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Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Updated: July 6, 5:57 PM ET
Chillin' at the Madden '08 bash

By Sam Alipour
Special to Page 2

HOLLYWOOD -- I'm sitting on a couch with Matt Leinart, seven bimbos and Mike Tyson -- and we're all liking our chances.

It might not be what the great John Madden had in mind when he launched his namesake franchise, but this is the magic of the premiere party for Madden NFL '08, the sole video game that can lure the biggest names in sports, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, and women eager to swap their surnames for bling, all under one roof. But are they here to play the game or work the game?

"A little bit of both," admits Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison.

Leinart, for his part, is being a gentleman -- which only helps him and hurts me. The Cardinals quarterback and I might share some traits, like Southern California roots and our hate for Decepticons ("I'm a real Transformers geek," he tells me), but we're clearly not on the same level -- literally, too, for Leinart and his suitors are sitting atop the back of the couch, and I'm staring at their knees.

Media Blitz
Tyson, however, is a boon to my cause. He just got out of rehab and will head back in a few hours, so well-wishers are shuffling through to pay respect, making Tyson something like the Godfather, with me as Fredo.

See, there's a certain confidence you feel when you're riding shotgun with a dude who could rip a hole through your chest, but chooses not to. And clearly, this inspires you to say foolish things, like when I inform Tyson that I once kicked his ass. "What do you mean?" he asks, his squinty eyes suggesting that he's at least entertaining the notion that I may, indeed, have whupped him in some long-forgotten scuffle.

Lest he spanks me like Glass Joe, I clarify that our fight took place in Nintendo's "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" game. Tyson looks relieved. "Man, that's a good game," he admits, with a sheepish half grin. "[But] it's too easy to beat me."

Dice-K's strange new pitch

Word is, "Music From the Mound" (EMI, July 17), an album of Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka's favorite tunes, will include Juelz Santana's "The Second Coming" and tracks by Duran Duran and B'z (and who doesn't love the Japanese super group?). Click here to hear "Gyro Ball," an original recording about Dice-K's beguiling pitch featuring former Extreme ax man Nuno Bettencourt, among others. Then peep the Japanese lyrics below -- and pray that something got lost in translation.

"GYRO BALL"

Chorus (in English)
HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES NOW
HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES NOW
HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES NOW
HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES, HERE IT COMES NOW

(Verse in Japanese)
IS IT HERE, IS IT THERE
MAYBE EVERYWHERE
IS IT HERE, IS IT THERE
MAYBE NOWHERE

Chorus

(Verse in Japanese)
IS IT HERE, IS IT THERE
IT'S NOT FAIR
IS IT HERE, IS IT THERE
NOTHING COMPARES

A portion of the proceeds from the album will be donated to the Red Sox Foundation.

-- Sam Alipour

Like a former prom king who never left home and now specializes in refrigeration repair, Tyson is polite, unsure and not much for eye contact, but his wicked face tattoo is a reminder he takes Zoloft, he has said, just "to keep from killing y'all." And I'm not the only partygoer who hopes his rehab stewards are pumping him full of that stuff.

"It takes a special kind of man to get that tattoo," Michael Strahan says, before minding his surroundings. "I don't want to piss him off because I don't feel like getting hit. Mike, I love you!"

Strahan's mischievous mood is surprising given his recent $15 million divorce settlement. "The divorce isn't as tough on me as everyone thinks it is," he says, referencing the unmerciful Big Apple tabloids. "It's probably one of the best things that ever happened to me."

Strahan is now a free man, but he best keep away from the buxom brunette in the blue mini-dress. This is 2004 Playboy Playmate of the Year Carmella DeCesare, wife to Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia, who is more concerned with the virtual Garcia's player rating than keeping the jackals at bay. "I've always thought my Madden character has weaker arm strength than I do," Garcia says.

Reggie Bush should take a long, last look because this might be the closest he'll ever get to a Playmate again. "I just woke up one day and heard I was banned from the Playboy mansion," Bush says of the false rumor that circulated in the spring. "I was like, 'What did I do?' I guess I need to be more careful if I'm important enough that people feel they need to gossip about me."

Luckily, business trumps scandal tonight. Bush admits to being motivated by seeing Vince Young's mug on the Madden cover, but he's happy to let his rival have it: "If he gets hurt this year, then I'll know the cover is jinxed." Meanwhile, pros like Mark Clayton, Justin Fargas and Willie McGinest are praising Madden's improved game play, while others are pummeling unsuspecting celebs. Take Leinart, who just tossed a TD pass with the virtual Leinart in a rout over Stacy Keibler ("Dancing with the Stars").

It's all very meta and a tad unfair, particularly because some ballers are juiced by the open bar. When I last spoke with Antonio Gates at the Pro Bowl, his virtual Chargers had just bludgeoned Chad Johnson's virtual Bengals 35-7 in Madden '07. Gates' secret?

"I don't know if this makes me better, but it definitely makes me more vocal," Gates says, citing his glass of special fruit drink. "Chad's a talker who talks the talk … I'm a walker who walks the walk … we're both All-Pros … I just don't talk about it…"

"See, it's got me talking," he says, before eventually stopping himself.

Later, fashion police officer John Salley gives Gates high marks for his pink polo shirt -- which only an athlete of his stature could pull off -- but trashes my Johnny Cash T-shirt and jeans. "You look good -- if you're from West Hollywood," Salley declares, referencing our local boys town.

Not coincidentally, I quickly head toward the parking lot for a getaway. While waiting for the valet, comedian Tom Green admits to having "too much to drink" before putting his arm around my shoulder and kissing my temple region.

For an unfortunate few, nuzzling with Tom Green is the magic of Madden NFL '08.

Eagles to hold open tryout?
In a parody of Disney's "Invincible," a future episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (FX, October) will have several characters try out for the Eagles. In one scene, the hopeful walk-ons are told Donovan McNabb will give them a motivational talk, but team execs pull a fast one by hiring a muscular African American look-alike to give the speech. In reality, the organization declined to participate in the production.

Sort of like "The Sam Cassell Story," but different
Producer Anson Carter is searching for an online distributor for "Bald," a comedy flick about a balding college student who raises funds for a hair transplant. The dreadlocked Carolina Hurricanes winger says he regrets not hiring a former Columbus Blue Jackets teammate as a consultant: "Jason Chimera could've helped. He's one bald, aerodynamic dude."

You can't have Danica, but you can race her
AirTran Airways has developed "AirTran Raceway," an online video game starring Danica Patrick. Gamers can race Patrick in any number of airport vehicles, including catering and luggage trucks, and perhaps even win a free round-trip flight. But no, Patrick will not be flying with you. She's married, and you play video games, and that's that.

Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles. His Media Blitz column appears in ESPN The Magazine and regularly on Page 2. You can reach him at sam.alipour@gmail.com.