Put it this way: the Chilean miners could have been trapped and rescued three times since my last mailbag. Unacceptable. We’re stretching this baby into two parts with Week 7 NFL Picks running as a sidebar in Part 2. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: Saw your tweet (after Game 4 of the NLCS) that San Francisco is “totally underrated as a baseball city” and “you can’t have a better playoff atmosphere than that.” I am a Dodgers fan who HATES THE GIANTS. You didn’t really describe Silicon Valley techie dorks and fair-weather hipster grad students who miss the first two innings because their ultimate Frisbee game ran late as “underrated” baseball fans, right? They couldn’t even sell out Game 3!
— Robert, Pasadena, Calif.
SG: Hey, I expect playoff baseball crowds to generate noise for nine innings, stand every time their pitchers get two strikes, cheer like lunatics any time something good happens, and avoid going into a terrified shell like the guy at the end of “Blair Witch Project” any time something bad happens. That’s the job of everyone in the building. I thought the Giants fans did their jobs. That’s why I tweeted about it. But three other dynamics pushed the atmosphere to another level.
1. For a big playoff game, I want a ballpark that gives me chills in person and looks just as spectacular on television (especially in the HD Era). If I’m not there, I want to be able to feel the tension, feel the history, feel the angst of the fans, feel the excitement, feel everything. I want to see wide blimp shots of the stadium and think, “What an amazing ballpark, I wish I had gone to that game.” I want to feel like something substantial is happening.
Only three ballparks make me feel that way: Fenway, Wrigley and AT&T Park (formerly Pac Bell Park). Fenway has the Green Monster and seats hugging the field; Wrigley has ivy-covered fences and apartment buildings surrounding the park; and AT&T has San Francisco Bay. That’s why they have the collective hammer over everyone else. Old Yankee Stadium got there because of its history and its staggeringly high upper decks, and Dodger Stadium (which always makes me feel like I’m in a “Mad Men” episode) gets 90 percent there during a night game if the sun is setting the right way. But that’s it. I like the new wave of impeccably done ballparks (Philly, Texas, Cleveland, etc.), but they lack that extra kicker that makes you think, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m here.” Sorry, Philly. You’re not topping McCovey Cove. And you know it.
2. The Giants won in 1954 in New York, moved to California a few years later and haven’t won since. They lost the ’62 World Series in the most brutal way possible (McCovey’s line drive that got snared). They watched in horror as the underdog Dodgers won in 1988; one year later, when the Giants finally made it back, a devastating earthquake happened right before their first World Series home game in 27 years and took precedence over everything that happened on the field. Thirteen years later, they choked away a five-run lead in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, gave away the title to Anaheim, then their best player became the most loathed athlete of his generation. Look, I can’t watch a Giants playoff home game and NOT think of that stuff. Fifty-plus years of pain. It hangs over everything. That’s not atmosphere? You didn’t feel it last night in the third inning when their defense fell apart and the fans went into “oh, no, please, no …” mode?
3. Here’s how I know the Giants crowd had it going these past few days: Joe Buck actually sounded excited to be there. Now that’s saying something. By the way, if the pre-2004 Red Sox blew a World Series trip in Game 5 — playing at home, with our best pitcher on the mound — and now had to fly cross-country to clinch on the road, I’d spend the entire weekend in the fetal position. I’m not sure the Giants can bounce back from that. Tortured teams can’t blow chances in ways that remind their fans, “Oh, that’s right, God hates us.” It never ends well. Hope I’m wrong.
Q: How bummed were you when you found out that Kevin Connolly is starring in “Secretariat,” only he’s not playing the jockey???
— Nate Meyl, Boston
SG: Extremely bummed. Especially because he didn’t have any one-on-one scenes with Secretariat — it would have been fun to see the expression on his face as he realized the horse was a better actor than Adrian Grenier.
Q: Why is it that everyone in porn is called a “porn star”? Is Laurence Fishburne’s daughter a top grossing star, or one of the best in her field? Probably not, but she gets to be called “porn star.” It’d be like calling Jed Lowrie “baseball star Jed Lowrie” or calling some guy that’s been in some movie a “movie star.” Until she makes something special, she’s just “in porn” to me.
— David, Santa Rosa, Calif.
SG: It’s because we feel weird calling someone a “porn actor” or “porn actress” because this insinuates that they can act. It’s like how ESPN.com runs a box on the weekends with everyone’s NFL picks that has links for “EXPERTS” and then “SIMMONS.” I’m not an expert just like Fishburne’s daughter isn’t an actress. Really, we should use the words “porn performer” or “adult film performer” but it’s more fun to say “porn star.”
Q: I’d be willing to bet every dollar I have that JWoww will be the most famous female wrestler in the WWE in five years or less. Her persona is already league-ready — “You wanna stay, you can get your ass beat!” WWE needs to JWoww. Your thoughts?
— Ryan W., Pelham, N.H.
SG: I received that e-mail two months before JWoww made her debut on TNA Wrestling (last week). Some things are just meant to be. Here’s where I think the “Jersey Shore” cast ends up five years from today:
JWoww: WWE women’s champ
Situation: Host of the Food Network’s smash hit, “We Have a Situation.”
Vinnie: Porn star (not even a performer, a STAR).
Snookie: Celebrity Fit Club on VH1.
Paulie D: Host of “Celebrity Piercings” on MTV.
Sammi & Ronnie: Either breaking up or getting back together
Angelina: Porn performer.
Q: I was thinking about how ESPN has “ESPN New York” and “ESPN Boston” and then it crossed my mind: Why not have a few others such as “ESPN LeBron,” “ESPN Favre” and “ESPN Tiger”?
— Joe R., Summit
SG: Yes, I received this e-mail two months before we created the “Heat Index.” We already have ESPN Tiger: It’s called ESPN.com/golf. And we already have ESPN Favre: It’s called ESPN. But I agree with Joe: The more special sections, the merrier. For instance …
“ESPN Sordid” — An ACC basketball coach being investigated by the NCAA for paying players? ESPN Sordid. An NFL star accused of texting pictures of his junk to a female reporter? ESPN Sordid. A baseball star sued for giving someone a herpie (to steal a phrase from Paulie D)? ESPN Sordid. All the bad stuff would go here.
“ESPN Rip City” — Wall-to-wall Blazers coverage delivered in the most ingratiating way possible for those soccer mom fanatics from Portland. That’s right, gushing hyperbole about every Blazer combined with vitriolic attacks on every media member who dares to cross them! Running features include, “Brandon Roy vs. Michael Jordan: Closer Than You Think,” “Why Wesley Matthews Was a Bigger Summer Signing Than LeBron” and “Oden vs. Durant: This Isn’t Over Yet.”
“ESPN England” — I pined for this page after hearing that Wayne Rooney wanted out of Manchester United. If Rooney jumped to Manchester City, as rumored, it would be like Jeter jumping to the Mets this winter — only if Jeter was in his prime, grew up in New York and had to leave because of a hooker scandal, and also, if baseball was the only professional sport that anyone cared about in America. So why didn’t we have Soccer Marc Stein or Soccer Adam Schefter chasing down this story, or Soccer Chad Ford writing one of those “Five Possible Landing Spots for Rooney” columns? Where was Soccer J.A. Adande with a “If Rooney Goes to Man City, It Would Be Like Kobe Going to The Clips Multiplied by 100” column? Why don’t we have an ESPN Trade Machine for soccer? (Or in this case, an ESPN Transfer Machine?) We need this page. Like, right now.
Q: I’m a teenager and I just lost my virginity. The first person I am telling is you.
— Joe, Chicago
SG: I bet it took longer to type that e-mail. That reminds me …
Q: Is there going to be a better basketball chant than “15 sec-onds! Fifteen sec-onds!” for the crowd of any team playing Louisville this season?
— Timothy, Knoxville
SG: No. Obviously. But don’t sleep on the sarcastic “SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE-KICK! SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE-KICK! SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE-KICK! SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE-KICK!” chant every time LeBron shoots free throws this season. I can’t wait for that one. Speaking of LeBron …
Q: Has there ever been someone as beloved as LeBron who managed to totally destroy his/her image without being part of a sex scandal (Tiger) or engaging in some illegal/banned activity (Bonds)?
— Michael L., Edmonton
SG: Nope. Never. But you just described why LeBron can (and will) come back: He didn’t do anything other than handle a situation poorly. By mid-January, if Miami is 32-3 and LeBron is averaging a 27-10-12, you think anyone will care outside of Ohio that his team of advisors walked him into a whacking like he was Tommy getting made in “Goodfellas”?
You know who predicted the brief fall of LeBron? Allen Iverson! FIVE YEARS AGO! Remember his compelling interview that launched “Quite Frankly with Stephen A Smith,” and unfortunately, turned out to be the highlight of that show? At the 33-minute mark of this clip, Stephen A. asked about LeBron and here’s what Iverson said:
“I always let LeBron know, ‘Dawg, they love you right now, they love you right now, but please believe me, the first incident, the first time something happens, they are waiting, man … just like, I hate to bring it up, but the other situation with Kobe. All this time he’s the No. 1 man, the perfect man in everyone’s heart. He’s the No. 1 man … all I know is, you are you. You are who you are, man. Don’t try to act like somebody else. And I’m not saying Kobe acted like that, Kobe Bryant is who he is, dog, but these people want him to be the Kobe Bryant that they want him to be. And it ain’t right.”
That was the real issue last summer: We wanted LeBron to be who we wanted him to be. And you know what he was? A 25-year-old guy who wanted to live in Miami, play with his buddies, get some help and find the easiest way possible to win a championship. He knew Cleveland fans would feel betrayed, but his advisors convinced him that if he gave $3 million in proceeds from his contrived TV special to charity, it would soften the blow. They were wrong. We took it personally. And as a basketball fan, it continues to be hard for me to accept that someone who had a chance to be the GOAT took the easy way out. And yet … it’s only hard because LeBron didn’t act like the LeBron I wanted him to be. Who knew that Allen Iverson was Confucius?
Q: You wondered (in Part 2 of your July mailbag) who’s the funniest person in 2010? HAS to be the Shake Weight. No one in 2010 will top it, mark my word.
— Alexei, Brooklyn
SG: Fair point. At the very least, we’re in a dead heat between Shake Weight and Daniel Tosh with two months to go. I have Shake Weight as a -240 favorite.
Q: In its transplanted habitat of the deserts of Southern California, when fall approaches the Simmons’ behavior erratically changes. As the days grow shorter and the temperature decreases, the Simmons inexplicably abandons the environmental nutrients that sustained him through the hot summer months. No longer content to feast on the sport of baseball, growing ripe and supple during these October months, the Simmons scours the sands for meager and unripe basketball stories not quite ready for consumption. Biologists do not know why the Simmons is satisfied to pass on thick juicy baseball reports only to dig for the meager and tart basketball news. Some researchers have theorized that the Simmons engages in this ritual to make itself skinny and less appealing to predators. Others opine that in its new transplanted habitat, the heat during the summer confuses the Simmons, leading him to abandon baseball when it is most nutritious and tender. Either way, it is another fascinating phenomenon — here on Planet Earth.
— Mattie, Lafayette, Calif.
SG: (Searching for a comeback.)
Q: Wait, when did Betty Draper marry Mike Breen? Did I miss something?
— Scott, Baton Rouge
SG: Scott sent that e-mail a few weeks ago and ruined Betty’s husband for me. I kept shouting out Breen lines every time he showed up on screen. My wife hated it, mainly because she has no idea who Mike Breen is and didn’t get the joke. Even during the great scene with Betty and her husband in the season finale, I couldn’t help myself.
–Betty: I wanted a fresh start. I’m entitled to that, OK?
–Husband: “There is no fresh start! Lives carry on!”
–Me: “From way downtown … BANG!!!!!!!!!!”
–Sports Gal: “Just stop it! It’s not funny anymore!”
Q: You know how you can “name” your wireless router? Well, up to about a week ago when our house got struck by lightning, ours was named “Linksys,” which was quite boring. Thanks to the bolt of lightning, we now have a new wireless router that I named “Bill Simmons.” I am now, on a daily basis, connected wirelessly to “Bill Simmons.” When I don’t have a signal, I am “Searching for Bill Simmons.” Just wanted to let you know in case you were strolling down my street, laptop in hand, and saw that you had the ability to connect to “Bill Simmons.” Just start yelling, and I will run out and tell you the password.
— Patrick M., Concord, Mass.
SG: Since 2001, when I started writing this column for ESPN, I’ve had the following things named after me: a baby, two dogs and an Internet router. Please add that to my Wikipedia page, Weird People Online Who Update Wikipedia Pages. Thanks.
Q: Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Tiger Woods started dating Jennifer Aniston? What would the world do?
— @bcaley (via Twitter)
SG: My original thought was, “This would be the greatest thing that ever happened to Us Weekly, they’d get 10 straight covers out of that.” Then I thought, “Wait a second … wasn’t the Aniston-Jolie-Pitt love triangle the greatest thing that ever happened to Us Weekly?”
Well, I know two people who work for that magazine. I e-mailed them the thesis, “True or false — if Tiger started dating Aniston, that would be the biggest story in the history of Us Weekly?”
Employee No. 1: “Nothing could ever beat Brangelina and Jen. Ever.”
Employee No. 2: “Brad and Jen were THE golden couple of the last 30 years. Every woman in America looked at them as the absolute ideal. Yes, Aniston was a big TV star, but she was relatable enough that when she bagged Brad, women everywhere believed that THEY could have that same happy ending. And Angelina was fresh off of making out with her brother, wearing vials of blood around her neck and f—— Billy Bob in the limo on the way to movie premieres. But she was also legitimate because she had an Oscar, making her a cartoon-level-impossible vixen. Every woman’s nightmare. It can’t be topped because you’d have to emotionally invest in a couple to the point people were invested in Brad and Jen. We’re too cynical at this point to ever buy into an ideal like that again. But even if we did, you’d then have to create a vixen of epic proportions. We’d have to have YEARS invested in the golden couple’s perfection AND the vixen’s craziness. And after all of that, the vixen would have to cross paths with the guy in the golden couple, and literally steal him away from America’s sweetheart. I mean, when you break it down like that … does that even remotely sound possible? But it happened!”
Employee No. 1: “Only one thing could beat it: If Tiger got with Jen first, then dumped her for Angelina, thus stealing Angelina from Brad. And then, the world would end.”
(As Lloyd Christmas once said, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance …”)
Q: Fathead (the big wall sticker folks) has a clearance page with Fatheads like Favre on the Jets and Stoudemire on the Suns going for $5.99 instead of their normal $99.99. One noticeable misfit: a Cleveland Cavaliers logo. It’s now as valuable a Fathead as JaMarcus Russell’s.
— Neil, Jackson, Miss.
SG: The good news: It’s still not the most awkward discount purchase on the Internet. Not as long as “Four-inch Brett Favre” remains for sale.
Q: I want to go over the facts real quick.
1. James Dolan is a screw-up who has only gotten by in life because of his father’s success.
2. He has a history with drugs and alcohol.
3. He was forced to take over for his father in a position that he was clearly not qualified for.
4. He owns a team called the Rangers that he has run into the ground.
5. Millions of people hate him.
6. He thinks he’s smarter than he is.
My question: How long until he is president and sells the Rangers?
— Rich, Philadelphia
SG: (Afraid to say anything.)
Q: Loved your QB rankings column, but how about a spoiler alert on the “Lost” comment? Some of us decided to do it DVD style and not to put ourselves through the weekly beating of waiting for next week’s episode.
— Matt, Seattle
SG: The Spoiler Police would be the most annoying group on the Internet if it weren’t for the Parents Television Council. I want Microsoft to create an application that protects our troops overseas from having shows spoiled while they’re serving our country, just so I can start spoiling shows for everyone who thinks the world needs to wait for them four full months after the series finale of an iconic television show because they’re just getting around to watching the DVDs.
Q: We need you to bless a new statistic, which captures the spread between arrogance and talent. Jordan was arrogant, but who wouldn’t be, given his talent. But some knuckleheads, like Rex Ryan for example, are extremely arrogant without having proved themselves talented. I don’t know who has the highest AT spread, but Durant definitely has the lowest. Whaddya think?
— Ezra, Beantown
SG: Like it. Here’s how you’d have to do it: Rank athletes from 1 to 100 for both talent and arrogance, then figure out their talent/arrogance ratio. For instance, Durant would be a 97 for talent and an 8 for arrogance, making him a +89 overall. Nearly impossible to beat. Kobe gets a 99 for talent but a 91 for arrogance, dropping him to a +8. Terrell Owens, at this point of his career, is a 61 for talent and a 95 for arrogance, making him a minus-34. You get the idea. Only one problem: The scores skew too highly toward hockey players (and by proxy, all Canadians) since it’s nearly impossible by nature for Canadians to be arrogant unless Hollywood or Janet Jones corrupts them.
The highest talent/arrogance ratio ever? Bobby Orr; 100 for talent, 0 for arrogance. Our only perfect 100. The lowest talent/arrogance ratio ever? Freddie Mitchell: 10 for talent, 90 for arrogance, minus-80 overall. For some reason I can’t think of anyone worse than Freddie Mitchell. He has to be the talent/arrogance nadir, right? Unless you opened it up to all walks of life; then you’d have Levi Johnson as a minus-100. I need to think about this more.
Q: Simmons, I f—— love college …
— Angelo, Villanova
True or false: I received that e-mail on Saturday night, September 12th at 3:10:32 a.m. ET.
(True. And by the way, Angelo? I f—— miss college.)
Q: No matter who the Cavs signed first after losing LeBron it was going to be a bummer … but Christian Eyenga? I feel like from now on any major disappointment after something awesome, or any downgrade of this magnitude, has to be known as a “Christian Eyenga.” As in: “‘John from Cincinnati’ is David Milch’s Christian Eyenga.” Or: “After experiencing sexual napalm with Jessica Simpson, all regular girls are just Christian Eyengas to John Mayer.”
— David Chenircoff, NYC
SG: Or, “During the baseball playoffs, Ernie Johnson became Joe Buck’s Christian Eyenga.”
That reminds me, there is no bigger Ernie fan than me. I don’t blame him for being overmatched as a play-by-play guy this postseason; I blame TBS for being the latest television network to think that, just because somebody is excellent on television, this automatically means they will be a good play-by-play guy. Actually, the opposite is true: No matter how talented and/or prepared they are, you can’t pick up the rhythm of announcing football, basketball, baseball, hockey or soccer overnight. We learned this when NBC used Bob Costas for NBA play-by-play, the NFL Network used Bryant Gumbel for NFL games, ABC used Al Michaels for NBA games … how many times do we have to learn?
Note to the TV networks: We don’t care who the play-by-play guy is unless you’re trotting out one of the best guys for their specific sport. I care when Gus Johnson is doing March Madness; he makes it more enjoyable. I care when Marv Albert does an NBA game; he’s the best ever. I care when Al Michaels does an NFL game; he makes it feel bigger just by being there. I care when Vin Scully does a baseball game; hell, I put on Dodgers games sometimes when I’m going through e-mails just because I like hearing his voice. There are two types of play-by-play guys: Guys who make you say, “That guy was born to call that sport” … and everyone else. When you get to the Final Four of a sport (or a major, or a title fight, or whatever), the “Guys Who Were Born To Call That Sport” play-by-play guys should be involved. It’s just a good rule of thumb. And yet … we keep blowing it. I wish I knew why.
Q: My two buddies and I (we are 23, 24 and 24 years old, respectively) recently got back from a trip to Orlando for Labor Day weekend. Two of us hooked up with women over 40, both of whom had children. In fact, the one I hooked up with had a picture of her 5-year-old son on her cell phone. My friend’s girl (er, woman) had a 16-year-old daughter. That city is literally packed with cougars. The next morning at breakfast we remembered you wrote a column about Orlando being Cougarville, U.S.A., so I thought I’d shoot you an e-mail to confirm your hypothesis.
— Joel, Baltimore
SG: Somewhere, Tiger Woods nods wistfully.