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In a goofy year, there's a thing about the Titans

The mailbag returns after a long summer’s nap

After a four-month absence, the Sports Guy's Mailbag makes a triumphant return. Story

You know how TNT runs those “40 Games, 40 Nights” promos for the NBA playoffs? I haven’t done an old-school mailbag since May — I know, I know, totally inexcusable — so let’s call this one, “40 Questions, 140 Nights.” As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: There had to be someone out there who was watching “Titanic” for the first time when TNT switched to the Red Sox-Angels Game 3, right? I mean, there was a half-hour left! Even if you already saw the movie you just sat through 2½ hours and got abruptly thrown to Ernie Johnson.
— Mick, Sacramento

WEEK 6 QUICK PICKS

SAINTS (-7) over Raiders

Just drool, baby.

Ravens (+4.5) over COLTS

The ’08 Colts are like Amy Winehouse — they look awful and it should have ended by now.

Bengals (+5.5) over JETS

Tease the Jets and your bookie will pump his fist as he’s writing the bet down.

*Late change at 2:00 pm friday: Palmer scratched, Fitzpatrick starting, Simmons takes the Jets -6!

Panthers (+1.5) over BUCS

Note to Warren Sapp: “We owned the Panthers when I played in Tampa six years ago” isn’t a valid reason to pick the Bucs. Step it up.

FALCONS (+2.5) over Bears

Kyle Orton’s long overdue stinkbomb with two taints.

VIKINGS (-13) over Lions
I hope your fantasy team isn’t going against Peterson this week.

TEXANS (-3) over Dolphins

I can’t give up on the Texans (not even after the Sage Rosenfels Gambling Apocalypse last week).

Jaguars (+3) over BRONCOS

Or the Jags.

REDSKINS (-13.5) over Rams

A true contender wins this game by 25. At least.

Eagles (-4.5) over NINERS

Eagles = King of the Bad Teams.

CARDS (+5.5) over Cowboys

The upset special: Zona 38, Dallas 34.

SEAHAWKS (-2) over Packers

Screw it, let’s not even televise this one.

Patriots (+6) over CHARGERS

Belichick getting six against Norv? Really?

BROWNS (+8) over Giants

The Giants haven’t lost in 10 months. This is absurd.

Last Week: 6-6-2

Season: 37-34-3

SG: That sounds like a strange euphemism: “Things were going great, and then I got abruptly thrown to Ernie Johnson.” But you’re right — every time that happens, I always think of some 50-year-old housewife who spent the last 150 minutes getting sucked into “Titanic” for the 300th time, and suddenly, there’s Ernie Johnson staring at her right as Leo was trying to fit on that little raft with Kate Winslet’s big butt. I was trying to think of a Bizarro Situation for this and here it is: If you were watching “Hoosiers” on ESPN Classic, Flatch just got thrown into the trophy case and Ollie was coming in … and right at that moment, Pam Ward was staring at you and saying, “Sorry to interrupt, we’re throwing it to Detroit for bonus coverage of the WNBA semifinals.”

Q: Did you see the record for most on-screen analysts get shattered by CNN after the Palin-Biden debate? On “Anderson Cooper 360,” there were 11 men and women on stage with laptops in front of them. Beat that, NBC!
— Andrew W., New York

SG: Just wait until Dick Ebersol finishes his “Hollywood Squares” set for NBC’s “Football Night in America.” You will regret challenging him.

(P.S.: You know, this isn’t a terrible idea — a pregame show crossed with a game show. If they ever did that, who would get center square? Collinsworth? Olbermann? Or should it be a famous celebrity who likes sports? The thing is, they could totally pull it off: Dan Patrick, Jerome Bettis and Peter King on the top row; Tiki Barber, NFL guest star du jour and Collinsworth on the bottom row; and then Olbermann and NBC female guest star du jour flanking someone such as Billy Crystal or Chris Rock in the middle square. And Costas could ask everyone football questions and have two contestants play for a trip to Hawaii or something. The scary thing is, I think I would watch this. Like, every week.)

Q: I was reading your archives and stumbled across this gem: “(Robert) Kraft hired good-natured, upbeat San Fran assistant Pete Carroll as head coach (to replace Bill Parcells), the classic case of a ‘Player’s coach’ replacing a ‘Disciplinarian.’ Within months, players were diving into mosh pits, missing practices, and getting into car accidents and fistfights. Even though they were a consensus Super Bowl contender, the Patriots kept making mistakes in big moments … one of my readers at the time joked, ‘The Pete Carroll era finally answers the question of why Fredo was never given control of the Corleone family.'”

Sound familiar? (Cough. Cough.) 2008 Cowboys! (Cough. Cough.)
— Matt, San Antonio

SG: Every Cowboys fan just made Seinfeld’s “Newman!” grimace. That was fun. Look at the bright side — we’re five years away from Wade Phillips’ becoming the most successful coach in college football.

Q: Just had to give kudos to Gus Johnson for his orgasmic call on the Petruzelli-Kimbo fight. “It’s about to get serious. Oh! Slice in trouble! ROCKY! ROCKY! ROCKY IS HERE!!! SETH PETRUZELLI!!!!!” He just kept going. He left absolutely no room for “the Annoying Canadian Announcer” (as you called him), Mauro Ranallo, to say a freaking thing. He was basically stating, “Look, hoser, I GOT this call, and I swear if you say anything, ANYTHING to steal this moment away from me and MMA fans, I WILL TAKE YOUR THESAURUS AND BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH IT!!!” I love Gus Johnson.
— Marcus W., Portland, Ore.

SG: Me, too. The most underrated part of that call was Gus kept referring to Kimbo as “Slice,” like that was his real last name. That killed me. I’m convinced even more than ever that Gus should announce “WrestleMania” every spring, just so we could get moments like this during a Triple H-Big Show match: “Now H throws Show against the ropes … misses the clothesline … ohhhhhhhhhhhhh-whoaaaaaaaa! … CHOKE SLAM BY SHOW! CHOKE SLAM BY SHOW! And H is in trouble!”

BS REPORT FANTASY CHALLENGE

If you missed my “BS Report” with Matt Berry this week, we unveiled our 2008-09 fantasy hoops challenge: We’re picking eight readers and, if someone miraculously beats us, they will win a veritable cornucopia of prizes. Listen to the podcast or read Berry’s column on Thursday for all the detals.

B.S. Report with Seth Meyers

Q: Hi, my name is Kristy, and I am a Reader Mailbag Virgin. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, will the glory days of the “one star running back system” ever return? I miss the days of a healthy LT, the pre-prison Jamal Lewis era and Priest Holmes.
— Kristy, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to introduce you to my second wife … Kristy from Scottsdale!

Q: Did I just hear John Madden refer to Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes as “San Antonio Holmes?” In your mind, was this worse than last week when he pointed out that he got kicked out of the buffet line at the Mrs. McNabb-hosted pregame buffet because there was no room left on his plate? I’m pretty sure that the only reason I tune into “SNF” anymore is to boost my self-esteem.
— Todd, San Francisco

SG: That sounds like a sketch for “Frank TV” — Madden recording the names of “Madden 2009″ players and repeatedly screwing them up.

(Good God, I just referenced “Frank TV” without even thinking. Those ads are working! They’re brainwashing us! Very funny.)

Q: Can you give us your guess on the breakdown of Red Sox vs. Rays fans at the ALCS games in Tampa? My roommate and I think everyone is missing the boat on this one; it’s our secret weapon in the series.
— Jack, Medford, Mass.

SG: I would have guessed 25 percent, but I have Florida friends who swear the number will be closer to 40-45 percent. You’re right, it’s definitely an ace in the hole for the Sox, although I’m not sure it’s better than having Grant Balfour throwing 113 mph every game. Honestly, I have no idea what will happen: All the baseball signs point to the Rays (healthier, better bullpen, built for close games, no Lowell, banged-up Big Papi), but all the big-picture signs point to the Sox (experience, the Lester-Beckett combo, the Papelbon-Wheeler advantage, even the crowds). In gambling parlance, it’s the proverbial stayaway. I just can’t believe that, after this 2002 column and this 2007 column and this 2007 photo essay … the Red Sox and Rays are playing for the 2008 American League pennant. It’s like getting ready to watch Floyd Mayweather fight Jonathan Lipnicki for the welterweight title. How did we get here?

Q: Shouldn’t Elizabeth Perkins have faced statutory rape charges in “Big”?
— Chuck D., Clifton Park, N.Y.

SG: Absolutely. The rules are explicit here — if you have consensual sexual relations with anyone not legally old enough to consent to such behavior, it’s statutory rape regardless of whether they turned themselves into an adult by making a wish to a Zoltar machine. Perkins’ character worked with Josh Baskin (the Tom Hanks character) in New York City when the age of consent was 15 years old. Well, Baskin was only 13 at the time. So there you go.

Q: I love your columns. They’re so fantastically asinine and informative at the same time. I enjoy almost everything you write. Yet, I envy you, and because of that, I hate you.
— Huy, Irvine, Calif.

SG: Hate me, love me, I don’t care. Just don’t start stalking me like the woman who stalked Luke Walton. And by the way, where does “stalking Luke Walton” rank on the list of “Craziest Sports Related Crimes of the Past 25 Years?” My top six looks like this …

    1. The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan assault.
    2. Monica Seles getting stabbed during a match.
    3. A woman deciding, “I think it’s time I started stalking Luke Walton.”
    4. George Steinbrenner framing his own player (Dave Winfield) and getting caught.
    5. Nate Newton being pulled over in his car on a Houston highway with 175 pounds of marijuana.
    6. Jess Kersey’s call on Larry Johnson’s four-point play to beat Indiana in Game 3 of the ’99 playoffs.

Q: As a lifelong Browns fan and fantasy owner of Braylon Edwards, I am outraged that you would leave him off of your list for Dropsies All-Stars. How could you do this?
— T.J., Philly

SG: I’d like to apologize to Braylon, the Browns fans and everyone who ever owned him on a fantasy team. There’s no excuse. By the way, thank goodness Braylon or Bernard Berrian wasn’t at this carnival earlier in the week.

Q: I just watched Manny Ramirez tell the TBS announcer to “talk to Scott because he’s the one who brought me to Los Angeles” in his post-Game 3 interview. Can you please add this to your Manny column as the 40th footnote and add a line like, “I TOLD YOU!”
— Robby, Los Angeles (by way of Boston)

SG: I’m more partial to, “And you thought I spent 9,200 words making this up.”

Q: I just saw a link on ESPN.com talking about the Lakers’ first preseason game. So, I clicked the NBA link at the top of ESPN.com to see how my Sonics did in their first preseason game, meaningless as it might be. And then I remembered. This was my first “It Just Sank In” moment as a Sonics fan. I’m going to rummage through my cupboards for some scotch now.
— Jack, Seattle

SG: Here’s my contribution to the poor Sonics fans: You know the team Kevin Durant plays for right now? I’m never mentioning their “new” name in this column. Ever. For as long as I have it. I’m alternating between these four names …

    1. Kevin Durant’s Team.
    2. The Seattle SloppySeconds
    3. The Bennett City Hijackers
    4. The Team That Shall Not Be Named

Q: I’d like to share with you a highlight from my last trip to Yankee Stadium. In about the fourth inning, a mysterious puddle appeared at my feet. I checked around for a spilled beer bottle or something, but there was no apparent cause. How could they tear this place down?
— Sam, Norwalk, Conn.

SG: Look on the bright side — they were able to build a new stadium they didn’t totally need by using tax dollars and obscenely bumped-up ticket prices during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. It’s all good.

Q: It must take forever to write a book when you can only type with two fingers ….
— Jerry, Seattle

SG: (Searching for a comeback … )

Andy Reid

Q: On behalf of every Eagles fan, can you please be the one media guy who doesn’t suck up to Andy Reid and point out all the reasons why he sucks and needs to either resign or start smoking? The man either needs more oxygen or more nicotine. Thanks in advance.
— Randy, South Philly

SG: I’d be delighted! Reid is like Art Shell with a better PR staff. He makes terrible decisions at the worst possible times. His players make boneheaded mistakes (like the DeSean Jackson spike, or McNabb’s pathetic eight-minute drill in Super Bowl XXXIX) and nobody ever blames him. He doesn’t seem to understand the strengths and weaknesses of his players even remotely, as we witness every week when poor David Akers is forced to try 50-yard field goals with a 43-yard leg and their crappy offensive line is forced to keep ramming it down someone’s throat on third-and-1. His clock management has always been horrendous — always — even back when the Eagles were going to the NFC title game every year.

Here’s how much Reid has slipped as an NFL coach: During the Skins-Eagles game, Antwaan Randle-El threw an option pass TD that Reid challenged even though Randle-El was clearly behind the line. There was no debate. I watched the play live and didn’t even know what Reid was challenging until Troy Aikman guessed it correctly. (“You’re exactly right, Troy!”) So we wasted two minutes watching replays of Randle-El throwing the pass from two yards behind the line of scrimmage, then Philly eventually losing a timeout on one of the five dumbest challenges of this decade. And I was sitting there thinking that we needed some sort of “Coaching Boners” stat to capture the following things …

    1. Calling for inane challenges that have no chance of getting overturned.

    2. Horrendous goal-line plays that cause fans to start booing even as the ball-carrier is getting tackled.

    3. Egregious and indefensible brain-farts by a player.

    4. Any needlessly counterproductive decision along the lines of “David Akers couldn’t make a field goal of more than 50 yards right now unless we injected him with enough cocaine, Red Bull and HGH to kill a thoroughbred horse, but screw it, we’re trying this 52-yarder anyway.”

    5. Screwing up the clock management in the “Two minutes to go and we need two scores” scenario.

    6. Screwing up your three timeouts when there is less than four minutes left, you’re trailing and you need to save as many seconds as possible.

When you think about it, we could easily keep track of those six categories. And if we did, we’d find that Andy Reid has doubled the total of any other coach for 2008 coaching boners through five weeks. I am convinced.

OJ Simpson

Q: O.J. Simpson getting convicted … biggest makeup call ever?
— Jon, Boston

SG: Unquestionably. It’s amazing Ed Hochuli wasn’t involved.

Q: Why didn’t you ever address the ridiculous argument that the Redeem Team would stand a chance against the Dream Team? I’m sick of the hyperbole “now is the greatest of all time” crap. The disrespect to some of the greatest players of the past is sickening. At some point, it would be great if you would break this down Dr. Jack style.
— Steve, Des Moines, Iowa

SG: Waste of time. The Dream Team was the perfect international team: Jordan in his prime, Pippen at his all-around apex, Robinson and Ewing protecting the rim, Barkley crashing the boards and careening around like a runaway train, Magic and Stockton running the show, two of the best shooting forwards ever (Bird and Mullin) draining wide-open 3s … I mean, Luis Scola and Pau Gasol were the best big men on the floor in back-to-back medal games against the Redeem Team. Anyone who “broke down” the Redeem Team-Dream Team matchup was basically announcing, “I couldn’t think of a better idea for a column today.”

Q: We’re going into a relatively large series against a team where Derek Lowe is slated to pitch three times if it goes seven games. Lowe has owned the Phillies over his career … got any advice on how to bring out the Derek Lowe Face at this stage of his career against a team that doesn’t hit him?
— Mike, Philadelphia

SG: Here’s an idea — trailing in Game 1, you should have Chase Utley and Pat Burrell hit home runs to give your team a 3-2 lead. I bet you’ll see it.

(You know what was funny? I watched it thinking, “Hey, it’s my old friend!” Then we received about 75 e-mails in five minutes with readers saying the same thing. And I like Derek Lowe. I think he’s clutch. It was just funny to see him pull that face out again Thursday night — it was like getting farted on by an old roommate from college or something.)

Q: If the Dodgers open the World Series at Boston, what’s the over/under on where Manny’s first homer lands? Lansdowne Street? Though a fourth-floor window at Jillians? Into traffic on the Mass Pike? Into one of the BU buildings on Commonwealth Ave.? Or does he make it to the Charles?
— Mike D., New York

SPORTS GAL’S PICKS

The Sports Gal took the week off for reasons that remain unclear. Here are her Week 6 picks: NO -7, Ind -4.5, Jets -5.5, Car +1.5, Det +13.5, Chi -2.5, Hou -3, StL +13.5, Den -3, SF +4.5, Zona -5, Sea -2, NE +5, NYG -8.

Last Week: 6-6-2.
Season: 36-35-3

SG: I think it’s going to be one of those line drives that’s still going up as it ricochets off some drunk guy’s head in the second row of the Monster seats. Seriously, and I’m not even kidding, it’s not a bad idea for the Red Sox to force everyone in the Monster seats to wear protective headgear during every Manny at-bat in a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series. And I’m not even talking about a bicycle helmet but one of those thick helmets with an eye shield like the ones racecar drivers wear.

Three other notes about this: First, the reaction for Manny’s first at-bat at Fenway, if it happens in the World Series, will surpass every other “I wonder what’s going to happen here?” reaction, with the possible exception of the stretch in the mid-’80s when Macho Man Savage was slapping Miss Elizabeth around even though some wrestling fans still liked him. Second, if and when Manny hits his first World Series home run at Fenway, he will unveil the slowest home run trot in the history of baseball unless Kirk Douglas or John Wooden happens to go deep in a celebrity softball game within the next five years. And third, if Josh Beckett (he’s the only Red Sox starter who would do it, and I kinda think he would) threw at Manny in the World Series and Manny walked toward the mound, it would surpass the Zimmer-Pedro and Piazza-Clemens playoff altercations as the single biggest “It’s on! It’s on!” moment in recent baseball history. By the way, if I had to guess the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series in the past six days, I’d have to go with 12 solid hours.

Q: Was that 10-week summer “break” really to finish your book or did the head guy up at ESPN just suspend you for your gambling problems, a la David Stern?
— Jeff, Utica, N.Y.

SG: (Consulting my lawyers before ultimately deciding not to comment.)

Q: Brad Childress needs to be put atop your “don’t gamble on this guy” list immediately. He makes worse decisions than Heidi Montag with a karaoke mic. But that’s not why I’m writing. You have a young daughter around 3 — is she asking you about the erection-pill commercials yet? I can’t believe I’m coming to you for parental advice, but I thought you probably had some funny way to deal with it. Please enlighten us. Viivaaaaaaaaa, viagaraaaaaaaaa! Viva! Viva! Viiiivaaaaaaaa!
— Paul G, Chicago

SG: I have very few rules for the mailbag, but this is one of them: No answers for questions that involve my daughter and the words “erection pills,” no matter the context. I just can’t bend on this one. No pun intended.

Q: Where were you and what were you doing this summer when you found out Billy Packer no longer worked for CBS Sports?
— Trent T., Burbank, Calif.

SG: You mean, July 14, 2008 … or as it will be known from this point forward, Curmudgeon Liberation Day? I don’t even remember. I just remember briefly blacking out from joy.

Q: Of all of the articles that I have read over the past few years, why haven’t we read a mention of the Mike Scioscia Playoff Face against Boston? Every time he is on camera he looks like a cross between a small child who is terrified to look under his bed and a man who ate a really bad burrito with no bathroom in sight.
— Art, Portland

Mike Sciocia

SG: As a Red Sox fan who normally stresses out in October, it has been an absolute pleasure to compete three times in the past five years against a team that tries ridiculous suicide squeezes in key moments; keeps innings alive with dumb errors; brings in its “I can only get three outs and that’s it and I thought we just spent 162 games establishing this” closer in the eighth inning; careens around the basepaths like they should be holding a bottle of Jack Daniels; puts guys on base to pitch to the greatest postseason hitter ever (Manny Ramirez) with the game on the line; gets so tight in the dugout that it looks like they’re watching a UFO land and everything else. I’d just like to thank you, Mike Scioscia. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.

Q: There is a team in my fantasy league named “2 Mannings, 1 Cup.” What’s the best team name you have seen?
— Brian, Boston

SG: That one.

Q: Doesn’t Ray Lewis have to lead the league in my new stat: “Last Man to Dive in on an Already Made Tackle?” As the play is dying, he comes flying in, diving, rolling, jumping up, slapping the helmet, shouting, doing that crazy electric-boogaloo dance that makes my eyes bleed out before my head explodes. Having added nothing to the play other than his half-seizure, he’s all of a sudden the center of attention for these nitwit announcers.
— Robert, Fort Worth, Texas

SG: I demand that “Last Man to Dive in on an Already Made Tackle” become an official Football Outsiders stat starting this week. The real shame is we’ll never know who had more career LMDAMTs — Lewis or Junior Seau, who had 650 of them last season alone. It’s kind of like how we’ll never know who has the sack record. We just have to wonder.

Q: As much as I hate Boston fans, I must admit that they scream “OOOOOOoooooh!” louder than any fans in all of baseball on two-strike pitches that are three feet off the plate.
— Matt, Wichita, Kan.

SG: That was this month’s winner of the “Backhanded Compliment” Award. Speaking of Boston fans, my buddy Gus had an idea for the Fenway games that I couldn’t resist passing along: Nearly every time Big Papi steps out of the batter’s box, he spits into his hands and claps twice. Well, why wouldn’t the Fenway fans clap twice at the same time? Maybe the double clap could turn his playoffs around. If Big Papi isn’t hitting, the Red Sox aren’t beating Tampa.

Q: On the Fourth of July I was reading the “Today in Baseball History” section of my local newspaper. One tidbit was easily the most entertaining of all: “1976 — Philadelphia Phillies catcher Tim McCarver lost a grand slam when he passed teammate Garry Maddox on the basepaths.” There’s nothing more I can really say.
— Adam, Chesterton

SG: That was despicable! That was despicable what he did! Despicable! Despicable! By the way, Timmy … go Google the Billy Packer stories from July 14. Those are our headlights in your rearview mirror.

Q: Please for the LOVE OF GOD, explain why every time you win something in baseball you get a champagne celebration?!?!
— JD, Indy

Joe Torre

SG: Kept getting this question for two weeks, so let’s settle it here: I’m not against these celebrations since it’s always fun to watch people pour liquor on each other; it’s always fun to watch the toupees and hair extensions of media members get doused with champagne; it’s always fun to watch drunk people get interviewed on live TV; it’s always fun to see born-agains and recovering alcoholics getting involved; and really, there’s no downside at all. But since it happens four times a year for the World Series champs because of the expanded playoffs, we need to tinker with the actual liquor in the celebrations: Clinch your division and you’re only allowed to celebrate with good canned beer; wild-card clinchers can only be cheaper canned beer, something like Natty Light or Busch. First-round clinchers earn celebrations with those big 40-ounce bottles of Bud or whatever. Pennant clinchers earn celebrations with cheap champagne. And for the World Series, you get good champagne. So there would be a liquor hierarchy that gets better as the clinches get more important. I think this could work.

Q: Is Jonathan Papelbon to champagne celebrations what Peter North is to porn? Also, what’s the status of your Papelboner heading into the ALCS?
— Alex, Cambridge, Mass.

SG: I am at half-Masterson. Very nervous about heading into the ALCS with exactly one reliever that I trust. Might need some more liquor or some Viagra to get me going.

Q: Was your heavy use of footnotes in your Manny column a not-so-subtle (but still effective) memorial tribute to David Foster Wallace? He might have been the finest sportswriter-who-wasn’t-actually-a-sportswriter who ever lived. His portrait of Roger Federer a few years back was stunning (and, as a New Englander, you’ve got to read “Consider The Lobster”). Incredible writer; he’ll be missed.
— Mike W., Westport, Conn.

SG: I wrote the first and second drafts of that column (with footnotes) before Wallace died. So it was a little surreal how that worked out. The only other time I ever used footnotes for something I wrote was with my book. Anyway, as brilliant as his Federer piece was, I’d rank his Michael Joyce piece higher — I thought it was one of the single best sports pieces ever written, right there with “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” (John Updike); “Gone for Good” (Roger Angell); “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” (Richard Ben Cramer); “Lawdy Lawdy He’s Great” (Mark Kram); “The Silent Season of a Hero” (Gay Talese); “Ego” (Norman Mailer); and “Pure Heart” (William Nack). I love so many other sports pieces (Hunter Thompson’s Kentucky Derby piece, George Plimpton’s “Medora Goes to a Game,” Angell’s “Agincourt and After” and “Distance,” Charlie Pierce’s piece about a post-HIV Magic Johnson, Wright Thompson’s piece about his father, John McPhee’s “Centre Court,” Frank Deford’s Jimmy Connors profile, Talese’s “The Loser,” Wallace’s Federer piece, Tony Kornheiser’s Rick Barry profile, David Halberstam’s piece about Jordan after the ’98 Finals, Rick Reilly’s profile of Bryant Gumbel, Gary Smith’s profiles of Muhammad Ali and Jim Valvano, and so on and so on), but if you’re picking a “Top 12 Greatest Sports Pieces Ever,” those eight pieces have to be included. They just do.

Q: Did you know that if you Google “gay guy with beard” under Google images, your photo comes up at the beginning of the fourth page? Just thought you’d like to know. P.S. You may be asking yourself why one would search for this. Rest assured, it involved trash talk on my fantasy football homepage.
— Kevin, Pittsburgh

SG: That has become the go-to the excuse for all aberrant online behavior these days: “Rest assured, it involved trash talk on my fantasy football homepage.”

Q: Can we give Chelcie Ross some kind of honorary Barbara Hershey wet-blanket-in-a-sports-movie-except-you’re-a-dude Lifetime Achievement award? I just saw a commercial for “The Express” and heard his familiar drawl: “He shouldn’t play!” That makes four major sports movies where he told someone they couldn’t succeed: “The Express,” “Rudy,” “Major League,” and “Hoosiers.”
— Soumyajit, Cincy

SG: Done and done. Maybe Fox will hire him as a baseball analyst.

Q: In your recent Manny article, you are very harsh on Scott Boras. Although he might be a conniving two-face, does that really mean he’s a bad person? Sure, he will purposely manipulate a person like Manny to earn more money, but that’s all it is, earning money. He doesn’t steal. He is just good at what he does. Don’t change your views on him (because you write about this with so much passion), just next time you write about him think of how he goes home to his kids, just like you, at night.
— Jack E., Swarthmore, Pa.

SG: The only difference is that he goes back to his kids and probably drinks their blood in a wine glass to keep himself young. You’re not getting me to feel bad for Boras. He’s the most brilliant agent alive, but he doesn’t care about people like you and me, and as he proved with the Pedro Alvarez-Pittsburgh saga, it’s difficult to tell if he even cares about the welfare of his clients. I don’t think he’s any different than the greedy jerks who just brought down our economy; Boras does what’s best for himself and his client and everyone else be damned. He’s like Jerry Maguire crossed with Spencer Pratt. You know who else bent a few rules for the betterment of their families? All the guys who just brought down Wall Street. I’ll get off my high horse now.

Kevin McHale

Q: Is Kevin McHale out of the next Atrocious GM Summit now that he built a championship team?
— Noah, Bayside, N.Y.

SG: We’re going to have him be our featured speaker at lunch.

Q: How many more times are we going to be subjected to Tito Francona’s bonehead decisions? He is great at managing players’ egos and building relationships with them, but please get him a coach to do the X’s and O’s before he kills us. We can’t keep overcoming his major screwups, can we? I’ve said it since 2004 and it is still true … just amazing we keep winning despite him. I set the over/under of his ALCS miscues at four!
— Randy, Derry, N.H.

SG: You can read more of Randy’s work at his “Mr. Ungrateful” blog. Here’s my take on Tito: He has never been outmanaged in a playoff series; his players love him and play hard for him; he handles the media as deftly as anyone this side of Doc Rivers; and by all accounts, he’s a genuinely good person. You’re never going to find a perfect manager or coach. That person just doesn’t exist. So if you had your druthers (love that word), you’d want your manager’s biggest weakness to be, “makes some occasionally boneheaded decisions that rarely come back to haunt the team because of the horseshoe that was surgically inserted into his rear end during the ’04 playoffs.” He’s certainly the best Red Sox manager of my lifetime. And beyond that, nobody spits sunflower seeds with more grace and precision.

Q: Have you ever seen so many football helmets come off so easily and so frequently in all your years watching the NFL? This is ridiculous, someone’s going to get decapitated and no one’s talking about it.
— Doug H., Hadley, Mass.

SG: Yeah, it seems to happen once or twice a game now. I don’t think anyone will get decapitated — although, if it ever happens, I hope Gus Johnson is announcing — but it does seem like we’re heading for an incident like the one that nearly happened with Adrian Peterson last Monday: A running back straining for extra yards, getting his helmet ripped off, and then, in the 1.7 seconds that pass before everyone realizes that his helmet got ripped off, another defender coming charging in and nailing him right in the head. This seems inevitable. The point is this: I think we need better chin straps for helmets.

Q: I stumbled across a past podcast where you and JackO debate how he got his nickname and you conceded that he remembers things much better than you do. This reminded me of my group of college friends (we’ve been together for 15 years now) and how I have a knack for remembering things a little too well. For this, they’ve dubbed me the “whore historian.” Before you jump to the likely conclusion as to why I have the nickname, let me explain: I can remember almost every guy/girl my friends have hooked up with, how they met, where we were, what nickname we gave the guy/girl and why they were dubbed said nickname. So if we want a good session of ripping each other apart, people usually call/text me for ammo. Is this a skill I can put on my résumé?
— Ellie, Chicago

SG: My initial answer: Yes. My second thought: I’d call it the “Whoristorian.” Just sounds better. My third thought: You’re the leader in the clubhouse for “Sports Guy Reader of the Year” right now. My fourth thought: You should definitely have your own blog. My fifth thought: I’m going to say a prayer tonight that my wife doesn’t have a college roommate who earned the nickname, “The Whore Historian,” or even “The Whoristorian.” OK, I’m done.

Q: Reading you latest article made me wonder: Has anyone ever comprehensively tallied the number of “Boogie Nights” references in your body of work? Maybe you could make it into a contest, where whoever has the closest guess gets a shoutout on your podcast or something. My guess is 78.
— Alex, Alamo, Calif.

SG: 78??? Are you crazy? That number has to be closer to 150. We’ll never know because it’s not like my readers have time to sift through eight years of columns in my archives — they have more important things to do, like play “Madden” or get stoned.

Q: I was telling my girlfriend about the Manny-Sox dynamic and the potential for a Dodgers/Red Sox World Series and she mentioned that in “A League of Their Own” the team traded the cranky younger sister because of the stressful clubhouse dynamic, and that the rival team ultimately prevailed because of this. I thought, “My God, I must tell Simmons.” Please tell me this isn’t an applicable analogy, or some way we can stop it.
— Joe the Guy, Boston

SG: We can’t stop it. It’s too late. You went there and we can’t go back. You have to live with it for the rest of your life. The thing is, it’s the greatest possible comparison. I will now throw a Molotov cocktail at myself.

Q: I just sat through the postgame show for Minnesota-New Orleans and watched Emmitt Smith criticize the Saints because they “went lackadaisical” on a blocked field goal, then sternly looked in to the camera as he chided the Saints for having too many “offensive turnovers.” What is my next move?
— R. Tennant, Schaumburg, Ill.

SG: Just try to get through the next few days without getting debacled. That’s my advice.

Q: Is the hottest new NFL phrase “dink and dunk?” I heard nearly every pre-post-halftime show use this phrase on three different channels.
— KT, New York

SG: Yup, it’s replaced “running downhill” as the signature annoying phrase of 2008 … at least so far, since there’s still time for “pick-six” to overtake it. Which reminds me, I nominated “T.I.N.T” (touchdown interception) to replace pick-six two weeks ago and some astute readers pointed out that I could tweak that to “T.A.I.N.T” (touchdown after interception). You have to admit, that couldn’t work better. Jon Kitna threw two taints today. Brett Favre leads active QBs with 28 career taints.

Q: How would you describe Bob Costas’ role on “Sunday Night Football” right now?
— Lucas, Shaker Heights

Confused? Undefined? He’s like an emcee — it’s like when Jerry Lewis kind of wanders in and out of his own telethon and you might not see him again for five hours. Costas doesn’t moderate any of the three-man discussions because Collinsworth always does it. He doesn’t narrate any of the highlights because Olbermann and Patrick do it. Well, if you’re not moderating, and you’re not narrating highlights, and you’re not offering football analysis, what the hell is left? He’s like a maitre’d at a nice restaurant: “Welcome to Sunday Night Football, I’m Bob Costas, lemme show you to your table … Keith Olbermann and Cris Collinsworth will be right with you.”

Q: So you’re looking for the four-way version of paper-rock-scissors that makes the most sense? I think I found it: blow-booze-weed-sleep. Yes, booze will defeat blow and weed will defeat booze. Sleep can beat weed and of course, blow beats sleep. Granted I don’t behave this way EVERY day.
— Vaughn, Philly

SG: Hold on, I have a better one …

Q: My friend almost got into an altercation with a guy who had a hook instead of a hand. He contends that having a hook for a hand would be an advantage in a bar fight (for the obvious reasons); but I contend that because the prosthesis included the guy’s forearm, it would be a disadvantage as arm speed and dexterity were reduced with the lack of arm muscle. What are your thoughts?
— Adam, Washington, D.C.

SG: Almost there …

Q: My friends and I were discussing the two-faced lady in the Southwest Airlines commercial that you are so fond of. Well, say one of her faces is eating a banana and the other is eating a corn dog. Would the corn dog and banana touch, or do the faces have two separate throats? They probably share a throat, right?
— Jarric, Lawrence, Kan.

SG: Yup, these are my readers

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.

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief 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.

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