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Dreamworks Tom Hanks

The Conclusion of the Summer Mailbag

The definitive breakdown of Tom Hanks highlights and an Oscar-worthy emptying of the Sports Guy's inbox

Since I promised a sixth installment of the Half Summer of Mailbag and never delivered, let’s add three minutes of extra time, bang out some e-mails and tackle the Week 3 picks. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: The Grantland staff’s buying/selling gimmick (described in your Week 2 column) reminded me of something I’ve started to do recently: using the concept of WAR (wins above replacement) in all aspects of my life. For instance, when my girlfriend asked how a softball game went and I told her “high WAR” to sum up a great night at the plate with solid defense. But what I’ve found is even better is using WAR to describe the people around me, e.g., My buddy Alex’s old girlfriend was uncool and replacement level or 1.0 WAR at best, but his current girlfriend is a 7.5, that’s MVP level and he should hang on to this one. Thoughts?
— Zeph, Corona Del Mar

SG: I think you’re onto something. Chuck Klosterman wrote about “Rock VORP” for Grantland in June, but WAR works better than VORP (value over replacement) because it’s easier to digest: Start at 0.0, anything in the 7’s is good, the 8-9 range is great and 10+ is Hall of Fame caliber. For instance, at dinner the other night, a friend said that Two Broke Girls (a new CBS sitcom) was surprisingly entertaining and joked that it had a higher VORP than you could have expected from that 9:30 p.m. Monday slot. In other words, anything CBS threw on at 9:30 was getting a good rating after Two and a Half Men — like how any decent slugger can finish with 95 RBIs with three 400-plus OBP guys batting in front of him — but Two Broke Girls could also succeed in a fake parallel universe that measures TV success with sabermetric stats.

Had the friend added, “I’d give the show a 7.3 WAR,” it would have been even easier to understand his point, right? Keeping that analogy going, the saber junkies in this parallel universe would have destroyed “lucky time slot” sitcoms like Wings, Night Court, Caroline in the City, The Single Guy and Suddenly Susan for having deceivingly good stats and a shockingly low WAR; decided that Conan O’Brien was overrated (because Leno’s high lead-in artificially skewed his 12:30 a.m. ratings, he couldn’t generate decent ratings without that lead-in); and pointed out that Jon Stewart had a ridiculously high WAR (because he succeeded no matter what Comedy Central was sticking before and after him). And I’m pretty sure they would have made Friday Night Lights their Tim Raines cause.

Q: If you’re going to use Matthew Stafford If He Stays Healthy’s full name in your columns, could you please use my full name whenever you mention me too? It’s Former Harvard Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Thanks!
— Former Harvard Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo, NY

SG: I gotta be honest — I don’t think that was him.

Q: I just graduated from prep school and I want to share with you the best idea I’ve ever had. What about a fantasy league based on college placement? You play in the fall and draft teams of seniors at your school and then earn points based on the school they end up going to. We used the US News report ranking of the school subtracted from 100. It’s deliciously evil because it involves cold calculation of the potential of your peers.
— Milo, Princeton, N.J.

SG: I agree, Milo — that’s the best idea you’ve ever had. But wouldn’t you have to go auction-style and give everyone $260 to spend? It would be funny if people ended up overpaying for the three smartest kids the same way people overpaid for Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson in my West Coast auction. Also, if you draft someone who doesn’t end up going to a top-100 school, it should be minus-20 per kid. And I’d make the University of Colorado at Boulder worth 25 points just so the stoners would get play in the auction. Another piece of advice: Pick your nine friends who you’re doing the auction with, then swear each other to secrecy. I don’t want to log on to AOL one day and see the headline, “PREP SCHOOLERS KICKED OUT BECAUSE OF COLLEGE PLACEMENT FANTASY LEAGUE.”

(Did I write that last sentence just because I wanted to be the first person in six years to write the words, “I don’t want to log on to AOL one day”? Yes. Yes I did.1)

Q: If you were to ask 1000 people to list their top 3 favorite Tom Hanks performances and then discount any list that begins with Forrest Gump, would any two be the same? Tom Hanks is incredible. My three (and this took hours): Big, A League of Their Own, Catch Me If You Can.
— Ian Victorine, Gloucester

SG: Mine were Big, Bachelor Party and Cast Away. I asked 30 friends and co-workers the same question; 26 of Hanks’ movies and TV shows were selected as a top-three performance by those 30 people.2 Big (17), Saving Private Ryan (13), A League of Their Own (8), Cast Away (7) and Bosom Buddies (7) received the most votes; his other Oscar performance (Philadelphia) received five votes (remember, Ian in Gloucester made Gump ineligible). Semi-related: If you applied the WAR concept here, Hanks’ top six performances would probably be …

Cast Away (12.3): He did scenes with a volleyball for a freaking hour. That was Steve Carlton’s 1972 season, basically.

Big (11.1): I just can’t see anyone else successfully pulling off Josh Baskin in 19883 except for Eddie Murphy and possibly Robin Williams (who would have either pulled it off or turned it into one of the five most unwatchable comedies of the ’80s). There’s a reason it finished first in my unofficial poll. I can’t believe there wasn’t a Lifetime sequel called Big II: Zoltar’s Revenge in which Elizabeth Perkins’ character couldn’t stay away from young Josh and pulled a Mary Kay Letourneau on him. Is there still time?

Turner and Hooch (10.6): Covered this in Mailbag V.

Forrest Gump (10.4): I say “underrated” for Gump. He’s in EVERY scene. He has to play a dimwit in a blatantly manipulative movie without crossing over into that Robin Williams Zone and inadvertently making you hate him and the movie. He has to pull off a crazy accent that really shouldn’t have worked and did. He has to pull off the inexplicable 10-minute jogging-back-and-forth-across-the-country sequence (one of the dumbest stretches of any Oscar winner) without making you turn on the movie. He has to make you think that Jenny Gump would want to have sex with him; granted, she was a slut, but still. He has to believably pull off being a football player, soldier, Vietnam vet, shrimp-boat owner and jogger, as well as someone with a heart and soul who’s slightly smarter than he lets on. And the whole time, you have to buy that he has a 70 IQ. I’m gonna say that Raymond Babbitt was 10 times easier than Forrest Gump. And by the way, I hate Forrest Gump and can’t watch it anymore. The jogging scene kills me. I can’t get past it. They should have just had him develop superpowers and fight crime by briefly turning into Plastic Man.

The Money Pit (9.9): This was like Bautista’s 2011 season. Huge numbers on a .500 team and features the single best Tom Hanks scene.

Saving Private Ryan (9.7): If we cared about the Oscars the same way we care about sports, we’d consider Roberto Benigni’s beating Hanks for “Best Actor” in 1998 an even bigger travesty than Karl Malone’s beating out MJ for the 1997 MVP. And like Jordan a year earlier, Hanks didn’t win for the simple (and indefensible) reason that everyone was tired of seeing him win. I have Benigni-Hanks ranked as my no. 1 Oscar Travesty of all time. It’s just too bad they couldn’t have settled it in the 1998 Acting Finals; I think Benigni would have choked like Malone did.

Since we don’t rate actors in a “big picture” sense the same way we dissect athletes, allow me three other Hanks thoughts:

1. During Letterman’s apex in the 1980s, his four best guests were Hanks, Jay Leno, Michael Keaton and Eddie Murphy — every time those guys were on, you knew you were getting two killer segments and Letterman at his counterpunching best. But Hanks was also one of the three best SNL hosts ever: Any list has to include Hanks, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as the top three in some order. These were two significant, game-changing pop culture achievements — Hanks influenced two of the three most influential late-night shows of the past 30 years (the other being The Daily Show).

2. My friend Dan Silver points this out: You could really split Hanks’ career into two halves. No. 1 had TV Underrated Hanks (1980-83, when everyone could see his potential to be bigger than that) and Silly Comedy Underrated Hanks (1983-1992, when for a second time everyone could see his potential to be bigger than that); no. 2 had Respectable Great Actor Hanks (1992-2000, starting with A League of Their Own, when he unleashed one of the best movie runs ever) and Playing With House Money Hanks (2001-present, when he could do any movie he wanted, took some chances and got passed down to a younger generation as the voice of Woody in Toy Story). How you feel about his movies probably depends where you came of age in those halves. I can’t have a Hanks top three without Bachelor Party because that’s one of my favorite ’80s movies, and also, he’s funny as hell in it.4 But if you’re 25? You might have Toy Story or Apollo 13 in that spot.

3. Off that same theme, here’s a take from a friend who works in Hollywood: “For a lot of people Tom Hanks IS Forrest Gump. It is such an iconic role, one can’t help think of one without the other. I’d bet 90 percent of the lists would begin with Forrest Gump if it were allowed. As for everything else, how you feel about Hanks will be split by age, gender, and preference in genre. The more important question for me: What does this say about Tom Hanks? I suppose he’s like one of those rare great athletes who made the proper adjustments with age to extend their careers in connection with their changing skill set (e.g. Jordan’s first championship run versus his second). Hanks started as a lanky comedic star and slowly became a believable dramatic heavy. It’s an almost impossible road to navigate. Could you imagine Jason Segel eventually starring in Road to Perdition? Could you imagine Russell Crowe in Splash?

Ultimately, that’s what sets Hanks apart from every other great actor: He reinvented himself halfway through his career. There’s just no parallel. From 1982 through around 1990, “Tom Hanks or Michael Keaton?” was a real question. You argued about it the same way you’d argue about “Marino or Elway?” or “Porizkova or Macpherson?” Hell, Keaton briefly passed Hanks with the first Batman remake (1989); Hanks’ next two movies were legitimate bombs (Bonfire of the Vanities and Joe Versus the Volcano, both from 1990). Two years passed and Hanks suddenly jumped a level with A League of Their Own, Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Toy Story, That Thing You Do, Saving Private Ryan, You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story 2, The Green Mile and Cast Away. To put that run in perspective, A League of Their Own came out when Bill Clinton was running for president; the rest of the movies came out during his presidency. It’s probably the best nine-year run ever. And it happened after Hanks had already had a whole other career as a funny actor.

But here’s where Hollywood diverges from sports. Hanks was Jordan (right down to his multiple apexes), but if this were sports, every time a potential threat to Hanks came along (say, Leo DiCaprio), you’d have writers and talking heads arguing that DiCaprio was going to be BETTER than Hanks, then a second group of writers and talking heads bitching that “This is ridiculous, we’ll never see another Tom Hanks!” The whole thing would keep going and going in a circle, and all the while, the same point would keep getting banged home: We’re never going to see another Tom Hanks. We don’t consume movies like this, obviously. We don’t have 24-hour movie radio, Hollywood ESPN or thousands of columnists and bloggers fighting for the same angles. There’s no foolproof way to evaluate actors against other actors, and we’re probably better off that way: Acting isn’t about wins and losses, playoffs or advanced stats. It’s art. But because of that, people rarely take a step back and say, “Holy crap, look at Tom Hanks’ stats, this is incredible!”

Which feeds back to the “Would anyone have the same three favorite Tom Hanks movies” question. I asked 30 people who I know; all 30 picked a different trio of movies.5 That would not happen with any other actor or actress. Good call from Ian in Gloucester.

Q: You were spot on with your analysis of Hanks’ performance in “Turner and Hooch.” But how can you mistake Hooch for a St. Bernard? I know it was in the middle of the Dog Movie Era with classics like K-9, Homeward Bound, Cop and Half and Beethoven (that was the one with a St. Bernard). Hooch is a French Mastiff. You owe all dog lovers an apology!
— Tom R, Charlotte

SG: Damn, we could have just turned this into an All-Hanks mailbag. I can’t believe how many dog lovers e-mailed me about this mistake. In general, I can’t believe how many dog lovers are out there: In 10-plus years writing for Grantland and ESPN.com, the most-read column I ever wrote wasn’t about sports, but about the Dooze, my beloved golden retriever who passed away in 2009. Even two and a half years later, I still get e-mails asking me how Rufus (our other dog) is doing.6 I’m amazed that a 2012 presidential candidate hasn’t taken advantage of that, filmed a series of dog-loving commercials and pushed for things like “more dog beaches” and “better veterinarian health care benefits” as part of their platform. Dog lovers are totally irrational. I include myself. If Obama wants to improve his approval rating, he should rescue a mutt every six weeks and keep, like, 10 or 12 dogs in the White House — he’d have dog-lover voters saying, “Even if I’m let down by the last four years, I gotta be honest … it was pretty neat how Obama kept rescuing those dogs.”

Q: Listen to the chorus of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Isn’t it about masturbating to porn? “Staring at the blank page before you” (open up the Internet) “open up the dirty window” (obvious) “let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find” (you can’t find the words because you’re busy grunting) “reaching for something in the distance” (again obvious) “so close you can almost taste it” (almost there) “release your inhibitions” (climax!). Have fun listening to that song the same way ever again.
— Ryan Wittman, State College

SG: Ryan, on behalf of everyone reading this Mailbag, thanks for not keeping that e-mail going through the chorus of “Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in … ”

Q: So I just saw the movie Source Code (not bad, but Moon was better). In the film, in case you haven’t seen it, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is repeatedly placed into the body of a school teacher aboard a train in the eight minutes before a devastating terrorist attack … to gather information. That’s bare bones and without anything that seems like a spoiler, because it’s all a lot more complicated. Anyway, it got me thinking. If you could go back in time to re-live, repeatedly, any eight minutes in sports in order to then repeat it … where would you go? As a Yankees fan, I’d pick the eight minutes before Brian Cashman’s initial meeting with Carl Pavano.
— Dennis O’Brien, Kerrville, TX

SG: For me, it would be the eight minutes right before Lenny Bias’ fatal cocaine binge in 1986. That’s easy. Apparently Fox is developing Source Code into a TV show, but why aren’t they bringing back 24 with a new Jack Bauer (maybe it could be his cousin, Vince Bauer), only instead of 24 episodes, you’d just spread 24 hours over 13 episodes? 24 got canceled because it always ran out of steam; coming up with 24 action-packed episodes with dramatic twists and swerves was just too difficult. But 13 episodes? Totally doable. Fox fell asleep at the wheel about three years ago, as evidenced by the fact that Joe Buck is now allowed to announce baseball and football games while battling an apparent coma. I don’t get it. I miss the old Fox.

Q: What’s the top thing you didn’t think you’d write or think this year? For me, so far, it has to be, “I wish Dice K were available.”
— Lisa L., Cape Elizabeth, Maine

SG: Mine was either “Thank god for Alfredo Aceves,” “I miss the Women’s World Cup” or “Did they ever announce which girl was dancing with Chaz Bono?” Speaking of Chaz …

Q: With Chaz Bono’s recent publicity push due to DWTS, it occurred to me that her beard is clearly one of the worst of all time. I put it in a class with Hulk Hogan’s NWO Hollywood look. If we were to build a Mt. Rushmore of bad beards, what would the other two be?
— Brad, Fort Worth, TX

SG: How dare you besmirch Hollywood Hogan’s colored beard! I know you didn’t mean that. Here’s the thing about bad beards: For historical purposes, you can’t count anything that was ironically bad (Brian Wilson), playoff-hockey bad (too many examples to count), attention-getting bad (James Harden, Joaquin Phoenix), can’t-grow-it bad (Sidney Crosby), or just-about-homeless bad (Kimbo Slice). You want the beard grower to be thinking either, “Damn, this looks good,” or, “I know this doesn’t look great, but this is going to be my look and I’m sticking to it.”

In my mind, George Lucas and Ken Burns will always be the Lincoln and Washington of Mount Bad Beardmore. I’m fine with giving Chaz the third spot if only because he made such a sacrifice to be included. The fourth spot came down to five people …

• Brad Pitt’s truly horrific extendo-goatee that could have been loosely interpreted as either, “I’m super-duper stoned right now, is there something on my face?” or “After doing everything I could to break away from Angelina and these six kids, this was my last gasp to get her to dump me.” That look single-handedly transformed him from “Women love me” to “I am driving women to the point of insanity if I don’t shave this off soon.” But technically, that wasn’t a beard and I can’t count it. Same goes for James Hetfield’s … well, whatever the hell that thing was on James Hetfield’s face.

• Kevin Federline’s “Can you believe I’m banging Britney with this beard?” beard from a few years ago. One of those rare beards that made you angry and sad all at once.

• Conan O’Brien’s post-NBC beard, which started out as something of a protest (“They screwed me over! I’m sad! I’m growing a beard!”) and eventually became his permanent TBS look. Which would be fine if the show was doing well, but it’s not. Could you blame the beard for Conan’s ratings troubles?7 Couldn’t you blame his beard? No late-night host has ever launched a successful show with a beard. You know why? Because people don’t want to fall asleep while staring at a guy with a beard. But unless we have definitive proof that it ruined his TBS ratings, that’s not quite enough for a Mount Bad Beardmore spot.

• David Stern’s 1999 lockout/protest beard. Similar intentions as Conan’s post-NBC beard, better delivery, better effect. Actually, what am I saying … I loved David Stern’s lockout/protest beard! Let’s run it back! RUN BACK THE LOCKOUT/PROTEST BEARD!

• Remember the time Michael Jackson tried to grow a beard? Yup. We’re done. Lucas, Burns, Bono, Jackson … that’s my Mount Bad Beardmore.

Q: How are you not freaking out about this Red Sox collapse? I thought we would have had five columns by now!!!
— Heather, Villanova, PA

SG: What Red Sox collapse? Things are totally fine!

Q: 5-16 in September, and not a word from you!?! What gives?
— Steve, Fredericton, Canada

SG: 5 and 16 what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Q: What if on October 26, 1986 a tall bespectacled, balding man named “Larry” handed you this letter?

Dear 17 year old Bill Simmons,
I know that his error yesterday is still fresh, but don’t worry — 25 years from now Billy Buck will appear on my TV show and redeem himself by catching a baby thrown from a burning building. Also, you will see Susie have an orgasm in my Hybrid car.
— Calvin, New York

SG: I would have been excited. I never blamed Billy Buck — I always blamed John McNamara, Bob Stanley and Calvin Schiraldi. Billy Buck was a warrior that season. He could barely walk. And by the way, we never would have gotten past the Angels without his at-bat against Mike Witt in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the ALCS — that set the tone for everything that happened after. I couldn’t have been happier that Billy Buck got redeemed on one of the best comedies ever during its best season ever. That reminds me, here’s the updated pitching line for Curb through eight seasons … 8

The Pilot (1999): 4-1, 3.04 ERA, 45.2 IP, 50 K, 1.12 WHIP
Season 1 (2000): 17-9, 2.60 ERA, 218 IP, 276 K, 1.07 WHIP
Season 2 (2001): 23-7, 3.23 ERA, 259.1 IP, 316 K, 0.97 WHIP
Season 3: (2002): 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 213.1 IP, 313 K, 0.92 WHIP
Season 4 (2004): 23-7, 3.28 ERA, 244.1 IP, 329 K, 1.18 WHIP
Season 5 (2005): 12-11, 3.52 ERA, 220 IP, 228 K, 1.21 WHIP
Season 6 (2007): 18-4, 2.98 ERA, 214.1 IP, 218 K, 1.16 WHIP
Season 7 (2009): 19-4, 2.20 ERA, 232 IP, 177 K, 0.95 WHIP
Season 8 (2011): 18-6, 1.74 ERA, 217 IP, 313 K, 0.92 WHIP

(Note: That’s right, I blessed it with Pedro’s 2000 season — the greatest statistical season of his career, although I’m still partial to 1999 for pure impact, and one of the great statistical seasons that’s ever happened. Three pantheon episodes in one season????9

Q: I’m a new dad. I love my wife and baby, but I also need time with the boys. I need your Top 5 excuses (that have actually worked) so I can go out with the boys and minimize the damage with the missus. Much appreciated.
— Scott, Oxford, Connecticut

SG: You’ve come to the right place, Scott. Don’t be afraid to use old standbys like, “He’s only in town for one night!” (it doesn’t even matter who “he” is — if you didn’t go to college with your wife, you can keep making up old college friends indefinitely), “I have to go, it’s my job!” (only works for Super Bowl weekends and Vegas weekends if you write about sports for a living), “All my friends are married, this is the last bachelor party I will ever have to go to!” (this has been working for me since 2006 — the key is to keep making younger friends), and “He’s going through some stuff, he needs a friend tonight” (this one works really well, especially because your wife feels like you’re confiding in her).

But these three excuses stand out …

1. “Believe me, the LAST thing I want to do is go out tonight, I’m as tired as you are.”

Make it seem like you’re basically being taken hostage, acknowledge how tired you both are (wives always appreciate being included in any “tired” conversation) and kill any suspicion that you’re letting loose. Simple and effective. If she says, “Will you be home by 10:30?” just say, “I’m not sure when I’ll be home, I don’t know where we’re going, we’re meeting at [fill in any friend’s house].” Don’t commit to a time.

2. “Why don’t you go out? Go ahead, you need friend time, I’ll stay home with the baby.”

Once she makes plans and she’s properly fired up, lock down your babysitter on the sly, then drop the bombshell about an hour before she leaves that you’re going out, as well … she’ll be so happy she’s going out that she won’t care. I’m patenting this move and calling it The Simmons.

3. “I need a night out. I just need it. I want to have a few pops, make fun of my friends, have dumb conversations and forget for a few hours that you didn’t just recently pass a human being out of your body. If I don’t get to do this every so often, I’m going to become a full-fledged weirdo who doesn’t know how to interact with other dudes and waits for you to fall asleep so I can surf Internet porn. You don’t want to be married to a full-fledged weirdo. Right?

You’d be surprised how well the truth works. By the way, all three of those excuses can also be used by wives for their husbands. So there.

Q: I was at the bar Friday night when “Cult of Personality” starting playing. I immediately looked to the door expecting CM Punk to walk in. I think I’ve started watching too much wrestling again. I’m 30 by the way.
— Len, Erie, Pennsylvania

SG: (Nodding knowingly.)

Q: My fantasy football team this year? Casey Anthony’s MILF All Stars. I am absolutely giving you and the mustache 100% of the blame/credit. I never thought like this before I started reading your columns. Oh, who am I kidding? I thought like this long before I hated hearing you talk about the f-ing Red Sox. Seriously though, I’d let Casey Anthony touch my penis.
— Scott, Portland, Oregon

SG: (Afraid to say anything.)

Q: Not following the NBA lockout except for when you mention it in a mailbag. Is it at all possible for the players to break the owners?
— Jason, Seattle

SG: It’s possible the same way getting struck by lightning is possible. Thanks for reminding me to write this week’s installment of the Anusol NBA Lockout Watch. That’s right, Anusol — the cream your colon needs when you’re scratching it until it bleeds. If you’re sitting in a pool of your own blood, try Anusol.

We’ll make this week’s update quick: I was told by Someone Who Knows that we need one month from “finished deal” to “signings/trades/training camp” to “we’re ready to start!” That means we’re missing games. If you gave me an over/under of January 15, I’m taking the over. Expect words like “contraction” and “merger” to start getting thrown around. The owners aren’t messing around. As Deep Throat once said, “Follow the money.” The owners paid $2.1 billion in salaries last year. They want to knock that number down by $500 million to $600 million annually while creating a harder cap … and really, they don’t care how they get there. If the players want a bigger share of revenue, fine — the league will dip from 30 to 27 teams, and with 45 fewer players getting paid, the players can have a bigger share of the revenue. The owners are chopping that $2.1 billion figure down one way or the other. Even if it means canceling the 2011-12 season. I will now jam Anusol-covered fingers into my eye sockets.

Q: The opening scene of Episode 6 of this season of Louie made me think of the NBA lockout. The man playing the beautiful violin piece masterfully is the continuation of last season’s brilliance and the potential the current season could be to make the NBA’s beautiful masterpiece, but the beauty is completely ruined by some fat, disgusting homeless man washing himself with a water bottle in a subway tunnel … that the lockout and the fact that neither side seems to care right now about getting this done and making sure the fans have what they love … I feel like Louie … enjoying the beauty of last season and excited for what could be, but now there’s a nasty man bathing himself and I can only look on in disgust …
— Michael W., Seattle

SG: (Nodding sadly.)

Q: Could there have been a more natural way for the torch to be passed from “The Mike Tyson Zone” to the “Charlie Sheen Zone” than Iron Mike being a roaster for the Charlie Sheen Roast?
— Cameron, Cleveland

SG: Wait, the torch was passed? Did you watch that roast???? I came away thinking that Tyson was clearly a bigger wild card than Sheen. Think about the concept of the Tyson Zone: It’s when a celebrity reaches the point of insanity that you’d believe any story about him no matter how crazy it is. After watching Tyson alternately giggle and heckle his way through the first 20 minutes of that roast with that deranged smile on his face, had you paused the telecast and read me a list of insane possibilities like, “Tyson is going to see someone eating a hamburger in the audience, then charge into the audience and take that person’s hamburger by force,” “Tyson is going to get horny and it’s going to take six people to pull him off Kate Walsh” or “Steve-O will make an Islam joke and Tyson beats him to death with a microphone,” I would have believed it.

Meanwhile, how can Sheen steal the “Zone” title when words like “lucid,” “coherent” and “in control” could have described his appearances at the 2011 Emmys and his own roast? As far as I’m concerned, Tyson faced the biggest threat to his “Zone” domain since Michael Jackson, fought it off and reestablished himself as our defining “Zone” celebrity. It’s like boxing — you have to beat the champ to take his title. Sheen went head-to-head with Tyson and lost. Long live the Tyson Zone.


Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.

Previously from Bill Simmons:
NFL Week 2: The NFL Stock Market
NFL Preview: It’s All About Continuity
Summer of Mailbag V: Passing the Buck
Summer of Mailbag IV: Dawn of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag III: Attack of the Mailbag!
The Glorious Return of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag: The Revenge
Red Sox Report Card
‘Good Lord! That’s His Music!’

To submit questions for next week’s mailbag, click here; to comment on this story through Facebook, click here.

Filed Under: Bill Simmons, Music, People, Rap, Simmons

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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