Overcrowding plagues NFL pregame shows

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New links and some blasts from the past

Join Axel Foley, Barack Obama, Chris Kaman and the cast of "90210" for a new batch of recommended links. Story

We continue to add quality stuff to the Sports Guy Collection on YouTube, but this was my favorite find: Somebody posted the first three minutes of “The Jericho Mile.” Gotta love the theme song that openly ripped off “Sympathy For the Devil!” Somebody needs to explain why “Jericho” — really, one of the 10-12 greatest sports movies ever — is never on, and yet that horrible “Bad News Bears” remake with Billy Bob Thornton is on 200 times a week.

Two long lost columns from me seemed relevant this week:

• In 2002, I wrote a column about picking high school yearbook quotes with a whole bunch of suggestions. Isn’t the deadline for yearbook quotes the end of January? That’s what I remember. Hope I’m not late with the link.

• Also in 2002, I traveled to Atlanta to spend time with Charles Barkley and the “Inside the NBA” crew for a piece that ended up being about 2,500 words too long. Still, I thought it was relevant since I wrote about the NFL pregame shows in Friday’s column. And yes, “Inside the NBA” has been the most popular sports studio show of the decade even though it’s centered around three people and sometimes four. Hmmmmmmm.

That reminds me, the Axel Foley stuff generated a ton of e-mails, including roughly 1 million readers who couldn’t believe I left out the incredible “banana in the tailpipe” scene as part of my case. (You’re right. I’m an idiot.) But more than a few readers shot down my theory by pointing out “Beverly Hills Cop” was initially a Sly Stallone vehicle that Eddie took over at the last minute, so they rewrote some of the plot and made Jenny Summers an “old friend” instead of an “ex-flame” because Axel was black and Jenny was white, and Hollywood was terrified of having black actors hook up with non-black actresses in movies back then. That door has long since been knocked down, so when you’re watching “Cop” in 2008, it totally jumps out when Axel doesn’t make a move on Jenny. I have to admit, I considered the black/white thing when I was writing that section — hell, I’ve even joked about it before in a 2002 mailbag (scroll down to the Jamie Gertz question) — but decided it didn’t help my “Was Axel gay?” argument and left it out.

Anyway, let’s get to the links. Here were four pieces I really liked from the past week:

1. Mark Bowden’s extended feature on “Wire” creator David Simon for the Atlantic. You know Bowden from “Black Hawk Down,” but he wrote a tremendous book about the ’92 Eagles called “Bringing the Heat” that’s one of the best football books ever written. Definitely get it if you like football books; it still holds up.

2. J.R Moehringer’s “L.A. Times” piece on Pete Carroll left me totally pumped and jacked.

(Speaking of J.R., they made a movie out of his famous magazine piece about trying to track down “Battlin’ Bob” Satterfield — “Resurrecting the Champ” — and not to sound like Shannon Sharpe, but if you want to talk about a guy who single-handedly killed a movie that had a chance to be good, you gotta talk about Josh Hartnett. He’s like Freddie Prinze Jr. with a better agent. Is he even good enough to be on “One Tree Hill”? How does he keep getting these plum roles?)

3. This Washington Post column about the media incorrectly handing the New Hampshire primary to Obama, then eating crow afterward, reminded me of the “rush to judgment” mentality that has taken over sports media these days.

4. One of my favorite pieces every year: Dr. Z breaking down his All-Pro picks. They used to blow this out in Sports Illustrated in the ’80s and early ’90s, and I remember loving it and looking forward to it … and then, of course, they chopped the length of the piece to one page. Great idea, fellas. Any time you can take one of your magazine’s meatiest, most entertaining pieces every year and reduce it to a nondescript one-page list, you gotta make that move.

Here’s the good news, though: Thanks to the Internet, Dr. Z now has as much space as he wants. There’s absolutely no way in hell any writer spends more man hours on a single column. In fact, I want to read a piece by another writer detailing how much work Dr. Z puts into this column. From what I can gather, he studies about 125-150 games each season and grades all the relevant players in each of those games, which probably takes about 46 million hours every year. And all for this one column that the magazine inexplicably decided to bury in the mid-90s! Anyway, I’d thank Dr. Z for all the great reading over the years by linking to his two superb football books — “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Football” and “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Football” — but naturally, both are out of print. Awesome.

• From Mark in Maine: If you haven’t read David Brown’s story on Donte Stallworth being caught from behind by Rashean Mathis on his 53-yard reception, you MUST do so now. Not because it’s a particularly important piece — but because it reveals Stallworth has an alien alter ego named Nicco that lives on Mars. How does David Brown just nonchalantly reference Stallworth acknowledging he has an alien alter ego? Did Brown write a previous column dedicated to said alter ego, and therefore it is not worth exploring? How did I not know we had an insane receiver on the team? Why haven’t I ordered a No. 18 jersey with Nicco on the back yet?

• As this recent New York Times piece tells us, the writers’ strike is heating up and more and more writers (like the guy from Artful Writer) are openly questioning WGA leadership as the Directors Guild closes in on a deal without ever playing the strike card. In retrospect, maybe negotiating without a real negotiator, going on strike without any real leverage, costing members more money than they ever would have made in 50 years in Internet or DVD residuals, repeatedly antagonizing the people you’re bargaining with, signing head-scratching interim deals with smaller studios that splintered the union, bullying any member who disagreed with the game plan and completely underestimating the TV industry’s willingness to rely on re-runs, reality shows, movies and sports wasn’t such a great idea.

Here’s what I don’t get about the Writers Guild, other than that the most successful writers aren’t the ones leading this strike (this is like Brian Cardinal and Chucky Atkins convincing every other NBA player to walk): How does it make sense that one union covers late-night comedy writers, sitcom writers, soap-opera writers, screenwriters, daytime talk show writers and TV drama writers? Can you think of six groups of people with less in common? For instance, this strike is basically about Internet and DVD residuals. How does that help a soap opera writer or a daytime talk show writer? Why would a screenwriter care about Internet residuals? Why does someone who writes for a crappy sitcom care about DVD residuals? Having one union cover every writing profession is just as short-sighted as having one union cover every professional athlete, isn’t it?

Some timely YouTube links that I didn’t stick in the SG Collection:

1. Dave in San Fran: Watch this YouTube clip of Gus Johnson calling the final minutes of Kentucky’s double-overtime win against Vanderbilt. Pay careful attention to the mark at 53 seconds. It’s ridiculous how he gathers the energy from the crowd and thoroughly enjoys each game.

2. Aaron in Chicago: The parallels between the Clemens steroid scandal and the “Competitive Edge” episode from “90210” are eerie. Can’t you just see Andy Pettitte as Steve Sanders, and Clemens and McNamee as the track squad goons? “You’re a dead man, McNamee. You told Mitchell about the program.” This is just too funny.

3. Steve S. in San Diego sends along an “alternate ending” to the “Karate Kid” that’s actually pretty funny.

4. Jeff P. in Boulder, Colo.: Here’s one of my all-time favorite sports clips — Billy Mills’ final lap of the 10K in the 1960 Olympics. “Running Brave” can’t do it justice. Not only does Mills finish with the best kick in racing history, but I love the euphoric passion of the color commentator at the end.

5. Matt in Boston: Please tell me you saw Family Guy this past Sunday. The episode opened with a Monopoly Guy/”Shawshank” scene.

6. Matt in Lake Ariel, Pa.: Listen how creepy Howard Cosell sounds starting around the 1:08 mark of this “Battle of the Network Stars” feature about Lynda Carter.

(Random note: Lynda Carter was the lost beauty of the ’70s. You never hear her mentioned anymore, but she was the complete package, almost like a five-tool player in baseball. It’s unclear why she wasn’t a gigantic star. Same for Jaclyn Smith. By the way, if you never read my story about sitting next to Jaclyn Smith on an airplane, click here and scroll down to “Monday, 4:30 p.m.”)

• A few other pieces worth checking out: Mike Silver’s column on a vindicated Norv Turner; Johnette Howard’s piece about former New England QB coach Dick Rehbein was worth reading; the sad tale of Denise the Lunch Lady; Slate.com explains how the Justice Department mangled the steroids investigation; a bizarre L.A. Times piece on how doctors misdiagnosed Chris Kaman with ADD as a kid, something that Kaman never realized until last summer (partially explaining his inspired play this season).

• Dozens of readers implored me to mention that Obama quit smoking right before his presidential campaign at the urging of his wife — although the odds of him falling off the wagon and ripping off two packs a day in the White House have already been taken off the board in Vegas. By the way, it’s now a dead heat for me between Obama and Hillary after finding out that (A) Obama loves “The Wire” and counts Omar as his favorite character (click here); and (B) he’s an avid hoops player and poker player (click here).

(Speaking of Obama, Patrick in Maryland sent along a biased Fox News piece about Obama’s smoking and adds, “Gotta love Fox News’ take on it, though. Check out the screenshot halfway down — it makes Obama look like the Marboro Man is running for the White House.)

• If you haven’t seen it, check out the D.C. Sports Bog’s running list
of all the sports-related figures who have donated to the various political candidates. So much to love about this page, but the best part has to be John Edwards getting just one sports-related donation: Martina Navratilova for $1,000. That killed me for some reason.

• This clip is going to enrage everyone in Pittsburgh: The NFL Network breaking down David Garrard’s game-saving QB draw from 350 different angles and somehow neglecting to mention Khalif Barnes’ monster hold.

• Speaking of Pittsburgh, on our friend Dave Dameshek’s radio show last week, Jeffrey Ross and Cousin Sal had a “Roast Off” that turned out really well, although some lines weren’t even crossed as much as trampled. Also, I happened to be one of the judges. If you want to hear the whole thing, click on Dave’s podcast page and scroll down to the links from Jan. 9.

• Thanks to Steve in Carlsbad, Calif., for sending along the most disturbing link of the week: A “Where Are They Now” photo collage of “90210” stars. Jamie Walters is a fireman now??? Huh? This entire collage almost made my head explode.

• Now that the Celtics are good again (although the wheels are slowly coming off), the Gino articles have been popping up left and right. In this “Globe” piece about the real-life Gino, he’s upset that he’s not getting any T-shirt residuals. Settle down, Gino. Also, I have to link to any column that’s headlined “Gino Night Fever.”

• Ben from Boston makes a great point about Patriot Place, the new mega-complex Bob Kraft is building next to Gillette Stadium: “Given the 70,000 boozers attending 10-12 weeks a year, how long will it be until it is ‘discovered’ that indian tribes once occupied the site, paving the way for casino construction?! Can you say ’10 three-day weekends per year?'”

• From Ben B. in Ohio: I came across this story about Eminem slowing morphing into the next Elvis. Apparently, now that he’s not as much in the public spotlight, he’s let himself go and is paying for an army of hangers-on to basically pick up his take-out every night. Kinda sad.

• This e-mail from Daryl in Greensboro, N.C., cracked me up: I looked all over for the radio commercial for this (which is much funnier), but look at the third bullet point “enticement” for purchasing a 12-pack for Bobcats tickets. I am a glass is half-full kind of guy, but this is ridiculous. Jim Dolan is no match for the Bobcats marketing department.

(Here’s where all four Bobcats fans e-mail to say, “Come on, we’re playing really well lately!” Climb within five games of .500 and we can talk.)

• Finally, I wanted to run an e-mail from a Redskins fan named Nate: “I normally enjoy reading your columns, but there was something in Friday’s NFL article that had me a little disheartened. While I understand your column has a certain sarcasm to it, which is something I find enjoyable because it reminds the readers that in the grand scheme of life this is a game, I was a little upset at the comment in regards to the Redskins and Sean Taylor. Given the nature of what the family has been through, family including his immediate and football families, the comment, ‘So much for dead guys having a say in the outcome of the game,’ was a little bit much. This team truly played inspired football in the wake of the tragedy and accomplished a great deal. To have it minimalized in such a way shows a certain degree of disrespect for his memory. I felt it an obligation to share this opinion, and as a talented writer, I am sure you understand my position in stating what I feel is true and right. I thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to your next article.”

Thanks for writing in, Nate. You’re absolutely right — I read over that section again, and it came off much rougher than I had intended. That Taylor section was initially three paragraphs (and more detailed), but when I was getting ready to send the column to my editors in the wee hours Thursday night, the column felt a little long in the middle (even for me), so I chopped the “Awards” section down, removed a few things, shortened a few other things and then sent it in. With the Taylor section, I took too much out and inadvertently came off as callous with that one line. Bad job by me.


Bill Simmons is the founding editor 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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