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Monday, February 11, 2008
A star-studded edition of The Links

By Bill Simmons
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Some good news: I'm feeling better. It turned out to be a five-day flu, and I can tell you one thing, that's the last time I make out with Peter King at the Super Bowl. Hope and pray that you don't get this flu.

Some bad news: Much to my horror, a few readers mistakenly thought Friday's posting -- which was explicitly presented as a belated collection of Super Bowl e-mails from readers, as well as a chance for me to promote the auction of my Randy Moss jersey -- was actually a mailbag, leading to a few "that mailbag sucked!" e-mails. Come on! How could you call that a real mailbag???? I'm wounded.

More good news: My Moss jersey has surpassed the $5,000 mark and risen to staggeringly high proportions, which is phenomenal news for the Jimmy Fund. By the way, it's just a regular replica Moss jersey, not a special jersey with a Super Bowl patch on it. A few potential bidders asked about this. I bought the jersey about 40 minutes before the game, and it was literally one of the only Patriots jerseys left in the building. Anyway, thanks to everyone who submitted a bid and keep your fingers crossed that some bonehead doesn't sabotage the auction at the last second. I can't imagine why anyone would sabotage this thing, but you never know.

More bad news: We need a new ISDN line for my podcasts, and it doesn't look like they can come to my house until Friday. Without getting too technical, an ISDN line is crucial because it enables me to respond quicker and the sound quality is infinitely better. (Trust me, my voice already sucks enough without you hearing it on a landline.) Anyway, no B.S. Report this week. Starting next week, we'll be back for the rest of 2008.

Before we get to the links, I wanted to post links to everything I've ever written about NBA All-Star Weekend, since it's probably my favorite random sports weekend of the year. Here are those links with my after-the-fact assessments of each column:

2002: Why the NBA needed to bring back H-O-R-S-E to save All-Star Weekend. Stellar idea. This was a re-write of a 2000 column from my old Web site, so you have to deduct some originality points there. Ironically, the D-League is trying the idea this weekend. We'll see how it goes.

Running diary of All-Star Saturday. Run of the mill.

Running diary of MJ's final All-Star game. Run of the mill.

A recap of the L.A. weekend and suggestions for how All-Star Weekend should be fixed. I liked this one.

2005: A travel day from hell to play P-I-G against Shaq. A little too self-indulgent -- I could have cut down on the travel horror stories.

2005: Awards from All-Star Weekend in Denver. A smooth weekend and the story about Kyle Korver's posse is pretty funny.

The Black Super Bowl in Houston. One of my 10 favorite pieces that I've ever written. I couldn't wait to tell the Rashard Lewis story and the two Oakley/MJ stories. This was like a 6,000-word column, and I think I ripped it out in two three-hour sittings. You need luck on these field trips for material, and I got lucky three times.

A running diary of the 1987 All-Star game (the greatest All-Star Game ever). Really fun one to write, even if NBA-TV chopped up the game.

2007: A controversial weekend in Las Vegas. Fun to re-read, although I wish I went further about the shady elements of the weekend.

What's amazing to me is I've been writing about various ways to fix All-Star Weekend since 2000 -- I mean, clearly, there's a problem here -- but the NBA doesn't seem interested in changing anything. Everything the league has done has been cosmetic. It's a little arrogant if you ask me. What's wrong with rolling the dice and taking a few chances? Who would be hurt if we had an "American Players vs. International Players" All-Star Game one year? Or if we scrapped the Long-Distance Shootout for a year of H-O-R-S-E? Why keep the Rookie-Sophomore Game going when the Rookies get slaughtered every year? Couldn't we just have two teams of rookies and sophs so it'd be a better game? The NBA confuses me sometimes. It's really not that hard to mix things up and still maintain the tradition of the weekend.

All right, let's get to 10 days worth of links ...

  • First things first: As you probably know by now, HBO canceled one of my favorite shows, "Inside the NFL." Supposedly, the NFL Films rights and the gaudy production costs for the show made it a no-win for HBO. The network thought it was shelling out too much money and getting too little back. What's weird is that every football friend I have loved this show. I'm assuming we weren't alone. So even if the show wasn't a financial success, at the very least, it was a relevant and important show. Isn't that what HBO cares about: importance and relevance? What a strange decision. I will miss this show and continue to hope someone else picks it up, although it's hard to imagine the show flowing as well with commercials.

    (One thing to watch if you haven't seen the final show, which was a solid 7 out of 10 on the Poignant Scale and a 10 out of 10 on the Blowhard Scale: They rerun the infamous "Mini-Kiss" segment, and later on, Collinsworth tells us the segment made Costas so furious that he stormed out of the studio that day. Even better, Costas doesn't deny it. So I rewound my DVR to the Mini-Kiss segment again, and if you watch Costas, he's steaming the entire time. What an overreaction! I thought Costas had a sense of humor? This is the guy who used to appear on Letterman's show ... now he's smoldering because Cris Collinsworth is dressed in Kiss makeup and signing with midgets? I couldn't get over this.)

  • unveils its top 10 plays from every All-Star Game since 1978. Just ... wow! And speaking of lists, check out this list of the top 20 Boston concerts from 2007. No. 3 on the list ... that's right, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones!!!

  • Dr. Z submits his annual "Rating the NFL Announcing Teams" column -- a piece I'd love to be allowed to write. This column never ceases to enthrall me: I spend most of my time either agreeing with it or laughing at the thought of some Fox exec killing Dr. Z for thinking that a Sam Rosen/Tim Ryan team would appeal to the majority of the nation. It's an amazing effort. Can you think of a worse match than Gus Johnson and Dr. Z? It's like two ends of the spectrum.

  • Speaking of announcers, we mentioned Joe Buck's uninspired call in Friday's pseudo-column, and I wondered what it would have been like if Joe had called the 1980 Olympic Hockey Game. Well, about four months ago, the guys at Burly Sports put together a video of Buck "calling" some of the great moments in sports history, including that game. It's pretty funny. I wish they had worked one of Troy Aikman's "Joe, you're exactly right" exchanges in there though. While we're here, if you want to hear a much livelier call of the Manning-Tyree catch (or even, a call from someone who was alive during the play), here's the great Marv Albert for Westwood One.

  • Some other stuff I enjoyed: The 10 worst celebrity interviews ever ... this feature on the tennis scandal was interesting ... a Denver Post feature on Anthony Carter's incredible journey to the NBA ... my man Corey Brewer (loved him coming out of college) is finally starting to make an impact for the T-Wolves ... Gregg Popovich's thoughts on the Pao Gasol trade were candid and funny (I am saving my thoughts for the right time).

  • Check out this bizarre video

    of Jeff Ross roasting the morning crew from a Chicago TV station. For some reason, this made me think of John Holmes' "E! True Hollywood Story," when they showed the clip of Holmes lowering himself to the role of a sultan in an all-male, X-rated movie because he needed the cash. Since I know Jeff has cash, I'm just going to assume he owed someone a favor. A big, big favor.

    Four other You Tube clips from the readers:

    1. Garrett in Detroit: "I've been looking for a good Earl Monroe clip ever since Denzel referenced him in "He Got Game." This one has some decent highlights, plus the music is good."

    2. Tim in Philly:
    "As it looks like Norm MacDonald links are the hot new thing, here's one of him on Howard Stern two days after he got fired from 'Weekend Update.' "

    3. Tom M. in Houston:

    Shaquille O'Neal decides to recreate the 'Cheers' theme song to his own liking. This is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen. I'm still wondering where he got the ringtone."

    Derek in Chicago: "Here's a spot Reebok shelved

    after the Pats blew it."

    (Speaking of YouTube, I received a number of e-mails claiming Asante Samuel's near-interception was a much tougher play than it seemed in person. I still haven't seen a replay of that pass and only remember what I witnessed in person. If there's someone out there who knows how to do this stuff, stick Samuel's near-pick on YouTube, as well as the 75-yard near-miss to Moss on the second-to-last play of the game. Those two plays need to be on the Internet somewhere. And while we're here, can somebody post Andy Rooney's Super Bowl segment on "60 Minutes" from Sunday night? I was trying to explain how crazily unfunny and surreal it was to some friends and there was just no way to do it justice.)

  • Thanks to Greg in Denver for forwarding along this upcoming DVD from NBA Entertainment: An extravaganza of shows and games involving the '86 Celtics! Let's hope this becomes a running series -- we need one for the '83 Sixers, the '87 Lakers, the '91 Bulls, the '96 Bulls, the '00 Lakers ...

  • This "Happy Days" appreciation made me feel really, really old. It's impossible to convince anyone under 30 that, once upon a time, Henry Winkler was the single coolest person in the United States.

  • Received a ton of e-mails about the brilliant video Matt Damon and Sarah Silverman made for Jimmy Kimmel's show. The original idea was to come up with something for Jimmy's 40th birthday show in mid-November, so they filmed the video in October at the Delano in Miami, only the strike ended up canceling that show. Somehow, they kept the video secret from Jimmy for the next three months and sneak-attacked him on the anniversary show two Thursdays ago. Four people worked on the idea: Sarah, director Wayne McClammy and writers Tony Barbieri and Sal Iacono. See, you need writers to make this stuff sing!

  • That reminds me, it looks like the writers' strike is finally over: A three-year deal that looks a lot like the DGA deal that was banged out without a strike. My only question/hesitation is this: What happens when the deal ends? Do we just go through this whole debacle again? There's no way the writers can make up in residuals over the next three years what they just lost in three-plus months of striking, so I'm guessing the "success" here is that the writers are on the books with a certain level of entitlement to DVD and Internet residuals for the next time negotiations unfold. But what if Hollywood says after three years, "Crap, we gave too much away the last time" and puts the screws down again. Then what? Where are the assurances this can't happen again? I still don't see how it was worth it to give away three-plus months of paychecks so Hollywood could save itself billions from bad deals and reconfigure the way it approaches upfronts and pilot season. But what do I know?

  • Last Monday, Jon in New York sent me a Macy's link to a special Super Bowl champions Waterford crystal for the Patriots that was like $179.95. A week later, you can't order it. I say this every year, but I can't understand why they don't make "mistake products" available for order so you can torture your friends. You know there are like a million Super Bowl champion T-shirts for the Patriots floating around out there somewhere. Why couldn't one of my New York friends order one and send it to me as a joke? Never understood that one.

    (Also, in the interest of fairness, I have to provide the following link and make fun of it in the following way: Ladies and gentleman, the worst-selling Patriots hat of all-time!)

    Let's have the readers take us the rest of the way:

    Bill from D.C.:
    "Sorry about your Pats. Just so you don't feel too bad about your earlier column and actions, I wanted to let you know that a person with a much more direct interest in the Pats, and therefore presumably possessing a larger karma quotient, committed an egregious karma offense. See the below links to four 'intent-to-use' based trademark applications filed by the Kraft Group LLC. The applications claim, under penalty of law, that as of Jan. 18, 2008, Kraft Group LLC had a bona fide intent to use the trademarks '19-0,' 'PERFECT SEASON,' 'ROAD TO PERFECTION' and '19-0 THE PERFECT SEASON.' Such hubris does not go unpunished by the karma police."

    Stephen in Highland Park, Ill.:
    "I just read this article, and it really makes you feel good. Oakland Raiders' special teamer Jarrod Cooper was suspended four games for steroids and instead of taking that time to lounge around his house, he started volunteering at a local animal shelter, except without telling anybody. He didn't do it for the glory or the public recognition, he simply did it because he cared. He ranks second on the number of volunteer hours at this animal shelter, and through his extensive involvement, he has found a charitable cause he is passionate about. He has started a program in California to help animals and their owners treat their dogs better and hopes one day to expand it nationwide. DEFINITELY worth a read. At least some NFL players get it."

    Aaron F in Raleigh, N.C.:
    "Stop blubbering about the Patriots and sound the alarm. We might have a crisis on our hands: The impending cancelation of 'Friday Night Lights.' "

    (Note: "Best Week Ever" just started a petition to help save the show. Here's the link.)

    Luke in Portland, Ore.:
    "Considering how you thought the only way at making the NBA as a kid was to make your name Muslim, I thought you might find this story of Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, a black gymnast, interesting.


    (Follow-up note: For the complete story of how I briefly became a Muslim at age 6, check the foreword of my book next time you're in a bookstore. You don't have to buy it.)

    Katherine B. in Chicago:
    "Here's some amusement for you and the Sports Gal about your favorite neighbor, Michael Rapaport."

    Jerry B. in Portland, Ore.:
    "I stumbled upon this link and found it amusing that while John Mellencamp is asking John McCain to stop playing 'This is Our Country,' the rest of America is asking Mellencamp to do the same thing."

    Todd in Columbus, Ohio:
    "Thought this link was right up your alley. Sly Stallone has just inked a deal to direct and star in two new action movies. Bring back Marion Cobretti!"

    Mike from Meriden, Conn.:
    "[On Friday], you printed an e-mail from Mike in Tennessee about Bill Belichick being evil, etc. that you said was the most 'over-the-top e-mail.' Wanted to make sure you knew that he took most of that from Hunter S. Thompson's obit for Richard Nixon in Rolling Stone ('He Was a Crook'), which is worth a read if only for the part where he says Nixon was so crooked he needed a team of people to screw his pants on, and his body should have been burned and dumped in a trash bin -- one of my favorite things he ever wrote."