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Rambling toward Week 14

Bill Simmons weighs in on Plaxico, "Entourage" and the Jonas Brothers and everything else. Story

Thoughts while waiting for to sell a No. 17 Giants jersey with “H. Smith” on the back…

I can’t remember: Was it the 1931 or the 1932 Bears who had their season fall apart after Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski were caught with StarCaps in their urine samples?

Chad Johnson
Like everyone else, I’m still disappointed that a receiver didn’t honor Plaxico Burress last weekend by catching a touchdown, then pretending to shoot himself in the leg with the football and limping around. This never would have not happened if Chad Johnson was still alive.

So … um … do Houston’s four WNBA championship banners show up on eBay next week? The week after? How does this work? I want to buy one with my newly created eBay username, “wenevergotnext.”

Best joke that’s been e-mailed to me in some form by multiple readers: If the 2008 Lions go winless (or, as I like to call it, “overfeated”), will we see video footage of the 1976 Bucs happily pouring Keystone Light on each other?

When ABC launches a game-show pilot called “Country Singer, Famous Assassin or Kick Returner?” the final question will definitely be, “Who is Johnnie Lee Higgins?”

The highlight of my Thanksgiving weekend: Including a jokey comparison in last week’s NBA column about Deron Williams’ 2008-09 stats versus Chris Paul’s 2008-09 stats (even though Williams had played only two games), hoping to incite a barrage of “That’s not fair, Williams was hurt!” e-mails from the trigger-happy Jazz fans … and nearly 900 e-mails and eight days later, they’re still sending angry e-mails. Utah fans are the best. They really are. As far as inferiority complexes go, they might be the Joe Pesci of NBA fan bases. They’re funny.

Bill Simmons did three “B.S. Reports” this week: NFL Week 14 lines with Cousin Sal and a “Rocky IV” discussion with Gus Ramsey; Mike Lombardi breaks down the NFL; and JackO gets wedding jitters.

Also, if you’re bored and want to sift through 7½ years of Simmons columns, the S.G. Subject Archive has been updated through December 2008.

(What do you mean we’re funny? Funny how? What’s funny about us? You mean, we’re funny like clowns? No, you brought it up! HOW THE %$#% ARE WE FUNNY?????”)

I couldn’t agree more with Emmitt Smith: Steve Slaton “is the type of running back who makes plays with his legs.” I have been saying this ALL SEASON.

If they ever remade “Die Hard” with an all-black cast, wouldn’t the lead character have to be named Le’Ron McLain?

Well, the fifth season of “Entourage” wasn’t implausible at all: I can totally see Vince’s losing his career after one bad movie (so what if Colin Farrell has made 15 stinkers and keeps getting jobs?), becoming Hollywood poison, getting a job only because his agent passed up a $10-million-a-year studio head position to stay with him — you know, because agents have such great character — submarining an elaborate $120 million action movie that somehow came together in about 2.23 seconds because the director hated him (in the irony of ironies, because he didn’t think Vince, a guy played by Adrian Grenier, could act), hitting rock bottom and moving back to Queens, then climactically rebounding with the lead in Martin Scorsese’s new movie without ever auditioning for it, and while all of this was happening Jamie-Lynn Sigler fell in love with a jobless Turtle, and Johnny Drama starred on an NBC drama that normally would tape for 17 hours a day, unless your show stars Johnny Drama, in which case you tape once a month for a couple of minutes. Awesome. I’d ask for that 390 minutes of my life back, but it’s my own fault for watching. I blame myself.

Cast of Entourage
(Here’s my idea for Season 6: Since Ari is the only character who matters, why not dump Vince and his crew and give Ari a new client/entourage? What about Ari dealing with a rapper-turned-actor from Oakland and his crew of keepin’-it-real thug friends for a season? This wouldn’t be more compelling than a sixth season of watching Grenier pretend he’s an A-list actor?)

What was more improbable: Michael Turner’s becoming more valuable than just-about-washed-up former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, or Anna Paquin becoming more relevant than just-about-washed-up “Almost Famous” cast mate Kate Hudson?

Worst subplot of the Plax shooting: Every time I watch the bank robbery scene in “Heat” from now on, when De Niro takes a wounded Kilmer to Dr. Piven for the secret hospital treatment afterward, I’m going to think about Plax and what an idiot he is. And frankly, that’s not fair.

After Bernard Pollard finished off Tom Brady in Week 1, I think he sneaked over to Randy Moss, broke both of Moss’ hands and detached one of his retinas … only we missed it.

Repeat after me: It can’t be a “Subway Super Bowl” when both teams play in New Jersey. It can’t be a “Subway Super Bowl” when both teams play in New Jersey. It can’t be a “Subway Super Bowl” when both teams play in New Jersey.

What would have happened at a 2007 Arkansas tailgate if a blitzed Razorbacks fan offered everyone $100 at 50-to-1 odds that Peyton Hillis would finish with more 2008 fantasy points than both Darren McFadden and Felix Jones? And why do I have a feeling Jerry Jones made his billions in a similar way?

If somebody was selling T-shirts online with the photo of Plax in handcuffs, would I purchase one just to feel better about the tragic events of Super Bowl XLII?


Yes. Yes, I would.

Has there ever been a football player listed as “questionable” more often than Brian Westbrook? Does this extend to other parts of his life? Can anyone rely on him? Do his buddies make plans to see a movie with him knowing that he’s questionable to show up? Does he send back wedding invitations checking both the “Yes, I Will Attend” and “No, I Will Not Attend?” boxes? What would it be like if he hosted a radio show? All right, that’s it for today’s show, I’ll see you tomorrow, or I might not. Why aren’t we calling him Brian “Mr. Questionable” Westbrook?

So, the Jonas Brothers don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they don’t do drugs, they don’t have sex. … I mean, there’s NO WAY these kids were home-schooled. That’s just too farfetched.

Not to be a party pooper, but with “The Ageless” Fred Taylor’s career winding down, somebody needs to assume “ageless” status in 2009. I vote for Warrick Dunn because his spin move is like Seth Rogen’s dice-roll dance move in “Knocked Up” — it’s effective the first few times until you realize it’s all he has — only Rogen landed Katherine Heigl’s character and Dunn keeps getting first downs. So there you go.

Cortland Finnegan
It’s really too bad that we can’t bet on things like, “Cortland Finnegan will kill the Titans in the playoffs with a really dumb unnecessary roughness penalty at the worst possible time.”

Note to Shannon Sharpe: Keep that Thanksgiving Day paper bag on your head for the rest of the season. You could be like the Unknown Comic — or in this case, the Unknown Pregame Show Guy. Just try it. If we can’t understand you, CBS will give us closed-captioning. Which might not be a bad idea, anyway. I say run with this.

Hey, is there any way for the Chiefs to hypnotize Larry Johnson into thinking every short-yardage situation is really a crowded bar filled with the boyfriends of women who just resisted his advances?

Speaking of short yardage, you know Philly is struggling when reader Dan from Fairfax, Va., sends me a long e-mail explaining why Andy Reid should sign a “little person,” then have McNabb line up in shotgun formation while holding the “little person,” take a shotgun snap, hand the ball to the “little person,” then fling him over the offensive and defensive lines into the end zone. And Dan was serious. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Philadelphia Eagles!

In retrospect, David Garrard’s $60 million extension would be like NBC’s giving Andy Samberg $60 million right after “D— In a Box.” You might have wanted to let that one breathe a little, Jacksonville.

My vote for most optimistic Giants fan: Patrick M. in New York asks, “Is there any chance Eli’s stats won’t enjoy a post-Plaxico meteoric rise similar to what happened to David Silver after Scott shot himself during Season 2 of ‘90210’?”

(I love Giants fans. You’re right, guys — you’re much better off without your 6-foot-5 target who killed teams in the red zone. You won’t miss him at all. And having your star middle linebacker potentially heading to jail for conspiracy to cover up a crime won’t be a distraction in any way. You’ll be fine.)

My devil’s advocate defense of Cheddar Plax: Didn’t the mainstream media spend last week beating the one-year anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death into the ground and bemoaning the fact that NFL players don’t feel safe anymore? And aren’t those same media guys now skewering Plax for bringing a pistol into a nightclub for protection? I’m confused.

Elisha Cuthbert
Nobody’s a bigger supporter of the “sloppy seconds” joke than me, but going after Jack Bauer’s daughter … I mean …

The definition of irony: Edward Jones Investments decided it would be a good idea to purchase the naming rights for St. Louis’ football stadium, only now it’s the most depressing crowd in the NFL other than Detroit, and every week announcers say things like, “Man, you can hear a pin drop here at the Edward Jones Dome.” Now that’s a decision that makes me want to invest with Edward Jones! Wait, you’re the geniuses behind the Edward Jones Dome? Here’s my money, guys! Knock yourselves out!

Let’s settle this once and for all: Did Jared Allen tell his barber, “Make my hair look exactly like Nic Cage in ‘Con Air'”?

No classic game has taken a bigger historical fall for reasons that had nothing to do with the game itself than the 2006 Rose Bowl following the pro careers (so far) of Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. It’s like if “The Godfather” won five Oscars in 1972, and within three years, Pacino was the fourth lead on “Sanford and Son,” Brando was the sergeant on “The Streets of San Francisco,” and Jimmy Caan was doing soft-core porn.

I don’t want to say The Killers are going in the wrong direction, but their third album made their second album sound like a cross between “Born in the USA” and “Nevermind” … and I’m currently using the second album’s CD as a coaster for ginger ale.

If Heidi and Spencer don’t reproduce the real-life Damien Omen, then it’s never happening.

Note to every lousy cornerback: If your guy has four steps on you for a sure TD, only the QB underthrows him to the degree that the guy has to put on the brakes, stop and jump for the ball, giving you time to reach him and deflect the pass … this doesn’t mean you’re allowed to dance around afterward while waving the “incomplete” signal with your arms, or as I like to call it, “The Deltha O’Neal Shuffle.” Just put your head down and run back to the huddle in shame. OK? OK.

I’m stealing this joke from reader Bob in Allentown, Pa.: “What’s a bigger embarrassment for Philadelphians — having a disappointing NFL team with an out-of-shape QB and a terrible coach, or The Roots becoming Jimmy Fallon’s house band?”

Every time Gus Frerotte takes off his helmet and talks to a receiver, he has the same expression Dermot Mulroney had when Julia Roberts was professing her love for him in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” … and lemme tell you something, this is NOT a good thing for your NFC North hopes, Minnesota.

Seriously, is there any reason why Gregg Popovich is now dressing, looking and acting like Sean Connery? Was he inspired by a “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch on “SNL” or something?

My holiday wish: Marv Albert announces a Rams game this month just so we can hear him say the name, “Oshiomogho Atogwe.”

What a hit by Oshey-oh-MOGO, Ah-TEG-way!

Clippers bench Finally, I attended Saturday’s Heat-Clips game and was stunned to see someone named Joel Anthony (on the books for $700,000) starting at center for Miami over the immortal Mark “The Thief” Blount (earning $17 million over the next two years). Then the game unfolded. Blount never played. Not one second. Even better, he spent every timeout trying to break the NBA record for “Furthest An Active Player Could Stand From A Timeout Huddle In Progress.” At one point, he was standing a good 15 feet from Coach Kumar (aka Erik Spoelstra). The picture at right doesn’t do it justice — in person, it was riotously funny. And that’s why we call him “The Thief.”

Speaking of robbery, I hope you caught the Greatest Show on TV on Tuesday night — C-Webb, GP and Ahmad on NBA-TV — when GP called out Luol Deng for robbing the Bulls with the $70 million extension, followed by C-Webb asking if Deng wore a mask during the robbery and GP answering that not only did Deng walk in there without a mask or a gun, he had his finger pushing into his coat pocket and pretended to hold a gun as he committed the robbery. Now THAT, my friends, is comedy gold. This show has reached the point that I wake up at 7 a.m. and think, “It’s Tuesday! Twelve hours until C-Webb and GP!” That’s right, I dumped Kenny, Ernie and Charles faster than Brad Pitt dumped Jennifer Aniston. Fellas, I didn’t plan on falling in love with someone else — it just kind of happened. I’m sorry. My heart now belongs to NBA-TV.

And on that note, let’s get to the Week 14 picks (home teams in caps)…

Raiders (+10) over CHARGERS
I know, I already lost this one. Just wanted to point out Oakland’s top-four receivers have 53 catches, 747 yards and five TDs through 13 games this season. In other words, if you drafted “Every Oakland Receiver Combined” in your fantasy draft, you wouldn’t be starting him in Round 1 of the playoffs this week. Wow.

Settle down. You played 15 games in five weeks. Ten were at home. You played only two back-to-backs. Couldn’t have been an easier start. Your real season started Tuesday … you know, when you blew the 17-point lead to Indiana.

See where you are in three weeks; right now, you’re about as realistic as unemployed Pop Warner parents bragging about their kids. If you beat the Celtics on Christmas Day, then you can talk about 70 wins and whether Trevor Ariza is better than Scottie Pippen. I need to move soon.

BEARS (-6.5) over Jaguars
If this column were Jack Del Rio, every Jaguar would have quit reading it by now.

That reminds me, the next time an NFL player tells a radio station something as incriminating as this

“In my 11 years, this is probably the worst team, emphasize the word ‘team,’ that I’ve been on. We have some outstanding players, but the mix is bad. We can’t really find that chemistry that we need. … We don’t have that mix and it’s just tough right now.”

… could the fans of that particular team please e-mail me the quote and prevent me from picking that team that weekend? Please? We’re all in this together. I botched last week’s Jags-Texans game solely because I never knew Taylor had just flushed the 2008 season down the toilet, walked out of the bathroom and told everyone else, “Don’t go in there.” It’s upsetting.

Bengals (+13.5) over COLTS
Some things to consider with the Colts…

1. I would rather have my fantasy team killed instantly by Tom Brady’s knee injury then killed slowly over the course of 13 weeks by Joe Addai and Reggie Wayne. I don’t like to suffer.

2. If you noticed how the Cleveland Cromeos defended Manning last week, they stacked the line of scrimmage, pressured him and dared him to throw deep … and he couldn’t do it. Not a good sign for the Colts’ playoff hopes. Even if they’re the luckiest football team in the history of the planet.

3. Which reminds me, the Colts are five plays away from potentially being 3-9: Tarvaris Jackson’s second dumb turnover in Week 2; Sage Rosenfels trying to leap two guys for a first down in Week 5; Dave Thomas’ stupid late hit in Week 9; Marvin Harrison’s fourth-down catch in San Diego (Week 10); and Derek Anderson fumbling away the lead (and the game) in Week 12. If those five plays had gone the other way, the Colts would be 3-9. I watched all five of those games and say that with complete certainty. So there.

Braylon Edwards
TITANS (-14) over Browns
Possible titles for the 2008 Browns team video: “We Had A Title For This But Braylon Edwards Dropped It” … “Somebody Wake Up Coach, It’s Fourth Down” … “The Year The Dawg Pound Was Put To Sleep” … “Hope Is Not A Good Thing” … “Hey, At Least LeBron Isn’t Leaving In Two Years” … “Good God, that’s Ken Dorsey’s Music!” … “How the Hell Did We Beat The Giants?” … or my personal favorite, “Weekend at Cromeos” (with a cover of Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman driving a speedboat with the soon-to-be-canned Browns coach propped up on a set of water-skis behind them).

PACKERS (-6) over Texans
The 5-7 Packers have basically destroyed the statistical engine at Aaron Schatz is wandering the streets of Massachusetts right now like Russell Crowe after he went crazy in “A Beautiful Mind.” This is terrible. They have to turn it around. They’re too good. This is ridiculous. And if that didn’t sway you, how ’bout this: a rusty Matt Schaub in Lambeau! Tease the Packers and Bears and thank me later.

LIONS (+10) over Vikings
So, here’s my plan that I hatched during an unfathomably depressing Thanksgiving game in Detroit: If the state of Michigan were a struggling athlete, we’d say, “Man, he needs a change of scenery.” Well, why can’t we give Michigan a change of scenery? What if we sold Michigan to Canada since it’s right on their border?

Think about it. Canada gets the spiritual lift of purchasing one of the 50 states, as well as musicians like Kid Rock, Bob Seger and Eminem, a second NBA and MLB team, two Big Ten schools, another NHL team, its first NFL team and, of course, more territory. Canadians would be flying high … so high they wouldn’t even mind that they were now involved in the WNBA. Meanwhile, America would escape billion-dollar buyouts for the car companies, and if we need a 50th state, we can always use Puerto Rico as long as it doesn’t put us over the luxury tax. Michigan natives get universal health care, a fresh start and a chance to feel like they’re spending more money than usual with the Canadian dollar. Everyone wins! I’m a genius. Just wait until I become Sports Czar and I talk my man Barry into this.

Falcons (+3.5) over SAINTS
I’d like to thank the NFC South for giving us 65 percent of the exciting games this season. You do NOT want to play the Falcons as a sixth seed. You hear me, Minnesota? Meanwhile, the USA Today Sports Weekly has decided Mike Mularkey “deserves an Oscar” for the way he scripted Atlanta’s offense this season. This would be so much more controversial than Diablo Cody’s winning for “Juno,” I can’t even tell you.

Colts -13.5, Jags +6.5, Packers -6, Browns +14, Lions +10, Giants -7, Saints -3, 49ers +3.5, Bills -1, Broncos -9, Rams +14, Cowboys +3, Pats -5, Ravens -5, Bucs +3.

Thursday: 0-1
Last week: 8-8
Season: 97-90-5

(Great point from Chip in Mechanicsville, Ga.: “The Wildcat formation would have been perfect for Michael Vick. He was before his time in being right for it, and he’ll get back to the NFL just after it wears out its welcome as an NFL offense and defenses learn how to stop it.” Look at the bright side: At least he’s not bankrupt and incarcerated.)

GIANTS (-7) over Eagles
Here’s how much I respect the Giants (and don’t respect the Eagles): We just witnessed one of the all-time in-season distractions in the history of the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (Copyright: Ron Jaworski), and even though this looks like a classic “They’re too distracted to get focused for this one” situation, I still think the Giants win by two touchdowns as Andy Reid shatters the record for “most failed challenges in a single season” with three games still to go.

That reminds me, here was my favorite e-mail of the past two weeks, courtesy of Brad in Arlington after the Eagles lost to Baltimore:

“I’ve figured out what’s wrong with Andy Reid: He can’t deal with the stress of being an NFL head coach anymore, so he’s gone to his happy place. Apparently his happy place is a labor day BBQ. That’s the only other venue where he shows such self-destructive behavior and constant choice of instant gratification. Consider the similarities:

1. Reid in BBQ mode:

Wife: Honey, don’t you think four burgers is enough?

Reid: Nah, I’ll have one more.

Wife: Well, how about a turkey burger this time?

Reid: Nah. Regular burger. Cheese and bacon on it.

Andy Reid
2. Reid in 2008 coaching mode:

Marty Mornhinweg: Third-and-1 coach, what’s the call? Donovan sneak? Swing to Westbrook? Buckhalter off tackle?

Reid: Nah, just have Donovan throw long again.

(Result: interception by Fabian Washington.)

Mornhinweg: Second-and-inches inside the Baltimore 3. We should just pound it in, right?

Reid: Nah, let that Kolb kid throw it. I like his moustache.

(Result: 108-yard TAINT by Ed Reed.)

Jets (-3.5) over NINERS
I’m throwing out last week’s Broncos-Jets game: bad weather, a flat Jets team, a couple of legitimately goofy plays … you could tell within a few minutes where things were headed. We’ll see the real Jets this week. By the way, I hate to jinx their season, but have you noticed Brett Favre is four weeks away from sticking it to the “Madden Curse”? Is this like talking during a no-hitter?

(Random gambling note: After I unveiled my big theory two Fridays ago about the death of home-field advantage, the road teams went 22-10 against the spread over the next two weeks … and somehow, I finished 17-15 over that span. So, I didn’t even heed my own advice. I’m an idiot. I really am. Including Thursday night’s San Diego cover, home teams are 76-111 against the spread this season. Staggering.)

Two “Shawshank” notes:

1. In Tuesday’s “Rocky 4” podcast discussion, I mentioned how the deleted scenes from “Shawshank” had disappeared off the face of the earth. Thank God for YouTube.

2. A fantastic parody of the “Shawshank” ending if it were an ’80s movie. (Beware some colorful language.)

BILLS (-1) over Dolphins
FYI: They’re playing this game in Toronto’s SkyDome, which seems like a huge advantage for the warm-weather Fins until you remember the Toronto fans will be going bonkers during this game. It’s going to be like watching a never-married, semi-attractive cougar throwing herself at someone else’s husband at a work party for three solid hours, only without watching them culminate things by knocking boots under his desk at 3 a.m. Advantage, Bills.

Meanwhile, let’s congratulate Bills kicker Rian Lindell for defying the recent argument that kickers have become too accurate. Although it’s still not a bad idea to adjust the extra-point rules. What if two-point conversions remained at the 2-yard line, but PATs were moved to the 7-yard line? Did you know kickers are currently 881-for-884 on extra points in 2008? You had less than four-in-1,000 odds to see a missed extra point through three months; the odds were slightly better that the Red Sox would come back from 7-0 in Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS. That’s stupid, right? So, why waste our time? If between three and 10 minutes of every NFL game is devoted to kicking PATs, I’d rather use that time on more important things — like more commercials, useless tidbits from sideline reporters and awkward shots of the announcers sitting in the booth with “OK, this is weird … I wish the camera wasn’t on me right now … OK … back to the field … no, seriously” looks on their faces.

(On second thought …)

Chiefs (+9) over BRONCOS
Fast-forward to Week 17: “It’s the 8-7 Broncos against the 7-8 Chargers for the AFC West division title, live on CBS! Hello everyone, I’m Bill Macatee along with Steve Beuerlein…”

(You’re right, that joke was too subtle and didn’t work. The JOKE was that, even though this game was for a division title, CBS sent its No. 6 broadcast team. Again, we could avoid this scenario simply by adopting my “A division champ has to win nine games to get a playoff spot” rule, which will be a crucial part of my “Sports Czar” campaign as it unfolds in the next few weeks.)

Cowboys (+3) over STEELERS
Marion Barber, you’re gonna love that sloppy Heinz Field. In other news, I am now actively rooting against the Steelers after Ryan Clark’s Jack Tatum-esque cheap shot on Wes Welker. If that had been done to a quarterback, he would have been handcuffed on the spot, thrown in jail and banned from professional football. The Karma Police are coming for you, Ryan Clark. You just wait.

Laurence Maroney
Patriots (-5) over SEAHAWKS
You can’t go against Bill Belichick after an embarrassing loss. You just can’t. Hey, what’s a more ridiculous Christmas gift: This authentic Aaron Brooks Raiders jersey going for half-price (a mere $99.95!), or this authentic Laurence Maroney Patriots jersey for the totally unreasonable price of $249.95! I’m going with Maroney because the Brooks jersey, conceivably, could be funny as a semi-joke gift. An expensive semi-joke gift, but still, you could derive some sort of entertainment out of it. But the Maroney jersey … I mean … $250? For the oft-injured and incredibly disappointing running back who’s almost definitely getting waived or traded in April? I can’t think of a single positive. If any Pats fan unwrapped that thing, they’d immediately be bummed out, and you’d be bummed out that you dropped $250 on it. It’s the Zero Sum Game of Christmas gifts. But if you can find a more depressing holiday gift in an NFL Pro Shop online, by all means, e-mail it to me.

Rams (+14) over CARDINALS
Kurt Warner is becoming one of those milk cartons in the back of the fridge that expired a few weeks ago, only it smells fine and you somehow get a few more enjoyable bowls of cereals out of it … and then one day, you take a whiff and it smells like holy hell and you have to throw it out. I think we’re almost at that point. And by the way, we need a new feel-good NFC sleeper since the Cards can’t run the ball or stop anyone from throwing on them. I vote for Atlanta. Stranger things have happened. I can’t think of any right now, but I’m sure stranger things have happened.

(Funny request from Chad V. in D.C. that someone should be able to accommodate this weekend: “Could someone put together a montage for YouTube showing how much these pregame guys laugh at the most ridiculously unfunny things? By the way, I wrote this laughing hilariously at my wife opening the fridge.”)

RAVENS (-5) over Redskins
I can’t wait for this sequence on “The Sports Reporters.”

Mike Lupica: “If an aging baseball star had rejuvenated his career in a contract year like Ray Lewis did this year, to the point that he’s almost UNRECOGNIZABLE compared with the has-been we’ve been watching the past three years … we’d be asking all kinds of questions, wouldn’t we? And that’s really the difference between baseball and football, as we learned with Shawne Merriman’s suspension last year. Ultimately, we don’t care whether NFL players cheat or not!”

(Cut to Mitch Albom forcing a laugh as Bob Ryan cracks one of his tiny “I can’t smile because this is in HD and I just put down 16 ounces of coffee so my teeth might be yellow” smirks.)

Lupica: “Look, I’m not saying Ray Lewis cheated. He was just the most logical example here … unless you want to go with Rodney Harrison and the fact that they’re still picking up pieces of his exploded LEFT QUADRICEP off the grass at Gillette Stadium.”

(We hear Albom and John Saunders laughing in the background. Lupica leans forward and seems totally pleased with himself.)

Lupica: “We care about baseball because of the stats and how they threaten the older stats, and our memories, and everything else that makes baseball a living, breathing entity. But football? We don’t care. If anything, we assume EVERYONE is cheating and we continue to look the other way. [He suddenly looks very serious.] And that, my friends, is a shame.”

John Saunders (suddenly somber): “Back with my final parting shot, right after this.”

Buccaneers (+3) over PANTHERS
“Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees Cover 2 Drew Brees …”

One last note: Best of luck and a speedy recovery to the great Paul Zimmerman after he suffered two hopefully minor strokes last week. Doctor Z is one of the reasons you’re reading this column right now; any half-decent writer ends up being an amalgam of every original voice they ever read when they were growing up. He was one of those many voices for me. Nobody cared more about what he did; he was a true inspiration and the thought of even one holiday season’s passing without his one-of-a-kind “All-Pro Picks” column is profoundly depressing. Get well soon.

This Week: 0-1
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 103-85-5

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy’s World.

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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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