I just wanted to thank everyone who came out for my book signings in Washington, Philly, New York, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago and Phoenix. Yes, I have regained some feeling in my right thumb. Yes, I would do it again. Everyone could not have been nicer. In their honor, I’m breaking out a special holiday mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: You know how when top recruits in basketball or football make their college decision, they often call a press conference and put the three hats of the schools that made the final three in front of them … then pick up the hat of the school of choice and put it on? What if LeBron announces he will pick his 2010-11 team live on ABC on a certain date for a show called “LeBron’s Choice?” What type of crazy ratings would that get?
— Drew, Columbus, Ohio
SG: “LeBron’s Choice” sounds too much like a Lifetime movie — like, he became the first NBA player to make himself pregnant and now he can’t decide whether to give up the baby for adoption or not. I’d go with something more newsy, like “Decision 2010: LeBron’s Verdict” or “The LeBron Sweepstakes.” Actually, it might make more sense to make this a six-episode show, along the lines of “The Bachelor” — maybe “The LeBrachelor”? — in which he’d start out with 29 GMs, then narrow them down to eight, then six, then four, then three, then two, then one.
Regardless, you’re right — this should be a televised event. If LeBron were smart, he would market the event through his company, sell the rights to a network and reveal his choice on that show. We know what the offers will be. (New York, Miami, Chicago, Memphis, New Jersey, the Clips and the Zombie Sonics can offer the max. Cleveland could offer the max plus an extra year. Nobody else could offer as much.) It’s a cut-and-dry thing. So why not? He could even make it pay-per-view. If people were willing to pay $44.99 for a UFC 106 card headlined by Jenna Jameson’s washed-up husband fighting a guy who hadn’t won in two years, I’m pretty sure they’ll pony up $44.99 for “Decision 2010: LeBron’s Verdict.”
Q: What is the “30 for 30” documentary you wish was made that wasn’t?
— Tyler, Seattle
SG: Andre the Giant. Hands down. It never got past the discussion stage because the WWE owns the key footage and would have wanted to produce it; we would have wanted an elite filmmaker. So that was a nonstarter. But other than Muhammad Ali, no other athlete from the past 40 years was more memorable, beloved or distinct. I have never met anyone who knew Andre who didn’t immediately turn to mush when you asked them about him. Every person who ever befriended him has 10 Andre stories, and everyone who ever crossed paths with him even briefly has three. We could have gone two hours on Andre, easy. So that’s No. 1 for me. My runners-up: Tim Richmond, the Clippers, the Artest melee and how Rocky Balboa ended the Cold War.
(Note on the Rocky idea: I really did want to do that one. My plan was to shoot it like a real documentary — like it actually happened — and interview the “Rocky IV” actors today but in character, then stage some fake news footage from the time, then have current media people talking about it like everything was real: Rocky climbing the mountain in snow boots, the Drago-Balboa fight, Apollo dying, everything. Other than getting the actors to cooperate, the real problem would have been the fight footage. It would have cost an ungodly amount of money to license. Also, nobody but me liked the idea. That was another problem. My question is this: Would you have turned the channel if “Burning Hearts: How Rocky Ended The Cold War” was on? No way. I refuse to believe it.)
Q: I think we need to see the word “asshat” more in your writing. Just saying.
— Kevin, Santa Clara, Calif.
Q: Are you not completely shocked after finding out that Andre Agassi’s amazing mohawk mullet after all these years was a wig? Forget that he was doing a year of meth with an assistant named “Slim.” The fact that one of my all-time favorite sports hairstyles was synthetically made is the most unbelievable revelation from his or any book, right?
— Ben B., Charlottesville, Va.
SG: I couldn’t agree more. I was flabbergasted. If there were a Hall of Fame for memorable sports hairdos and facial hair decisions, my first-ballot inductions would be Agassi’s mohawk mullet, Barry Melrose’s mullet, Barry Sanders’ helmet Afro, Rollie Fingers’ mustache, Dr. J’s ABA Afro, Baron Davis’ beard, Al Hrabosky’s Fu Manchu, Ray Bourque’s playoff beard, Jack Sikma’s blonde permafro, Shawn Michaels’ extended uber-mullet, everything that was happening with Larry Bird’s face and hair in 1986, and two other slam dunks I know I forgot (and I know you’ll remind me). So to find out that one of those Hall of Famers was fake … I mean … where do we go from here?
The bigger question: Why did Andre write this book? Has any other superstar ever willingly disgraced his own legacy like this? It’s the single strangest career move I can remember. I don’t need the money, my place in history is secure, everyone likes me … what if I rake myself through the coals and make it so the first two things everyone remembers about me are crystal meth and a hair weave? Why go there? Was I supposed to be inspired by this story? What reaction were you looking for, Andre? You asshat.
Q: When will Adrian Grenier realize that the best move he could possibly make with his acting career is to legally change his name to Vincent Chase? Give me one reason why this can’t happen, or why it shouldn’t happen.
— FC, Silver Spring, Md.
SG: I … I … I can’t.
Q: If Mike Dunleavy showed up at one of your book signings, what would you write in his book?
— Anthony Falco, Ontario
SG: I thought about this for 20 minutes and settled on this:
Thanks. For each of the past three summers, I nearly dumped my Clippers tickets solely because you were the coach and I didn’t want to waste my money watching six months of 20-point blowouts, disjointed strategy, unhappy players and some of the most mind-blowing crunch-time brain farts in the history of this great sport. I kept renewing only because I didn’t want to give up quality seats to see guys like LeBron, Kobe, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, even if they frequently were being removed with 10 minutes to play because their team was leading by 30. So thanks for reminding me why I love basketball so much. If I will pay to see a Mike Dunleavy-coached NBA team, then clearly, I will pay for anything. I love this game.
Clippers season-ticket holder since 2004
Q: Bill Belichick just got outcoached by an unblinking mannequin. Excuse me while I go vomit “Exorcist”-style and gouge my eyes out with a blowtorch. I will sell my soul for this never to happen again.
— Alex, Warwick, R.I.
SG: Reading that e-mail doubled as the only time I cracked a smile for six hours after the Pats-Colts game. And it lasted only 0.43 seconds.
Q: If you could have anyone from history read your book for the book on tape, who would you have?
— Nic, Cincinnati
SG: I never wanted to do a book on tape because the footnotes were such a big part of the book. Just couldn’t imagine how they would translate to tape. Then a writer interviewed me for Entertainment Weekly and gave me the greatest idea ever: What if I had Mike and the Mad Dog narrate the book on tape? Mike would read the text, and then, when it was time for a footnote, Mad Dog could come flying in and bang that one out. I’d even let them ad-lib a little so it could sound like their styles. Then it would sound like this:
Mike: “Hey Dog, did you know that Moses Malone’s hands were so tiny that he could barely palm a basketball? He was listed at 6-foot-10 — a stretch — with short arms. Moses was such a stringbean during his early years that Houston played him at pow-ah forwahd. (Long silence.) Is that right? They played him at pow-ah forwahd? (More silence.) Is that right? Really? (More silence.) Apparently that’s right. Wow. I don’t remember that. I do not remember that. (More silence.) I do not remember that.
Dog: And Mike, watching young Moses on tape is like seeing Vince Vaughn in “Swingers”! He’s so much skinnier that it’s completely disconcerting and you can’t stop thinking about it! You can’t believe how skinny he is, Mike! He looks like you did that one time you stopped eating bread! (Laughs hysterically.)
Mike: (Laughs.) Great point, Dog. And also, Moses wasn’t a good passer, didn’t have any post-up moves, couldn’t shoot from more than 8 feet … none of it mattered. NONE OF IT MATTERED. Moses Malone had a yoooge, YOOOGE impact on this league, Dawg. Yoooge.
(OK, maybe it wouldn’t work.)
Q: Today is Saturday, aka College Football Day. I am pretty sure I have heard the word “arguably” said at least 15 times on the studio show I am watching. By them saying “Florida is ARGUABLY the best team in college football,” are they actually making an argument?
— Josh, Wilmington, Del.
SG: This is the cousin of the “having said that” argument Seinfeld and Larry David had on the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season finale. Either you think Florida is the best team in college football or you don’t. By declaring the Gators are “arguably” the best, all you’re really saying is that someone could argue they are the best — which makes no sense, because anyone could argue anything and that doesn’t have to mean it’s true. If I said Dirk Nowitzki was “arguably” washed up, you would argue, “Wait a second — he’s been great this year; that’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said.” And we would be arguing. In other words, you just proved my point. So “arguably” is a word that means nothing other than, “I don’t really believe this, but I’m throwing it out anyway.”
(Having said that, I have tried that trick in a sports column arguably more times than anyone.)
Q: Game 4 of the 2009 World Series was a new level of losing for Phillies fans: “The Made Man.” Remember in “Goodfellas” when Pesci thinks he’s about to become a made man only to walk into an empty room and get shot in the back of the head? Pesci was smiling and happy, thought everything was great, that there was no way he could lose, and then just like that it was all over. After Pedro Feliz’s home run, Philly fans went from having all the momentum to having their season laying on the ground like Pesci in a bloody mess, right?
— Ryan G., New York
SG: I like it. As a Boston fan, Game 4 of the ’87 Finals was my quintessential “Made Man” moment; I even ended the prologue of my book with a story about it. But the most brutal “Made Man” moment ever had to be Earnest Byner’s fumble as he was running into the end zone to send the 1987 AFC Championship Game into overtime. At least the Philly fans had 10 minutes to savor the moment and smile before getting whacked in an empty room. Browns fans had 1.1 seconds, and then KAPOW! Right to the temple.
Q: Did your book tour include a stop at the Rose Garden for Pistons-Blazers last week? I hope you checked out the way the Garden treats Greg Oden. Every time he does something basic, the place explodes like he dunked from half court. They are just willing themselves to think he will be good.
— David G., Portland
Yes, I did. And the best way to describe the crowd’s support for Oden: It’s like watching 15,000 parents rooting for their kid, only all 15,000 parents fathered the same kid. If he ever explodes for 30 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocks in a game, you’ll have to carry each deliriously passed-out Portland fan out of the Rose Garden individually like they were victims of smoke inhalation in a burning house. (The funny thing is, everyone in Portland is nodding right now. And yes, I know he’s had a couple of inspired games this season. You don’t need to e-mail me the stat lines. No, really. Save us both the time. Let’s not put too much pressure on him. Baby steps.) I also was startled by Portland fans arguably (see, there it is!) liking Rudy Fernandez as much as, and maybe even a smidge more than, the great Brandon Roy.
Two other things shocked me. First, that’s the whitest NBA experience you can have that doesn’t involve the words “Salt,” “Lake” and City.” They didn’t play hip-hop either before the game or during the game, each team seemed to have more African-Americans than the entire crowd and the pregame video right before the introduction of Portland’s starting lineup was a local grunge band singing “Ballroom Blitz.” And second, during a second-quarter timeout, my buddy House and I ran into the concourse to grab beers and noticed there was NOBODY else in line for anything. We felt like Will Smith in “I Am Legend.” There was no sign of human life other than the workers. Everyone else stays in their seats. At halftime, those same people pour into the concourse like it’s halftime of a football game. I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t know whether the Blazers have the most loyal, passionate, dutiful fans in the NBA, but at the very least, we can say nobody else tops them.
Here’s what I took away from my Rose Garden experience: Portland loves the Blazers the same way a single mother would love her only child. The city’s revulsion toward the “Jail Blazers” makes a lot more sense to me now. The team and the city are intertwined, and if one side isn’t holding up that bargain, it’s even more painful than usual. Anyway, I couldn’t be happier that I got a taste of it. Great NBA city.
Q: I’m pledging a fraternity right now. Last night they put us in a cold shower for one hour and then tied us up outside to a pole wearing only our boxers in 30-degree weather for a couple of hours and I’m positive that the only thing that kept me from getting hypothermia was the fact that I knew you were suffering more knowing that a likeable Yankees team won the World Series. I want to say thank you for keeping me motivated.
— Eli, Binghamton, N.Y.
Q: I brought my wife to your book signing tonight, and the first thing that she said when we walked away from the table was, “Jeez, he was a lot better looking than I thought he would be.”
— Keith B., Scottsdale, Ariz.
SG: Yup, we had a two-way tie for this month’s winner of the Backhanded Compliment Award.
Q: Did Marv really fight with Fiddy’s posse at Kimmel’s show? I never know what to believe on the Internet these days.
— Katie B., Dallas
SG: Me, neither. Although I’m fired up that it led to multiple readers sending me e-mails with subject headings like, “50 Cent/Marv Albert brawl?” Had it really happened, we definitely should have thrown the grainy security camera footage into the “2012” trailer. Sadly, it did not happen. My old boss Jimmy Kimmel explains:
“Though I agree that it would be hilarious if there had been a fight between Marv Albert and 50 Cent, there wasn’t one. There wasn’t anything even close to a fight. Someone from 50 Cent’s camp (great place for kids this summer, by the way) wanted to use the phone in Marv Albert’s empty dressing room. A security guard told the man he couldn’t. Pushes were exchanged for three seconds and the situation was resolved before Marv even got in the room. Marv had no idea what was happening or who was involved.
“The original L.A. Times story in no way suggests that there was any interaction between Marv and 50 Cent or Marv and anyone. I don’t know where that came from. I am starting to fear that some Web site journalists don’t always check facts. Sorry to ruin the fun. In the meantime, I am now carrying a gun just to be safe.”
Q: I just watched Jay Cutler walk on to the field with two minutes left, down by four points (to the Eagles), with his shoulders slumped and his chin to his chest. When Peyton Manning walks on the field in that spot you can tell the Colts are headed for a successful drive. I would wager anything that this Cutler drive will end with an interception or at the very least a turnover on downs. We need a word or phrase for the intuitive sense that all good sports fans have for what’s about to happen. Can you help me out?
— Connor, South Portland, 8:33:01 PT, Sunday night
SG: You nailed it. He threw the pick about two minutes after you pressed “SEND.” As for the phrase, I would go with this one: E.S.Poo.
Q: Reading your book as a Sixers fan, it seems to me that “What if the Sixers signed Josh Smith instead of Elton Brand?” is legitimately at least the 500th or so most important “what if?” in NBA history. Agree?
— Nathan, Lancaster
SG: Definitely. Might even crack the top 500. Actually, there’s a good Sixers-related “What if?” that nearly made the top 33 in my book:
“What if Matt Geiger hadn’t vetoed the Sixers-Pistons mega-trade in 2000?”
Four teams and 14 players were involved. The biggies: Allen Iverson and Geiger to Detroit, Toni Kukoc to the Lakers, Jerry Stackhouse to Charlotte, and Eddie Jones and Glen Rice to Philly. Had it gone through, our next four Finals would have been swung and Iverson’s career would have unfolded differently — not definitely better or worse, but differently. Who knows what would have happened with the Pistons. Do they make two straight Finals with Iverson down the road? More? Less? If their team wasn’t good enough heading into that 2003 draft, would they have played it safe with Melo over Darko Milicic? How would this have affected the 2005 Artest melee with Iverson on the floor? Crazier? Less crazy? Homicidal? Does it happen at all? Could Milwaukee have given the Lakers a good battle in the 2001 Finals? Would the Lakers have swept the 2001 playoffs with Kukoc as their sixth man? And if Rice lands in Philly, he’s not a big part of the mega-trade with the Knicks/Lakers/Sonics/Suns later that summer that crippled the Knicks with bad contracts, killed their cap space and started their fiery descent into Basketball Hell.
Hot damn, that’s a lot of “What ifs?”! I left it out for two reasons. First, Matty Geiger was prominently involved. I mean … come on. Second, Geiger would have forfeited $5 million if he had waived his 15 percent trade kicker to allow the deal. That’s why he vetoed it. And it never made sense why he WOULDN’T veto it. So there you go.
Q: How could you forget Joakim Noah in your “Sports Hate” column? How? I thought we had something special! I don’t think I know you anymore.
— Justin, Minneapolis
SG: You’re right. An inexcusable brain fart that never would have happened if my brain hadn’t been fried from promoting my book so much these past four weeks. I could have geared the whole column around moving into a new decade of hating Noah and Noah alone. Damn it all.
Q: What do you think would be the most awkward but (somewhat) realistic casting for a romantic comedy? I’m going with Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal.
— Matan B., Riverside
SG: After consulting with the Mailbag Committee, my rankings look like this:
7. Mike Tyson and Robin Givens.
6. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston; Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (tie).
5. Jack Nicholson and Megan Fox.
4. Chris Brown and Rihanna. Sorry. But it would be remarkably awkward.
3. The Gyllenhaals. I like this idea because, once and for all, it would take the whole “Look, I am an actor and even though I am passionately making out with my same-sex co-star right now, it’s only because I am playing a role and not feeling any actual passion” concept to another level. Let’s say you wrote an amazing script called “Adopted By Love,” in which two people were engaged but didn’t realize that the girlfriend was given up for adoption as a baby by the parents of the boyfriend. And let’s say you offered the Gyllenhaals $60 million combined to play the lead roles and even make out a few times. If actors are always “acting” — like Jake did with Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain” — how is this different? You’re an actor! Would I want to see this? Of course not. I’d throw up. But still, it’s acting!
2. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
1. A romantic comedy in which John Stamos falls in love with two twins at the same time and neither of the twins knows the other likes Stamos … and the twins are played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Name me anyone who has ever seen “Full House” who wouldn’t be cringing. I can’t handle it. Let’s just move on; my skin is crawling. You know this would be traumatic since I’d rather see the Gyllenhaals make out.
Q: Why didn’t you buy the Silverdome?
— CJ, New York
SG: I’m glad you brought this up. First of all, how does it not go for more than $580K? How? That’s the price of a summer house. Did you see some of the stuff Nic Cage bought before he went broke? He bought a dinosaur skull, a squadron of Rolls-Royces, a collection of shrunken heads, a Gulfstream jet and two islands in the Bahamas. That’s right, islands. You’re telling me that Cage (or someone equally insane with money to burn) wouldn’t have stepped in with the Silverdome? Second, if you’re auctioning off the Silverdome, doesn’t this have to be on eBay? Shouldn’t we get to follow that auction over the course of 10 days? I would have refreshed that page every hour. And third, how could the Silverdome be hawked like a baseball card collection or a used Maybach? I thought the whole thing was violating.
Q: This one is a little serious, but please don’t mistake the note for being preachy or abrasive. We’ve known Donald Sterling to be a shady character for some time, but those recent allegations and subsequent settlements are rather tough to stomach. Housing discrimination is a particularly nasty form of racism, don’t you think? Seeing as your season-ticket money pads the man’s wallet, do you plan to continue supporting the Clippers in light of their owner’s legal settlement with the federal government? If so, where do you draw the line?
— Ben, Brooklyn
SG: Good timing. I have been thinking about this a lot. You’re right; he was revealed to be a relatively vile human being. And you’re right — it feels weird to put money in his pocket. On the flip side, I get material from those Clippers games that helps my column, and it’s my only chance to see NBA basketball in quality seats on a regular basis. So here’s my uneasy compromise: keep the seats, but don’t forget to mention every once in a while that the owner of the Clippers recently settled a $2.7 million housing discrimination suit in which — according to the lawsuit and testimony — his theory was revealed to be that “black tenants smell and attract vermin,” even though he continues to sit at midcourt for nearly every home game to watch a sport inundated with black players. And doesn’t seem to be ashamed at all.
(Just remind me to mention this every so often. I won’t forget, but if I do, remind me.)
Q: If the boxing higher-ups had any sense whatsoever they would give us Pacman/Mayweather in six months. I would stop everything to have a fight night party for this event. I have not paid for a boxing event since Holyfield/Lewis in 1999 but I would spend at least $300-$500 to see this. What is the holdup?
— Seth Johnson, Middletown, N.Y.
SG: It’s going to be disappointing. Just warning you now. Floyd Mayweather Jr. could never in a million years trade punches with Manny Pacquiao. He will be on his bicycle for 12 rounds. There is no way that, at this point in his life, Mayweather wants any part of Pacquiao, a concrete-headed, indefatigable freak of nature who can finish with either hand from every angle. If Mayweather gets in the ring, he’ll end up doing more laps than Steve Prefontaine did for the University of Oregon. Just keep your guard up when you’re spending that $64.95.
(Important note: Will I be spending that money? Of course! Happily! I made the decision during Pacman’s glorious evisceration of Miguel Cotto that he finally had reached the exalted “I Don’t Care Who You Are Fighting, I Am Watching It Live & That’s That” status, which puts him in the following company: Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tyson. My own personal Mount Rushmore. Pacquiao hit Tiger/Federer status about a year ago, and nobody cared. That’s why he needs the Mayweather fight so badly. We’ve seen dominant pound-for-pound guys these past two decades, but nobody with finishing power anything like what Pacman has. He’s like a coked-up Aaron Pryor, only without the coke. Insane. If he’s fighting, I am watching.)
Q: I’ll make it simple. Miguel Cabrera: Yes or no?
— Patrick, Weymouth, Mass.
SG: Yes. Yes. And yes. For three reasons …
1. He’s only 26, which makes the 0.26 blood-alcohol thing much more defensible to me. Look, I am ashamed of at least 50 things I did in my mid-20s. You don’t know any better in your mid-20s, only you kinda do, but not totally. You don’t appreciate anything. You’re supposed to start growing up, but you’re not quite ready yet. You can keep acting like an ass and keep assuming that someone will always give you a second chance, whether it’s with a job, a woman or whatever. If you’re 29 and things like the 0.26 are still happening during the biggest weekend of your team’s season? Yeah. That’s a problem. I am willing to forgive the 25-26 range. Especially in baseball, a sport in which maybe six guys have an IQ better than 82.
2. The Boston Red Sox, as currently constructed, do not have a single hitter who makes other teams say, “I am absolutely terrified of that guy.” In 2004, we had two. In 2007, we had two. In 2010? Zero. We also don’t have a single guy who makes me think, “I can’t go pee right now, (Player X) is coming up.” We have a bunch of perfectly likable, capable hitters who milk pitch counts and look statistically effective as a whole. And that’s great. I just think it makes it much harder to win a World Series that way. The biggest advantage Boston has — really, the biggest — is owning a share of the “We Can Spend More Money Than Everyone Else” penthouse along with the Mets, Yankees, Cubs and Angels. The Red Sox can absorb Cabrera’s monster contract pretty easily. And they should. How else are they going to find a slugger with an A-Rod/Teixeira/Pujols-type pedigree?
3. Every baseball team needs at least one talented enigma — someone who has to be constantly figured out, debated, defended and analyzed — because it’s a long season and what else are we going to do? The players need this person, and so do the fans. New Englanders and Red Sox transplants around the country are trained from birth to handle these people. We get it. We get their ups and downs. We understand that the plusses usually outweigh the minuses. We give them long leashes, as we proved with Manny Ramirez over the course of eight-plus years. Ultimately, we’re attracted to real greatness, and that was the biggest problem with last season’s team — there was nobody truly great. We had a lot of good players, but no great ones. That’s why last season’s team had a ceiling of sorts. If Cabrera puts everything together in Boston, that ceiling is removed.
Anyway, I think he’s worth the risk. Especially if the Red Sox can get Detroit to take Mike Lowell’s contract and figure out a reasonable package for him. I am on board. Will I make a few blood-alcohol jokes about him? Of course. But I will not pee when he’s coming up. I will tell you that much.
(And by the way, don’t listen to the sarcastic remarks from Yankees fans. They do NOT want us to get Miggy. And/or Roy Halladay. I promise you.)
Q: Can I have your dumbest sports wish for the holiday season? Mine is that the Pistons surprise-retire Ron Artest’s number when he comes to town next month.
— Eric, Farmington Hills
SG: Mine is that osteitis pubis becomes the new plantar fasciitis. Andris Biedrins has been battling osteitis pubis for two weeks — it sounds like either a practice squad receiver for the Bengals or the aftereffects from an STD outbreak on “The Ruins” set. I need more guys suffering from osteitis pubis. Let’s at least get this to the point where Al Michaels has to say, “He’s out with a pubis.”
Q: Ever realized how irrational Kay Corleone’s argument is regarding her abortion? So she got an abortion because it was unholy and “this must all end.” Like her abortion would have any bearing on the future of mafia activities (especially because Mike already had a son). Under the same reasoning shouldn’t she have to kill Anthony too and give up all her unholy jewelry, dresses, etc? Such a hypocrite.
— Mark, Seattle
SG: She’s the weak link of the first two movies. It’s true. And the fact that Michael disappeared without ever calling her, married some Italian temptress, returned to Kay years later and only after the temptress was blown up in his car, and then Kay took him back … I mean, can you think of any woman who would have gone for this? In the abortion scene, that would have been a much more realistic explanation: the scorned girlfriend approach. You hurt me, so here’s how I am going to hurt you. I would have bought that one over “this must all end.”
You just reminded me of a concept I was arguing about with my friend Bill recently: rewatchably great movies with a secret weak link that becomes more glaring over time. If you were going to name this phenomenon, you’d call it a “Maggie.” In “Caddyshack,” Maggie’s scenes were awful even in 1980; by 2009, when you see her come on the screen, it’s almost like she telepathically convinces you to flip the channel and come back 75 seconds later. She’s the most famous “What the hell were they thinking with not just the casting and the writing, but every single minute he/she is on the screen?” character in recent Hollywood history.
Another ’80s example: Bill believes “Night Shift” doesn’t hold up anymore, despite the heroic efforts of Michael Keaton, because the Shelley Long/Henry Winkler scenes became unwatchable somewhere between 1996 and 2009. To him, that relationship was the Maggie of the movie. That’s what we argued about. I disagree. That wasn’t nearly as glaring as Maggie or Bruce Willis’ girlfriend in “Pulp Fiction.” For future cable airings, we could edit that whole section out except for when Bruce goes back to get the watch, right? We’re all good with that?
The best example from this decade: I can no longer watch “Old School” because Luke Wilson and Ellen Pompeo Maggie’d the last half of the movie and turned it into a chick flick. Sorry, Blue. It’s true. And the most underrated recent example that’s growing on me (in a bad way): Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Dark Knight.” Watch that movie again, and ask yourself if (A) you’re scared for her at any point, and (B) that movie isn’t twice as good if someone more sexy/glamorous like Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson is getting terrorized by the Joker. For a movie THAT good, I need to be totally invested in the superhero’s hot love interest. I just wasn’t there with Maggie. Which is interesting … because her name is Maggie. See? Everything comes around.
Q: Did you find it funny that the Memphis Grizzlies sent 3,000 of Allen Iverson’s jerseys to Tanzania, Hasheem Thabeet’s home country?
— Andy, Memphis
SG: Funny? I thought it was ingenious. They figured out a way to combine a failed free-agent signing and high-lottery-pick misfire, and turn them into a heartwarming holiday story. That reminds me …
Q: With the benefit of a little hindsight, how do you think the top-10 of the 2009 NBA draft would look if it went down today?
— Michael McNamara, Jacksonville
SG: Love this question. Let’s say David Stern decides everyone in the top 10 can do their picks over after seeing the first four weeks of games. Here’s how the revised top 10 probably goes:
1. Clippers: Blake Griffin
2. Grizzlies: Brandon Jennings
3. Zombies: James Harden
4. Kings: Tyreke Evans
5. Wolves: Ricky Rubio
6. Wolves: Thabeet
7. Warriors: Stephen Curry
8. Knicks: Jonny Flynn
9. Raptors: Ty Lawson
10. Bucks: Furious
The big differences: no way Minnesota screws up that Rubio situation a second time, no way Lawson falls out of the top nine and no way Jennings goes lower than second. He’s the single biggest draft surprise since Kobe in 1996. Draftexpress.com’s Jonathan Givony was the only one I can remember this past June even attempting the “Jennings has a chance to be awesome” case. My friend Hirschy was the only New Yorker I knew who thought the Knicks should have drafted him at No. 8. Admittedly, that would have been borderline insane. Lawson made more sense.
(Important note: Why spend a gazillion dollars on Mike D’Antoni if you weren’t going to give him a roster of D’Antoni guys? Would Jordan Hill have ever played on the 2005 or 2006 Suns? Of course not. Would Lawson have played on those teams? Of course. The pick was Lawson. Unless you wanted to swing for the 475-foot fences with Jennings. Not Donnie Walsh’s finest hour.)
Everyone else (like me) fell into the whole “bad attitude, immature, couldn’t get big minutes in Italy, can’t shoot, hit-or-miss pick” trap with Jennings. Can you blame us? What signs were there that this kid had a chance to be great other than the fact that he was the best high schooler a year earlier? He seemed like a total head case. Here’s what I wrote in my annual draft diary when Milwaukee picked him:
5:34: Fran Fraschilla on Jennings: “Has to work on a jump shot. No doubt about that. Has to work on the halfcourt and running an offense.” On the bright side, he can now tell the difference between a chianti and a barolo.
5:35: Jay Bilas on Jennings: “His jump shot is broken, and it needs to be fixed … and I think he needs to improve his leadership abilities.”
5:36: Simmons on Jennings: “Is there a way I can bet on his being back in Italy within five years?”
Fast forward to today: I have caught chunks of five Jennings games so far, including a decent piece of his 55-point game, but haven’t seen him in person yet. First time I watched him on TV? Blown away. Sometimes you can just tell with these things. I thought Chris Paul played well beyond his years as a rookie; Jennings is a lefty Chris Paul, only if Paul could shoot 20-footers and 3s with a hand in his face. More importantly, his teammates love him. And he has a wonderful sense of The Moment already. I can’t say enough about him. He’s a superstar in training. He’s the first Buck in 25 years who could actually sell tickets and jerseys there. Amazing. He will save basketball in Milwaukee, as long as this early start doesn’t go to his head. And it might.
Regardless, he’s the least likely franchise rookie I can remember. I always make fun of bumbling GMs in this space, so let’s pay tribute for once to someone who absolutely crushed a decision: Bucks GM John Hammond. It’s one of the best draft picks ever. A franchise-alterer. I don’t get floored by much with sports anymore, but this Brandon Jennings thing floored me. Never saw it coming. It more than made up for Rubio fleeing back to Spain for three more years.
Q: In the year 2029, do you think a famous filmmaker will debut a “50 for 50” film on ESPN about the Detroit Shock packing up and moving to Tulsa?
— Jeremy, Boise, Idaho
SG: That has about as much of a chance as me referring to them as the Zombie Shock for the next 20 years.
Q: After listening to your Landon Donovan podcast and then watching the MLS Cup final, I have to ask: Is this the first time you’ve ever actually personally jinxed a serious professional athlete? After that endless, unprompted discussion about how great Donovan is at penalty kicks, and after you made him explain how players can kick one right over the top of the goal, is there any doubt that he was saying “Damn you, Bill Simmons, damn you to hell” right after his terrible sky shot? When you watched it, did you feel guilty or did you feel an incredible rush of power?
— Peter Y., Philly
SG: You know, I always laugh when readers blame me for jinxing players and teams. But I have to say … I felt like there was blood on my hands this time. We spent three solid minutes discussing why he was so terrific with penalty kicks (fast forward to 3:28 of this link), with Donovan revealing that, sometimes, he changes his mind on the direction of his kick even as he’s about to kick it. That led to this exchange:
Me: “So that’s when it can be dangerous, when at the last second, you change your mind and it ends up sailing over the crossbar sometimes — for other guys, not you, right?”
What happens in the Cup? He sails it over the crossbar. Did I feel responsible? Put it this way: I’d like to extend B.S. Report invitations to Peyton Manning (we can discuss why he’s so great in the last five minutes of every game) and Kobe Bryant (we can discuss his remarkable durability). Come on the show, fellas! We’d love to have you.
Q: So I thought that as an avid “Rocky IV” fan, you would appreciate this. I went to the doctor the other day to get my flu shot. I asked the nurse if I could blast “Hearts on Fire” on my iPhone and look up to the left with a stoic look on my face as she administered the shot into my arm. She didn’t get the reference, and had a puzzled look on her face, but all my friends have gotten a good chuckle out of the story. Your thoughts?
— Josh, Chicago
SG: Uh-oh, we’re suddenly in range …
Q: Could the the decline of the Ravens’ D be caused by something other than age? I don’t see how an NFL team can have a dominant defense when their starting CBs are named Fabian and Domonique. Throw in Samari and I am having flashbacks to my friend’s bachelor party at Club Paradise. Can you think of any other instances of “stripper names” affecting the play of a defense?
— Paul V., Laramie, Wyo.
SG: Getting closer …
Q: After listening to the Mike and the Mad Dog “reunion” show, my friend and I started talking about how we feel like kids of divorced parents at this point (with Mike and Dog as the parents). I thought I would share with you the top five moments of my short life thus far:
1. Losing my virginity.
2. Playing in the U.S. (golf) Amateur.
3. Making a game-winning shot in a basketball game when I was 10.
4. Getting a “That’s a good job there, Jason” from Dog the only time I called into the show as a cracked-voice 17-year-old.
5. Seeing Wake Forest play in the Orange Bowl.
That’s it, that’s the list.
— Jason, Winston-Salem
SG: Yup, these are my readers.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos and more, check out Sports Guy’s World. His new book, “The Book of Basketball,” is now available.