Welcome back to the Half-Summer of Mailbag! As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: Kobe is just the latest NBA star to film an awkward commercial set on an airplane. We all know about Hitler-stash Michael Jordan, but what about 12-inch PowerBook Yao Ming? If you take Michael, Kobe and Yao, and fill out a starting five with the chef from Kobe’s commercial (room for improvement) and Verne Troyer from Yao’s (why not), I’d still take the Airplane All-Stars over my 2011 Raptors any day of the week.
— Max, Montreal
SG: And you forgot Wilt Chamberlain’s TWA ad! You could also sub Mike Bibby for Troyer and claim that Bibby was CGI’d to look tiny in the PowerBook ad — Troyer and Bibby have always been dead ringers. And if we’re making it the Airplane All-Stars, we could easily sneak Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into this game (because of his Oscar-winning performance in Airplane!) — suddenly we have the Twin Towers (Yao and Kareem), Mike Bibby, Kobe and MJ going against the 10 Raptors who currently have signed contracts for the 2011-12 season (Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa, Amir Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, James Johnson and Solomon Alabi). In a full court game, the Raptors would crush them, obviously. But what about a 4-on-4 half-court game with subs? Can’t we pay-per-view this during the lockout or something?
That reminds me, here’s my dream Lockout Pay-Per-View to raise money for NBA players during the lockout. We’ll charge $74.99 for Hoopapalooza and make a killing.
Event no. 1: Round 1 of our eight-team, 2-on-2 contest. Games to 30 (3s count as three, 2s count as two, plus FTs). The teams: Kobe and Gasol (the old guard); Durant and Westbrook (a new format for the Stringer/Avon subplot to bubble to the surface!); Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo (I couldn’t leave Z-Bo out, he might win this tournament by himself); Wade and LeBron (the favorites, obviously); Nowitzki and Nash (the sentimental favorites); Odom and Humphries (a.k.a. The Kardashian In-Laws!); Amar’e and Carmelo (they could take turns shooting, just like in real life); Griffin and Gordon (our young guns).1 It’s basically the greatest version of NBA Jam ever. And wait, before you say, “Come on, Wade and LeBron would cruise to the title,” um, didn’t we say that before the 2010-11 NBA season?
Event no. 2: Duke alumni vs. UNC alumni (full court, game to 60). Obviously we’re being a little loose with the word “alums,” but are you really nitpicking about a game that features Kyrie Irving, Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr., J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts, Grant Hill and Corey Maggette playing Vince Carter, Antwan Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Ty Lawson, Ed Davis, Ray Felton, Tyler Hansbrough, Marvin Williams and Rasheed Wallace (coming out of retirement!). I have the Duke guys favored by four.
Event no. 3: The semifinals of our 2-on-2 contest. Added bonus: Kobe stink-eyeing Gasol in the stands and blaming him for their first-round loss.
Event no. 4: A hot dog-eating contest between Baron Davis, Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and DeMarcus Cousins. Need to break up the basketball a little.
Event no. 5: Another full-court game to 60, although I can’t decide on the right matchup. Some possible candidates: UConn alumni vs. Florida alumni; Big East alumni vs. Pac 10 alumni; tattooed guys vs. nontattooed guys; high school diplomas vs. left-college-more-than-a-few-credits-short guys; under 6 feet vs. over 7 feet; registered Republicans vs. registered Democrats; a pickup game in which Grant Hill and Jalen Rose pick teams; Euros vs. South Americans; and Players Whose Penises Have Appeared on a Sports Blog vs. Players Whose Penises Have Not Appeared on a Sports Blog.
Event no. 6: The Finals of our 2-on-2 contest. For the record, I think Durant and Westbrook would win as long as they didn’t self-combust. Young legs, too easy for them to score, and they’d play the hardest. How can you not love any format in which LeBron and Wade could choke as favorites?
(The more I’m thinking about it, I might have to charge $129.99 for Hoopapalooza 2011.)
Q: As a Vikings fan should I be excited to root for Peyton Manning in 2015?
— Tyler, Mankato, MN
SG: The best thing about that e-mail is that two fan bases are going, “Wait, that’s not funny …”
Q: Did you see NBC and (its sports cable channel) White Entertainment Television stole the MLS from ESPN?
— V. Lewis, Kansas City
SG: WET’s lineup has never looked stronger: hockey, soccer, rodeos, cycling, mixed martial arts … once they add fencing, debating and polo, and acquire the rights to “The Andover Song” as its new network theme song, the transformation will be complete!
Q: I don’t blame you for bringing up Shawshank too much, AMC runs it on a 24-hr loop. Question: Let’s say Dufresne never escaped, Red was never paroled, and they were stuck in Shawshank for another 35 years through 2011. Who would grace Dufresne’s next few posters after Raquel Welch?
— TK, Fort Wayne
SG: Let’s go backwards — the three posters in the movie featured Rita Hayworth (circa 1949), Marilyn Monroe (circa 1958) and Raquel Welch (1966, the year he escaped). That means we’re on a pace of about every nine years, bringing us to …
1976: The iconic poster of Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett in her red bikini. Now, you could talk me into Red buying Andy a stopgap poster in 1972 of Pam Grier as Foxy Brown — partly as an “I thought you needed a black girl in your cell” joke, partly because the early ’70s were slim pickings — but I’m fine with waiting 10 years for Farrah.
1984: Red may have gotten antsy and bought Andy best-selling posters of Cheryl Tiegs (1978), Bo Derek (1980), Christie Brinkley (1982), or the incredible Heather Thomas (1983, during her brief, Earl Campbell-like apex on The Fall Guy), but Red was always drawn to icons … that’s right, Madonna. Probably her “Boy Toy” poster from her Desperately Seeking Susan days. I’m not happy about it, either.
1993: Pamela Anderson, Baywatch apex. Done and done.
2002: Britney Spears. Has to be. And yes, she turned 21 in 2002, which makes it all right. There’s no way Warden Norton would have approved of a jailbait poster.
2011: With apologies to Megan Fox … doesn’t it have to be Kim Kardashian? So if you’re scoring at home, we just free-falled from Rita Hayworth to Marilyn Monroe to Raquel Welch to Farrah Fawcett to Madonna to Pam Anderson to Britney Spears to Kim Kardashian. And you wonder why our country’s credit is dropping.
Q: It’s that time of the year where everyone is trying to snag the best fantasy team name. This year, the most offensive route has to be Casey Anthony. I’m thinking “Casey Anthony is Guilty … Of Being Kinda Hot!” and “Casey Anthony’s Boyfriends.” There are probably more creative ones than that, but there won’t be any name more offensive than the ones involving her, right?
— Greg D., Chicago
SG: (Afraid to say anything.)
Q: I know the Blue Jays don’t make much noise on ESPN unless Keyser Soze is dressed in white and allegedly feeding them signs from 420 feet away, but tell me you saw Brett Lawrie’s grand slam celebration? It’s impossible not to love this guy right now. He’s hitting the lights out, he plays like it always means something and you can see all the Jays loving his reaction/laughing at him/awkwardly scared that he might hurt them. You’ve gotta love that reaction from a rookie as a sports fan. Despite being the Boston homer you are, you’ve also got to be worried about the Jays in the AL East over the next few years — a bona fide slugger, young quality starters, a young and developing core, a good farm system and a GM that can talk teams into selling him their shirts for 50 cents on the dollar and they ask him if he wants their underwear for free. Are you worried? Slightly Nervous? Scared Shitless?
— Aaron, Toronto
SG: You guys are in our division?
Q: Is it just me or does the English language need a new exclamation point to signify when the writer is only mildly enthused? When someone else says happy birthday to you in a text, if you reply “thanks” you sound like you are too cool/depressed that you are getting older, but if you reply “thanks!” you sound like you are enjoying the limelight too much. We need a symbol that shows that you are excited/enthused in a restrained, appropriate manner. Maybe a plus sign? “thanks+”
— Steven, Seattle
SG: Glad you brought this up — for years and years, I could never figure out what the symbol for the SHIFT-6 key did ” ^ ” other than that a buddy sent it to me in parentheses once claiming it looked like a vagina. Apparently it’s called a “carat” and it’s used for mathematical formulas to signify that something has been carried to the third power, so “two to the third power” would be 2^3. Is there a bigger waste on a keyboard? I say we tweak Steven in Seattle’s suggestion and make ^ a symbol for mildly enthusiastic recognition. Hey Steven? Thanks^.
Q: Can you recall anyone else going from unknown/irrelevant to media darling to self-made jackass in as short a time period as Steve Williams? And what are the odds that 4 years from now we’ll look back on the first week in August 2011 as the catalyst that made Tiger so angry that he started destroying the field again in golf?
— Keary F., Lawrenceville, GA
SG: (Shaking my head sadly, remembering the 72 hours before the PGA tournament when I was excited to run this e-mail.)
Q: Tiger just about did the impossible: He almost made Steve Williams seem sympathetic. Just about. But then Williams opened his mouth and we realized HE was the one who is responsible for all of Tiger’s wins. (Or so he thinks.) This gave me an idea for a new reality show — “World’s Greatest.” The cameras follow Williams as he caddies for an absolute hacker to see if he can turn him into a golfer. That would prove Steve’s greatness.
— Mike Chandler, Edmonton, AB
SG: Liked everything but the title — I would have called it, “Caddie Shackled” or “Being Caddie.” You know what stunned me most about the Williams/Scott situation last weekend? That caddies earn 10 percent of a golfer’s winnings. Ten percent! Look, I caddied for three years — you carry a bag, give out some distances, suggest some clubs, maybe even help read a few greens. You’re like a waiter at a nice restaurant, basically. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how this translates to 10 percent of a $1.4 million prize (Williams’ cut of what Adam Scott won last week), or Williams making more money than anyone except the top-10 finishers. Shouldn’t there be a cap or something?
And also, do you really want to live in a world in which (a) a caddie made an astonishing 9 million bucks off Tiger Woods, and (b) instead of feeling grateful about this stroke of luck, that same caddie pushed Tiger down the stairs last year by admitting he was “disappointed” by Tiger’s infidelity issues right as everyone else was piling on him? I’m just dumbfounded by this. Congratulations, Steve Williams, for the first time in two years you made me take Tiger’s side on something. I’m sure the other caddies were mortified that Williams shone a big spotlight on them; you can almost hear them grumbling, “Steve, dude, you’re going to screw up this 10 percent racket we have going! Shut the F up!”
(The only defensible thing about caddies getting 10 percent: It might lead to a golfer being so cheap that he decides to carry his bag himself.)
Q: I haven’t even begun to read the mailbag yet I just wanted to tell you how happy it made me to see the mailbag has “gloriously” returned. I will spend however long it takes me to read the mailbag ignoring my mom, her alcoholic brother, my stoner brother, the whitest black dude you will ever meet, my girlfriend who already feels like technology is ripping us apart ( its like the plot of one of those twilight movies which incidentally I am forced to watch every time they come on one of my 100 movie channels I get with my direct tv package) and my other idiot buddy whose life is in such shambles it makes Charlie sheen look like muhat ma Gandhi. Thank you for bringing it back and if it wasnt for you i wouldnt be on espn half as much as I am … DP show and bs reports get me through my day.
A hammered fan a day before his 25th birthday
— Anthony, Bensenville, IL
SG: Uh-oh …
Q: You should try yelling Texas Forever! while you are getting in on with your wife. I did, and she liked it.
— Cody, Oregon
SG: I can’t fight it …
Q: I’ve had a slow summer and I’m not flush in cash right now because of my unpaid internship. To try and make living on a budget fun I created “Spaghetti Quest”, my personal journey of eating spaghetti for 30 straight days. I gave constant Spaghetti Quest updates on Facebook and Twitter. Nobody gave a shit. The Quest just ended and yes, I was triumphant. Sadly, that was the highlight of my summer. Then I get on Twitter and see that you have porn stars tweeting about and posting your mailbags (Lisa Ann). I follow mad porn stars and couldn’t get any of them to give me Spaghetti Quest shout-out. I’m clearly losing it, man. Give me something to believe in. Excuse me, I have to go abort this carb-baby living inside me.
— Gabe Wonderling, Pittsburgh
SG: Yup, these are my readers. I couldn’t help it. That was a premature emailbagulation. Let’s keep going.
Q: I’m a huge fan but your Aug. 5th mailbag didn’t answer any questions from women. You need to show some love for your female readers — you do have some, believe it or not. I think you need to treat your mailbag like Affirmative Action. Some of the questions you answer need to be from women, blacks, Latinos, Asians, disabled people … you get the picture. Actually, I’m totally kidding. That would be too difficult. So all of that to say — if a girl asked you out on a date (pretend you’re not married), would you expect her to pay or would you still offer?
— Maria T, Vacaville, CA
SG: So you know, I’ve been hoarding female questions so I could attempt another Fe-Mailbag, which hasn’t happened since 2004 (Part 1 and Part 2) and included the crucially important question, “What would you name the female equivalent of a sausagefest?” (Which, of course, I couldn’t answer because I was writing for ESPN.com.)2
As for your dating question: I believe men should hold doors open, pay for dates, buy drinks and do everything else that guys are supposed to do. Back in the mid-1990s, when I was working at a restaurant, writing Internet sports columns and eating mac and cheese three times a week, I dated someone with a lucrative job and it became a legitimate issue; every time she insisted on paying for a nice dinner, I felt like a total failure. (It was one of the reasons we broke up, actually.) So I’m the wrong person to ask here. But the man being asked on the date changes that equation a little. Here’s how I think it should play out after the check comes:
Girl (grabbing it): I have this.
Guy (half-hearted attempt to grab it): No, no, no, no … no way.
Girl: Come on, I’m the one who asked you.
Guy: No! At least let’s split it.
Girl: Fine, fine.
Guy: Let’s go back to my place and have kinky sex.
Q: I finally figured it out — Alex Smith is Jason Voorhees! Every year he terrorizes summer camp, haunts townspeople and murders his teammates well into the fall. In the end you think he’s dead in the water, and then next summer he returns for another chapter in TERROR!!! This must be the 7th installment in the franchise. How will he terrorize Niners camp this year?? Maybe this time the nightmare’s in 3D?!?
— Sean, Silverlake
SG: And he’s not even the worst QB in his own division! That would be Tarvaris Jackson, who prompted me to tweet possible names for a new Seahawks blog during last night’s preseason game like “Talking Myself Into Tarvaris,” “Overthrown Again” and “3rd and 27.” Give me one good reason why both of us shouldn’t lay down big wood on the Rams at +200 to win the NFC West right now. (Waiting.) Kevin Kolb? Kevin Kolb???? That’s the best you can come up with? Will I get arrested if I wagered on the 2011 Rams to win the NFC West? Would it be considered larceny?
Q: Clearly Obama needs to boost his approval ratings by finally naming you his Sports Czar. In anticipation of this I believe the first thing that you need to do is set up the Fight of the Century: CT vs. Ronnie. Tell me who doesn’t drop $59.99 for this? In addition the “24/7″ series for CT/Ronnie will give MTV its highest ratings in history. So MTV gets record ratings; it’s an all-timer from a pop-culture perspective; someone might get their face eaten; and Obama might get re-elected. Make it happen. I say CT wins because it’s likely he destroys Ronnie’s mind like a wizard in the weeks leading up to the fight leaving him a crying quivering mess in the ring.
— John Lynch, McMinnville, Oregon
SG: Last century had Ali vs. Frazier; this century has Ronnie vs. CT! It’s a brilliant idea for the following reasons …
- We could call the pay-per-view “The MTV Degeneration: Ronnie vs. CT” and have undercards like “Wes vs. The Situation,” “Laurel vs. JWOWW,” and “Every Dad From Teen Mom Fights To The Death” (no winners for that one). Meanwhile, Jersey Shore‘s Season 4 premiere had nearly 9 million viewers; the season premiere for Rivals had nearly 2 million. Even if some of those fans overlap, I can’t imagine fewer than 400,000 people pay-per-viewing that fight. Multiplying $39.99 and 400,000 people … that’s 16 million before overhead costs.
- I already programmed “24/7: Ronnie vs. CT” on my DVR Season Pass just in case I ever go into a coma before the show gets rolling. I don’t trust my wife to remember to DVR it for me.
- Let’s go ahead and waive all PED penalties ahead of time. Do your thing, fellas.
- The odds would depend on the format of the fight. If we went MMA rules with an Octagon, that helps CT (more weight, more size, better scrapper) and I’d make him a -300 favorite. But a straight boxing match? Totally different. Ronnie has a low center of gravity (a la Tyson in his prime) and a history of one-shot knockouts. For that one, I’d make CT a -180 favorite, but I’d probably grab the “Ronnie by KO” odds (+300) and hope the One Shot Kid came through (by the way, great nickname for his boxing robe).3
So why couldn’t it happen? The Tzar of Reality TV, Dave Jacoby, cautions, “I love the idea but neither guy needs this right now. Ronnie will be harder to convince — he’s making money from Jersey Shore and all the appearances. I say wait two years until they need the money a little more.” For the record, Jacoby thinks CT would kill Ronnie in any format, although he does caution that CT’s past 2 fights consisted of sucker-punching someone sleeping in a bed and picking on someone whom he outweighed by 60 pounds. My response to that? ONE SHOT! ONE SHOT, SON! Now this is a fight we need to see. Mr. President, I’ll wait for your call.
Q: Did you know that 89% of readers hate footnotes? 4
— Norman Frillman, New York
SG: I did not.5
Q: I have a big F’ing problem with you using Carl Lewis as your poster to as to why the Olympics should be held every 3 years. The guy was the Roger Clemens of Olympic sprinters, claiming innocence even after being proven guilty. Ben Johnson just happened to be the fasted of 8 extremely doped up sprinters in 1988. While I agree that the Olympics should be held every 3 years, find a better poster child for your case.
— Devin Taylor, Toronto
SG: I was astounded by how many still-traumatized Canadians complained about my Lewis/Johnson riff last weekend. All I remember about that gold-medal race was Johnson dusting Lewis (a shocking upset), the unforgettable Sports Illustrated cover a week later (“BUSTED”), then Kenny Moore’s story about Johnson’s swift decline a few years after that positive test. I never knew about the late-blossoming “Lewis cheated, too!” camp or how many Canadians were embarrassed by what happened. When I asked Grantland’s two resident Canadians (Jonah Keri and Chris Jones), Jones said, “Johnson’s stripped medal might be the closest thing we have to the Kennedy assassination, because we don’t really kill anybody up here,” and Keri added, “Ben Johnson was the same summer Gretzky was traded, which was our other Kennedy moment. Pretty awful summer.”
Who knew? I barely remembered that Ben Johnson raced for Canada that year. If we ever produce another 30 for 30-type series (and we might), I’m moving a Johnson/Lewis doc to the top of my wish list. Feels like there’s something meaty there. Speaking of sports docs, Senna is being released in New York and Los Angeles today; we already ran Jones’ excellent review on Grantland a month ago, so I will only say this … it’s one of the best sports documentaries ever. Where it ranks against the likes of Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings, King of Kong, The Two Escobars, Murderball and Pumping Iron doesn’t ultimately matter. It’s on the list. Go see it if you can.6
Q: Saw you on PTI, Simmons. I have a quiz for you:
Your mustache makes you look like:
A) A supervillain’s accountant.
B) A wealthy/preppy date-rapist’s enabling father.
C) A Russian arms dealer.
D) A washed-up porn star trying desperately to stay relevant past his expiration date.
E) Tom Selleck’s creepy half-brother.
F) All of the above.
— Nick, Seattle
SG: Uh-oh, it looks like we’ve reached the “Rag on Simmons’ mustache” portion of the mailbag. Put on your seat belt and brace yourselves …
Q: I saw you on PTI the other day, and I was just wondering: Does the mustache come with a white, windowless van, or did you have to buy your own?
— Joe, Chicago
SG: I’m renting. Come on, let’s keep this moving, keep ’em coming.
Q: Quick question: I’m casting a new reality show called “Guys Who Look Somewhat Normal Until They Grow Facial Hair, Then … Hide Your Damned Kids!”. We’re looking at a Spike TV pickup for the spring season. You in or do I need to go through a booking agent?
— Jeremy, Boise, ID
SG: Count me in. As long as it doesn’t conflict with the filming of Magnum PTI.
Q: Nice stache, you look like everyone’s gay uncle that’s still in the closet, but everyone really knows he’s gay.
— Tim, Boston
Q: That’s quite a nice ‘stache you got on going there. Makes you look like police officer from a 1970s buddy cop flick. In fact, you, Wilbon, and Kornheiser would make an excellent buddy cop team. You’d be the gritty, resourceful cop with a quick wit and a drinking problem. Wilbon would be the old school, no-nonsense cop with a badass catchphrase. Kornheiser would play the wet-blanket detective that always complains about you and Wilbon not playing by the rules. What do you say?
— Nick Burgess, Statesboro, GA
SG: For about 10 seconds, I thought to myself, “Great idea! This would make for a killer animated cartoon! And in every episode, LeBatard would get killed!” Then I remembered my track record with animated cartoons and … you know …7
Q: Your LeBron hate has reached new levels. All you have ever said for years is that he needs to develop a post-game and when he finally works on it, you rip him for taking so long? LeBron has reached the A-Rod level where anything he does or doesn’t do is criticized and over analyzed to death. It’s really ridiculous at this point. Your blind homerism is funny and acceptable in print, but it’s transparent and sad on TV.
— Alex, Miami, FL
SG: Being called a homer by a Miami fan is like being called an exploitative parent by Sarah Palin or Will Smith. With that said … I agree with Alex. I shouldn’t bitch about LeBron finally working on his low-post game after spending the past few years bitching that he needed to work on his low-post game. Better late than never. Even if it cost him a ring this past June.
But here’s something I CAN bitch about: When did Hakeem Olajuwon become a combination of Lee Strasberg, Dr. Drew and Mr. Miyagi for any aspiring low-post player? And when did this revisionist history kick in that Hakeem was some sort of unapproachable god in the low-post? Kevin McHale had twice as many low-post moves and equally good footwork; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a more unstoppable signature shot (the Sky Hook); and yet, when I dared to wonder on PTI why every aspiring post-up player goes to see Hakeem instead of McHale, I got deluged with “You’re a homer!” e-mails.
Was Hakeem one of the best 12 players ever? Of course. He possessed the best blend of athleticism and footwork of any center; his statistical résumé was incredible (for instance, in the 1990 season he notched 550 combined blocks and steals, the only time anyone ever topped 500 since we started keeping track), his Dream Shake was the highest-degree-of-difficulty low-post move that actually worked; and his playoff eviscerations of Ewing, Shaq and Robinson within a 13-month span were Jordanesque. His potent low-post game was just one piece of a pretty rich puzzle, whereas in McHale’s case, it’s the first thing anyone brings up.
You know which player draws the most “Can you cut me a tape of his low-post moves so I can show my players?” requests from high school coaches to NBA Entertainment? That’s right … McHale. I spent two pages in my NBA book describing McHale’s Chinese-food-menu catalog of low-post moves (an astonishing 12 variations in all).8 You can’t say that there was a better low-post player than Kevin McHale. It’s factually inaccurate. If you disagree, go find me a season in which Hakeem shot 60 percent from the field, then get back to me. McHale had two in a row. You can look it up. If you STILL disagree, check out this Viva McHale clip that NBA.com made. And yeah, I’m fully aware I just went full-fledged homer on you two paragraphs after calling someone else a homer.
(By the way, can you tell how much I miss the NBA? Half of those mailbag questions are about basketball, a sport that might be disappearing for the rest of 2011 and all of 2012. I’m having a hard time handling it — I have the terrible, Ron Burgundy facial hair, now all I’m missing is a warm carton of milk.)
Q: I noticed in the Jeter 3000th hit doc on HBO that he had a poker table in his NY apartment! What was that about? How many people do you know with poker tables in their houses?
— Bob, Burbank, CA
SG: Nobody. Zero. But you just reminded me of my new plan for Rounders II — instead of trying to win the World Series of Poker, Mike McD infiltrates a series of secret, high-stakes poker games involving athletes and celebrities (all of whom play themselves). It can’t miss. I’m laying this down, A-Rod. Top-two pair. It’s a monster hand, I’m gonna lay that down.
Q: Is Entourage a comedy anymore? This season’s episodes have ended with a fire, a break-up and a coke-induced suicide.
— Zach, Marlboro, NJ
SG: To be fair, those are also the first three episodes of Two And a Half Men this season. But you’re right, shouldn’t an alleged comedy try to be, you know, funny? Meanwhile …
Q: Is Larry David having a career year?
— Coos Bay, Oregon
SG: Great question. I wanted to break down his “stats” for each season, but first, I had to figure out what sport and position worked best. I settled on Curb being a durable power pitcher, someone who consistently topped 200 innings, struck out a ton of guys and had a better WHIP than you’d think. Anyway …
The Pilot (1999): 4-1, 3.04 ERA, 45.2 IP, 50 K’s, 1.12 WHIP
A one-hour mockumentary about Larry’s “return” to standup comedy that paved the way for Curb to become a series (almost like a mid-August minor league call-up). All the seeds are here — Jeff (his adulterous agent), Cheryl (his wife), the overall “Wait, this feels a little Seinfeld-ish, only with the line being pushed a little more — did Larry David have more to do with that show than we realized???” vibe, and of course, the shameless lying (in this one, Larry pretends that his stepfather died to get out of doing an HBO special). I remember watching this in the moment, thoroughly enjoying it, and figuring it was just Larry’s way of taking some of Christopher Guest’s mockumentary territory. I certainly never imagined it would become a series. And yet …
Season 1 (2000): 17-9, 2.60 ERA, 218 IP, 276 K’s, 1.07 WHIP
… bam! A tremendous rookie season highlighted by Gil Bang (a pantheon episode, probably no. 2 all time for me),9 two borderline pantheoners (the one with the blind guy, and the one with the incest survivor group), and Richard Lewis somehow pulling off a James Earl Ray joke in the “Affirmative Action” episode (odds of that one working without causing a public backlash: 200-to-1). The only issue when you’re rewatching these shows: Larry David hadn’t totally hit his stride as an actor yet (he’s a little subdued). I used Dwight Gooden’s rookie stats from 1984 as the doppelganger here — one of the best rookie pitching seasons ever and a good parallel because of Doc’s high K rate (mirroring that Curb season).
Season 2 (2001): 23-7, 3.23 ERA, 259.1 IP, 316 K’s, 0.97 WHIP
One of only two Curb seasons with two pantheon episodes (“The Doll” and “The Shrimp Incident”), as well as one memorable moment (tripping Shaq at the Lakers game), two funny one-show wrinkles (the thong-wearing psychiatrist and the happy-ending masseuse), one unexpected subplot (Larry’s wife going from sneaky-cute to sneaky-hot), a solid running storyline (Larry pitching a show with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and repeatedly sabotaging it) and degree-of-difficulty points for successfully using the C-word as a plot device (in “The Shrimp Incident”). A sleeker version of Season 1 with more innings, more K’s and a slightly better WHIP, only a higher ERA as well (like Curt Schilling’s 2002 season).
Season 3: (2002): 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 213.1 IP, 313 K’s, 0.92 WHIP
You’re damned right I’m using Pedro’s holy 1999 for this one. Season 3 of Curb featured the best beginning-to-end subplot (Larry and his buddies trying to open a restaurant), my single favorite episode (“Krazee Eyez Killa”),10 one of its ballsiest episodes (“The Terrorist Attack,” which aired only 13 months after 9/11), and its only pantheon episode/season finale (the Tourette’s chef flipping out and everyone in the restaurant happily screaming obscenities). It’s the only Curb season in which you can say three words or fewer from every episode and any other true Curb fan will know what you mean: Chet’s shirt, Benadryl brownie, club soda, nanny from hell, terrorist attack, mom’s grave, corpse-sniffing dog, Krazee Eyez Killa, the housekeeper, Tourette’s chef. Also, you could argue that (a) Larry’s first scene with Krazee Eyez Killa is the greatest Curb scene ever, and (b) Susie yelling at Cheryl, “F*ck you, you car wash c***!” (in the season finale) is the single greatest Susie moment.
Season 4 (2004): 23-7, 3.28 ERA, 244.1 IP, 329 K’s, 1.18 WHIP
A classic year-after season: totally uneven, a little too star-heavy (I never thought Ben Stiller’s extended cameo worked) and a semiridiculous premise (Larry being wooed to star on Broadway in The Producers) … and yet, we had one pantheon episode (the one in which Larry took the African-American call girl to the Dodgers game)11 and one borderline pantheon episode (“The Surrogate,” in which Wanda thinks Larry is a racist); we finally met the immortal Marty Funkhouser; and we had maybe the single strangest Curb episode (the one with the Hasidic dry cleaner and the Survivor/Holocaust survivor mix-up). I didn’t mind the season finale with the Mel Brooks/Anne Bancroft twist. Let’s use Randy Johnson’s 1998 season — the one in which Seattle traded him to Houston and he went lights-out down the stretch.
Season 5 (2005): 12-11, 3.52 ERA, 220 IP, 228 K’s, 1.21 WHIP
The worst season of Curb episodes (a story arc centered around Richard Lewis’ kidney transplant and Larry believing he was adopted) was redeemed somewhat by the season finale, in which Larry has a near-death experience and briefly thinks that he’s Catholic.12 No pantheon episodes this season, although the one with Larry’s racist dog is close. I remember thinking that Curb was winding down at this point, that there were no lines left to cross and nowhere else for the characters to go. Let’s give this Nolan Ryan’s last Astros season, from 1988, when it looked like his career might be petering out.13
Season 6 (2007): 18-4, 2.98 ERA, 214.1 IP, 218 K’s, 1.16 WHIP
Big comeback season as the Blacks (a displaced family from Hurricane Katrina) move into Larry’s house and Funkhouser gets more and more run. No pantheon episodes unless you want to count “The Freak Book” (the one with Larry moonlighting as a chauffeur and a gift book of freaky pictures) or the season finale (in which Larry separates from his wife and drifts towards Loretta Black). These episodes were more fun in the moment; except for JB Smoove’s winning our hearts, the shows haven’t held up so well . Kind of like Clemens’ 2004 Cy Young comeback season.
Season 7 (2009): 19-4, 2.20 ERA, 232 IP, 177 K’s, 0.95 WHIP
The “Return of Seinfeld” gimmick, Larry’s waiting for Loretta’s biopsy results before breaking up with her, Jeff’s being seduced by Bam Bam Funkhouser (Marty’s mentally ill cousin),14 Larry and Seinfeld finally sharing the screen (and being genuinely funny together), the “Who really owned the George Constanza character, Larry or Jason Alexander?” gimmick (never resolved, actually), the fake Seinfeld comeback episode shot on the actual set, a quality season finale in which Larry and his wife seemingly get back to get together, and arguably the single funniest moment of any Curb episode (when Marty tells the “your C*** is in the sink” joke to Seinfeld). Just a thoroughly enjoyable season, and also, the riskiest Curb season because the worst-case scenario for a Seinfeld reunion far exceeded the best-case scenario for it. I thought it warranted Maddux’s 1997 season — fewer K’s, less firepower, but pinpoint control and veteran savvy.
Season 8 (on pace): 19-5, 1.74 ERA, 223 IP, 223 K’s, 0.92 WHIP
Has a chance to be as remarkable as Season 3: We’ve already had one pantheon episode (“Palestinian Chicken”), one borderline pantheoner (last Sunday’s “Vow of Silence”), some epic Funkhouser, three hilarious everyday terms for us to steal (“the social assassin,” “Koufaxing” and “chat-and-cut”), and best of all, they finally moved away from the “every season needs a gimmick” subplot. Even with five episodes left, I couldn’t resist blessing Season 8 with Koufax’s 1964 stats to bring it full circle.
As an actor, doesn’t it feel like Larry is at the peak of his powers this season? Like he’s gotten better? One running dilemma hung over the first seven seasons: Could Larry act like an unredeeming a-hole without driving his wife away from him? Now she’s gone and Larry has been unleashed as a full-fledged social assassin … and even better, he’s embracing it. This should have happened three seasons ago. Sorry, Cheryl, you’re the latest example of the Ewing Theory.
Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.
Previously from Bill Simmons: