Something to read while watching yet another World Cup match that's nil-nil with who-knows-how-much time left:
ON SOCCER AND THE HORRIBLE HORNS:
You sound like every other ignorant soccer fan in America. Learn something about the spirit of the game or don't write about it. Ask a question, listen, try to understand the beautiful game. Thanks.
-- Colin Koach (Portland, OR)
OK, here's my question. Are you talking about The Beautiful Game overseen by referees who seem to be sniffing glue? The Beautiful Game with the unendingly annoying vuvuzelas that make you want to stick fondue forks in your ears? The beautiful game in which the defending champion's best player quits in the middle of the most important tournament of the last four years, is followed in quitting by the coach, and whose entire team is now being investigated by the French Parliament? You mean THAT beautiful game?
Watching soccer is like watching a beach ball at a concert. It goes here, it goes there, it goes everywhere.
-- Ed Infante (Pomona, NY)
It's also like watching kids play freeze tag. Guys go down like they've been shot, lay there for five seconds, and then pop back up, good as new!
Just an FYI...In Cleveland Ohio we are already starting to talk about a movement to bring the vuvus. Browns stadium in 2010. We are going to keep 'em quiet when we are on offense and make as much noise with them as possible when the opposing team is on offense.
-- Nick (Cleveland, OH)
If you do that, you deserve to lose LeBron. If vuvuzelas are allowed to cross the border, it will be the worst pestilence since the Dutch Elm beetle and Simon Cowell combined. I'm begging you, please don't. Pretty soon, we'll have vuvus in every team's color and logo, vuvus at every high school game, vuvus at weddings. Wait a minute. Somebody get me 10,000 of the stupid things. We'd make a killing!
ON KOBE AND THE GREATEST LAKER:
Sweet mother of the mewling baby Jesus! Kobe as the greatest Laker ever? I can think of lots of reasons why that's the nuttiest statement such a fine and usually perceptive writer ever wrote. Start with the self-nicknamed ball hog himself, a terrible teammate whose career high in assists came in his 13th year in the league, who is one of the great whiners and dirty players in history, whose petulance and theatrics would mortify a starlet. Wilt, the greatest individual talent ever, isn't as good as Kobe? Magic, perhaps the greatest ever at lifting and inspiring and elevating his team, isn't as good as Kobe? West, every bit the killer clutch shooter Kobe is, isn't as good as Kobe? Bryant's not even the best player in the league -- LeBron's a better passer and rebounder, and a more consistent defender, not to mention much more interested in his teammates and a well-played team game. If we are being honest, Kobe is a selfish player, a ball hog, a reluctant passer, a self-proclaimed and self-absorbed leader no one wants to follow.
-- Brian Doyle (Portland, OR)
I didn't say Kobe Bryant is now the greatest Laker ever. I said unless he beats the Celtics for a ring, he can't be included in the conversation. And sure, you say he's a ball hog -- and he is -- but don't forget who passed Ron Artest the ball in Game 7 to set up Artest's death-defying, unthinkable, did-that-just-happen? 3 to win the game. It was Bryant. It was fabulous if only for setting up the quote of the season, if not the decade. "He never passes me the ball, and he passed me the ball" Artest marveled. "Kobe passed me the ball...!"
"... gone on streaks that even Jordan couldn't imagine" Please, you're getting senile Reilly. Do you even remember Jordan? Kobe has never, and with his best years behind him, will never dominate like that.
--Joe A (Tucson, AZ)
No, over his career and over any season, Bryant has not dominated like Jordan. But I said "streaks." Exhibit A: Most consecutive 30-point games in a single season: Kobe Bryant 16, Michael Jordan 11. Boo ya.
ON JOHN WOODEN:
I rented a home from a man who met Mr. Wooden a few times doing car work. He once sent a birthday card to Mr. Wooden, and wasn't surprised when he received a thank you card in return. Can you imagine how many birthday cards Mr. Wooden gets every year? Thank you for your thoughts on a great man who lived a very thought-provoking life that all of us need to try and emulate a little more.
--Joe A (Tucson, AZ)
Lovely story. One more:
Coach was constantly meeting with perfect strangers. All you had to do was write him a letter (he didn't do e-mail) asking for time with him, and astoundingly often, he'd do it. Sometimes he'd meet at his favorite deli in Encino, sometimes at Polly's Pie Shop near UCLA, which he liked because it belonged to one of his players.
One time, a high school basketball coach in Pittsburgh named Dave Fortun decided to try it. He and his wife and two sons were going to Los Angeles on vacation, so he took what he thought was a million-to-one shot -- inviting Coach Wooden to have breakfast with them.
To their shock, he agreed. They spent three hours together that morning and exchanged Christmas cards every year afterward. One of the last letters Wooden sent, according to Fortun, included this hope: "May this new year be good to all of you and bring all nations in this troubled world nearer enduring peace and all people closer to true love for each other."
Maybe if everybody was as real as John Wooden, that might actually happen.
ON THE IMPERFECT GAME AND REPLAY:
Please don't give me the football replay argument in rebuttal. It is destroying the game and is at the point where the referees are questioning their own calls along with everyone else in the stadium. Final take - let the call stand and let's move on already.
--Mike Late (Ellington, CT)
Let's see. "Replay is destroying professional football." Hmmm.
According to a 2009 Harris poll, pro football was the favorite sport of 31 percent of those polled, with baseball getting 16 percent. (College football was third with 12.) But baseball has dropped 7 points in popularity since Harris first asked the question in 1985. In 1986, the NFL started using instant replay.
Gee, I wonder if that's a coincidence?
ON MY BASEBALL GLOVE:
Bob Jones has requested you to contact them.
Name: Bob Jones
Comments: If you ever lived at 309 Central Ave. with the phone # HI4 7935 ...I have your baseball glove. It has your name on it and I did not want to pass up the chance that it might be yours.
Sorry, that's not my glove. But did you happen to find my hairline?
ON DEZ BRYANT AND THE MIAMI DOLPHINS:
Don't you think the Dolphins may have wanted to know the truth (about his mother's teenage past) in order to figure out the best way to deal with the attention and questions that are guaranteed to follow?
--Troy (Cleveland, Ohio)
The Dolphins may have wanted to know, but they're prohibited by federal law from asking. Just as if I'm interviewing you to work for me, I might want to know how old you are, what your sexual practices are and yes, even what your mom did for a living. But I can't. It's a violation of your civil rights. And with good reason. What somebody's mother did at age 16 is no indicator of how that person is going to be in life. It's insulting and it's wrong.
If you're getting ready to pay me $15 million or whatever a year, you can ask me whatever. If [Bryant] doesn't like getting asked about his past come work a crappy job for 10 dollars an hour and quit complaining.
--Mike (Tempe, AZ)
That's the problem. They're not asking him about his past. They're asking him about his mother's past. The irony of all this is the Dolphins and GM Jeff Ireland went out and acquired ex-Denver Broncos brat Brandon Marshall, who famously quit on his team and was generally more trouble than a preschooler with ADD. All Dez Bryant has done is show up late to a few meetings at Oklahoma State. Hypocrite much?
THE WORST-DRAFTING NFL TEAMS:
I was shocked to see that you made no mention of the Detroit Lions in your article about teams' draft picks going to the pro bowl, except to show that they were last! Dead last! Behind the browns you spent most of the article talking about. Honestly, I've lived in Michigan my entire life and i don't think i could name those four players to save my state citizenship.
--James Brown (East Jordan Michigan)
Sorry, I was trying to limit my comments to professional football.
"William Green, RB: 16th pick of the draft, 0 Pro Bowls. Now your server at Applebee's." Why are you ridiculing someone about his job? I have been a fan of your columns for many years, but if you write more inappropriate wisecracks like this one, I will refrain from reading you in the future. Have some respect for working Americans.
--Rob Trishman (Salt Lake City, UT)
Sweet mother of the mewling baby Jesus! It was a joke! I have no idea what William Green is doing now. Selling vuvuzelas?
BASEBALL'S SLOW PLAY:
[Boston's] Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia join Jeter in stepping out of the box all the time. Pedroia adjusts his batting gloves after TAKING a pitch. Maybe Nomar is inhabiting Dustin's body. Get in there and hit. Papelbon takes a ridiculous time between pitches. Get the signal and pitch. It's not like he throws 6 different pitches. If you've ever heard him speak, you know he's not doing a lot of thinking on the mound. Four hours to play 9 innings of a 4-3 game is maddening. It's just baseball, not world peace. Play ball.
-- Mike Barry (Wilmington, MA)
It's pathetic. This year alone at least two people have fallen asleep during baseball games. One was a player -- Ken Griffey -- and the other was an announcer -- Keith Hernandez. Check out the video here. If the people getting paid to be at the games are dozing off, how are the fans supposed to keep alert?
The other night the Red Sox game started at 7 ET. At 10:35 I flip the game on and they are in the SIXTH INNING!! I tell you the reason the Sox games take forever is because they play "pretty." That's not a compliment.
-- Bryan C (Washington, D.C.)
It's just bad habits. I once asked Jason Giambi, when he was with the Yankees, why he stepped out and readjusted his gloves, sleeves, belt, cup and helmet after every single pitch. Didn't he realize he was wasting so much of people's time? It's sort of rude, didn't he think? And he said, "I do?" He didn't even know he does it! Commissioner Selig, either get a pitch clock and put it on the scoreboard or have your last fan turn out the lights.
The reason baseball moves so slow now is because the strike zone is so small. I mean announcers call a pitch at the waist to be a high strike. That is right down the middle. This shrinking strike zone slows the game down drastically. I'll tell you what, if any umpire complains about how often the players step out of the box, he should look at how he's calling the game. Or maybe even call the next not-so-close pitch a strike on that guy.
--Ryan Eigenberger (Sheboygan,WI)
Agreed. The strike zone is now the size of Kate Olsen's appetite.
ON HOW TO WIN AT ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS FROM MY NEW BOOK SPORTS FROM HELL: MY SEARCH FOR THE WORLD'S DUMBEST COMPETITION:
My buddies and I play Rock Paper Scissors to settle just about all of the intelligent issues college kids argue about (i.e., the last slice of pizza, home team in video games, and the last, warm Keystone light.) Needless to say I loved this article. I was about to e-mail it to some of my buddies, but then I thought, "Why share the wealth?" If your advice is as good as I'm hoping, I'd like to thank you for giving me the (advantage) for the rest of my college career. Brian,North Jersey
--Brian (Morristown, NJ)
I wanted to give you a version you may not have heard of, called "Canadian RoShamBo" The three throws are "hunter" where the thrower makes his hands into the shape of a rife, "the bear" where the thrower puts his hands up as claws, and the "sexy lady" where the thrower strikes up a pose with hands on hips. In order to conceal throws until the last moment, the two contestants stand facing away from each other. And yes I'm writing this an hour before I'm making a presentation for my final class in college.
--T.M. Brown (Boston, MA)
So how's it work? The hunter shoots the bear, the bear eats the lady, and the lady, uh, marries the hunter and cheats on him with Tiger Woods?
Here's a few others from the book:
• In Indonesia, they play "Man, Elephant, Ant." The Man stomps the Ant. The Elephant crushes the Man. The Ant gets inside The Elephant's brain and drives it mad.
• In Philadelphia, some people play a two-handed game called "Microwave, Tin, Cat" -- Microwave bakes Cat. Cat shreds Tin. Tin blows up Microwave. I can't recommend the game, though, because using two hands means you can't hold your beer.
• My kids invented "Bird, Worm and Gun." Bird eats Worm. Gun shoots Bird. Worm crawls inside gun and gums it up so the mechanism can't properly fire. OK, so they were 6 years old.
ON THE BOOK TOUR:
I'm a broke-ass college student/ assistant restaurant manager. Do you want to send me a free copy of the book, or am I stuck spending 30 minutes to an hour sitting and reading it for free at Barnes & Noble?
--Brandon (San Antonio, TX)
No, I don't want to send you a free book. But as long as you're ripping me off, would you please laugh loudly at the funny parts? It's good advertising.
I'm currently in Afghanistan on deployment. I was wondering if your book tour comes through here at all? I received it the other day and have enjoyed what I have read of it so far.
--Darren Horton (Devils Lake, ND)
Sorry, no plans as yet to catch the Kandahar Borders. By the way, have you seen much of buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan? In buzkashi, you place a headless goat carcass in the center of a circle. The carcass has been soaked in ice-cold water for 24 hours to make it tough. The legs are cut off at the knee and its insides are emptied. The two opposing teams surround the circle, on horseback, wearing ornate quilted dresses. The object is to get hold of the carcass and drag it back to your scoring area. It's a game often played to celebrate weddings, which brings up the question: Can you register for a goat carcass?
ON ME HATING NEBRASKA FOOTBALL:
I, too, went to the University of Colorado and loved the jokes. A few others: You know what Nebraskans think the "N" stands for on the football players helmets? Nowledge. How does a Nebraska co-ed earn money for tuition? The tooth fairy. How many Nebraska fans does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but he gets 3 credits.
--Marcus Cooper (Charlotte, NC)
Big Ten fans, we're counting on you to uphold this tradition. Do NOT let us down.
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