By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist
If Joe Torre were the manager of the Page 2 pitching staff, he would be walking slowly to the mound, signalling to the bullpen, taking the ball from me and slapping me on the butt. I'm done. Stick a fork in me.
After an inspiring New Orleans run that was replete with six columns, a couple death threats, loads of gambling, some Hurricanes, more Gumbo than any human being has ever eaten in a nine-day span -- as well as a freaking SUPER BOWL TITLE FOR THE PATS -- I'm sitting out for a few days, resting my arm and turning today's column over to you guys.
Michael Jordan stuck it to Cleveland once again last week ...
Just for the record, this edition of "Yup ... These are my readers" doesn't cover anything sent to me over the past two weeks, simply because I haven't read any e-mails in the past two weeks (and they're piling up -- I'm going to wade through them some time this week). And while we're here, thanks to everyone who takes time to send in an e-mail, question or comment. Please don't take it personally if you don't receive a response; there's only so much time in the day.
On to your e-mails and observations:
A number of you e-mailed about my constant references to "That Guys," most notably that there's an entire site devoted to them (www.fametracker.com) and that there is a That Guy Awards in the works. And while we're here, when I use the phrase "Jump the shark," that's from a tremendous site called www.jumptheshark.com, which I have plugged before but don't mind plugging again. Just wanted to get that heard before the jury.
Speaking of numbers, a surprising amount of Cleveland fans took issue with my complaints about supporting the Pats over the years. Reader Brian Spaeth summed it up best: "Boston people crack me up -- you're so 'tortured.' Those 16 NBA championships must have been really horrible to deal with, huh? You realize Cleveland has never even been to the Super Bowl, right? Or the NBA Finals? And the Indians sucked for 40 years straight. Not only that, but we helped define both John Elway's and Michael Jordan's status as clutch players. The Drive, the Fumble, the Shot ... we, my friend, are tortured. Do you know how many times I've seen the Shot? And I'm only talking about my nightmares.
... just like John Elway did with "The Drive" back in the 1987 AFC Championship Game.
"I'll never forget when I really knew what it is like to be a Cleveland sports fan. 1997 World Series, Game 7, ninth inning, Indians are (gasp) winning. I look over at my dad (lifetime Clevelander) and I say, 'Dad, there's no way we're going to win, is there?' He just kind of looks at me in a way that says, 'I'm sorry, son, but no, there's not.' "
(Very good points. Given that Boston had Russell, Orr, Bird, 16 NBA titles and the Red Sox mystique over the past few decades, we really shouldn't complain as much as we do. If anything, we were spoiled and ill-equipped to deal with the fact that we had become an average sports city. Poor Cleveland. Hey, at least you have the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Um ...)
Chris from L.A. has an answer for my question (in a previous Ramblings) about where cab drivers go to the bathroom:
"Recently, I was at a bowling alley in Santa Monica and wanted to use the restroom, but it was pretty filthy. There's one other guy in the bathroom taking a leak, but he apparently noticed that I was standing outside the two stalls trying to size up the conditions. So, he told me there's a restroom upstairs that's really nice because nobody knows about it. I gave him a skeptical look, and he said, 'Believe me, I know what I'm talking about, I'm a taxi driver.'
"I went upstairs and he was right, it was spectacular, which leads me to a couple of conclusions: A) Most cabbies stop in a different place every time until they've found the best (public or near public) restrooms in each area, and B) Someone needs to create a guidebook for major cities that points out cabbie-recommended restrooms."
(Isn't it amazing the things you learn in a "Yup ... These are my readers" column? I remember in college, one of my buddies found out about a gorgeous bathroom that was buried behind about eight corners in the fourth floor of the Student Center. It was like finding an oil well or something. Nobody knew about it. Right near the end of my senior year, I told a few juniors about it. It was like passing the torch. I felt like the guy who handed off the Legacy Key to Steve Sanders on "90210.")
Josh in Cincy offers this idea: "I have no idea how much money you make with this gig, but I have the perfect way for you to supplement your income -- The Sports Guy Consulting Firm. What would you do? Lots. You would visit homes and apartments and make suggestions on a variety of things: DVD selection, sports memorabilia displayed, card games, gambling style (cards and online), and so on. The possibilities are endless. I will help you get things going ..."
Reader Dave M. has a suggestion that surely needs to be looked at by federal legislators: "Fantasy leagues need standardized scoring. I can't stress this strongly enough. It's bad enough that I have to reconcile the differences between the two leagues I'm in, but it's so out of control that I can't even come into work and have water cooler conversations with co-workers about it. How am I supposed to understand the dilemma of a co-worker who plays in a league where tight ends and only tight ends get an extra three points per reception? This is like a language barrier. It must be addressed."
My question about the word "ensuing" only being used with "kickoff" drew a ton of responses and comparisons. Some of the best ones (submitted by multiple people): The word "stint," which only seems to be used for rehab purposes (stint on the DL, rehab stint, etc.) ... the word "degenerative," used for bad backs, back knees and bad hips ... the word "reputed," only used for Mafia members and gang members ... and the word "unmolested," used when somebody drives to the net or basket or rushes into the end zone untouched.
The best example comes from Jeff Kearney: "You were talking about words that must go together, such as 'ensuing' and 'kickoff.' What about one of your favorites, 'warrants mentioning'? 'Warrants' is never use except with the word 'mentioning.' Warrants mentioning."
Steve Cook in Charlotte has settled the "Chick flick vs. sports movies" debate (a topic I brought up in a mailbag which definitely should be expanded into its own SG column at some point): "If the movie in question has ever been broadcast on Lifetime, Women's Entertainment or the Oxygen networks, you are officially watching a Chick Flick. Hope this helps in any tie-breakers."
For anyone with HBO, you might enjoy this one from reader IRosenau: "Without a doubt, the funniest show on television right now is 'Project Greenlight.' The number of incredibly bad decisions is staggering, which makes for hysterical television entertainment (even though I have no experience in the film industry, I keep asking myself, 'How could they possibly think that was going to work out well?')
"The best thing about the show, however, is the 'Jeff Balis Face.' After watching the episode where Balis (one of the producers) gets fired due to the disastrous "Little League in a sunami" decision, I realized there was a new face for your pantheon. In every discussion with his boss, Chris Moore, Jeff Balis has this amazing look on his face.It is a combination of a guy trying to (a) find his best 'the-dog-ate-my-homework' excuse; (b) act as if he understands a complex description of Sartre's existentialist theories; and (c) hold back an avalanche of tears. Throw in his hair and it's like a cross between Ronald McDonald and Chance the Gardner from 'Being There.' "
(Just for the record, that's another thing that warrants its own column at some point: "Project Greenlight." I haven't been this captivated by an HBO documentary since they sprung G-String Divas on us. Is there a greater channel than HBO? Comparing HBO to every other channel is like comparing Jerry Rice to every other Hall of Fame receiver -- you feel dumb just bringing it up.)
From reader Jimmy O'Leary in Boston:
"Is it just me, or every time the John Henry ownership group says one of the following things ...
... don't you feel that Boston is a second-rate sports town and you wish you lived in Phoenix?"
(Please note, this was written before America's Team won the Super Bowl. But the point remains the same. Note to John Henry: Jettison this routine, pronto. Nobody likes it. And while we're here, Henry seems like a nice enough guy, but is anyone else waiting for him to tip over during a press conference, like one of those department store mannequins that gets accidentally pushed over? Is he made out of wood? Does he run on batteries? Somebody needs to get to the bottom of this.)
- 'We are determined to end the Curse of the Bambino.'
- 'Our goal is to beat those Yankees.'
- 'We are going to put together a competitive team to compete with New York.'
San Diego's Ron DiNocco defines the Irving Fryar Effect, a chain of events which happens to certain athletes in this order: "Enter the league with loads of talent and a ridiculous contract ... get suspended for behavior detrimental to the team ... get at least one DUI and have a domestic dispute case pending within your first two years ... alienate every possible home team fan... get traded or signed for pennies on the dollar ... Find religion ... become a Pro Bowler who makes a career of being the 'wiley veteran' ... make an 'NFL Presents' ... thank God and the fans for getting you into the Hall of Fame."
(And when this happens to Terry Glenn some day, I'm going to be very angry.)
Here's another theory from Boston reader Lee Cohen, the Kevin Gamble Theory: "Remember when the Celtics had no small forward on their team and Gamble was given a starting slot? He proceed to average about 15 points a game and everyone wondered where he had been. I always professed that he wasn't all that great -- that almost any NBA caliber player given a starting slot, can pump in 10-15 points. It's all in the playing time. I bet if Walter McCarty was on the floor for 30 minutes a game, he'd average double digits. That doesn't make him an NBA stud. Thus the Kevin Gamble theory -- someone who puts up reasonable numbers just by showing up."
(Intriguing. You could come up with an entire team of Kevin Gamble guys from this season alone: Lee Nailon, Chauncey Billups, Quentin Richardson, Charles Smith, Rod Strickland, Tony Battie ... the list goes on. I like this one.)
Longtime reader RReebs (and possible first-time ballot inductee in the Sports Guy Reader Hall of Fame) sends in a typically astute observation:
"You can't watch a postseason NBA game without seeing Jack Nicholson, Dyan Cannon or Spike Lee; the World Series subjected us to N.Y. cap-swapping Billy Crystal and Crypt Keeper look-alike David Spade (who do you think looks worse right now --- Spade or Chris Farley? Farley might be dead, but he had so many chemicals in his system, it's impossible for rigor to set in); the NHL even has Michael J. Fox, Alan Thicke and Matthew Perry. So how come there are never any celebrity NFL fans? And please, rappers wearing Raiders shirts or caps on MTV's 'Cribs' don't count."
The "ACL-related e-mail of the Month" comes from Jeff Rendell: "I hurt my knee playing basketball last night. I ended up on the website Web MD, trying to figure out what I did to it (not much pain or swelling, can't put a ton of pressure on it), so I search 'ACL' and the No. 2 listing (right after the description of the actual injury) is 'Shea Ralph.' I am not making this up. Try it yourself. Here's the article (http://my.webmd.com/content/article/1676.53187) that came up. She last tore it 'playing with her dog.' "
The Irving Fryar Effect is definitely a sore spot with Patriots fans.
Jon Stelzner wonders, "Why have you never mentioned the TNT hoops classic 'Above The Rim'? You've got Duane Martin as Kyle-Lee, Leon as Shep (the best performance by a one-named actor since Madonna in 'Truth or Dare'), Bernie Mac as Flip the bum, Marlon Waynes in his breakout role as Bugaloo, and 2Pac, who actually turns out to be a great actor and gives a great performance as Birdie. And the best performance in the movie goes to Eric Nies (son of NBA official Jack Nies and of MTV's 'The Grind' fame). There is no better unintentional comedy then Eric Nies running the point for the rival school and talking trash with Kyle, 'What's the matter, superstar, did coach take the point away from you?'
"If that's not an all-star cast, I don't know what is. In addition, the soundtrack is one of the best movie soundtracks ever and started the trend of big-time artists getting on the soundtrack bandwagon after Warren G's 'Regulate' exploded off this movie. For someone who claims to love The Chronic as much as you do, this soundtrack is a must have. So how come this 'new-classic' sports movie never gets a mention?"
(One reason: 9-foot rims in the hoop scenes. I can't deal with 9-foot rims, period, end of story. I will not argue about this. With that said, it's one of the Top Five soundtracks of the '90s, no question. Love the song with Snoop and the Dogg Pound, when Snoop does his "Slidin' thru the city in a rag 6-4 ... hopping like a motha----- tryin' to find dem ho's ..." routine. That always kills me. Does it get any better than Snoop?)
Brently Davenport submitted an important correction to my Top Sports Movie DVDs column: "You wrote that 'Bull Durham' doesn't have any extras ... HELLO? Do you own it? The DVD has the director commentary by Ron Shelton -- a man who played minor-league ball; he talks about the actors and their athletic skills (Costner really can and did jack many of those long balls), he talks about the towns they filmed in, the leagues that really exist, the movie ad-libs, etc. It is a great commentary ... one of the more thoughtful ones I have seen and makes the DVD worth owning. Sure, they could have tossed in some more stuff, but this alone is a decision maker for buying the DVD -- trust me, I own it."
(Fair enough. For some reason, I remember going to buy it a few years ago and backing off because there weren't any extras ... they must have released a newer version since then. I bet Robert Wuhl was available for the Director's Commentary -- they probably had to shoo him away. Oh, no, Bob, that's OK, we're all set ... thanks for the offer, though.)
"Above the Rim" might have been a good basketball movie -- if they hadn't used 9-foot rims.
John P. in Washington wonders if Hickory High's Norman Dale was really that good of a coach, noting: "He never won a game until Chitwood showed up. And even after that, if you look at the game highlights, how did they score all their points? Long-range bombs. Most of them with guys right in the shooter's face. Great coaching? I think not. Great shooting, I'd say. They could have gotten those shots at any time, even without coach Dale's 'four-pass' rule, which by the way I don't think was ever fully employed. Generally, his advice was just so obvious. Pass the ball, box out their big guys, deny the dribble. Duh. Like these guys didn't know they were supposed to do that. Any advice on how they might do that?
"In the championship game, during the first timeout when his team was getting drilled, he had to rely on the point guard's advice that 'Jimmy can beat his man.' This never occurred to coach Dale? And after Jimmy reels off approximately 32 of the team's next 35 points, he actually has to be told by the team that Jimmy should probably take the last shot. Huh? Personally, I think Ray would have made a better coach than Dale."
(Note: This e-mail pretty much ruined "Hoosiers" for me. I can't look at coach Dale the same way. First Spike Lee pointed out the slanted racial ramifications of the final game in his book "Best Seat in the House," now this. Somebody give me a pill and make me forget this ever happened. Could you give me Sebastian Janikowski's e-mail address?)
South Carolina reader Kyle B had this rant, which made sense: "I'm really tired of you ragging on Atlanta and Charlotte as sports towns. Get it right: We are bad pro sports towns. As a UGA student and a Columbia resident, I hardly go see any professional sports in either market. But that's because during school I'm at UGA football, basketball and baseball. Why would I pay an overpriced ticket to watch overpriced athletes play a game they don't care about? Give me Sanford Stadium, packed with 86,000 people going nuts for their Dawgs. Give me Williams-Brice in Columbia, filled to the brim even after the team lost 21 consecutive games (God bless those Gamecocks).
"When the Falcons are playing in front of empty seats, it's because UGA and Georgia Tech played to a combined 130,000 the day before. As for the Panthers, they have six big-time colleges in North and South Carolina. If all had home games, they would have a combined attendance of right around 225,000 people!! These people are fans! Screw the Hornets and Panthers, Hawks and Falcons, give me the Dawgs, Gamecocks, and Tar Heels every day of the week!"
Longtime reader Matt Crane wonders, "I know one of the Laurance twins (either Matthew or Mitchell) does play-by-play for those women's 9-Ball events. I just don't know which one. There should be a website called www.mitchellormatthew.com which includes these questions: Which Laurance twin played David's father on '90210'? Which Laurance twin was on HBO's 'Not Necessarily the News' back in the '80s? Which Laurance twin now does ladies' 9-ball play-by-play? And which Laurance twin (if any) is married to this hot ladies' 9-ball player with the last name 'Laurance'?"
Hickory High's Norman Dale might be the most overrated coach in basketball history.
Harold Miner is an absolute first-ballot inductee to the One-Year Wonder Hall of Fame.
(See, you forgot two other ones: Which Laurance played Sal Amato in "Eddie and the Cruisers," and which Laurance played the gay guy in "St. Elmo's Fire?" Regardless, somebody needs to get to work on this website, pronto. And when is someone going to make a movie featuring the Laurance Twins, the London twins and the Olsen Twins? Can somebody make this happen, please?)
Jake LeBlanc has some more nominees for the One-Year Wonder Hall of Fame, including, "Harold Miner (Baby Jordan is an absolute first-ballot inductee), Pat Listach, Herb Score, the Dirty Bird (and, I guess, Jamal Anderson), Pat Hentgen, Edgar Renteria, William Floyd, and Michael Johnson." All good ones. Three readers also nominated Levar Burton, which cracked me up, for some reason.
Reader Joe LeStrange sent in a goofy question: "What is your favorite song about how it is hard to be on the road and famous all the time? I would take Journey's 'Faithfully.' "
(The sad thing is, I spent about 10 minutes mulling it over. After much deliberation, I'm going with "Have You Seen Me Lately?" by the Counting Crows, a well-done song in which Adam Duritz makes us feel bad for him because he's famous, he's travelling all the time and he can't stop sleeping with famous chicks. And he actually wins you over by the end of the song -- you find yourself saying, "Man, Adam has it rough ... I hope he works things out." Bizarre phenomenon.)
A number of you sent suggestions for the quote in my "Dazed and Confused" column that didn't have an accompanying NFL coach or player -- "Well, all I'm saying is that I want to look back and say that I did the best I could when I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could when I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place. Dogged as many girls as I could when I was stuck in this place."
The Dennis Green Era in Minnesota was right out of "Dazed and Confused."
Daryl in Oklahoma nailed it: "In the name of all that's right and reasonable, that quote is tailor-made for the Dennis Green firing. The wealth of material here boggles the mind. To name a few: 1) his battles with ownership, 2) the past sexual harassment charges, 3) the revolving door at quarterback prior to the emergence of Culpepper, 4) his lack of popularity in Minnesota, 5) the Randy Moss saga. Combine all those, and any others you can think of and you should have been able to write your whole column based on that one quote."
Speaking of suggestions, many of you were outraged that I neglected to mention one powerful piece of ammunition for Tommy John's Hall of Fame campaign. As reader Paul Pennelli says, "I usually back you in your writings, but throw us all a bone on this Tommy John thing. The man had his own surgery named after him -- a surgery! This distinction makes him a Level One HOF-er, at the very least.
"Or maybe you need another level in your Pyramid, the basement floor, which rewards players who added to the game in manners that are not quantifiable through on-the-field statistics. Examples: John, Bill Lee, Rollie Fingers (facial hair), El Guapo (obesity), Izzy Alcantara (ju-jitsu), and so on."
(Now we're talking ... I really like this idea. Can we get Rusty Kuntz involved though? And the reliever on the Expos who has six fingers? And Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson -- the two Yankee players who swapped their wives, kids and dogs back in 1973? This one has some serious potential.)
New Jersey's Ryan Loof had the following response to a recent NBA column in which I compared the '98 and '99 Drafts: "Those drafts were indeed very good, but they pale in comparison to the '96 class: Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Steve Nash, Othella Harrington, the comedy that is Moochie Norris, Jeff McInnis, Malik Rose and Shandon Anderson. Definitely has the potential to be the best of all-time. I just found it odd that you didn't mention it when you brought up the '98 and '99 drafts."
(Very good point ... for some reason, I had it stuck in my head that '98 and '99 were the best drafts and forgot about all the non-lottery guys who panned out, especially Nash, McInnis, O'Neal and Peja. I still think '98 was better, though. Might make for a good All-Star Game.)
Some of my favorite e-mails from the past month:
From Mark Mayfield: "I forced my girlfriend to sit through the 'Victory' DVD, and she thought it highly implausible that the Allies would return for the second half rather than proceed with the escape. I just couldn't get her to understand that if they had run then, they would have lost more than a game. Women."
From H.F. Blalock: "If two war movies are shooting at the same time, do they just chopper Tom Sizemore back and forth from the sets, or do the directors coordinate which days he will shoot his scenes?"
Is there a more unlikely cameo in movie history than Madonna in "Vision Quest"?
From longtime reader JayDanahy: "Is there any more unlikely cameo in a movie than Madonna in 'Vision Quest'? I mean, come on! It's Madonna, one of the five most influential pop artists of the 20th Century, in a five-minute scene at some dive bar in Spokane, Wash. You expect some cheesy musician on stage like in a 'Better Off Dead' prom scene. And here comes the Material Girl. Shocking. I can't think of any cameo more out of place. It's not like this was a huge John Hughes blockbuster."
From Mark ARL: "With the exception of the NFL, the sports market is going down just like the Internet market. If sports owners don't throw in the damned towel and cut prices, their market will be as dead as Apollo Creed. The funniest thing is, the sports market, the Internet market and Apollo all made ridiculously cocky decisions which failed miserably. What would you rather admit to: Pets.com, singing 'Livin' in America' with James Brown, the Vancouver Grizzlies, or putting an NHL team in Columbus?"
From T. Heston in Boston: "Is there anybody more heroic than the guy who leaves the sports page in the bathroom after he's finished doing his dirty business?"
From Brent Silver in Cleveland: "Does the NFL have a contractual obligation with the Holy Roman Empire that requires them to keep using Roman Numerals to identify Super Bowls? I feel sorry for the kid who had Chicken Pox during Roman Numeral week in the third grade, because he will never know which Super Bowl it is, which 'Rocky' sequel he is watching, or what year certain movies were made. Can you imagine if baseball used Roman Numerals for the World Series? The Diamondbacks would be the champs of World Series CCLVVCXXLVCIKMMLG."
The Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Celebration went through the roof on the unintentional comedy scale.
From Richard in Jacksonville Beach: "Did you happen to catch any of the 'Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Celebration'? What an absolute freak show. Elizabeth Taylor reading her cue cards like she'd overdosed on Zanax. Liza Minelli singing a tribute, looking like ...My God, I can't even describe how horrific she looked. Some guy singing a duet with Gloria Estefan and peering down her blouse while she sang. Lots of crowd shots showing poorly coordinated Caucasians trying to dance, bored middle-aged parents trying to make themselves invisible, and ecstatic fans, looking like they were about to faint in that 'Beatles in the mid-'60s' kind of way. And of course the Gloved One himself, looking disturbingly like one of the residents of Whoville from 'The Grinch,' only with Jennifer Aniston's hair, dyed black. Do they keep these people in some kind of zoo? Way up there on your Unintentional Comedy Scale."
The second-goofiest e-mail of the month, courtesy of PLawlor:
"How about a column on what Dan Duquette will do after he is fired from the Red Sox? The guy is going to have a nervous breakdown and start showing up at team events uninvited, calling other GMs to make trades, or calling the Sox new pitching coach at home to tell him he's fired after a Sox loss.
"A year from now John Harrington will wake up late one night to find the Duke sitting on his couch with a laptop computer, babbling about some PawSox pitcher he drafted just before he was fired. Harrington tries to go along with the Duke partly out of fear and partly because he feels so sorry and embarrassed for him, but when the Duke gets up to demonstrate a glitch he found in the pitcher's submarine motion, Harrington notices that the Duke's right hand is bleeding badly.
"Upon closer look, he notices the handle of a knife protruding from inside the sleeve of the Duke's now-tattered navy blue blazer. He sees the knife, their eyes lock. Suddenly, they are rolling around on the floor in a death struggle with the Duke ultimately on top, the knife inches away from Harrington's chest. Just as the Duke is about to plunge the knife into Harrington, a shot rings out and the Duke falls to the floor. The possibilities of who shot the Duke are endless. I thought about Jimy, Lou Gorman, John Henry wearing a cowboy hat, players past and present ... any thoughts?"
(Um ... no.)
Finally, J Dawg in Brooklyn asks, "What events would you select to test four potential successors to the Sports Gal? For me, one would have to be physical, so the girls can try to punish and injure each other -- an afternoon training with the Gracie brothers (from Ultimate Fighting Champion fame) in Brazilian ju-jitsu and shoot-fighting would do. Then a marathon session at the local all-you-can-eat Brazilian/Mongolian BBQ, with a girl being automatically eliminated if she doesn't eat for at least three hours or tries to eat vegetables.
"Finally, we go back to my place for WWF RAW, where I will watch JR and the King in my underwear, and the girls will be tested on the meaning of wrestling terms such as 'over, heel turn, jobbing, potato shots and enziguiri.' In the event of a tie, we go to a four-corners strap match in my bedroom. Thus my queen will be found."
(Yup ... these are my readers ...)
Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.