Celtics, Heat top the must-see list

The October mega-mailbag

Goodell continues to manipulate media

If you missed Part 1 of the Mega-Mailbag, click here. Here’s Part 2 (with Week 7 NFL picks at the bottom).

Q: Have any of the writers at ESPN actually played football? There is no way that this “too violent” issue has any legs without the constant hand-wringing by the ESPN writers. It looks like the rest of the offensive players will get to wear the same red shirts as the QB. This game is lost. You should add, “Take the OVER at all costs due to the fact that there will be poorer tackling and at least three personal foul calls for each team” to your gambling manifesto. No one tells teams, “Stop running crossing routes or seam patterns and your receivers won’t get flattened.” Complete ridiculousness. NFL is about to jump the shark.
— Rob, Bentonville

SG: Agreed. I thought this week was mildly horrifying: The NFL changed the rules on the fly without telling the players ahead of time. Don’t the players need a heads-up first? If I told my daughter, “If you hit your brother, you have to go to your room for 10 minutes” and made that the rule in our house, then she hit him and I locked her in her room for five hours, you would think I was a jerk and a bad parent. Wasn’t that the NFL with this week’s excessive fines? Now defensive players aren’t allowed to crush receivers going over the middle? Really? (Note: Only Brandon Meriweather’s cheap shot on Todd Heap was truly indefensible.) The whole thing reminds me of what happened after Janet Jackson’s nipple popped out during the Super Bowl, and everyone overreacted. Actually …

Q: My buddies and I were recently talking about Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime show: It was awesome while it happened but completely destroyed half-naked girls appearing on cable. After that incident, BET stopped showing NC-17 rap videos, MTV canceled “Undressed” and Oxygen quit airing its softcore porn shows. So Nipplegate was awesome when it happened but completely ruined the future, much like Weezer’s album “Pinkerton” (which was and still is underrated) was great but spawned a bunch of whiny emo bands. What are some other examples?
— Jordan, Fargo

SG: You want another example? How ’bout the terrific writing on concussions by the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz and the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell making everyone rethink the wisdom of football players returning too soon after concussions and changing the way teams approached that specific injury, only now it’s swung too far and made the NFL think it can control every impulse or reaction of football players. These guys have spent their entire careers being taught, “If anyone goes over the middle, you deck them” and being glorified on segments like “Jacked Up” — in which multiple announcers cackled in delight during a weekly montage of players getting laid out with hard hits, and ohbytheway, this was only two years ago, and ohbytheway, some of those same announcers who cackled in delight have now ascended Mount Pious (my friend Dameshek’s term) and excoriated people like Meriweather and James Harrison for doing things that, ohbytheway, would have absolutely been shown on “Jacked Up” — and now we’re telling these guys, “Wait, you can’t do that anymore! BAD! STOP IT!” It’s ludicrous.

I keep going back to the “bad parent” analogy and Roger Goodell, who’s done a masterful job manipulating the mainstream media these past few years, benefitting mostly from the fact the previous regime was out of touch. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think Goodell is a total hypocrite for pretending to care about the welfare of his players as he’s pushing for an 18-game regular season that would lead to more injuries, more concussions, more collateral damage, more everything. Hey, Roger: If you cared about the welfare of the players, you’d shorten the season to 15 games and add another week of byes. Right? But hey, that would cost owners money. Instead, you’ll continue to position yourself as the Sheriff of Player Safety, puff out your chest, crack down on hard hits and swagger around like you’re Tim Olyphant in “Justified.” Meanwhile, if the players’ union doesn’t agree to your 18-game schedule, we’re headed for a lockout.

Oh, and you know what else is great? NFL owners recently threatened the union that, if the lockout goes into effect next March, the league wouldn’t cover health care benefits for its players until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place. So Roger, you care about the welfare of DeSean Jackson in October, but not five months from now if he’s paying for his own doctor’s appointments because he’s suffering from post-concussion syndrome? You’re going to tell us that with a straight face?

Some advice for Mr. Goodell: It’s time to admit that your players have gotten too big and too fast. We knew this day was coming for 30 years. We’re here. We have 260-pound linebackers who can run 4.6 40s, safeties who hit like Mack trucks and 375-pound offensive linemen who can wipe anyone out for a year if they fall on them the wrong way. This isn’t about a style of play; it’s about evolution. If you care about player safety as anything beyond an easy way to ingratiate yourself to media members who don’t know any better, then stop worrying about the small picture (changing the rules on the fly during the season so it looks like you did something) and concentrate on the big picture (cutting back to 15 games, adding more byes and making sure your players still have their health benefits in April after you lock them out because the league and the players can’t figure out how to split eleventy kajillion dollars in a fair way). And sorry for the tone, but this entire subject leaves me … JACKED UP!!!!!!!!!!

Q: J.D. Drew reminds me of my ex-wife after she started with the Prozac. No highs, no lows, no sex, tight hammies.
— JK Straw, Portland, Maine

SG: That was the winner of the “Funniest But Most Secretly Depressing E-Mail I Received During the 2010 Red Sox Season” award.

Q: In your next mailbag can you post a photo of your mutt Olivia with a poll so the readers can weigh in and ultimately decide how ugly the dog is?
— Ryan, Alexandria, Va.

SG: True story: I was taking cell phone pictures of her last night when my wife noticed and said, “I know what you’re doing, you want to put a picture of her in your column so people can see how ugly she is. YOU ARE A TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING!!!!!!!!!!!!” And since the wife gets half of everything in California, no questions asked, well … no picture of Olivia. Sorry. Trust me, it’s for the best. She looks like we bought her from Dr. Moreau.

Q: In one of your podcasts you tried to find the sports analogy to M. Night Shyamalan’s career: spectacular promise, good first impression, then fell off the table. You settled on Penny Hardaway. But what about Dave Stapleton, erstwhile Red Sox first baseman? Comparing a graph of his batting average over seven major league seasons to the Rotten Tomatoes scores of Shyamalan’s seven movies is eerier than the ending to “The Village.”
— Greg, Oakland

SG: He’s right. Check this out:

M. Night Shyamalan

SHYAMALAN

“Sixth Sense”: 85%
“Unbreakable”: 68%
“Signs”: 74%
“The Village”: 42%
“Lady In The Water”: 24%
“The Happening”: 18%
“The Last Airbender”: 6%

STAPLETON

1980: .321
1981: .285
1982: .264
1983: .247
1984: .231
1985: .227
1986: .128

(M. Night Shyamalan, everybody!)

Q: Do you agree that Joe Buck’s porn name would be “Joe Buck”?
— Tom, Pittsburgh

SG: Either that or Joe Dough.

Q: I just finished watching the entire “Dexter” series and couldn’t help but think … What if the entire fifth season was centered on Michael C. Hall performing his ritual on incompetent owners or general managers? Tell me you wouldn’t love to see Donald Sterling strapped down to that operating table!
— Rob, Boston

SG: Rob from Boston just came up with the greatest idea for an animated web series ever. Which isn’t saying much. The best part would be fans from various embattled franchises e-mailing the producers of “Dexter: The Animated Series” and pleading for Dexter to kill their GMs or owners.

Hi, I’ve been an Orioles fan since the Brooks Robinson days. My son is 9 years old and doesn’t have a single positive Orioles memory. He wants to start rooting for the Red Sox; I don’t know how to stop him. Do you think Dexter could kill Peter Angelos on this week’s episode? I’m begging you. Please. Do this for me.

Q: Can you explain how John Henry can afford to pay $476 million for a soccer team but couldn’t afford Mark Teixeira?”
— @davidcaprio (via Twitter)

Liverpool fans

SG: I can’t. By the way, what should I do here? My baseball team (the Red Sox) just bought an English Premier League team (Liverpool), only I already picked an EPL team (Tottenham Hotspur). Do I have to switch? I’ve only been seriously following Tottenham for 15 months. I’ve never been to a game at White Hart Lane. I’ve never worn a jersey. It’s not like I have any real ties to them — it’s just a team I randomly picked to follow. If the Red Sox play up the Liverpool connection, play exhibition games in Fenway, make special jerseys and hats that tie both teams together … I mean, it’s going to be tough for me to root for a different team than what will basically be The Red Sox If They Played Soccer In England And Had Even Crazier Fans.

So I guess it comes down to this: If this is simply “John Henry bought an English soccer team,” then whatever. I don’t care. But if it’s “John Henry bought an English soccer team and plans to make it so that every Red Sox fan will feel like Liverpool is their bastard cousin who lives abroad,” and they’re playing games in Fenway, and other Sox fans are getting sucked in … it would be REALLY tough for me to pick another team. Blood is thicker than water. The Red Sox are blood. Anyway, I am taking a wait-and-see approach. Glad we talked this out.

Q: Do you think Tiki has definitively proven that he is the evil twin?
— Porter, Jackson, Miss.

SG: Almost definitely. We’ll know for sure when Ronde Barber grows a Fu Manchu or a beard so they don’t look as much alike. That’s how the Sklars handled it.

Q: Watched “Big” this week and realized that a major part of the plot was Josh and Billy waiting six weeks for the consumer affairs report locating “Zoltar Speaks.” With the Internet, Josh could have googled and gotten rid of his awkward Tom Hanks body before dinner. What other ’80s movies would be illogical today with the Internet?
— Garrick, Tampa

SG: Is there an ’80s movie that wouldn’t be affected by the Internet? Let’s shape that into a different question: What seemingly harmless ’80s movie plot would have to be totally transformed if you remade the movie in 2010? For me, it’s clearly Emilio Estevez stalking Dale the Doctor in “St. Elmo’s Fire.” He hounds her at work, at her apartment, follows her in the pouring rain, even crashes her skiing weekend with her boyfriend unannounced … only it was the ’80s and he was in love and all of this was somehow OK. Nowadays, he would have been thrown in jail halfway through the movie and we never would have seen him again.

That raises a different question: Why hasn’t “St. Elmo’s Fire” been turned into a television series yet?

The bones of that plot work for any year: Seven kids in their early 20s trying to find themselves after college in Washington. Judd Nelson’s character could be a staunch Obama supporter who just switched over to the Democrats and cheats relentlessly on his girlfriend. Andrew McCarthy’s character would now be an angry blogger on the rise who secretly loves Judd’s girlfriend. Ally Sheedy’s character wouldn’t be able to find a job, so she’s working as a cocktail waitress at St. Elmo’s Fire and juggling both guys. Rob Lowe’s character (the great Billy Hixx, someone who once earned an entire column from me) could still be the lovable screw-up who can’t hold a job and plays music at night (although the sax would have to go — it’s too ’80s; we’d have to make him a John Mayer-like guitarist or something). I’d get rid of Mare Winningham’s character and turn her into a wealthy/pretty/classy African-American female who comes from upper-crust Maryland, only her father’s business is falling apart thanks to the economy and she doesn’t know it yet. Demi Moore’s character would still be a coke whore who gets into coke whorey situations every week. And we’d either turn Estevez’s character gay or make him a former “Real World” cast member who now makes a killing on the party appearance circuit. That’s not a show? Could somebody wake up the CW execs please?

Q: Elin Nordegren might be the Mount Everest of conquests: the most unattainable woman in the world. Not just for pure hotness, but because of her situation. You’ve gotta figure she has a five-year period before she trusts dudes again. She is fueled by pure bitter emotion right now. You walk up to her at a bar, you might get visually castrated. Is she the most unattainable woman ever? Is she No. 1?
— Bhaskar, Atlanta

SG: Great question. By the way, you left out that Elin (A) is worth $150 million (so she’d be wealthier than anyone who approached her at a bar, unless it was the Soho House in L.A., and even then she would probably be worth more than everyone in there except for three people); and (B) has two small kids (so if she’s looking for a boyfriend, it’s going to be a stable guy who could be a potential stepfather for her kids). We also don’t know if she’s out for revenge yet. She’s still healing. In a couple of months, she might be ready for an A-Rod Eff You romance. I want to see how it plays out. I can’t give her all-time status, although at the very least, she’d be the greatest Bachelorette ever.

Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky

To be the Most Unattainable Woman In The World, a few things have to be in place. First, there needs to be a chance. (That rules out the Virgin Mary, Mother Teresa, Medusa and Oprah.) Second, Bhaskar used the word “conquest,” which is crucial. Your buddies would have been impressed in 1962 if you landed Liz Taylor — for my money, at her apex the hottest “unattainable” woman who ever lived — but she did end up getting married eight times, including once to Larry Fortensky (see picture to the right). So that has to factor in. Third, she can’t be throwing it around like a porn star, which rules out many of the historical greats (Cleopatra, etc.) and more modern greats (Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, etc.).

Fourth, she needs to be wealthy enough and famous enough that it would be slumming it for her to hook up with an average joe (a bartender, a wanna-be actor, etc.) because the tabloids would go crazy. If you aren’t rich or famous, you have about as much of a chance as the Pirates have of winning the World Series. And fifth, she can’t have wrecked confidence from a previous relationship, the main reason should-have-been-unattainable Princess Di had such surprisingly shaky taste in men post-Charles.

That leaves us with one choice and only one: Jacqueline Kennedy in the 10 years following JFK’s assassination. She was America’s sweetheart. She came from major money. She had the baggage of the assassination itself, plus all the JFK/cheating rumors afterward. She had two small kids. She was beautiful by all accounts. The media was watching her every move, so she had to select her mates discreetly. And by the way, you’d be following in JFK’s footsteps — good luck with that one. Her next marriage? A Greek shipping magnate who was one of the wealthiest men in the world. So … yeah.

Q: August 28th will forever be known as Bill Simmons Day throughout my college friends. When the day was finally over all we could think of was how jealous Simmons would be of the Saturday we just had. (Editor’s note: We edited the next four paragraphs for space.) Anyways, thought you’d love the trifecta of a fantasy football draft, Sly Stallone’s masterpiece “The Expendables” with the capper of hanging at a bar with Jenn with two n’s from MTV.
— Tim Worthington, Redwood City

SG: I can’t decide if my life has been a massive success or a massive failure.

Q: Hey A******,

Write a F****** COLUMN … I’m tired of hearing your f****** voice … and I can’t listen to your s*** at work. G******** SIMMONS write a f****** column.
— Corey, Cary, NYC

SG: Leaning toward “failure …”

Q: Brady’s new hair elevates him to Level Douchecon 4, one behind you and Papelbon.
— Mark Eomurian, Long Beach, Calif.

Filed Under: Bill Simmons, People, Simmons

Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

Archive @ BillSimmons