The New NBA Uniform Power Rankings

Jalen Rose Discusses His Complicated Relationship With Chris Webber

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Eli Manning

Eli the Prankster, the NHL Lockout, and the Outdated Bar Scene

All that and more in this week's Bake Shop mailbag!

I was at the Giants-Cowboys game and thought you might be interested in this Eli story. The Giants performed their pre-game stretches to music selected from players’ iPods. The stadium TV screens pictured the player, then stated the artist, the song title, and said something like “From Justin Tuck’s iPod.” They featured Tuck, Osi, Cruz and Eli. Osi and Cruz played hip-hop and Tuck played “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. Eli? “The Warrior” by Patty Smyth.

Ever get the sense, given his penchant for pranks, he’s just fucking with us?

— David S.

The only way I can describe the look on my face as I finished reading this question is “mother watching young son in footie pajamas captivating dinner party guests with botched magic tricks before bedtime.” Listen, even if you’re someone who “hates Eli” — and if you do, I presume you hate golden retriever puppies, too — you have to admit you’re gonna miss the goofster when he’s gone. I let my mind wander to life after Eli the other day and I haven’t come that close to driving off the road in tears since this one night Delilah played “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and it just really connected.

Anyway. A few other thoughts on this piece of information:

• Can’t you imagine Justin Tuck sitting in a dark space and listening to “In the Air Tonight” before doing anything? I picture him busting out of, like, a dressing room and snarling “Do you RE MEM BAH?” at some bewildered tailor.

• Patty Smyth sounds like a hip, hip lady.

• Did Eli name his baby after Patty Smyth and John McEnroe’s daughter? In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I say yes.

• While Eli is indeed a noted prankster — remember, this is a man who was able to straight-face a Michael Scott line from The Office into an NFL Films production about Super Bowl XLII and then have it gravely referenced later by narrator James Gandolfini — I feel like “The Warrior” couldn’t be a more perfect song of choice. If you think about it, Eli Manning is sort of a human late-’80s/early-’90s movie training montage in and of himself: The slow motion, the borderline-feathered hair, the unlikely late-game comebacks, the not having heard of things like the Internet yet. “The Warrior” captures this aesthetic precisely. From now on, you will never be able to hear it without visualizing the littlest Manning in short-shorts and a terry cloth headband doing the grapevine in a dusty field.

• Unless, that is, you’re someone who grew up watching the NBA Superstars VHS series and tie Patty Smyth inextricably to this footage of Charles Barkley. It’s no Michael Jordan set to “Take My Breath Away,” but it’ll do juuuust fine.

Hypothetical situation. Your child gets kidnapped and held for ransom. You have a mistrust of the police so you outsource the retrieval of your much loved child. Which character do you entrust with the job?

(A) John Creasy (Denzel Washington, Man on Fire)
(B) Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson, Taken)
(C) Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland, 24)
(D) Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson, Ransom)
(E) A wild card

— James L.

James L. wrote this e-mail way back in early September, and I can only assume he grew bored of waiting for a response, joined the writing staff of Saturday Night Live in the meantime, and came up with the segment that aired on this past weekend’s show: a trailer for a fake ensemble film called Give Us All Our Daughters Back. (The “are you a shark or a turtle” part from 1:19 to 1:29 is perfection, although I’m a little bit mad the trailer didn’t include a Sally Field cameo given she’s had roles in movies called Eye for an Eye AND Not Without My Daughter.)

Because I already declared Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill: Vols. 1 and 2) as my favorite seeker of revengeance on this site, I should probably stay constant and use option (e) to pick her. I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side.

You know things about the two areas of life I least understand: hockey and the mind of women. I have two questions for you.

1. Should the NHL players take the 50-50 split, or hold out with the risk of another lockout looming above all their heads?

2. What is a good place to take a girl on a first date? And I ask this as a guy in college … so I’m kind of poor and only know how to cook Ramen and pasta.

— Phil A.

Two great mysteries indeed. Please note that by the time this column is posted, the NHLPA and the NHL will have met again and discussed a counterproposal by the players — which means everyone will either be in full “OMG I PREDICT NO SEASON AND NO SEASON AFTER THAT EITHER” meltdown mode or we’ll all be headbanging in hockey jerseys and screaming “GAME ON!” like we’re extras in Wayne’s World. There is no middle ground.

It’s been a fascinating week for the NHL. On Monday, Deadspin leaked a focus group survey commissioned by the multinational market-research firm Luntz Global, which had been hired by the league ostensibly to help it improve its image with respect to labor negotiations. This in and of itself wasn’t too surprising — that’s what embattled organizations do, they hire professional spin men to clean up their messes — but it was nevertheless an embarrassment for the league.

On Tuesday, the NHL rolled out a new offer to the NHLPA that asked for a 50-50 split in hockey-related revenue (HRR) and promised that if everyone scurried quickly to get the deal done they could still play a full 82-game season. Even split! Full season! We’re all friends here! Sounds great! Sounds … like something that participants in a PR focus group probably indicated that they would approve of!

But the devil, as always, is in the details. On Wednesday, the league released the full text of their offer on the NHL website, an unprecedented move that seemed to take the players’ association off-guard — particularly because Gary Bettman has repeatedly insisted that he will “not negotiate in public.” The 50-50 split was like the calm surface of a pond; the actual shady ways the league plans to get there, and the other various structural provisions — contract lengths, punitive treatment of cap hits on current deals, free-agency periods — were more like the eels and icky algae that lie beneath.

Still, it was a big step toward the right direction: the middle. It gave the players’ association some real things to consider and work with, rather than a binder full of bluster. Are there sticking points still? Probably many. I still don’t know if we’ll necessarily be dropping the puck for a full 82-game season. But things are starting to look, fingers crossed, like we’ll have some hockey by December at least, which sounds all right by me.

As for the date, keep it low-key, because there’s nothing worse than a fancy restaurant with no soul. The last thing you want to do is spend your night mentally cha-chinging your wallet down to nothing like you’re Dave Chappelle in Half Baked.

If you’re in a college town, I’ve got to think you’ve got some reasonably priced options and generous happy-hour schedules to work with. Find out if there are any BYOB spots, or split a bottle of non-marked-up wine beforehand somewhere first. (Classroom-building rooftops can be pretty great for this purpose.)

Or break free from the tyranny of the restaurant date. Go bowling! Pack sandwiches and prosecco and go hit golf balls. Find an aquarium! Who doesn’t love an aquarium? If the girl is worth your time, you’ll have fun anywhere, full stop. Oh, and just in the event you’re successful: You might want to add scrambling eggs to your arsenal.

A good friend of mine (not good in the “I’m claiming he’s a real friend because he’s ‘made it'” sense, but literally someone I’ve grown up with) recently got drafted by an NFL team and made their opening day roster. In one of our first conversations after the draft, he mentioned, only half-jokingly, that I “better draft him” for my fantasy team, which I agreed to do.

Sadly, my loyalty to my buddy is topped by my desire to win my $100 a man fantasy league, and he went undrafted. How do I break it to him that AJ Green, Brandon Marshall, and Marques Colston are mainstays in my lineup while my good friend of 15 years is idling in the free agent pool??

— Brian P.

Grantland’s Chuck Klosterman recently wrote a really interesting piece on the inherent weirdness of fantasy sports that got me to thinking about how it must feel from the player’s perspective. So I turned to Friend of the Bake Shop Michael Schwimer of the Phillies for his take. As an “avid fantasy football/basketball player” himself, he wrote, he can completely understand the appeal:

A good example: I drafted Reggie Wayne in the 7th round in one of my leagues. When I made the selection I got boomed (a term my friends and I use for an insult). But now that the pick was brilliant, I have a real “fantasy” life connection, because I believed in Reggie when no one else did and he has made me proud. I can guarantee you that Reggie Wayne has heard the phrase, “I drafted you because I believed in you Reggie!” a couple thousand times this year.

I know this because every day, during BP and throughout a game, dozens of fans will yell things like, “Cliff, I have you on my fantasy team, I need you this week!” or my favorite, and this is not an exaggeration: “Cole, you are starting tomorrow, and I am matched up against my best friend, and the score is tied. If I lose to him I just don’t know what I will do … you have to win for me! Can you promise me a win?” (No response from Cole.) “Can you please promise me? I will feel better if you can promise me that you will win.”

Can you even imagine? It’s enough to make you long for the days when fans screamed simple things like “Ya bum!” So I think tell your friend that you’re actually saving him from this sort of awkward arrangement in which everyone loses. If he’s way bigger than you, though, and you’re too scared to tell him, then just say that the NFL replacement ref in your pool snagged him immediately after losing out on Shady McCoy, and unfortunately there was nothing you could do.

I had a thought recently while watching the video for Alien Ant Farm’s “Smooth Criminal” … was the late ’90s the greatest time in history to be white trash?

Music-wise, you had horrible rap/rock like Limp Bizkit inexplicably popular, Insane Clown Posse doing whatever it is they do, and Eminem becoming the best-selling rapper of all time. Even corporate pop was being fronted by a trashy piece of Louisiana jailbait.

The all-time WT form of entertainment, professional wrestling, was at its absolute apex, with dumbass kids even forming those backyard wrestling leagues (I attended more than a few shows). We even had a white trash President cheating on his wife with trailer trash chicks!

Those wily hipsters hadn’t come along yet to co-opt everything with a sheen of irony. It was a time to be born. It was a time to die. It was a time to funnel Budweiser and punch a stranger in the mosh pit of a Korn show.

— Sean D.

Is anyone else strangely inspired by this e-mail? I feel like I could chug a Mad Dog 20/20 and go blow off my hand with some roadside fireworks. AMERICA!!!

Have you seen the New York Times feature on how the bar scene has changed for college students? It showcases the Times‘ obvious-yet-mostly-inaccurate, vaguely condescending attempts to depict young people or social trends (see stay-over couples, for example). But it also raises a lot of questions for me, now that I’m a few years out of college …

— Andrew C.

(I’m going to answer his subsequent questions one at a time.)

First of all, isn’t the Times about seven years late to this story?

I’d say even more so. It quotes one guy as saying to his buddy, “Come on, let’s go smoke cigars and play drunken Madden” — two things that college students have been doing since at least the dawn of higher education.

I can see where bar-going students would demand “cleaner bathrooms” and maybe even “murals,” but are we sure they demand “midcentury modern furniture?”

Never underestimate the cultural impact of Don Draper.

Why does the woman dancing in the picture have a toy dinosaur?

Forget about the dinosaur and check out that dude’s sidebeard! Why does it cut in so high on the jawline? Is this the facial hair equivalent of getting a six-pack airbrushed onto your stomach?

How long do you think the Times editors argued about the correct usage of “pregame?” Is “pregame” in the AP stylebook?

I’m going to answer your questions with a question: Is it true that people in the Pacific Northwest at any point called a pregame a “prefunk”? Because if we’re talking about college, my then-roommate from Seattle totally swore this was a thing people said. It sounds more like a step in making your own kombucha.

Is it true that women pregame by “drinking vodka sodas or a peach-flavored Champagne called André and refusing to head out until they have captured the perfect photo, which they promptly post to Instagram and Facebook?”

In my day it was “liquid cocaine” (Red Bull, vodka, and Crystal Light) and Ofoto, but otherwise that pretty much sounds about right! I’m more worried the author believes that all André is peach-flavored, when she was clearly describing André Peach Passion. Normally I wouldn’t fixate on this level of precision, but …

How annoyed were the article’s quoted students that a New York Times reporter was following them around on a Saturday night? Do you think the one student was like, “Look, if I feed you some quote about how important Facebook pictures are to the bar scene, will you go away?”

… Glad you asked! Given this incredible editors’ note that was tacked onto the article, we can glean some things about the mind-set of these quoted students:

None of the names provided by those students to a reporter and photographer for The Times — Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, John Montana, David Lieberman and Ben Johnson — match listings in the Cornell student directory, and The Times has not subsequently been able to contact anyone by those names.

Harsh realm, man. Also, John Montana. But as one commenter at IvyGate pointed out, the truth may be more unsettling than fiction. “The biggest story here,” he wrote in response to the news, “is that there is nobody named David Lieberman at Cornell.”

It seems like every so often experts crown a new “best” player in the NHL. Over the past couple of seasons we’ve gone through, in no particular order, Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby, Erik Karlsson, Corey Perry, the Sedins, and most recently Evgeni Malkin and then, infamously, Giroux, which lasted all of 5 games.

Somehow Steven Stamkos always ends up somewhere between 2nd-5th on these lists, despite the fact that he leads the leagues in goals over the last three seasons. The biggest knocks on him are usually that he A) is a one-dimensional pure shooter and B) owes much of his success to linemate Marty St. Louis. Both views are outdated; this past season Stamkos got tons of goals down low in the paint along with making decent strides in his defensive game, and still produced plenty when St. Louis was injured.

Why isn’t Steven Stamkos getting the recognition he deserves? If we get a season, will he finally get the top spot to himself for once?

— Dustin K.

Steven Stamkos has scored more goals than anyone in the NHL over the past three years, hitting the net 156 times. (Alex Ovechkin, who is second, has 120 goals.) Last season, Stamkos scored his 60th goal on the last day of the regular season — a number made all the more impressive by the fact that all but 12 of them came at even strength. (According to’s Neil Greenberg, no one had hit 60 with that few on the power play since Wayne Gretzky in 1984-85.)

Had Tampa Bay managed to make the playoffs last season, I think we would have been hearing way more about Stamkos. (Those five days when Giroux briefly reigned, after all, took place in the postseason.) I love Tampa, but the team simply doesn’t get the publicity (and national TV coverage) of a Detroit or a Pittsburgh. But while Stamkos may not be a consensus no. 1, he’s widely considered to be one of the top five (if not three) guys in the league, which is no small feat. I do think people are starting to realize that he’s not just the offensive caricature that they thought. For a guy who, as you point out, is still considered by many to be a sniper-from-the-circle specialist, his shot charts tell a different story.

And while it’s true that he’s surely benefitted from the precision playmaking of Martin St. Louis, you also wonder whether he could have been even more productive last season if Tampa Bay’s defensive corps hadn’t been so bad. And having St. Louis might just be a luxury anyway, if you believe what Lindy Ruff told Michael Farber about Stamkos:

“We had Ales Kotalik, who could one-time it just as good as Stamkos, but the pass had to be perfect,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff says of the ex-Sabre. “If you were serving it to him on a plate, it wasn’t even a dinner plate. Maybe a side-serving plate. But Stamkos’s plate is … ” and Ruff extends his arms wide, a figurative silver platter.

Ruff said that in November 2010, when Stamkos was just 20 freaking years old and coming off a 51-goal season that turned out to be no aberration. It almost seems impossible that the Good Canadian Boy is only 22 now: He carries himself with the poise and assurance of stars a decade his senior, and he works out to an almost freakish extent. If you were building a franchise from scratch, he’d be many people’s top pick. The last person to be openly anti-Stamkos was his then-coach Barry Melrose, who declared him “not ready for the NHL” in the fall of 2008. Now, four years later, it’s more of a question of whether the NHL is ready for him.

In 2004’s Without a Paddle Dax Shepard bragged and ultimately lied about being employee of the month.

In 2006’s Employee of the Month, Dax Shepard cheated, by not scanning all of his customers items, to win Employee of the Month. However, he eventually got caught.

Does Dax Shepard only have shitty parts in shitty movies, because movie execs know he will lie and cheat to be perceived as a good employee, when all this documented evidence of shitty employeeism by Dax is taking place?

— Eric S.

I … I have zero idea how to respond to this. (Also, the original e-mail had no question mark or punctuation of any kind at the end, like it had walked off the end of a diving board mid-sentence.) But I also wouldn’t feel right not including it. Reading it is like staring into an M.C. Escher print. There’s a deeper message here, I’m sure of it, and I’m going to find it one day. I can tell you this much about Dax Shepard, though: I have harbored a secret soft spot for him ever since his special lady friend Kristen Bell appeared on Ellen and brought along footage of him surprising her for her birthday with a rented sloth.

Filed Under: Bake Shop, Current Events, Movies, NHL Lockout, NHL Playoffs, NHL Viewing Guide, Series, Sports, Ted

Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes