- Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy
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A reader named Harris in Columbia, S.C., writes: "They say that every three seconds a child is born! That comes out to roughly 28,800 children every single day! By that math, there have been over 3.2 million children born into this world that have no idea what a mailbag by the Sports Guy is!!! You haven't written one in months! To me, that just doesn't seem right!"
Fine, fine, fine. Twist my arm. How 'bout a Mega Memorial Day Weekend Mailbag in honor of everyone who served our country or continues to protect it here and overseas? As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: Hearing the entire Staples Center shout "NO!" as Ron Artest is about to jack up an idiotic 3-pointer with 35 seconds left was topped only by the disbelief in the faces of everyone there as he made the game-winning shot. I think I'm going to start using the phrase "You just gotta play basketball" to defend every stupid decision I make in the future.
-- Scott Brand, Columbus, Ohio
SG: Say Queensbridge! You forgot to say Queensbridge! Anyway, I couldn't agree more -- it was an incredible night that created a new Level of Losing, the "Stomach Punch From A Complete Lunatic" defeat. That's a stomach-punch loss combined with staggering disbelief that the single biggest wild card on the court -- really, the one guy you were hoping/praying/begging would take the biggest shot of your biggest game of the season -- somehow pulled off one of the better buzzer-beaters in recent NBA history to facilitate that stomach-punch loss. Good Lord, haven't the Suns' fans suffered enough?
Allow me four follow-up notes
1. I have been watching playoff basketball since I was 4 yet I can't remember an entire arena of fans screaming, "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!" at the top of their lungs as one of their players lined up a crucial playoff shot before. It sounded as if Artest had suddenly grabbed Jack Nicholson from the stands and held a gun to his head. "Noooooooooooooo!"
2. The Lakers have won their three biggest games of the past two years because nobody on Orlando's roster remembered to guard Derek Fisher on a game-tying 3, because Serge Ibaka forgot to box out Pau Gasol and because Jason Richardson forgot to box out Artest. Eventually, they're going to run into an equally good team that doesn't forget to do things. I just hope this happens before 2025.
3. Fisher (22 points, totally unafraid) was quietly the key to Game 5, which is incredible, because three months ago if you had told any Lakers fans "The biggest conference playoff game you'll play this season will hinge on Derek Fisher," they would have locked out of the season. He was that bad. I thought he was more washed up than Rasheed Wallace, and that's saying something. I continue to think we should just abolish the regular season; it's clearly irrelevant.
4. For timing/difficulty/memorability/uniqueness/ingenuity, maybe Artest's rebound/putback didn't crack Level 1 of the Playoff Buzzer-Beater Pantheon with Big Shot Rob's 2002 dagger against the Kings, Ralph Sampson's twisting series winner in the Forum (1986), Fisher's split-second heave in San Antonio (2004) or even MJ's game winner in Game 1 of the 1998 Finals but won't we be seeing replays of that shot 30 years from now? Won't we remember that as the Artest Game? So now we have the Artest Game and the Artest Melee. Seriously, say Queensbridge.
(And by the way, I don't think the Suns are done yet. They can win Game 6 just like they won Games 3 and 4, and once you get to Game 7, the pilot turns on the "Who The Hell Knows?" sign. Plus, the Lakers are a five-man team right now: Kobe, Gasol, Artest, Odom and whatever Fisher can give them. Now that Andrew Bynum has gone Greg Oden on us again, it's not exactly a juggernaut. Hell, Kobe has played out of his mind for this entire series and Phoenix nearly beat L.A. three straight. Don't count out the Suns. I'm telling you.)
Q: I think Al Davis died a few months ago. Some Raider employees covered it up to keep the organization's patented secrecy, Al's "us against them" mentality and a logical scapegoat when things go haywire. Others in the building are too scared to get close enough to determine if he's really dead. Meanwhile, Al gets wheeled around in his wheelchair in Raider land and nobody can tell either way. How do we know he's dead? Because the Raiders kept a coach for more than a year, made decent draft decisions and dumped JaMarcus the Hutt. All very un-Al Davis-like, right? I call this the "Weekend at Bernie's" theory of Raider redemption. Try and disprove it, just try!
-- Justin Whatcott, Boise, Idaho
SG: I can't. The best thing about Al Davis' past 10 years is this: You just read that e-mail and it didn't seem totally ludicrous. Far-fetched? Yes. But not inconceivable. I mean, if you were watching ESPN one night and this suddenly came crawling across the ticker
"BREAKING NEWS: ESPN'S ADAM SCHEFTER REPORTS THAT RAIDERS OWNER AL DAVIS PASSED AWAY 10 MONTHS AGO."
you wouldn't exactly walk around your living room in shock like Thomas Hill after the Laettner shot.
Q: If you google "Mike Brown incompetent," for the first three results, did you know that FEMA's Mike Brown comes up, then Cleveland coach Mike Brown, then Mike Brown the Bengals owner? Message: No parent should ever name their kid "Mike Brown" again.
--Michael, Louisville, Ky.
SG: On the bright side, I think we have a new phrase for taking a dump. "I'll be right back; I'm gonna go hire Mike Brown."
Q: If soccer was king in the U.S. and every kid grew up playing it, which current athlete would be the best soccer player?
--Szabi, Far Hills
SG: My old answer for this question was Allen Iverson. He's washed up now, but the reasons I always thought he would thrive on a soccer field still hold up: lower center of gravity, explosive speed, phenomenal coordination, leaping ability and a feistiness/toughness/arrogance that every great soccer player has. (FYI: The world's two best players right now are 5-foot-7 Lionel Messi and 5-10 Wayne Rooney.) Can you think of any American athlete exactly like those guys? Me neither. These three would be the most interesting, though:
Deron Williams: Six-foot-3, great footwork, explosive, physical, strong, thinks like a playmaker. He'd be an unbelievable stopper in an alternate universe.
Rajon Rondo: Can you think of a better position for a catlike 6-3 freakishly athletic guy with oversized hands than soccer goalie? I mean, other than point guard? Why do I feel as if we could teach Rondo the position in 10 days and he would instantly become the best goalie in the world?
LeBron James: My adopted team (Tottenham Hotspur) has a striker named Peter Crouch who's something of a soccer oddity -- 6-7, loves playing in the air, unleashes more crazy headers than everyone else in the Premier League combined. You can't help but watch him and think, "All right, what would happen if this guy had LeBron-like DNA?" And by the way, he's not lacking athletic chops. He's like a Brent Barry/Chase Budinger type. But he's not LeBron, either. Have LeBron playing soccer since age 4, give him Crouch's aerial DNA and holy schnikes
Q: When is Vince McMahon going to hire Dick Bavetta to do a major pay-per-view event? Is this even an option?
--Mark McCarron, Peabody, Mass.
SG: Probably not. But here's the guy Vince could and should get: Tim Donaghy. We haven't had a truly "crooked" wrestling referee since Dangerous Danny Davis back in the late '80s (check this out), but imagine if McMahon hired Donaghy to clean up WWE officiating but the whole time we knew Donaghy was working with him to fix matches. Can you think of a better destiny in life for Tim Donaghy? That reminds me
Q: What are the odds of Tim Donaghy being the Jose Canseco of the 2010s?
--Ryan, Tempe, Ariz.
SG: It's worth noting that I received this e-mail during Game 5 of the Celtics-Magic series. And let's just say there was just cause; that game made me ashamed to be an NBA fan. But I believe the odds are still remote. I still think Donaghy is a pathological liar and someone who'd say anything to make a buck. Then again, I thought the same thing about Canseco. Let's move on before I get fined $100,000.
Q: Is it time to officially retire the David Caruso reference for walking away from a good thing? He's back making a ton of money playing the lead on a popular show. Who do you think is the new Caruso? I nominate Shawn Marion and Hedo Turkoglu.
-- Steve, San Francisco
SG: You're right, we need a new one. I think the reference works best with TV stars because of the hubris involved: They're saying, "I don't need my meal-ticket TV show anymore, I can make movies!" It happens every few years: Chevy Chase and "SNL" (he eventually recovered); Gary Burghoff and "M*A*S*H" (never seen again); Shelley Long and "Cheers" (worked briefly, then fizzled); Luke Perry and "90210" (failed badly enough that he came back); Caruso and "NYPD Blue" (fizzled for years, eventually worked out); Rob Lowe and "West Wing" (never totally recovered); and then, of course, the "ER" Bad Career Move Mount Rushmore of Sherry Stringfield, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies and Eriq La Salle (who just resurfaced in the series finale of "24," playing the head of the United Nations with a bad accent and an "I hope nobody's watching this and saying to themselves, 'Isn't that the guy who left "ER" too soon?'" look on his face).
Anyway, here's a good Caruso replacement seeing as how T.R. Knight isn't famous enough: Craig Kilborn. Left his CBS late-night show in 2004 to pursue other opportunities as everyone said, "Wait a second what???" Disappeared for six solid years except for acting roles in three movies: "Full of It," "The Shaggy Dog" and "Benchwarmers." Recently resurfaced with news that he's launching a syndicated half-hour series for Fox called "The Kilborn Files." That sequence didn't earn him "Pulling a Craig Kilborn" status? You're off the hook, Caruso.
Q: Since you're a father, I know you will understand what I am about to write. You know how every time you go to clean out your car you find a cup under a seat or somewhere else? And when you take the cup inside to be washed out you pray that it will contain juice or water and not milk. But of course, it has stinking rotten spoiled milk in it. Instead of washing the cup you would rather throw it out. This is what Vince Carter is like. You pray when you find him that he is sweet juice, but he always ends up being the stinking rotten milk. The Orlando Magic just need to throw him out, especially after his 1-for-a-million performance in Game 4. How are the Magic better because of him? Throw him out!
-- Bowlcut Bry, Dayton, Ohio
SG: I read that e-mail and thought, "Not nearly harsh enough."
Q: I'm a big fan of yours. I anxiously await your podcasts to get me through the work week. However, I've noticed a growing trend the last two mailbags (at least) have not included any women. I realize a majority of your fan base is male but give your female friends something, too! (And not in some sexist way).
-- Diana, Washington, D.C.
SG: Come on, you're talking to the guy who once ran a two-part Fe-mail Bag! (From 2004: Part 1 and Part 2.) I'd love to have more females in the mailbag, but only if they earn it. Like this next one, for instance.
Q: Isn't the Eagles letting go of Donovan the ultimate "It's not you, it's me" scenario? Donovan has been dating the Eagles fans for years now. In the beginning it was exciting and risky. You never knew what he was going to do with the ball and he kept you on your toes. Like when my boyfriend liked to give me massages and surprise me with a card or have breakfast for me. Each encounter (insert mood music) is hot and fresh. Then after 12 years you've found yourself faking moaning and hoping things get moving so you can fit in your 40 minutes of DVR before bed. I know all his moves and when he's going to high-step it 2 yards short of the first down. I know when he's going to throw it at DeSean's ankles. K-squared may not be perfect, but at least his faults will surprise me. Donovan, it's been great. I loved the good times. But it's time to move on. It's not you, it's me.
SG: Funny e-mail, concise, original angle. That's what I'm talking about! And by the way, only a woman could have summed up the McNabb Era in Philly.
Q: Why is there not an "APRIL FOOLS' TRADE OFFER" feature in fantasy baseball leagues? How great would it be on April 1 to send out a trade offer to that GM (who seriously offers Jurrjens for Pujols every year) in your fantasy league an offer of Prince Fielder for Dice-K, only to have a "Happy April Fools' Day Trade Offer!" icon pop up right after they frantically click the *ACCEPT* button?
-- Kirk Haston, Lobelville, Tenn.
SG: Love it. While we're on the subject, here are three more ideas I want to see:
• An iPhone app called "Who's That Celeb?" Works like Shazam -- if you think you see a celeb in your vicinity, you just point your iPhone at him or her and the iPhone takes a picture, runs it through a facial recognition scanner and tells you who it is. Invaluable for anyone who lives in New York or L.A.
• You know how every boxing undercard is horrible? Why hasn't a Vegas casino tried this idea: Instead of lousy undercard fights that nobody cares about, why not start with a headlining entertainer (say, Wayne Newton), then a headlining comedian (say, Frank Caliendo), then a stripped-down band (say, The Killers), and then just the main boxing event? Why not make it a real Vegas show?
• A Wrigley Field scoreboard that isn't from 1935. On Thursday, I caught the Dodgers-Cubs game -- my first Wrigley visit in 30 years -- and loved everything except that stupid scoreboard. We all admire the old-school baseball experience, even if it's undermined slightly by those two Under Armour signs on the ivy-covered outfield wall, but come on. It's 2010. You could sneak a state-of-the-art scoreboard in there. I need replays, and I need to know things like "What's the score?" and "How many outs are there?" without staring at an ambiguous, confusing block of wood from the Hack Wilson era. Besides, can you really have an old-school baseball experience when three-fourths of the crowd is texting or checking BlackBerrys during the game? Put a real scoreboard up there. It's time.
(By the way, I'd like to thank Chicago for single-handedly keeping the following American big-city traditions alive: smoking, drinking during the day, eating terrible food, congeniality and breasts. It's noble work you're doing, Chicago. We're all proud of you. Good luck with the Blackhawks.)
Q: Wanna know why sabermetrics still hasn't caught on with some baseball fans? Some of us hook up with girls. Do I think Ryan Howard is the best hitter in baseball because he gets 140 RBIs every year? No, but he's a damn good first baseman and I don't need some nerd running lab experiments to tell me so. I'd rather spend my time drinking beers in the parking lot and shouting obscenities in Spanish at passing Mets fans. That's what baseball's all about. If I wanted to do math and science I wouldn't be watching baseball.
SG: Let's just say the sabermetrics movement hasn't totally caught on yet.
Q: I can't stop laughing when you refer to your son as the CEO. I just picture this stubbornly diligent little kid waking up at 5:35 a.m., rubbing his eyes painfully with his little hands, putting on suspenders and an expensive watch, taking a sip of hot coffee while wincing with exhaustion, and then whispering "Let's do this" to himself in the mirror before parading down the hall, kicking in his dad's door and yelling "IT'S GO TIME, BITCH!!"
-- Will, Chicago
SG: You're not far off. I'm not even kidding. We're like two months from teaching him how to make coffee. By the way, the all-time funniest stage for any little kid is the "I Just Discovered My Penis" stage at 2½. For the past two months, the CEO has been walking around with his hands down his diaper like Al Bundy. It's been so bad that he actually gave himself a rash in a place where you'd never want a rash. He's like a 55-year-old man. I want to dress him in wifebeaters and dirty jogging pants and have him carry around scratch cards and cans of Schlitz. My son slays me. Whoops, I'm breaking my "Don't talk about your kids" column rule again. Let's move on.
Q: Thought you would enjoy this 10-minute stretch on Twitter today:
3:50 p.m.: Hasheem Thabeet says: "Late LUNCH before i go for a NAP!!! Mhmmmm Yummy."
4:00 p.m.: Kevin Durant says: "Good workout..worked on ballhandling, finishing thru contact, pull up jumpers, pick n rolls, and making tough shots with a man on me!!!"
Can you tell which one of those No. 2 overall draft picks just spent time in the D League?
-- Brian Seboly, Memphis, Tenn.
SG: My favorite part of that e-mail was that Thabeet's tweets sound exactly like the ones my son would make if he had a Twitter account. His first tweet would be either "Late LUNCH before i go for a NAP!!! Mhmmmm Yummy" or "Pawed at my genitals incessantly today, got another rash, mom had to use triple paste again. HATE TRIPLE PASTE!" Dammit, I did it again. I swear, I'm done.
Q: During all of the Tiger/Roethlisberger coverage over the last several months, why didn't anyone mention the "Sister-Daughter Principle"? A reasonable standard against which any man's behavior should be judged is how pissed you would be if the guy did it to your daughter or sister. The scale could run from "nodding head while consoling sister/daughter" (e.g., not calling again after saying they would) to "kneecapping the guy with a tire iron" (e.g., plowing through all her bridesmaids over a six-month span).
-- Corey Gass, San Diego
SG: I like it. You also can't forget the "I Couldn't Be Happier That Wasn't My Daughter" Scale (too many mean/depressing examples to narrow it down to two or three), and the "Yes, They Deserved To Die, And I Hope They Burn In Hell!!!!!!!!" Scale.
Q: So I was at an O's versus Yanks game the other day and an Orioles rep was going around asking fans questions, and one of them asked me what I thought the O's needed to do to improve this year. I said, "They need to get Miguel Tejada back on the steroids so he can blast 40 home runs like the good old days." They did not think that was funny.
-- Mark, Baltimore
SG: I thought it was funny. Unrelated: If you had to describe baseball's steroids era to someone under 12 years old but could go with only one picture, one link, one story, one book and one YouTube clip, which five would you pick? I would go with these:
Picture: SI's 1998 Sportsman of the Year cover of McGwire and Sosa in togas. Really, it's all you need to know.
Link: Baseball-Reference.com's "most home runs in one season" page. The top six seasons and 11 of the top 17 happened between 1997 and 2002.
Story: SI's March 2002 feature on Luis Gonzalez attributed his recent home run binge (84 from 1991 to '97, 57 in 2001 alone) to Gonzo opening his stance and using more pine tar. The story was not written ironically. It's an awesome reread. Honorable mention: SI's 2003 feature on Eric Gagne (written 74 saves into his record-setting 84-save streak) includes this explanation for why Gagne sucked as a starter but thrived as a closer: "The lower pitch counts in relief appearances have allowed him to speed up his fastball from the low 90s to the mid-90s." Oh, really? Is that what happened? I love the SI Vault.
Book: Mike Lupica's "Summer of '98: When Homers Flew, Records Fell, and Baseball Reclaimed America". Released in the spring of 1999, feels like it came out 40 years ago and an extremely funny reread considering how the next 10 years played out. The book is about Lupica, his three sons and how the McGwire/Sosa home run chase helped them love baseball again after the damaging 1994 lockout. It's like reading a 209-page book from 2008 about what an awesome father and husband Tiger Woods is. Poor Lupica had no idea that everyone was juicing. None of us did. You forget how naive we were.
Clip: Since Major League Baseball doesn't allow online clips -- and really, why would they want fans to enjoy the history of the game online? -- I can't link to Clemens whipping Piazza's splintered bat at Piazza in the 2000 World Series, or anything that happened during the '99 Home Run Derby, or Barry Bonds' 900-foot homer in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. But I can give you this clip of Lattimer finding out that he made starting defense in "The Program." Welcome to baseball from 1995 to 2007. Speaking of steroids
Q: Brian Cushing nearly had the Rookie of the Year Award stripped for using hCG (a banned substance). Upon reading about it on Wikipedia, hCG is used after a cycle of steroids to restore testicular size. If I were to just take hCG (no steroids), how big do you think I could get my testicles to be?
-- Younger, Houston
SG: I thought about giving you the answer "Just do it and we'll find out," then realized that we needed the opinion of someone who actually knows something about medicine. Here's what Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus says:
"The key here is 'restore.' hCG isn't going to make them grow, but instead kick-starts the body's natural production of testosterone, which, yes, comes from the testes. I hate seeing "kick" and "testes" in the same sentence, but when a cycle of anabolic steroids has shrunk you to raisin-size (literally), it might not seem so bad, and could be good in a bar fight, come to think of it."
So you could say that all of us start out at 100 percent testicular potential -- yes, even you, Vince Carter -- and then it's up to us to remain at 100 percent. It's really too bad Elias can't keep stats for this. Brian Cushing's 39.3 testicular potential rate is the lowest since Lyle Alzado's in 1978.
Q: Your Miami bias is disgusting. I was excited that you put D-Wade No. 1 in your human playoff rankings, and then you had to put the crap about the city not caring about basketball. Sure, Miami has a bunch of bandwagon fans, but that doesn't mean you always have to demean our city and teams. When the Heat had a loaded team in 2005-06 the arena was packed. People don't go now because the team isn't that good.
-- EJ, Miami
Q: Why do you hate Miami so much? You give us crap about absolutely everything -- we may be fair-weather fans (except for football) but we're the best fair-weather fans in sports. Plus with the beaches, bikinis, and other distractions, it's hard to act like Boston in winter or Chicago, where there is NOTHING. We have better things to do when our teams are losing. But when they're not, I'm down to skip the beach.
-- George, Caracas, Venezuela
SG: We'll be back with more of "Fair-Weather Fans Defend Their Fair-Weather Sports City" right after these messages.
Q: I have an idea for the greatest season of the "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" ever. It's called "Mortal Enemies." The premise is simple. Teams of two: guy/guy, girl/girl. Instead of selecting your teammate, players are forced to compete with the person with whom they've had the most conflict over the years. It would be like watching the NBA if the entire league consisted of the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers. With teammates loathing each other, the possibilities for drama, backstabbing and hate sex explode exponentially.
-- B.J., Brooklyn, N.Y.
SG: I'm for any reality idea that leads to the phrase, "It would be like watching the NBA if the entire league consisted of the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers," a crazy team and even crazier season that could have given us a great "30 for 30" documentary, except there's no way the NBA would have given us any footage for it. On the bright side, we'll always have this alleged exchange:
--Mrs. Kobe: "Hey, cowboy, what are you hunting?"
--Karl Malone: "I'm hunting for little Mexican girls."
(P.S.: I threw the "Mortal Enemies" idea at the Czar of Reality TV, Dave Jacoby. Here was his take: "Come on, the guy is from Brooklyn, so you know I am going to co-sign this idea. We do need to dump the 'Mortal Enemies' title and change it to 'Frenemies' since some suit at MTV will have a 16-year-old daughter that will tell him to do that, anyway. So call it 'Frenemies' from now on. My big add: For the first couple challenges, the cast needs to think that it is 'every man for themselves' so the producers can identify exactly who hates each other the most. Two girls threw drinks on each other? Teammates. One guy found out another guy made out with his lady? Teammates. That gives us the scene when everyone panics after realizing the rules have been changed on them, then panics a second time when realizing they're stuck with a frenemy. Other than that, solid idea and I love it. Just make sure there are enough stripper poles. I'm tired of seeing the cast live in these souped-up mansions without a stripper pole; there should be one in every room of the house. Huge oversight." That's why he's the czar.)
Q: Isn't the obvious name for the new Nets the Brooklyn Ballers? How insanely marketable is that? Sounds good and makes sense.
-- Ben Kulo, Brooklyn
SG: I liked it, as well, but when I threw it out to my Twitter followers, they weren't as enthused. People seem to like the Brooklyn Knights the most, then the Brooklyn Bombers (like that one), Brooklyn Bridge (which I hate because I hate all non-ending-in-S team names, but whatever), the Brooklyn Dodgers (a polarizing choice that I support, actually). The better question: What funny name could we call the team temporarily until they pick one? Do you like the Brooklyn Caviar, the Brooklyn Bread Line, the Brooklyn KGBs or the Brooklyn Jet Skis? I'm partial to "Brooklyn Caviar" only because it would replace the Utah Jazz as the worst name in sports history. If you have any better ones, tweet them to me (@sportsguy33).
Q: I'm already starting to hate you for your column about how much it blows that the Super Bowl is in New Jersey in cold weather that you're still four years away from writing. Could you do me a favor and just write it now? I want to hate you, get over it and then continue reading your column a few weeks from now. And don't forget we gave you "The Sopranos," Springsteen, "Clerks" and The Situation. Thanks in advance.
-- Anthony, THE Garden State
SG: I have a curveball for you, Anthony: I'm excited for SB 48 in Jersey. Yes, I'm the same guy who has written time and time again that the Super Bowl should only take place in Miami, New Orleans, San Diego or Las Vegas. But that's a pipe dream, and the NFL is too greedy and socialist to do that. If we're deviating from the Fantastic Four, why not the tri-state area for a year? From a cold-weather standpoint, it won't be much worse than Jacksonville or Houston (or Dallas in eight months); once you dip below 60 degrees, you've defeated the purpose of having it in a warm-weather city, anyway. (And by the way, am I the only one who seems to remember that the Colts-Bears Super Bowl was played during a Miami monsoon?) From a logistics standpoint, everything except the actual game will take place in Manhattan, which is overloaded with hotels, clubs, restaurants and (most importantly) cabs. For the actual game in Jersey, they're going to have so many shuttles running to and from Manhattan that the traffic won't be nearly as awful as you think.
Now, add these three wrinkles:
1. A 65-year-old Bruce cranking out "Jungleland" in 20-degree weather in what will (hopefully) be his farewell musical appearance before he and his jaw ride into the sunset. Who wouldn't want to be there for that?
When I was growing up, my dad hated three things: my guitar, football and Jersey. I remember telling him once that I wanted to be the halftime show at Jersey's first Super Bowl -- he coldcocked me with a 9-iron and tried to bury me in a makeshift coffin before I clawed my way out. We didn't talk for three weeks. Then we watched Joe Namath win Super Bowl III together and Dad got caught up in the whole thing because it was a New York team. I remember trying to cheer, only I couldn't because my jaw was still wired shut. But after they won, I remember Dad looking me in the eye and saying, "I hope you get that halftime show in Jersey someday." (Dramatic pause.) This is Jungleland.
2. Six months of cranky columnists and talking heads trying to outcrank each other with "You cannot decide a championship in cold weather!!!!!!" columns and arguments.
3. Four solid years of Jersey's massive inferiority complex ("This is gonna be awful; it's gonna suck; everyone's gonna blame us; I'm just telling you right now, you won't have a good time; you should just skip it; this is just gonna give everyone an excuse to dump on Jersey again, we'll definitely eff this up ") lowering everyone's expectations to the point that it will be a no-lose situation for everyone who goes. I mean, if I can get to that game in less than three hours, watch it without getting frostbite or being contaminated by radioactive sewage, then be back in my hotel by 5 in the morning, I'm going to consider the day a gigantic win. So there.
Q: In my coed softball games, things tend to get lonely in right-center field, so once in a while I try to pepper some chatter into the game to amuse myself. I said the below last night and my left-center partner, who is also a screenwriter, suggested I send it in. When our pitcher had some control issues, I screamed this out: "This guy's like that couple in the corner at a key party. Not swinging." Do with it what you wish.
--Daryl B., Los Angeles
SG: Um thanks?
Q: I keep reading about the "disgruntled Albert Haynesworth." If I had a contract that was guaranteed to pay me $41 million, and could be worth up to $100 million, I would be the most gruntled employee ever seen. Am I alone in that thought?
--Ray Walton, Indianapolis
SG: Yes. More importantly, that's a great new word: "gruntled." Season 20 of "Survivor" left me extremely gruntled. The Clay Buchholz Era has me both gruntled and feeling afraid about getting overgruntled. There's something strangely gruntling about being in the room as my wife picks apart everyone on "The Real Housewives of New York City." Etc., etc., etc.
Q: In the Hanes ad currently airing, you probably noticed that Michael Jordan is sporting what can only be called a Hitler mustache. Did this happen because he's MJ and no one has the stones to say anything to him, or is he trying to start another fashion fad such as baggy shorts or bald pride?
-- Jeff Fuller, Bakersfield, Calif.
SG: Let's agree that this is one fashion trend that won't take off. Here's my theory: I think it's a textbook "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment. In that ad, Jordan is telling us, "You may have given me crap after my Hall of Fame speech, but in case you forgot, I'm still Michael Jordan. I won six titles and five MVPs. I paid my ex-wife one of the biggest divorce settlements in American history. I once left basketball at the peak of my powers to learn how to play another sport just for the hell of it. I am the most famous athlete alive, even right now, even though I've been retired for eight years. I can have any woman I want, including yours. And if I want, I can grow a mustache that hasn't been seen in 65 years, not since the most reviled political leader in modern history wore it. Why? Because I like it, because I don't care and because I'm Michael Jordan."
Q: Is "Lost" the first television show of this decade to make it into the Tyson Zone? I haven't watched in a couple seasons, and after hearing that the finale aired last night I asked a couple friends to sum things up for me. As soon as I asked, I realized that nothing they said could've surprised me.
-- Brett B., Bloomfield Hills
SG: It's a great point. That would be a fun game show-type segment for a radio show or late night -- find people who have never seen a minute from "Lost," then tell them things that "happened" on the show (some real, some made up) and they'd have to guess whether they actually happened.
True or false: There was a bloodthirsty polar bear on the island.
True or false: In the last episode, Kate and Claire fell in love, hyphenated their last names and decided to raise Claire's bastard baby together.
True or false: Richard, one of the guys who escaped the island in the final episode, was approximately 170 years old.
True or false: In Season 3, five survivors were forced to make an amateur porn movie together by the leaders of the Dharma Initiative.
Q: The most disappointing player of his generation is Tracy McGrady, not Vince Carter. The Boston Celtics would actually become slower and less interesting if they ever picked up T-Mac. Danny Ainge better get on the phone.
-- Joey Piacosta, Brick City
SG: Just to give you an idea about how depressing that Celtics stretch was from mid-December to mid-April (and how hopeless any rational Boston fan felt heading into the playoffs), I had that e-mail saved in my mailbag document since early April, intending to make some sort of snarky Celtics joke after it. Since then, they hooked themselves up to the Rejuvenation Machine, possibly destroyed the LeBron Era in Cleveland, had everyone dreaming of a Celtics-Lakers rematch, inspired multiple readers to e-mail me asking, "Serious question: Do the Celtics have four Hall of Famers on the roster right now?" and now they're two losses from making the worst kind of history imaginable against a team they're clearly better than and, by the way, a team that had only three guys show up for a do-or-die Game 4 and that pulled it out only because everyone on Boston collectively crapped the bed. I can't think about it. And I won't. This Celtics season stopped making sense four weeks ago. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be.
Q: Can you give a general breakdown of Eric Williams' dominance on "Basketball Wives"? The guy is mesmerizing whenever he's on the screen. He breezes in, ignores whatever his wife has to say to him and rolls out with the greatest "There's your five minutes of daily interaction with me" aura I've ever seen.
--Corey Smith, Columbia, Mo.
SG: Look, it can't be broken down. Impossible. Every time he makes a cameo, it's like Goran Dragic dropping 26 points in 13 minutes on the Spurs. He's been so incredible that it has overshadowed one of the greatest sequences in the history of reality TV and, maybe, the history of television itself. For the first time in documented history, a man successfully copped to serial adultery to his wife and made it seem as if it wasn't his fault. If you missed it, here's the transcript of the lunch scene with Eric and his unredeemable-gold-digger, she-knew-what-she-was-getting-into-when-she-married-an-NBA-player, soon-to-be ex-wife in Episode 2, when he explains why he cheated during his playing career.
EW: "One thing's for sure, basketball's an emotional sport. And when things get crazy on the court, we need that little bit extra when we come home. But sometimes it needs to be on the road. Sometimes you make mistakes. I'm not perfect. Nobody is."
Gold-digger Wife: "No, you certainly aren't."
EW: "I messed up, I did some things in the past that, you know, I'm not proud of. But at the time, I didn't think of it as a bad thing. One can say I was messed up, but I really wasn't, I was trying to satisfy me at the time, and that's it."
EW: "Man grow at his own pace, you know what I mean?"
(If only Williams had coached Tiger, maybe Elin wouldn't be hitting him up for $200 million right now. But Elin, golf's an emotional sport! When things get crazy on the course, I need that little bit extra when I come home. But sometimes, it needs to be on the road. With a porn star. Or a stripper. Or a hostitute. Or even a diner waitress. But man grow at his own pace, you know what I mean?)
Q: Last month, two things came across the radio waves in a matter of five minutes: that Boston College fired its head basketball coach, Al Skinner, and Ricky Martin saying he was gay. The first thing that popped in my head was "two things that should've happened five years ago," which got me thinking: What are the next five things about to happen that should have happened five years ago?
SG: Somebody makes a movie about Linda Lovelace's life starring Lindsay Lohan. World Cup play-by-play is done by an English guy with a cool accent. The Phoenix Coyotes move to Quebec and become the Nordiques. Dick Ebersol badly overpays for the rights to something sports-related, has it backfire, then gets another standing O at the Sports Emmys anyway. (Whoops, that's already happened multiple times. Scrap that one.) Shaq signs with an Italian team for $25 million tax-free, gains 50 pounds and officially completes his transformation into a 450-pound man. And Ben Roethlisberger gets traded to the Oakland Raiders.
Q: You mentioned in your last column that we have to acknowledge the sad truth that some day Jack Nicholson will pass away and no longer occupy his vaunted courtside seat at Lakers games. My question: Who replaces him? Who's got the reputation, the acting chops, the charisma, and the basketball savvy to take his place in that seat?
-- Robert LeBlanc, Waldheim
SG: Interesting parallels to the passing of the torch in "Lost" (without spoiling it, but if you watch the show, you know what I mean) and how replacements were always being groomed. My No. 1 choice: Denzel Washington. Biggest African-American movie star ever. Huge hoops fan. Scored four straight hoops off Ray Allen in "He Got Game." Reached the stage of his career where he has banked nine figures easy and probably could say, "I'm going to make one movie a year in the summer, and that's it." Like Jack, everyone loves him -- I have never heard anyone say "I hate Denzel Washington" or even "I'm a little tired of Denzel Washington."
Second option: Leo DiCaprio. He's a superduperstar. He stops a room. He loves the Lakers and seems like a genuine fan. He has trouble settling down, which is great because part of Jack's Lakers charm was his rotating cast of companions at courtside. He has Eff You money already, so if anyone could decide "I'm not doing any acting from April to June every year because that's playoff time," it's him. And really, don't we want someone in those seats for the next 30-40 years? Don't we want to grow old with the guy?
Third option: Magic Johnson. At Lakers games, he always gets the second-biggest reaction other than Jack -- not just from giant video screen cameos but even when he's just moving around in the arena. He'd be the most demonstrative on the sidelines. He has the most Lakers ties. Not a bad fallback.
Fourth option: Bullpen by committee. Biggest star in the house gets those seats. One night it's Leo. Next night, Denzel. Next night, Tom Hanks. We're always on our toes. Hidden message: "Look, we could never replace Jack, so let's not even try."
Q: In your opinion, what is the one sporting event that happened at least 25 years ago that would have been looked at drastically different in today's age of 24-hour sports coverage, and the social networking craze? I'm not necessarily asking if the outcome would have been different (for example, could DiMaggio hit in 56 straight with today's sports media coverage?), but rather, what event that seems to fly under the radar only because there wasn't media coverage every hour of every day to drive what an unbelievable thing had just occurred?
-- Ryan B., Columbus, Ohio
I have three
1. Yankee teammates Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich switching wives and families in 1973. Such a crazy story, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are thinking about making a movie about it.
2. The 1979 Boston Bruins vaulting the boards and fighting with Rangers fans at MSG. The Artest Melee multiplied by 10.
3. Julius Erving having an affair with Samantha Stevenson, a reporter who covered the 76ers and a friend of his wife's, that resulted in her giving birth to Doc's illegitimate daughter in 1980. Throw in what was happening with female reporters at the time -- Stevenson was one of the first ever allowed in a locker room -- and really, this should be made into a movie, too. We could call it "House Call" or "What's Up, Doc?"
Q: Could Prokhorov be hired by Dos Equis to do the "Most Interesting Man In The World" commercials? He wouldn't have to act!
-- @akaClassy (via Twitter)
SG: (Nodding happily.)
Q: I'm a bartender in Chicago. The Tap TV trivia at work had this tidbit: "Who is the only player to ever be ejected from the McDonald's All-American game?" Yep, Rasheed Wallace.
-- Grant, Chicago
SG: (Nodding grimly.)
Q: I realized the other night -- while brushing my teeth of all places -- that Jimmy Chitwood is Jesus Christ. I hadn't even watched the movie recently; it just dawned on me. And this goes way beyond the matching initials. Take a look at this -- watch the movie if you have to. The parallels are all there. Getting called just "Jimmy" or "Chitwood" like "Jesus" or "Christ." Taking the last shot for his team like Jesus took everyone's sins. For the record, I'm not really religious, but this was a mind-blowing realization for me and maybe I'm late to the party here, but still interesting.
-- Tyler, Tempe, Ariz.
SG: (Furrowing brow.)
Q: So Floyd Landis admits to doping. It seems that cycling might be as dirty as the WWE. Do we even care?
-- Tim K. Red Bank, N.J.
SG: Nope. Well, I don't care. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally don't care about the following things: Olympic rights bids; the NIT; any marathon; any exhibition game in any sport; anything that happens in horse racing other than the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness (or the Belmont, if a horse has a chance to win a Triple Crown); any professional women's sport except tennis; any track and field or swimming event that isn't happening at the Olympics; any heavyweight title fight involving two Russians; any story about the NFL Network and Time Warner; jockeys; college sports cheating scandals; any athlete who mailed a cell phone picture of his crank to a love interest who then stuck it on the Internet; any lockout/strike story written three months or more before that lockout/strike could happen; and last but not least, anything that happens in cycling, unless it's Kevin Costner trying to win the Hell of the West with a bad mustache and a brain tumor.
Q: I really loved your 3 a.m. story about Uncle Wes at All-Star Weekend telling the rookie that he couldn't chase the night. Was that your favorite sports story of 2010 that you've witnessed or seen? If not, what's a better one?
-- Ashley, Austin, Texas
SG: Hmmmmm. I don't know if this is better, but it happened one night later. Right after the Slam Dunk Contest, every All-Star Saturday night there's a commissioner's party inside whatever building is hosting the event. I went this year with a connected NBA friend of mine. They were passing food around, and he shook his head when a waiter offered us a slider from a tray. That led to this exchange (recalled to the best of my abilities).
-- Me (plowing into a slider): "Why didn't you get one? I thought you were hungry."
-- Him: "I'm waiting for the pigs in a blanket."
-- Me: "I love pigs in a blanket! How do you know there's pigs in a blanket?"
-- Him: "Are you kidding? You don't know?"
-- Me: "Know what?"
-- Him: "Pigs in a blanket. That's Stern's favorite food. He has it at every party he throws. And not just average pigs in a blanket, it's always high-caliber."
-- Me: "Wait a second what?"
-- Him: "I swear to God. Supposedly the NBA had a party like a year ago that didn't have pigs in a blanket -- he totally flipped out on the person running it."
-- Me: "Stop it. Get out of here. I don't believe you."
-- Him: "I'm telling you. You watch. I will bet you any amount of money that there's pigs in a blanket at this party, and not just that but that it's good."
-- Me: "No way, this is too weird. You couldn't be making this up."
Like five minutes later, a waiter walked by with you guessed it. Pigs in a blanket. And they were delicious. The lesson, as always: You gotta love David Stern. Well, unless he's looking the other way as your team is getting completely railroaded in an Eastern Conference final playoff game.
Q: You talked about a location for the WWE Hall of Fame in your WrestleMania diary. Where would you put it? I think it's gotta be where WWE people tend to go anyways, not a pilgrimage site like Cooperstown. My votes are either Daytona Beach, near a NASCAR track somewhere in Georgia/Tennessee or the Wisconsin Dells.
-- Robb S., Flossmoor, Ill.
SG: I'd like to see Vince buy the Silverdome and turn it into the WWE Hall of Fame. We already have a nostalgic tie-in: WrestleMania III (in Detroit) had the best WrestleMania ever, the biggest wrestling crowd ever, the biggest match ever (Hulk versus Andre), and the greatest match ever up to that point (Savage versus Steamboat). Throw in the local economy boost and the Silverdome's price (dirt-cheap) and everyone wins. There will never be a bigger wrestling match than Hulk-Andre. It's sacred ground. Think I'm kidding? Two other things happened in 1987 at the Silverdome: Basketball Jesus (Larry Bird) punched Basketball Satan (Bill Laimbeer), and the Pope conducted a Catholic Mass.
Q: So I'm in the grocery store the other night buying ramen noodles 'cause that's literally the only thing I can afford to eat. Right after I had put the fourth huge case into my cart, a really cute girl approaches me and says, "Wow, that's a lot of ramen." For whatever reason, my immediate response is, "Yeah, I'm buying it for a local food drive for the homeless." Wouldn't you know it, but the girl finds this extremely sexy for some reason, and we continue to talk for a few minutes. Eventually, I ask her out, and we decide she will come to my place for dinner and a movie later on this week. What in the hell am I supposed to do? I have no money and a kitchen full of ramen noodles that are supposed to be for some mysterious food drive. Your thoughts?
-- Shane, Baltimore
SG: Yup, these are my readers.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times best-seller "The Book of Basketball." For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy's World. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg