Editor’s note: This column appears in the May 28 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Reason No. 921: My dad
Recently, Dad and I were discussing plans for the apocalypse. Not nuclear war, but a world in which the Celtics don’t get Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. As we rehashed the depressing alternatives, Dad confessed he knew nothing about “the Chinese guy,” prompting me to hunt down Yi Jianlain clips on YouTube. We crammed in front of my laptop and watched Yi dominate various Chinese league games, decimating his competition like the werewolf in “Teen Wolf.”
For about 50 seconds, Dad was impressed. (“Wow, he can really move!”) At the 90-second mark, he became concerned. (“We haven’t seen anything besides a layup or a dunk.”) At the three-minute mark, he was ripping the poor kid. (“If he had a jump shot, they would have shown it by now.”) And at the four-minute mark, he made me turn it off. (“All this guy does is run and jump. Congratulations, he’s an Asian Stromile Swift!”) Only my dad can write off a prize prospect after watching a couple of minutes of grainy video. He’s the best.
No. 922: MLS Direct Kick
Does anyone else crack up each time they see this commercial? “For just $74.95, you can watch every MLS game!” OK, maybe I don’t crack up, but there is some mild guffawing.
No. 923: HD roulette
Speaking of DirecTV, I spent an extra $39 on the “MLB SuperFan” package that gives me two daily games in HD. Every day, I flip to channels 730 and 731, hoping the Red Sox have made the cut. When it happens, I’m delighted, like when I find a parking space with a broken meter. It’s the little things in life, you know?
No. 924: The “three games to zero” stat
After the Sox won the Series, my friend Philbrick realized that for the rest of eternity, regardless of the sport, every time a team was about to fall behind three-zip in a postseason series, we’d be treated to the Teams That Have Come Back From 3-0 graphic. It’s a short list: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. And we knew every Boston fan would see it and smile, not just for the memories it provoked, but because
we knew every Yankee fan was sitting there thinking, D’oh!
Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was halfheartedly watching Chicago blow Game 3 against Detroit as I answered e-mails when — boom! There it was: the 3-0 graphic! I had a hop in my step for the next few hours. The following day, Philbrick and I were talking, and he started to ask, “You see the end of the Bu ” when I happily cut him off. Yes. Yes, I had. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
No. 925: The verb “YouTube”
Matt in Virginia points this out: Until recently, we described every hellacious NBA dunk in someone’s face as “He posterized him” or “He put him on a poster.” But after Baron Davis’ dunk in Round 2, there was a seismic shift. For the first
time, you could have said, “Davis YouTubed Kirilenko!” and gotten the point across. A few more monster dunks, and I see YouTube becoming a verb along the lines of Google and TiVo. Frankly, it’s time. Who buys sports posters anymore?
No. 926: “For Love of the Game”
I’ll grant you that Kelly Preston single-handedly kills this movie, that it’s ridiculous to see Yankee players wearing numbers in the 70s and 80s, that the great John C. Reilly is wasted, even that it is disorienting to see Schillinger from “Oz” managing the Tigers (he’s a constant threat to rape the pitching coach, right?). But rent the DVD some time, fast-forward through Preston’s scenes and concentrate on Costner’s date with destiny at Yankee Stadium. Everything about the baseball scenes work: Costner’s washed-up legend laboring through one last magical game, Detroit’s increasingly excited bench chatter, Vin Scully’s play-by-play we even get three legitimate goose-bump moments down the stretch. There’s a great sports movie hidden in there, only you’d never know it because the parts with Preston are so excruciating.
My advice to the producers: Release a director’s cut in which every nonbaseball scene with Preston gets chopped, and end it with Costner crying in his hotel room. This baby can still be salvaged. I don’t care if it’s been eight years. And by the way, if you don’t get goose bumps when Mickey Hart saves the perfect game, I don’t know what to tell you.
No. 927: Dice-K
You know what’s nice? Seeing a starter throw 109 pitches through eight innings, then basically tell his manager, “Unplug the bullpen phone, I’ll finish this one myself.” Doesn’t matter one bit that the guy needs a translator to make the request and it comes out, “I would appreciate and treasure the opportunity to complete today’s competitive event.”
No. 928: Jason Kidd
Will we ever see a more successful non-center who can’t shoot? Look up the playoff shooting percentages of modern guards who played 75 games or more: Kidd is in the high 30s, putting him with bricklayers like Lindsey Hunter, Nate McMillan and Greg Anthony. Much in the way Greg Maddux has notched 336 wins without a heater, every other part of Kidd’s game has to be perfect to compensate for its one shortcoming. He’s a future Hall of Famer and a lock for the playoffs every spring, no matter how bad his teammates are. We’ll see 10 more D-Wades and 20 more KGs before we see another J-Kidd.
No. 929: The Utah Jazz
I will never get used to this: One of our most white-bread American cities roots for an NBA franchise named for a musical movement created by African-Americans. It’s genuinely insane. You can brainstorm with your buddies all weekend to come up with a name for a sports franchise that makes less sense — there’s no way you’re topping Utah Jazz. Not even with Dallas Indians.
No. 930: Sarunas Jasikevicius
Until this spring, Jack Haley was the greatest 12th man in NBA history, Mark Madsen was the poor man’s Haley and Sean Marks was the poor man’s Madsen (which made Marks the homeless man’s Haley, if you’re scoring at home). But
right before G-State’s improbable, semi-euphoric playoff run, Sarunas apparently broke out his “Karate Kid” DVD to study the intensity of the Cobra Kai kid, who screamed, “Get him a body bag yeahhhhhhh!” after Johnny Lawrence nearly crippled Daniel-san in the climactic match at the All-Valley Karate Tournament.
In time, Jasikevicius actually became that kid on Golden State’s bench. When a big Warriors play was punctuated on TV by a shot of their subs, you could see everyone cheering except Sarunas, who instead was yelling with balled fists, like a UFC fighter after he’d vanquished someone in the octagon. His consistency was incredible: He never missed a chance to provide the “body bag” moment. Davis was great, but Sarunas was just as valuable in the way he fired up his teammates. He made Haley look like Chuck Nevitt, redefining the unintentional comedy ceiling for bench players and bringing the 12th man to a higher place.
Just one more reason why I love sports.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His book “Now I Can Die In Peace” is available in paperback.