the one pushing that nickname. Let's settle on "Dice" and call it a day.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Lost in translation ... the fact that Dice bought this coat from The Denise Collection at Macy's.

And speaking of Dice, I'm excited to have the Japanese Pedro on my team but have two concerns going in. First, I'm disappointed that he doesn't look a little more villainous than he does. I like my mysterious Japanese pitchers with unpronounceable names to have cold eyes, a blank stare, a 20-hair fu manchu and the same icy look that Sato's nephew had while he was trying to destroy Daniel-San at the end of "Karate Kid II." Those are the guys who would be terrifying in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game. Dice looks much more happy-go-lucky and friendlier than I expected, like one of those giddy exchange students in college who tries to join a frat and ends up having his stomach pumped on the second night. I'm not sure this is a good thing. And second, it's always a little scary when the Red Sox spend $103 million on a pitcher who owns the same winter jacket as my wife. No, really. Check out the picture to the right. How do you say, "I will now light myself on fire" in Japanese?

Q: Can you believe Davis on "The Real World" got away with calling his roommate the n-word by using the Mel Gibson "I have a problem with alcohol" defense? Can't you picture a Red Sox news conference in May or June when Theo Epstein tearfully announces he's checking himself into rehab after J.D Drew is out for the season with two torn ACLs?
--Trevor, Wantagh, N.Y.

SG: Forget Theo -- you just blew Billy King's cover! After trading Iverson for 40 cents on the dollar this weekend, this could have been his fake excuse to explain his past five years of moves for the Sixers. And frankly, there's still time.

Q: I know he just died, but what is the record for most offspring by a pro athlete? Jose Uribe has to be up there. According to the AP report, "Uribe is survived by his second wife, Wendy Guerrero, with whom he had four children. He had at least 14 children in all, Reyes said."
--Troy, Des Moines, Iowa

SG: A fascinating question. We have a kajillion sports-related Web sites right now and not one of them is devoted to tallying the offspring from the top-50 most prolifically virile pro athletes. Whoops, I just gave the "Best Damn Sports Show" an idea for next week's show. Can't you picture Chris Rose screaming, "And coming in at No. 9, with at least eight kids by four different women ... Kenny Anderson!" as John Salley and Rodney Peete are doubled over in disbelief?

By the way, here's my favorite sports-related illegitimate child story of all time. Some time in the past 15 years, a Boston athlete who we'll call "Rufus" (pseudonym) knocked up two different women around the same time, both of whom decided to have his baby. As fate would have it, they ended up giving birth to boys on the same day -- one in the Boston area, one in another city thousands of miles away -- and in a fantastic twist, one baby was named "Rufus Jr." and the other baby was named "Rufus II." This actually happened. I love pro sports.

SPORTS GUY REWIND
Here's what you missed this week from the Sports Guy:

Don't question The Answer
Bill Simmons would like to congratulate the team that gets Allen Iverson because it just landed a once-in-a-lifetime superstar.

The Answer II: The readers speak
With Allen Iverson packing his bags, the A.I. fans of the world have a few thoughts.

• Beat The Sports Guy
Week 15: Bengals at Colts

Q: Remember the hot, big-breasted girl in high school who starts dating seniors your freshman year? You know, she is now too cool for you as you don't drive. She's condescending because you can't buy beer. She says you and your friends are immature. Then, senior year, it all changes. She has no friends, can't get a date to homecoming and has to bring back one of the losers who failed out of community college for a date. That was Barry Bonds at the winter meetings. He was better than everyone for so long. Not any more. No one wants him. He's a burden. For all the years he's been sticking it to the media and everyone else, this is payback. The message is clear: "No one wants you, Barry! Hit your 28 dingers for the record, retire and wait for the golf-ball size tumors to come. You've earned it." He'll be going out Alzado-style in the next seven years.
--Mike Redding, Chicago

SG: That was the winner of this month's "completely over the top, borderline evil, and yet strangely entertaining e-mail about Barry Bonds" award.

Q: You and many other people claim that Iverson never had any adequate teammates for the past 10 years in Philly, so I'm asking you which four players in your opinion would be a perfect match (and perfect teammates) for Allen Iverson? Past or present players, it doesn't matter, but be aware of the salary cap limitations -- i.e., no five superstars could be on one NBA team so forget about Jordans, Magics, Birds, Hakeems, etc.
--Goran, Serbia

SG: You'd need a shot-blocking center who could protect him on the defensive end, handle the boards, set picks and not care if he doesn't get a ton of shots (like Emeka Okafor). You'd need a big point guard who could bring the ball up (allowing Iverson to play like a 2-guard), make open 3-pointers and defend 2-guards on the other end (like Shaun Livingston, only if he had a reliable outside shot). You'd need a small forward who couldn't be left alone from 3-point range (like Rashard Lewis). And you'd need a power forward who could protect the rim, score on the low post, set picks and run the floor (like Elton Brand). That's the most ideal situation possible. Out of the current teams, the Clippers come the closest because they already have Brand and Livingston. Anyway, intriguing question. My Serbian readers have really been bringing it to the table lately.

Q: All I want for Christmas this year is Doc Rivers' new book: "If I Coached Them, Here's How It Happened."
--Sly Cooley, Fernwood, Calif.

SG: That's a mortal lock to win the ESPYS for "best e-mail of the year." You can always count on Sly Cooley to deliver the goods.

Q: My homie and I were talking about how K-Fed could be the ultimate team player of our generation. If he releases the sex tape of him and Britney, he will be hated by a lot of people and not win custody of his kids, but he's taking it for the team, with the team being males everywhere. If he releases it, I'll make one of those inspirational "Teamwork" posters with his picture, hang it in my room, and touch it every time I leave the room like Notre Dame football does.
--Fred, San Diego

SG: One problem: Seeing a Britney sex tape at this point would be like seeing new footage of Connie Hawkins when he was playing for the Suns -- yeah, it's still Connie Hawkins, but it's not the same guy everyone raved about at Rucker Park. Britney peaked about five years ago. In fact, I wrote for Jimmy Kimmel for the AMA's last month and Britney wasn't even one of the top-10 best-looking female celebs in the building. My friend Raff has a great phrase to describe how she looked, which can also be used for any stripper or porn star who stuck around too long … unfortunately, I can't use it here, but that's how she looked. (It's a two-word phrase and the second word is "out.") Meanwhile, the best-looking woman in the building (even better than Beyonce) was 49-year-old Sharon Stone. I'm not kidding. Sharon Stone is totally, completely, utterly breathtaking. She's like the Clemens of female celebs -- I'm not sure how she's still around, I'm not sure what kind of medical "help" she's getting, but she's still throwing 12-K complete game shutouts and looking like she's 29. Amazing. I feel like you need to know these things.

Q: You wrote that no one ever took a charge against Barkley. Not true. When he was still with Philly, they were playing the Suns and Chuck was on one of his runaway drives. Kevin Johnson set up in the middle of the lane to take a charge. Barkley saw this, lowered his shoulder and knocked KJ several feet back and into the support. Of course, he got his charge. He looked at KJ and screamed at him to never take a charge against him again. I love him.
--Roya Jackson, San Diego

Kevin Johnson
Taking a charge for Sir Charles is the health equivalent of smoking three million packs of cigarettes.

SG: Me, too. While we're on this topic, I made a mistake by randomly throwing in that "NBA players we'll never see again" topic into the Iverson column when it really could have been its own column -- not just to expand on the players already mentioned and add a couple who should have been mentioned (like Adrian Dantley and Bill Walton, two unforgivable omissions), but explaining why some other guys weren't on the list (like MJ and Doc). So stay tuned for that down the road -- either in a column or if I ever get around to writing an NBA book. It was too good of a topic to carelessly throw into the middle of a column like that.

Q: Some day, someone may very well write a riveting book about the mess that is the Oakland Raiders in Art Shell's second stint as head coach. If that day comes -- and the sooner the better I say, so someone get David Halberstam on the phone -- my suggestion is that the first chapter begins with this quote, which came out of Shell's mouth earlier this week: "We're doing the right things out on the practice field, but then taking it to the game has been a problem for us."

As soon as I saw that in print, I immediately pictured the Raiders in an offense-only practice drill, with Aaron Books flawlessly racking up huge yardage on long bombs to Randy Moss with no defenders in sight and Shell repeatedly nodding his head "yes" from the sidelines. That's probably not quite what Shell meant, but I still think "It Worked So Well In Practice: The Art Shell Story" would be an excellent title for the as-yet-unreleased masterpiece.
--Jon S., San Francisco

SG: First of all, we'd like to apologize to Aaron Gleeman of rotoworld.com, since that e-mail was completely ripped off from his column Thursday. (Our apologies, we found this out after we posted the column. Can we all agree not plagiarize other writers for mailbag questions? Thanks.)

Anyway, here are the top-seven sports books that need to be written:

1. "If I Coached Them, Here's How It Happened."

2. The defining Knicks book about the Isiah era, which would either be called "Booooooooooooo!" or "You're Not Gonna Believe What Isiah Just Did." I nominate Howard Beck of the New York Times -- he's been there the whole time and also happens to be a very good reporter and writer. Get to work, Howard. Seriously. Start typing.

3. "It Worked So Well In Practice: The Art Shell Story."

4. "Force-Feeding the Monster Until It Choked To Death" -- an inside account of how Theo Epstein, John Henry and the rest of the Red Sox brain trust immediately blew up the first World Series champion in 86 years, changed their game plan four times in the next two years, made at least 37 humongous mistakes, targeted players with the complete opposite mental/spiritual makeup of the team that won the World Series, stubbornly stuck to a budget while throwing around $40 million contracts like dice at a craps table, then ultimately decided, "From now on, screw it, we'll just raise ticket prices and spend an obscene amount of money."

5. "The Slap: How Sedale Threatt Slapped Danny Ainge, Knocked Him Woozy And Changed Two Lives Forever," by John Feinstein.

6. "The Sperminator: The Jose Uribe Story."

7. "ESPN: The Anniversary!" -- A coffee table book celebrating the 10-year anniversary of ESPN The Magazine, the 28-year anniversary of ESPN, the 8-year anniversary of PTI, the 10-year anniversary of ESPNEWS, the 3-year anniversary of ESPNU, the 15-year anniversary of ESPN2, the 10-year anniversary of ESPN Classic, the 7-year anniversary of ESPN Deportes and the 12-year anniversary of ESPN.com.

Q: I'm a drunk college student who has an exam tomorrow at 9 a.m. and the only thing I can think about is why does the Weather Channel use the same music as the Skinemax movies? Do they have the same provider or something?
--Mike, Metuchen, N.J.

SG: Man, I miss college …

Autumn Reeser
If you don't think Autumn is putting "The OC" back on the map, well then you didn't see the previews last night.

Q: Autumn Reeser (the girl who plays Taylor Townsend) is the best thing to ever happen to "The O.C." and deserves some credit. Everyone assumed that with Marissa gone, the show was essentially dead. However, the last few episodes have been excellent, and I honestly think that this could be the best season yet. So, what do you think? Comparable to the Red Sox losing Nomar and then having their championship season the next year? I see it … Mischa Barton can't act, and in no way was the biggest contributor to the show, but she was the star power. Nomar was constantly injured, but he was for sure a fan favorite. The only question is, who's the Taylor Townsend of the '04 Red Sox?
--Mallory, Los Angeles

SG: First of all, you did a great job of inadvertently describing the Ewing Theory -- and with a great example, no less -- so when I officially change the Ewing Theory to the Bledsoe Theory next month and write the new version of that column, we'll be adding good ol' Mischa to the list of examples. Second of all, Orlando Cabrera was clearly the Taylor Townsend of the 2004 Red Sox: Right when he showed up, they started winning; as soon as he left, they stopped winning big games; and few people ever adequately appreciated him when he was there or understood what he meant to that team. But back to your larger point: Yes, she's invigorated the show and, yes, it's been worth watching again. I completely agree. Let's just pretend that last season never happened.

Q: My buddy Al came up with a new expression for women over 35 getting breast implants: "Tommy John surgery." The idea being that somewhere in her young 30s, she lost her fastball, got the Tommy John surgery, and now she's back in the game throwing heat again.
--Sean Forbes, Manchester, N.H.

SG: I like it. And I'm sure Tommy John will be delighted.

Q: I just read that Lisa Leslie will miss this season because she's pregnant. So, immediately my mind breaks into how Al Michaels would explain this: "Unfortunately for the Sparks, they are without Lisa Leslie. She's out with a womb." --HT, St. Louis

SG: See, I think he'd say, "She's out with a fetus." Speaking of Al, was there a funnier moment all season than Al's on-air tantrum after the halftime pyrotechnics show on Sunday night in Dallas? I'M AL MICHAELS AND I DON'T LIKE THIS SMOKE! I'M GOING TO HAVE SOMEONE FIRED! THIS IS AMATEUR HOUR! AS SOON AS WE GO TO BREAK, I'M DROPPING 50 CONSECUTIVE F-BOMBS! Come on, loosen up, Alfonso! We haven't seen you that riled up since the climactic scene in "BASEketball."

Q: In a perfect world, you would be bombarded with e-mails telling you how right you are about "The Wire." Even with your strange cross-section of fans, I'm afraid this show is still under the radar. The show is indescribably detailed, so much so that you should try this test: Try explaining every character to someone watching the show for the first time. You realize you can spend 20 minutes describing even minor characters. And this after only four seasons. This has become the ultimate litmus test for me: If someone isn't obsessed with "The Wire," then I can't possibly be good friends with them.
--Bryan, Amityville, N.Y.

SG: We'll make sure not to introduce you to any Golden Globe voters; they didn't even nominate "The Wire" for "best dramatic series" this week. How does a show finish the greatest season in the history of television and not even get NOMINATED? Unbelievable. No wonder all the celebrities in attendance have to get drunk to make it through that awards show. By the way, BET starts showing all four seasons of "The Wire" on Jan. 10. Just watch the first three episodes and see if you like it. Come on. I don't ask for much. And if you don't do it, I'll keep running e-mails like this next one.

Q: I'm kinda confused as to who's country this is?
--Doug Downing, S.D.

SG: This is ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur country!

This is ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur country!

This is ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur country!

Kevin Garnett
Now everyone gets Garnett money ... but they also get big shiny rings to go with them.

Q: How can you write an article about feeling sorry for KG and not mention the fact that he makes $22 million a year and will certainly bank more than a quarter billion in his career? Yes, it's too bad he hasn't been on a championship team and has been saddled with bad management, but he won't be the first or last great player to never win a championship. It happens all the time. Such is life. Get over it -- I'm sure he already has.
--Jason C., Toronto

SG: I'm running this e-mail only after receiving multiple variations of it from readers who apparently don't realize that (A) 15 players currently have deals earning them $16.9 million per year or more, and (B) Wade, LeBron, Pierce and Carmelo just signed extensions that guarantee them a yearly contract in the $20-million range. So that's a lame argument. And expecting a superstar to leave money on the table so his front office can build a better team sounds great on paper, but ask Tom Brady how that works out in real life. Right now he's throwing to Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney, getting popped 14-15 times a game and spending two hours a night soaking in a 30-degree tub of ice while his team sits on $8 million in cap room and something like $30 million for next season.

Q: You have NO idea how much you will hate J.D. Drew.
--Dave Geeting, St. Louis

SG: Uh-oh, looks like we're entering the "If you're a Red Sox fan, you're about to be in a terrible mood reading all these J.D. Drew e-mails" portion of the mailbag. You knew it was coming. Just humor me.

Q: I just wanted to congratulate you on your team becoming the new Mets. You know, the team that overspends on guys who sound good on paper, but who will totally flop under the pressure of their ridiculous contracts and the city's overbearing media. I'm sure Drew and Lugo will be very happy on their new teams in a year or two when the Sox have to dump their stupid contracts for 30 cents on the dollar.
--Ben Teaford. Rocky Hill, Conn.

SG: (Punching myself in the face.)

Q: As a Dodgers fan, I was upset when I heard Drew opted out. Then I remembered how much money he was giving up and thought he was crazy -- after all, no one would pay $11 million a year for a corner outfielder who hits .280 with 20 HRs and looks like he doesn't care. Not once in his Dodger tenure do I remember going, "Wow. J.D. Drew really came up big for us last night." Good riddance.
--Josh, Santa Barbara, Calif.

SG: (Slamming my hand in a door.)

Q: The day Drew opted out of his Dodger contract was like the feeling I had on Christmas morning when I was 7 and got my first pair of skates … an utterly joyous occasion. This man has no passion or love for the game of baseball and plays the game accordingly. It is fitting that he will be playing for Boston fans who will hate this guy with a passion by the second spring training game. As a fan of the game, I am sad that any other fans have to watch this guy -- except maybe Yankee fans; I was hoping Steinbrenner would overpay him. Good luck, this is your worst nightmare!
--Tom Rowe, Long Beach, Calif.

SG: (Repeatedly ramming my body into my Christmas tree.)

Q: Just a stellar quote from Epstein about the J.D. Drew signing: "Virtually every player is a collection of strengths and weaknesses." Equivalent to when your buddy has a new girlfriend, and you know she's nuts, and he knows she's nuts, and she does something crazy like ask him for his e-mail password "just to prove that he trusts her," and the buddy tries to laugh it off by saying "but all women are a little crazy, you know, right?" It's never a good sign when the fans of the team that a player left are happier than the fans of the team that that player signed with.
--Sam, Los Angeles

SG: (Ramming a candy cane into my eye.)

NFL By The Numbers
Through 14 weeks, against the spread:

Favorites vs. spread: 86-115-6
Home teams vs. spread: 105-96-6
Road favorites: 24-43-3
Dogs also winning outright: 84 of 115 (75%)

Q: I am a lifelong Dodgers fan and having one of the greatest laughs of my life watching the Red Sox sign J.D. Drew. I couldn't believe the Dodgers gave that bum $11 million a year to play sucky, injury-plagued, emotionless baseball. I was even more stunned when he OPTED OUT of that goldmine contract, although very happy because he was a joke. So, you can only imagine once I heard that he was getting $14 million a year from another team, I laughed my a$$ off! What was your thought process during this whole scenario?
--David S., Toledo, Ohio

SG: Thanks for asking. I haven't been this horrified by a big move from a Boston team since the Celtics traded for Vin Baker four summers ago. The Sox just signed someone who, by all accounts, plays without any semblance of passion or intensity. He's the exact type of player that Boston fans have always hated. We have a century-long track record of proving this point. That's the part I don't get. It's not like Theo is from France -- he's from freaking Brookline. He should have known. Arrrrrrrrrgh. One last e-mail about Drew …

Q: What did Bono say to the Yankees fan after hearing about the J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo signings?

"Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you!!!!!"
--Michael Rupp, Fairfield, Conn.

SG: Now that's comedy. Well done. It's just a shame that Michael Rupp was overshadowed by Sly Cooley this week.

Q: I couldn't help but feel that the season premiere of "Real World: Denver" was the slutty reality star equivalent of Tiger's '97 Masters debut. There is no ceiling for Jenn the Cheerleader at this point. She has the potential to put up freakish numbers that no one else will be able to touch. Also, she makes the genre's Nicklaus -- Trishelle -- look like Mother Teresa.
--Drew F., Los Angeles

SG: Couldn't agree more. The first three episodes of "Real World" were the reality-TV equivalent of Johnny Vander Meer throwing three straight no-hitters. Simply spectacular. The entire show has entered the Tyson Zone. The season finale could center around the roommates having a seven-person hot tub orgy and I wouldn't be surprised at this point.

Q: I don't want to discredit what an NFL offensive or defensive lineman could do to a bathroom, but outside of them I think there are two leading candidates for who could take the worst-smelling BM's in the NFL: Mike Martz and Marty Schottenheimer. I think I've decided to give the edge to Martz though. It's just so easy to imagine him walking out of a bathroom, newspaper under arm, oblivious to the concerns of others, having just left a restroom in shambles. What are your thoughts about this? I think Art Shell and John Madden would come in third and fourth, respectively.
--Tim C, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

SG: (Terrified to say anything …)

Q: Hey, Simmons, why don't you write about college football? You love football, you went to college, you're a sportswriter, how could you not have anything to say about the BCS and yet there are 10 WWF columns in your archives? You're a geek.
--Sean K., Boulder, Colo.

The Sports Gal Speaks
I feel like I'm the only person over 30 who still watches Christmas specials. When they start showing them in December, I TiVo every one and try to watch them all -- I never feel like it's Christmas until I see the shows, even if I'm slowly getting tired of them. My favorite is "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." The basic plot: Rudolph is shunned by his peers because of his red nose (even by Santa, who's a racist) and eventually finds his way to the Island of Misfit Toys: A Charlie in the box, a train with square wheels, a boat that sinks, a water gun that only shoots grape jelly, an elephant with polka dots, etc. It warms my heart at the end when Rudolph's nose saves the day and all the misfit toys go to good homes. It's such a nice story and has a great message, even if Santa never enters a sensitivity training program at the end.

Here's my question: in the year 2056, will they still be showing the same shows? What about the year 2112? Should we start making some new ones or some variations of the old ones? I think they should remake the one with Rudolph and the misfit toys and put him on an island with misfit celebrities: K-Fed could be there, Lindsay Lohan, Katie Holmes, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Kate Moss, Michael Richards … and Rudolph could turn their lives around, and in the end, they could all find new homes. They could even hire the real celebs to do their own voices. And they could even make the show newsworthy -- like, this year's show could have Kate Bosworth refusing to eat the Gingerbread Man, a love triangle with Rudolph, Paris and Brandon Davis, Michael Richards screaming epithets about Rudolph's nose, and Nicole Richie driving her sled the wrong way and getting arrested. Everything would turn out fine in the end. The best thing would be that they would never run out of misfit celebrities -- there are at least 10 new ones every year. I hope this can happen some day. I'm getting tired of the train with square wheels.

Here are my Week 15 picks: Cowboys -3.5; Vikings -3; Browns +11; Pats -11; Bills -1; Saints -9.5; Steelers (PK); Titans +3.5; Bears -13.5; Giants -5; Lions +5; Cards +3; Chargers -9; Raiders -2; Bengals +3.5.

This week: 1-0 Last week: 9-7 Season: 106-97-6

SG: Here's my defense: From late September through Christmas, everyone spends three solid months complaining about how screwed up the BCS system is, how no other sport's championship would ever be decided by a voting process, how half of these kids don't even belong in school, how the coaches are constantly screwing over their players by switching colleges, how dumb it is that you have to wait 50 days between games for the national championship, how the officials are terrible, how the announcers are terrible, how everything's about the money now, how it would be so much better if there was a real playoff system, how the NCAA is more corrupt than the mafia, how there are way too many bowl games … I mean, what's so fun about college football? What am I missing? I spend enough time complaining about sports that I actually like -- I need more complaining in my life? I'll stick with the pros, thanks.

Q: Are you seriously saying that you "had no idea" that McGwire and Sosa could have been using something other than Andro back then? Come on, they looked like cartoons back then.
--Scott, St. Louis

SG: Look, you're talking to the same guy who was completely stunned when George Michael came out of the closet, believed O.J. was completely innocent for a solid week and thought it was totally conceivable that Ben Johnson could run the 100-meter dash in 9.79 seconds. I'm not good at this stuff.

Q: I totally agree with your list of announcers but with the dawning of a new era of football commentators, I have a new idea for you and ESPN: Hasn't the time come for ESPN NFL Unplugged? I mean how much would you pay not to hear the announcers and just take in a football game in all it's ambient noise glory? I would pay at least as much as I'm paying for NFL Sunday Ticket, maybe double. And think of the savings for networks, no need for studio space, no extra cameras in the announcer's booth and no announcer costs. Not to mention all the time put into dealing with their egos. Come on Bill, isn't it time to enjoy the NFL the way it was meant to be seen and heard?
--Andrew S., Calgary

SG: A great idea except that NBC tried this about 25 years ago. It was distinctly creepy and weird. Let's stick with trying to find guys who click with one another and convincing color guys that we don't need them to narrate replays we're watching. For instance, here's the actual transcript of Madden breaking down the replay of Reggie Bush's long TD (off the screen pass) on Sunday night: "Here he is, he's in the backfield, and he just throws him on a little screen out there, a good block there, a pretty good block there, but the rest is Reggie Bush, he runs out of a tackle there, makes a move on two guys right there. (Pause.) Boy, is he fun to watch, isn't he?"

Q: The Sox should just tell Manny he got traded to Boston. He won't know the difference.
--Mike H, Noxen, N.H.

SG: I love this idea. They could go all out with this: Call him up, tell him he's been traded to Boston, have him pack up all of his stuff, fly him in circles in the team jet for five hours, then drop him off in Cambridge and tell him he's on the West Coast. He might fall for it. By the time the season starts, it will be too late for him to complain. I really think this could work.

Q: All right, it's time for the big question. You are offered a five-year deal to GM any NBA team of your choice. Here's the catch: You have to open-mouth kiss Rick Reilly for 24 seconds on "The Late Late Show" with Craig Ferguson. Then you have to ask, on national TV, for an autograph on a copy of one of his columns, and then say that it made you "weep" and that you "didn't know that sportswriting could be about so much more than sports." I think your faithful readers deserve to know how much the NBA really means to you.
--Wayland, Cedar Falls, Iowa

SG: The sad thing is, I actually mulled this one over. I'd do just about anything to run my own NBA team. That got me thinking -- shouldn't this be a reality show? Like a cross between "The Apprentice" and "Fear Factor"? I would absolutely eat my way out of a coffin of maggots for a chance to run an NBA team. Somebody get Joe Rogan on the phone.

Q: So here I am in Afghanistan, and last Sunday I was sitting in my underwear, cleaning my M4 assault rifle and listening to the NFL online. Just then, mortar rounds started going off and all I could think of was, "Damn! I was just gonna tweak my fantasy basketball lineup!" Then it occurred to me, this is probably something I never want to tell a shrink unless I want to end up on the list of people the Secret Service locks up every time the president comes to town. Can I get a "Yup, these are my readers?"
--Andrew S., Afghanistan

SG: Not only do you get a "Yup, these are my readers," you're also getting a "Stay safe out there," "Give my best to the troops" and "Happy holidays to everyone serving our country overseas."

And since this is supposed to be a football column, here are 15 thoughts heading into Week 15:

1. Vince Young just wins football games.

2. The Patriots are going to end up with the best win-loss record of any team undergoing a rebuilding season in NFL history.

3. Thank you, NFL Network, for not subjecting us to sideline reporters. We appreciate it.

4. After Thursday night's shocking upset by the Niners over the Seahawks, the underdogs are now 30 games over .500 for the season (116-86-6), with 85 of those 116 teams covering the spread AND winning the game outright. This is the single biggest story of the year that's not being mentioned on "SportsCenter" or "PTI" right now -- the year the gambling world was turned completely upside down. Unbelievable. Just remember this information when you're mulling over that seemingly easy three-team teaser with Chicago, San Diego and New England this Sunday.

5. Is it just me or has Shaun Alexander not looked the same since the Seahawks ran him 40 times in his second game back against Green Bay? He's got that Jamal Lewis-esque, "I just got out of the joint and I don't feel right" anti-hop to his step.

6. Remember the year when Dante Hall broke a couple of kickoffs and we all reacted like he was the most unstoppable force in special teams history? Umm, isn't Devin Hester's 2006 season completely blowing that one out of the water? Why aren't we going nuts about him? This guy should have a nickname and a commercial by now.

7. If I'm on the Broncos or Panthers, I'm telling my wife right now, "Honey, go ahead and make MLK weekend plans for us … I'm gonna be home."

Week 15 Picks
Home team in caps

Cowboys (-3.5) over FALCONS
Jets (+3) over VIKINGS
RAVENS (-11) over Browns
Texans (+11) over PATS
BILLS (-1) over Dolphins
Redskins (+9.5) over SAINTS
Steelers (PK) over PANTHERS
Jags (-3.5) over TITANS
BEARS (-13.5) over Bucs
Eagles (+5) over GIANTS
Lions (+5) over PACKERS
CARDS (+3) over Broncos
Chiefs (+9) over CHARGERS
RAIDERS (-2) over Rams
Bengals (+3.5) over COLTS

This week: 0-1
Last week: 12-4
Season: 104-99-6

8. Didn't Tony Dungy used to be a good defensive coach? What happened? How many rushing yards does an opponent need to get before he takes some heat? Four hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? I know the Doc Rivers Corollary is in place here ("If someone's a great guy and gives good interviews, then the media needs to make excuses for him at all times"), but if Mike Martz was running the Colts right now, wouldn't everyone be ripping these guys for being poorly coached and not having any heart defensively?

9. Lord knows it's not a good habit to intentionally try to refute everything that Joe Theismann says, but when he claimed on Monday night that Marc Bulger might be the "most accurate passer in the game today," I had to look this up for myself because Bulger has always had the aim of a drunken Canadian Mountie every time I've watched him. Anyway, STATS Inc. keeps track of "poor throws" (passes that are completely uncatchable). Favre is No. 1 on the list with 88. No. 3 on the list? Marc Bulger with 79.

9a. By the way, I would have voted for Drew Brees for "most accurate," and the evidence backs it up: Only 44 poor throws out of a league-leading 479 pass attempts for a 9.9 percentage of bad throws, second in the league for starters behind David Carr. He's also an astonishing 26-for-45 for 14 TDs, 2 INTs and 1,112 yards on throws that travel at least 21-plus yards in the air. He leads the league in 20-plus yard passes (55) and 20-plus yard touchdowns (16). He has the best QB-INT differential in the league (+15). He's second in passing for first downs (180 overall). He's even second in the league in dropped passes by his receivers (28). Look, I know Tomlinson has been amazing, but Brees has been playing out of his mind with a collection of rookies and castoffs. He HAS to be the MVP through 14 weeks. No other choice is acceptable.

10. Jim Belushi sounded like he was trying a little too hard during that Bears-Rams game, right? Like when a buddy brings a friend from home to watch football, and the buddy makes a big display about rooting for his favorite team (let's say it's the Bears), then says something like, "Why aren't we throwing more to Moose Johnston?"

11. One of the most underrated moments of the season: The Colts replacing an injured Brandon Stokely with Ricky Proehl. It's like they ripped through their "White WR Emergency List," couldn't lure Wayne Chrebet or Patrick Jeffers out of retirement, couldn't trade for the dude on Denver because the deadline already passed, then they were sitting around racking their brains and somebody said, "Wait a second, what about Ricky Proehl?"

12. Good young receivers I'd take on the Pats right now: D.J. Hackett, Devery Henderson, Patrick Crayton, Jerricho Cotchery, Roscoe Parrish, Vincent Jackson … oh, wait, I'd take any half-decent receiver in the league for the Patriots right now. Sorry, I forgot.

13. Joey Harrington drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty by tripping over Vince Wilfork's body may have been the most ridiculous moment of a ridiculous season. I grew up with guys like Kenny Stabler, Roger Staubach and Steve Grogan taking superhuman cheap shots from fearsome, 275-pound linemen and bouncing up every time … now guys named "Joey" can accidentally trip over a prone nose tackle and draw a 15-yard whistle. We're about 10 years away from QBs diving like soccer players to draw penalties. Fantastic. Thanks for ruining my favorite sport, NFL Rules Committee.

14. Top-12 rushers in 2000: Edge James, Robert Smith, Eddie George, Mike Anderson, Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor, Jamal Lewis, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Stephen Davis, Ricky Watters, Curtis Martin. Did you ever think Taylor would be the one who looked the best six years later? Did you ever think Taylor's groin and hamstrings would still be attached to his body six years later? Me, neither.

15. Cincinnati at Indianapolis, Week 15, Monday night, Manning and Palmer, the Johnsons, Harrison and Wayne, Housh and Addai, Vinatieri and Graham, hundreds of thousands of fantasy playoff matchups on the line … you know what? This is the most secretly important matchup in NFL history! It has to be, right? Can you remember a bigger regular-season game with more dumb things at stake? I dare them to bring this up on "SportsCenter."

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available in paperback.