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Friday, March 14, 2008
Updated: March 15, 5:53 PM ET
Another large side order of links

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Three important plugs before we get to this week's links ...

1. A few weeks ago, we raised $5,100 on eBay for the Jimmy Fund, thanks to a generous Cleveland reader (and YouTube Hall of Famer) named Judson Laipply. Coincidentally, the Jimmy Fund was launching a Rally Against Cancer this month in which local companies and corporations launch donation "teams" to see how much money they can raise. Even though I'm not technically a company, I started my own team (Sports Guy Posse), and we figured out a way to re-route Judson's eBay donation to get going toward a lofty goal of $75,000. Even if you can only afford a $5 donation, every little bit counts and you still helped the cause. Remember, all charity donations may be tax-deductible, and if you're not familiar with the Jimmy Fund, please check out this Web site to see what the organization is about and who they're trying to help.

2. I hate gratuitously pimping ESPN shows, for obvious reasons, but we have an important one premiering Sunday night at 9 p.m.: "Black Magic," a two-night documentary about the plight of black college basketball teams in the '40s, '50s and '60s and how they paved the way for the guys we're watching today. I watched a 90-minute cut in New Orleans and thought, from the footage I watched, this has a chance to be one of the single best things ESPN has ever aired. If you aren't affected by the stories of people like Bob Love and Cleo Hill, and if you don't get a rush from Earl Monroe footage, then I don't know what to tell you. We've heard and read and seen so much about the heroes who integrated professional baseball in the '40s and '50s (and rightfully so), but the majority of the principles in "Black Magic" have never really had their stories told. If you care about basketball, or American history for that matter, I don't understand why you'd skip this show. Then again, I don't understand a lot of things.

On a personal note, I was mesmerized by the vintage footage of Earl the Pearl and Cleo Hill, who was really Iverson before Iverson, as you'll see when you watch the documentary, and immediately placed Cleo in my Pantheon of "Post-World War II Athletes Who We Simply Don't Have Enough Tape Of," along with the Pearl, Bob Cousy, Dr. J (ABA version), Gale Sayers, Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, David Thompson, Young Wilt Chamberlain and Willie Mays.

3. In last week's podcast with Jason Whitlock, I mentioned in passing a book about Charlestown (Mass.) High's 2005-06 basketball team by Neil Swidey called "The Assist," but that wasn't a good enough plug, so we're extending it here: I plowed through the book over Christmas vacation and thought it was the second-best book about inner-city high school basketball behind Darcy Frey's "The Last Shot" (on sale for a stupefying $2.60 on Amazon right now).

For anyone from Massachusetts, "The Assist" should be a must-read because of its extensive history about the ridiculous and short-sighted busing plan for Boston-area schools, as well some excellent reporting about the city's complicated hoops scene. For anyone else, you'll identify with the theme of minority kids from one-parent (and sometimes, no-parent) families getting lured in all different directions by their coach, gang members, girlfriends and everyone else who can either help them to their potential or sidetrack them from reaching it. And the basketball stuff is handled the right away -- not too much of it, but enough that it keeps you engaged with the team. It's a well-written book that's worth reading, although I will always feel like Swidey held back a little on embattled Charlestown coach Jack O'Brien, a complex character who ends up melting down near the end of the book for reasons Swidey can't totally elucidate. Maybe the epilogue in the paperback will have a better answer for that one.

On a personal note, this book meant something to me for two reasons: I lived in Charlestown for nine years, and I spent a few months following South Boston High's 1996 state championship team for a 15,000-word piece that never ended up never running anywhere because I didn't have the juice to get it published (that's how I like to look at it) or it wasn't good enough (probably the real reason). Since I'll always regret not going all out, rolling the dice and writing a full-fledged book about the team, it was great (and a little bittersweet) to read Swidey's effort about the Chucktown team and compare the various players and experiences to everything I remember about that Southie season. Benny LeBron, I hope you made a good life for yourself.

Onto a whopping batch of links ...

  • Here's the biggie. Do you think I can be the head writer for this show and the Bucks GM at the same time? Could this lead to the return of the Peach Pit, the Walsh house and Joe E. Tata? And do you think Ian Ziering has spent the past 24 hours staring at his cell phone waiting for it to ring with "DARREN STAR" in the caller-ID? I can't speak. This is too good. Let's just move on.

  • An inordinate amount of readers wondered why I didn't put "What if the Pistons had taken Carmelo over Darko?" in Monday's "What if?" NBA column. The short answer is I screwed up. The long answer is I overthought the issue -- since the Pistons never wavered with that pick and targeted Darko really from the moment they landed the second pick, it didn't seem like a genuine "What if?" since the alternative was never going to happen. Remember, Dumars thought he had a potential star at small forward (Melo's position) in Tayshaun Prince, and the Pistons desperately needed size at the time because they were still eight months away from Danny Ainge gift-wrapping Rasheed Wallace for them. So there was no doubt where they were going with that pick. Of course, many thought they were making a franchise-altering mistake at the time -- including me -- which opens the door for the "What if?" potential. So for my next mailbag, I'm going to "answer" that question, and then we'll retroactively insert the answer into the column.

    One other note: It's easy to forget this now, but there was a definitive top-three for that 2003 draft (LeBron, Darko and Carmelo) and Detroit would have been skewered for taking Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade at No. 2. Those guys just didn't have the same value. In fact, when I re-read Chad Ford's pick-by-pick analysis after that draft (this isn't a convoluted excuse to link to an article in whichChad called Maciej Lampe "the steal of the draft," I swear), I was reminded that (A) Miami stunned everyone by taking Wade at No. 5 and (B) there was a real debate at the time whether Bosh would ever put on enough weight to be anything more than the next Keon Clark. So saying "they could have had Wade or Bosh with that pick!" is unfair unless you're making the argument Detroit should have traded down. There's no way Wade or Bosh was going second in that draft.

  • Speaking of that "What If?" column, you knew this was coming: Someone turned my "Where Isiah Happens" bit into its own YouTube clip, as well as the odds-on favorite to bcome the Knicks' next ad campaign. Hey, it can't get any worse, right? Why not go in the other direction and openly antagonize your fans?

  • OK, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a movie trailer as much as the one for the "Lost Boys" sequel on MTV.com, not just because Corey Feldman introduces it in the beginning like he's James Lipton, but because of the way Corey seems to be randomly inserted into the trailer at various points, almost like how they stick Guillermo into real movie trailers on Jimmy Kimmel's show.

  • Check out AOL.com's "Where Are The Now?" gallery for "Real World" stars. Remember Ruthie the drunk from Hawaii? She's recording a hip-hop/rap album! Unfortunately, only about 30 roommates made the cut ... which makes me think this should be an entire Web site. We've had something like 150 Real World roommates. I'd like to know where all of them are. Please.

  • Here's a story that just plain enrages me: Not only does the Dunkin' Donuts drought in Southern California continue without any signs of being resolved, but now one-time Celtics murderer Rick Pitino is bringing a fleet of D&D's to Kentucky. That just hurts. On the bright side, at least 10 readers mailed us the following fake commercial with Coach P. in some form: "Kentucky fans, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf isn't walking through that door. Krispy Kreme isn't walking through that door. Mr. Donut isn't walking through that door, and if he did, he'd be old and gray ..."

  • First we had the Ewing Theory ... now, we have the Tee Martin Principle! Oh, wait, they're the exact same thing! My bad. Even Scott Templeton would have handled this more discreetly. Although my buddy JackO is now rooting for this guy to rank sports and pop culture events on the "Not Purposely Humorous Scale"

  • Here's an incredible YouTube find from Tim in Pittsburgh. I'll let him explain: "I found my old VCR tape of McGwire's No. 62 game, and it had this gem of an interview with Sosa and McGwire before the game. Looking back, it's off-the-scale hilarious. There's also some aspect of 'Ambiguously Gay Duo' that comes across as well." And then some. It's impossible to believe that this was only 10 years and 13 Joe Buck hair stylists ago.

  • That reminds me, Adam Carolla officially died as a heterosexual male last week after footage of him preparing for "Dancing with the Stars" ran on "Entertainment Tonight." He leaves behind a wife, two kids and hundreds of thousands of betrayed fans from "The Man Show."

  • Three more additions to the "sports terms named after athletes" list: The Ted Stepien Rule (can't trade first-round picks in consecutive years), the Magic Johnson Rule (for cuts during NBA games) and Steve Blass Disease (for baseball players suffering from a mental block where they can't throw anymore). Keep 'em coming.

  • Like every "Road House" fan, I was saddened by the news Patrick Swayze is battling cancer. In all seriousness -- and I even wrote this in my "Youngblood" column in 2005 -- I thought Swayze had an underrated career. The top-four most underrated movie careers since 1980: 1. Michael Douglas; 2. Swayze; 3. Emilio Estevez; 4. Woody Harrelson. I would have thrown Rob Lowe in there, but I think he has been properly rated. Anyway, best wishes to the greatest cooler of all-time.

  • Had to mention this as well: The Swayze situation also led to one of the weirdest and most unfortunate coincidences in blogging history, when Michelle Collins of "Best Week Ever" posted a really funny "20 Stupidest Faces of Patrick Swayze in Ghost" piece just a few hours before news broke about Swayze's condition. (She did manage to rally quickly with a "Top 5 Most Handomest And Well-Acted Swayze Faces" piece afterward.) Just thought the timing was crazy there.

  • Remember when I wondered why somebody didn't make an entire Web site devoted to NBA trades? Well, here's the site. It already exists. I have been afraid to do anything other than glance at this thing -- if I spend more than two minutes on it, it's going to suck me in like one of those "Doom" games.

  • This sounds interesting: For Saturday's Celtics-Bucks battle, the Milwaukee fans on RealGM.com have organized a protest in which they'll be attending the game but wearing paper bags on their heads. And you're telling me this franchise doesn't need a new GM who can get the fans excited again???? I might have to do some campaigning in Wisconsin soon. By the way, thanks to the folks at The Bucky Channel for pledging their support. I have now cornered the market on Bucks blogs. I'd also like to thank the Bucks CFO for sending the exact same automated response to every fan who e-mails the team asking the club to consider my candidacy. It's that personal touch that makes being a Bucks fan so special right now.

  • We have two classic on-the-air meltdown clips floating around right now: A pair of crusty New York television personalities getting salty with each other on a live broadcast; and Mike Francesa flipping out on his engineer during a "Mike and the Mad Dog" telecast. Hey, engineeah, we are gonna have a yoooooge, yooooge problem if you don't shape up! You hear me? A yoooooge problem!

  • If you missed it, Rocco Baldelli's disappointing career took a surreal turn this week: First, the Providence Journal reported there was something seriously wrong with him, and two days later, we learned he's suffering from some severe muscle abnormalities and might have to retire. Bad times. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery. On the bright side, it was impossible for me to drop him lower on my fantasy draft chart.

  • This week's links to remind us Clay Bennett is murdering the NBA in Seattle and David Stern is letting it happen: A well-done column by Art Theil, as well as a Time Magazine link that allows you to send questions to the Commish for a future interview. I think everyone in the extended Seattle area has sent him a question at this point. Has anyone asked him yet if his favorite horse was Seattle Slew?

  • Here's an absolutely bizarre Dallas Morning News feature about two Texas minor-league prospects unable to play in the United States because they were involved in a marriage scam. This has "Real Sports" written all over it. I think Mary Carillo just crossed the border in a wedding gown with a hidden camera on it.

  • Before you read this USA Today story to which we're about to link, remember my column two months ago trying to figure out why the NFL pregame shows were so overcrowded and annoying? Now read this USA Today story about Brett Favre's postretirement TV prospects in which nearly every network except CBS basically comes out and says, "We don't have any room, but we'd love to get Brett Favre!"

    And, um ... that's why things ain't changing any time soon. By the way, a few of you have asked me if the '08 Packers qualify for the Ewing The-, er, the Tee Martin Principle. Nope. Favre won a Super Bowl which makes him ineligible.

  • Speaking of old columns, Mark in Buffalo pointed this out: "I'm sitting at work, desperately trying to kill some time until our work roller-hockey game starts, when I stumble across this question in a 2002 mailbag from a reader: 'When you're playing "Madden 2002," is it ethical to look at which plays your opponent is scrolling through (as you're picking a defense)?' Has there ever been a more innocent question asked before an infamous event that now seems hilarious (thanks to Bill Belichick)?" No comment.

  • That reminds me, I hope you read the Boston Globe's feature last weekend about Matt Walsh's life, character and credentials as the sole "witness" to alleged pre-2007 cheating from the Belichick era. For me, the red flag has always been the fact Walsh moved to Hawaii to become an assistant golf pro. That's one of the all-time "I'm a loser and my life isn't working out" moves, right up with moving to Jamiaca to bartend and quitting your job because you have a great idea for a screenplay. I can't believe people are taking this guy seriously. It's just hard to fathom. If this were politics and this loser was an aide for Obama or Clinton and claimed to have "secret info" about them, he would have been dismissed in about 20 seconds. By the way, it's hard to imagine how Roger Goodell could have handled this situation worse from September to now. It really is.

  • There's some naughty language in Blender's interview with Adam Duritz, but holy hell is it weird! I know it's only mid-March, but this is the odds-on favorite to end up as the "Craziest Celebrity Interview of 2008." Apparently it's been a long December for Adam.

  • This Week's Irresistable Request to Pimp Someone's Blog, courtesy of One Angry Monkey: "I'd like to offer myself up as a grade-A piece of ass for your collection. Bill, you can be my pimp and I can be your ... Never mind. At any rate, I'm going to take a giant leap of faith here and say most of your readers are of the male variety. Well, most guys like poker, so why not read a great poker blog? Presenting Poker From The Rail, brought to you in part by Noah's Arcade, er, Full Tilt Poker (yes, we're the guys with all the pros and the funny commercials that run nonstop during any poker event). We are funny, irreverent and in dire need of more readers. Please pimp my blog, my job depends on it."

  • Hey, did you know that Mr. Skin's 9th Annual Anatomy Awards came out two weeks ago? Why the hell wasn't this televised? You're telling me that you'd turn down a one-hour telecast of the "Mr. Skin's 9th Annual Anatomy Award" on Showtime or HBO at 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday? And the winner for Best Short Film Nude Scene is ... Natalie Portman! (Pause) Um, Natalie couldn't be here tonight ...

  • There were so many good "Wire" links over the past week that, if you're interested, travel over to TVTattle.com and check them out for yourself. Two of my favorites were New York Mag's breakdown of the final montage, as well as Alan Sepinwall's extensive (and illuminating) interview with "Wire" creator David Simon.

  • Some other pieces I liked from the past week: Jeff Pearlman's scathing column about Nomar's spring training interactions with fans ... the great Wright Thompson remembers Brett Favre ... SalPal on Favre ... Jon Weinbach's mini-feature on USC's bizarre decision to give Lil Romeo a basketball scholarship ... an extended interview with David Stern on Oregon Live ... Slate's Josh Levin on the Emperor's Club and its now-defunct Web site ... Bob Ryan remembers a scouting trip he once took with Dave Cowens ... NBA.com's feature on the 1979 Nets-Sixers game that was resumed right after the teams made a six-player trade ... and Kurt Streeter's L.A. Times column on Jamiel Shaw's death.

  • Some good news from last week's links: The YouTube Request of the Week was fulfilled. I'm not providing a link because I don't want them to be taken down. Sadly, we don't have a best "request" for this week, but I did add a bunch of clips to the Sports Guy Collection on YouTube, including Bruce Springsteen's performance with the Wallflowers when he completely destroyed Jakob Dylan (sadly, the clip cuts off with 20 seconds left in the song). You might remember me devoting some extended time to this watershed moment near the end of a 2006 mailbag.

    Some YouTube suggestions from the readers ...

    1. Bill K. in Phoenix: "I was at the Los Suns-Los Spurs game on March 9, sitting about five rows from courtside when Shaq dove into the crowd right at me. I also happened to be recording the action on my digital camera. Shaq showed some great hustle and the energy in the place went to a new level after that ... as did the Tim Duncan's whining. Enjoy!"

    (Note from Simmons: Two days after this game, there's an even better clip of Shaq running toward the Phoenix bench like he's going to dive for a loose ball and the entire team clearing out like a tsunami was coming. High comedy.)

    2. Jeff in Canton: "The Peter Gammons Theme Song. This is absolutely absurd, but I defy you to not sing it for the next three days. Welcome to my Hell."

    3. Ryan in Santa Monica, Calif.: "My jaw dropped when I stumbled upon this YouTube clip tagged 'Female Mike Tyson' and, .000437 seconds later, I clicked on it. I am giddy every single time I watch it. And perhaps the best part of the clip is Anne Wolfe's reaction to her own abilities. 'Female Mike Tyson,' indeed!"

    4. Chas W. in Cleveland: "Check out this old video of the infamous 1972 Ohio State-Minnesota basketball brawl. A Minnesota player pulls the old "let me help you up ... and then knee-you-in-the-groin" trick. Well played."

    (Note from Simmons: Add this incident to the list of "Things That Would Have Made Skip Bayless's Head Explode Had They Happened Today.")

    5. John in Hanover, Mass.: "I'm not sure if you've seen this, but I highly recommend this clip. It's an old roast of Muhammad Ali (before Parkinson's took away most of his motor skills). My favorite part of the clip is when Muhammad goes after Howard Cosell's toupee."

    6. Mo in Minneapolis: "Great clip for you, Sports Guy -- 'The Rhino' Craig Smith and Randy Foye debate who's better 2Pac or Jay-Z. Notice the white reporter with no knowledge on the subject."

    (Note from Simmons: The white reporter kills me. Big-time.)

    7. Archit in San Jose: "Read your links this week, saw the T-Mac '13 in 33' and remembered seeing this on YouTube a while back: someone recreated T-Mac's 13 in 33 on NBA Live. Pretty cool."

    8. Mike G. in Keene, N.H.: "I can't believe you don't have the video 'Tommy Heinsohn Goes Berserk' on your NBA video list! Check it out, absolutely classic Tommy."

    9. Philip in Alexandria: "Wow. Wow. Holy (bleep)."

    And finally, 15 suggestions from the readers to take us home:

    1. Ben in New York: "This movie premiered at an indie film festival in Hartford about the Mighty Whale. It's fascinating and reminds me of your work with trying to save the Sonics. Long live the Brass Bonanza and the Mighty Whale!"

    2. Matt R. in State College, Pa.: "This picture of Gordon Giricek cuddling a ball is now my wallpaper."

    3a. Neil in Charlotte: "A sportswriter becoming a GM is not unheard of. In Charlotte we are blessed -- I mean, cursed -- to have Marty Hurney as GM of the Panthers. Back in the '80s, he was a sportswriter with the Washington Star and Washington Times. Seeing how the Panthers are currently stuck in a world of mediocrity and the draft classes and free-agent pickups of Mr. Hurney have left a lot to be desired, many of us, myself included, would prefer he go back to sportswriting."

    3b. Mike in Portland, Maine: "This helps your cause to become the best Bucks GM -- a profile of Chris Snow, who is a fellow Syracuse grad, who went from writing the Red Sox beat for the Globe to being in charge of hockey operations for the Minnesota Wild, all before the age of 26. Amazing."

    5. Jamin in Oakland: "Sadly, a VERY similar story to Jamiel Shaw's murder rocked the Bay Area four years ago. The victim was [supposed to be] headed to Oregon on a football scholarship a day or two after he was murdered."

    6. Davor in Orlando, Fla.: "I don't think you realize how close Duncan was to signing with the Magic back in 2000. Duncan himself confirmed this just during the Finals last year. Also, the Magic were prepared to still sign McGrady, with Duncan and Hill in tow, using Bo Outlaw in a sign-and-trade."

    7. Travis in Boulder, Colo.: "This podcast from 'This American Life' is a month old, but Act 1 is a behind the scenes look at 'The Onion' as a writer's room tries to come up with headlines for a new issue. As a writer, I found the room's deconstruction of which jokes are funny (and why) to be particularly insightful. Also, I know you're a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan, so I think you will really enjoy the hilarious Act 4. He basically just shares, with a small audience, some anecdotes from his earliest days as a journalist on the staff of The Washington Post. I don't want to spoil them, but they are great."

    8. Dennis G. in Portland, Ore.: "This is an old article from the American Journalism Review (2002) but I had never seen it before -- pretty revealing look at the Onion newsroom and the then-burgeoning Onion media empire (whatever happened to that movie, guys?). Some good stuff toward the end about their 9/11 issue."

    9. Adam in St. Paul, Minn.: "Yes, the conversion rate sucks and shipping is expensive, but you can't say no to soccer jerseys as worn by Sly and Pele!"

    10. Darius in Brooklyn, N.Y.: "If anyone will appreciate the hilarity that is this blog, it's you. My friend is getting bent over by Verizon. He created a blog that is updated daily about this ongoing saga, and he plans to utilize it to 'bring the company to their knees.'"

    11. Bill from Ankeny, Iowa: "Did you see Michael Rapaport signing 'Separate Ways?' Where is your wife and the front bumper of her car when we need them?"

    12. Chris M. in Houston: "You linked to the N.Y. Times feature on Hank Steinbrenner [last week] but failed to mentioned this quote: 'Hank Steinbrenner, who will turn 51 next month, bears a disconcerting resemblance to his father, George M. Steinbrenner III. The square, pinched face, the broad shoulders, the barrel chest, even the tiny feet, are all unmistakably Steinbrenner.' Even the tiny feet??? As the old saying goes ... [editor's note: we can't run the old saying] ... and that explains why the Steinbrenners have a chip on their shoulder regarding having to be the best in everything else."

    13. John F. in Hanover, Mass.: "Not sure if you saw this, but Troy Brown was roasted at his alma mater, Marshall. I have two questions, first of all, would Jeff Ross be able to roast a guy who is genuinely as likable as Troy Brown? Secondly, does Ross make a Spygate joke with Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick there?"

    14. Tim in New York: "Now, I know why Isiah is paying Jerome James $5.8 million. He's averaging almost 40 points and 30 rebounds per 48 minutes this season."

    15. Bradley L. in Montreal: "I sent my buddy this link to a Rudy Fernandez montage to show him that maybe the hype about this guy could be legit. To which he replied, "I hear this guy is going to be awesome too" and sent me this montage of Brent Barry. Sort of puts it all into perspective."

    Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy's World.