The Polio Vaccine, Cold Fusion, and Advanced Pitching Stats

The Eternal ‘Stardom’ of Julia Roberts

A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images Carl Lewis

The Glorious Return of the Mailbag

You asked for it. You got it. The Sports Guy on Durant at Rucker Park, A-Rod and gambling, Pippa vs. Kate, and much more.

Whitey Bulger
Q: I’m having a rough patch in my life. I am a broke college student home for the summer and can’t find a job. I deposited $6 to my bank account today and the teller literally laughed at me when she saw that my balance was $13. Then I went home and cut my nipple when I was shaving my chest. All I ask for is a mailbag. I need this.
— Jono, St. Louis

Q: Which will last longer: The NFL lockout, or the time between Simmons mailbags?
— David C., NYC

Q: Please do a mailbag before Sasha Vujacic marries Maria Sharapova and the world ends.
— John, Omaha, NE

SG: I’ll do you one better — how ’bout a mailbag every Friday for the next six weeks? As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: Any reaction to (Kevin) Durant at Rucker Park? Isn’t that the stuff of legends?
— @SJU212 (Via Twitter)

SG: Dropping 66 points at Rucker Park? Impressive … but not legendary considering Steve Burtt Jr. exploded for 68 there in 2007. Hitting five straight 3s, including two from at least 30 feet? Now THAT was the stuff of legends. My favorite Durant/Rucker clip was called “Kevin Durant Catches Fire in the 4th Qtr (Unedited),” which featured first-class camera work as the clip slowly morphs into complete chaos. I love how everything crests with the fifth 3 — which had to have been 35 feet and was the spiritual Godfather of Larry Bird’s falling-into-the-trainer’s-lap 28-footer that led to two Hawks jumping off their own bench in disbelief.

In “Durant Catches Fire,” the entire crowd played the part of those two Hawks and pushed that performance over the top. My favorite supporting performances…

The Fake Body Puncher (0:42 mark): After Durant makes his second 3 in the clip, check out the shorter kid in the white T-shirt who comes flying in for a joyous fake body punch, then gets greedy and misses his next one as Durant is running away from him. Let’s vote on this right now: Anyone who thinks the fake body punch should replace the chest bump, say aye. (AYE!)

The I Told You Guy (0:48): Defiantly screams, “I told you! I told you!” as if he had predicted on Christmas that SEAL Team Six was going to catch bin Laden in Pakistan. Thank god he showed up that night — the fans needed someone to warn them ahead of time that Kevin Durant might catch fire in a Rucker Park game.

The Yes Sir Guy (0:51): My favorite guy in the clip — he’s the one wearing an Elite T-shirt who beams into the camera, gives the thumbs up for Durant’s last 3 and can’t say anything other than, “Yes sir … yes sir.” He’s so damned happy. This was the part that briefly pushed me into “I’m profoundly sad about the effing lockout” mode.

Token White Kid No. 1 (1:14): One of the first to greet Durant after his third 3 in the clip. We need to colorize this clip at some point — I don’t want any white people in it. Let’s get rid of all of them.

The I Told You Guy (1:18): No reaction after 3 no. 3 other than disbelief and a giddy “Yeah!!!!!” In his defense, I mean, he already told us. HE TOLD US!!!

The Yes Sir Guy (1:19): Takes it up a notch by laughing, “It’s over!” and then doing a throat-slitting gesture and laughing again, “It’s over!” before immediately getting fined $50k by David Stern. What’s over? I’m not sure exactly. But I loved it. One of the small-market NBA teams should hire The I Told You Guy and The Yes Sir Guy, stick them next to their team’s bench and let them do their thing every home game, along with …

The Damnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Guy (1:25): He needs to come, too. Probably our single best reaction… he’s just squinting and laughing in disbelief like he just watched a naked Kate Upton jump on a trampoline for 10 minutes. If you can get someone to randomly make that face by playing basketball, hitting a golf shot, making a killer joke at a roast, farting … it really doesn’t matter as long as they made that face.

Possibly Fake Announcer (1:27): Just an FYI … this isn’t the Rucker announcer doing the play by play, just a possibly random dude who either (a) was brought in as a second announcer to scream out point totals to the crowd, or (b) brought his own microphone to the game, prowled the sidelines and screamed unsolicited commentary while inexplicably wearing a championship belt. I might try this idea for a few Clippers home games this season. Oh, wait, we’re not having a season.

Token White Kid No. 2 (1:46): Closest to Durant right after his final 3 when the crowd rushes the floor. Again, we’ll fix this later when we colorize it — we’re going to make him look like a young Suge Knight. Same for you, Token White Guy No. 3 at the 1:55 mark. We’re going to make you look like Oscar Gamble circa 1976.

Possibly Fake Announcer (1:47): Comes at Durant with a defiant finger-point, followed by a pulling of Durant’s head that lasts for about three seconds too long. Wasn’t it enough that you got to fake-announce this game, buddy? Now you’re going Scalabrine on us?

The Real Announcer (2:13): It’s sneaky, but check out how Real Announcer (also holding a mic) wanders right next to Possibly Fake Announcer, then it looks like they might start talking right when the camera cuts away. You’re still doing the fake-announcing thing, huh? I thought we talked about this …

Goofy Guy In Orange T-Shirt (2:19): His new claim to fame: “I was Durant’s last complicated handshake after his fifth straight 3 at Rucker. I swear to God! Go on YouTube and search for Kevin Durant Catches Fire in the 4th Qtr (Unedited)! I’m right there! The 2:19 mark!”

Tall Guy In The Green Hat (2:22): The biggest disappointment of the clip — he looked like a giant Slick Watts and we never got a good enough look at him. Let’s go ahead and say definitively that there is no other conceivable social situation in which Durant and Tall Guy In The Green Hat will interact again.

The Two Rucker Security Guards (2:24): Thanks for showing up, fellas. You’re a little late.

Q: Did you know Latrell Sprewell and Anthony Mason rank #1 and #3 in delinquent tax dollars owed the state of Wisconsin?

— Dan, Madison, WI

SG: If this is our excuse to dump Wade, LeBron and Bosh and to start calling Spree, Mason and Malini Ganeshapillai “The Big Three,” I’m all for it.

Q: I recommended that Versus be changed to WET (White Entertainment Television) on your Facebook page and you declared it “brilliant.” Can I at least get some confirmation of my one brilliant moment in life?
—Chris C., Austin

SG: Here’s your confirmation, Chris. They’re apparently renaming it “NBC Sports Network,” but maybe there’s still time to change their minds. How great would the WET Awards be? Hosted by Donald Trump and Maria Shriver! With performances by … Josh Groban! Sarah McLachlan! Kings of Leon! Tony Bennett! The Killers! John Mayer!
Larry Bird
Q: Where does the capture of Whitey Bulger in Santa Monica of all places rank in the all-time upsets in Boston’s history? Not to champion his past in any way, but the guy has been on the run since I was playing tee ball!
— Ryan Harris, San Francisco

SG: I’d rank it behind Super Bowl XLII and the Canadiens’ beating the 1971 Bruins, but ahead of Hagler-Leonard and the Bucks’ sweeping the 1983 Celtics. You know how you start rooting for bad guys in movies even though you know you shouldn’t be rooting for them — like Hannibal Lecter, Tony Montana or Affleck’s character in The Town? That was Whitey for everyone who lived in Boston after he disappeared. How could someone so notorious vanish without a trace during the Internet/cell phone era? The longer Whitey stayed missing, the more his legend grew: Everyone in Boston knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who saw him in Beacon Hill, or Charlestown, or a Bruins game, or wherever.1 You never knew what to believe, but you always enjoyed the stories.

And since Boston is the most provincial of cities, don’t think the locals didn’t secretly enjoy that a local was outwitting the FBI for that long — the Lecter/Montana analogy again — which is what made it so anticlimactic when Whitey got snared in Santa Monica. He wasn’t even living on the beach — just a regular apartment building. Reports said Whitey looked old and feeble, like he was ready for the odyssey to end. Considering we always imagined him traveling Europe, wearing crazy disguises and staying one step ahead of the feds, that ending left me more disappointed than De Niro’s character not getting get away at the end of Heat. I knew it felt wrong to be disappointed, but I was. When they make the Whitey movie (not The Departed, the REAL Whitey movie2 ), let’s at least change the ending so Whitey gets caught after a bloody shootout in Rome.

Q: Do you realize that we live in a world where the best golfer is white and the best rapper is black? What the fuck?????
— Patrick, Sacramento

SG: Don’t worry, it’s just a phase. It won’t stick.

Q: If you’re a Nike ad exec, wouldn’t the following commercial start to get some more positive light on LeBron? Start with a scene and a couple words from “The Decision.” A voiceover by LeBron says, “Did I do it the wrong way? Yes.” Cut to footage of Miami’s post signing celebration. (“Did I crown myself too early? Yes.”) Cut to a montage of him missing shots and turning the ball over, then Dirk celebrating the title. (“Did I fail during my biggest professional moment? Yes.”) Final cut to LeBron working on his game alone in the gym. (“Will I be better next time that you see me play …yes.”) Fade to black, then a LeBron logo with some type of Nike-type saying. Thoughts?
— Kyle, Chicago

SG: You had me right until you got to the part, “cut to LeBron working on his game alone in the gym.” You should have just said, “Cut to LeBron writing a complicated HTML code for Mark Zuckerberg” or “Cut to LeBron building a UFO.”

Q: At halftime of Super Bowl 38, Justin Timberlake sang, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” then reached over and ripped Janet Jackson’s top off. Janet got blamed for the ensuing fallout because of her fancy nipple-cover, but HE ripped HER clothes off. Then SHE gets crap for it to this day. Why does nobody ever blame JT and why does he gets to go on living his charmed life of superstardom?
— Sean C, Benton, AR

SG: The easy answer: Because it was Jackson’s boob and name in every headline (“Janet Jackson’s nipple,” “Janet Jackson’s nipple slip,” etc.), blame shifted to her and stuck like a pasty. Also, Timberlake apologized right away and seemed surprised enough by the nipple that some decided, “Maybe he didn’t know.” Important note: OF COURSE HE KNEW! The most incredible part of this saga was the number of people who either thought at the time or believe now that Timberlake wasn’t a willing conspirator … like my wife, who said just this week, “There’s no way he knew! She set him up!” Actually, after JT apologized he didn’t say anything else for two years and allowed public perception to shift in his favor. In 2006, he even admitted, “I probably got 10 percent of the blame, and that says something about society. I think that America’s harsher on women. And I think that America is, you know, unfairly harsh on ethnic people.”

Sorry, I’m not buying that one. He just handled it better and allowed “Miss Jackson If You’re Nasty” to fall on the sword. Had Jackson pulled down JT’s pants and revealed one of his balls, he would have been the fall guy, she would have skated free, we would have been calling it NutGate instead of NippleGate, and we’d be blaming him for everything that happened after.

Anytime something infamously bad/traumatic/indefensible happens, there’s a scapegoat lurking. In Alex Gibney’s documentary about Steve Bartman (premiering on ESPN in October), Gibney tries to figure out why Bartman emerged as the lightning rod of that Cubs collapse while Alex Gonzalez (who committed a killer error), Mark Prior (who fell apart right after the play), Moises Alou (who got the crowd so riled up about a ball he may not have caught, anyway) and even the people sitting around Bartman (all who went for the ball, just like him) never get mentioned. The complicated answer: It’s easier to blame one person then multiple people; storylines take on a life of their own; fans need to direct their rage somewhere; and memories usually gravitate towards the most memorable image (in this case, the sight of Bartman wearing the blue Cubs hat, those headphones and that “Oh, crap, I think they’re going to kill me” stare).

Look at the repercussions of NippleGate: It jump-started a two-year referendum on our country’s “decaying” morality, led to more censorship on networks and basic cable, affected the 2004 presidential election (which suddenly became morals-heavy), changed the way we watched live sports on television (every network or basic cable telecast is delayed by at least a few seconds now), thrust the uber-annoying Parents Television Council into our lives, gave late-night TV shows and comedies like South Park endless fodder, launched a bunch of boring lawsuits, invigorated satellite radio (because the FCC cracked down so heavily that Howard Stern eventually fled to Sirius), doubled as one of this country’s most hypocritical moments ever (because we cared so much about our kids’ seeing this stupid nipple for two seconds, and yet, nobody seems to care that any semi-savvy 8-year-old kid can find Internet porn in about two clicks) and even spawned Joe Buck’s “THAT’S A DISGUSTING DISPLAY!” rant after Randy Moss’ fake mooning in Lambeau. We needed to blame someone for all this crap, so we blamed her.3

Did Timberlake luck out? Yeah, just like Alex Gonzalez lucked out in 2003, or Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley lucked out in 1986. Talent definitely played a role: maybe we were more forgiving because Timberlake’s best years were still to come (his signature album came out two years later), or because Jackson’s best years were already behind her. It’s the same reason why nobody throws back in his face the fact that Ashton Kutcher made him cry on Punk’d once, or that nobody’s ever blamed the vicious “What Goes Around” “Cry Me a River” for helping to cause Britney’s eventual mental breakdown (when you can make a decent case that it did — it’s the white man’s “Hit ‘Em Up”). But NippleGate didn’t negatively affect JT’s career; if anything, it raised his profile to “You Can Now Host SNL” status, helped FutureSex/LoveSounds reach iconic status and enabled him to become the weak link in The Social Network. If I were Janet Jackson, I’d be more than a little bitter that nobody throws Timberlake into the mix every time they’re blaming her boob for making television and radio a little less fun.

Q: A-Rod! Poker! Cocaine! Secret Games! Welching! Henchmen! Mystery girlfriend! Hundreds of thousands of dollars!
— Denny, Dracut, MA

SG: (Nodding happily.)

Q: July just isn’t the same unless someone’s signing Al Harrington to a $50 million contract.
— Adam F., Toronto

SG: (Nodding sadly.)

Q: Lt. Daniel Kaffee would turn 47 this year (Demi Moore says his birthday is in 1964 in the softball scene). What do you think he’s doing now?
— Craig, St. Paul

SG: Are you kidding? There’s no way Daniel Kaffee is still alive! His car blew up about six weeks after he cajoled the “Code Red” admission from Colonel Jessup. He weakened the country that day. Sweet dreams, son.

Q: Grant Wahl thinks we should play the Women’s World Cup every two years. You down with that idea?

SG: Absolutely. I couldn’t get my 6-year-old daughter to watch the Women’s World Cup until the second half of the final game … and by extra time, she was totally hooked. She won’t watch another meaningful women’s soccer game until she’s 10. How shortsighted is that? In general, we need to reconfigure these schedules: The Olympics and the World Cup should happen every three years so we could have something this?

2012 (summer): Summer Olympics
2013 (summer): Men’s World Cup
2014 (February): Winter Olympics
2014 (summer): Women’s World Cup
2015 (summer): Summer Olympics
2016 (summer): Men’s World Cup
2017 (February): Winter Olympics
2017 (summer): Women’s World Cup

Beyond the entertainment value of having at least one major event every year, did you ever wonder why we decided on the “every four years” thing in the first place? The modern Summer Olympics started in 1896 and settled on a four-year format for one simple reason … it was 1896! There were no airplanes! Back in 1896, it was really, really, REALLY hard for anyone to get to Athens unless, you know, they lived in Greece. The Games took time to catch on because of travel and the no-television thing; when St. Louis hosted the 1904 Summer Olympics, 580 of the 650 athletes were Americans4 . In 1921, they decided it was weird to include figure skating and hockey in the Summer Olympics, so they spun those events off into a Winter Olympics (along with new events such as skiing, speed skating, ski jumping, etc.) that launched in 1924 in France with the same every-four-years format because, again, we didn’t exactly have United and Virgin around back then.

The Olympics didn’t really become THE OLYMPICS until 1936, when Berlin hosted the Summer Games during Hitler’s Nazi regime, leading to America’s whole “should we boycott?” debate (it didn’t), Jesse Owens’ laying the smack down (as Hitler watched from the stands) and the Olympics finally reaching its athletic/political/cultural/social potential… only we were stuck with the every-four-years gimmick at that point. And it’s been that way ever since. Why? Because of the always-dangerous, “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” logic5 . Going every three years would be more entertaining, generate more money, give us a better measure of who mattered the most during a 10-year window, and do a better job of capturing athletes as they’re peaking.

Here’s a great example: Carl Lewis started peaking in 1982, dominated the 1984 Olympics (when Russia and so many others never showed), then got robbed of his rightful glory in 1988 when Ben Johnson showed up in Seoul with more drugs in his system than every 1999 Home Run Derby contestant combined. By the 1992 Games, Carl Lewis wasn’t totally Carl Lewis anymore; from 1983 to 1991, he won six golds in the Olympics and another eight at the World Championships (nailing the 100-meter dash and the 4×100-meter relay every time, and long jump every time except 1991), then two golds in the 1992 Olympics and one gold in 1996. So really, the apex of someone who has to be considered the best sprinter/long jumper ever only coincided with two tainted Olympics and that’s that. How was that fair?

Every four years gives little flexibility for someone getting screwed over by an injury or accident (Mary Decker), a fluke stinker of a performance (Dan and Dave), a boycott (any of the 1980 Summer Olympians) or even a random attack by a competitor (Nancy Kerrigan). Just watch Without Limits, for God’s sake — how was it fun for us as sports fans to watch Steve Prefontaine get boxed in during his gold-medal race in 1972 and settle for fourth, then wait another four years for his redemption (which never came)? If you can come up with a good reason why it shouldn’t be every three years, I’m all ears.

Q: So I am looking around the internet trying to find a site that has all of the Real World/Road Rules cast records and it doesn’t seem to exist. How is this possible? If this is going to be the 5th major sport than I need to know what Paula’s career record, or when these people get eliminated every season. Someone needs to start doing sabermetric analysis.
— Pat, Raynham, MA

SG: Every time I start to feel like the Internet has everything covered, an e-mail like this arrives and I realize that there’s a ton of work left. You killed it, Pat. You killed it.

Q: You wrote that we’ll remember Dwayne Wade forever as an evil genius who somehow convinced his biggest archrival to move to HIS city, play for HIS team, and become HIS sidekick. I think that this analysis is but the tip of the iceberg — he also rigged it so that LeBron became the scapegoat if Wade’s genius plan managed to fail while simultaneously remaining a great and lovable player. Check. Mate. The only guy who could have planned something this complex from the beginning is Keyser Soze. I don’t know whether realizing this and understanding who the real bad guy is makes me REALLY, REALLY hate Dwyane Wade or that I simply need to tip my cap to him and say, “Well played, sir.”
— Ryan Maddux, San Francisco

SG: (Dropping a coffee cup in slow motion …)

Q: We need you to make a year-by-rule ruling on who is ‘America’s Sweetheart’ and give her a WWE-style championship belt.
— @dweigner (via Twitter)

SG: Great idea. If we can figure out the “Funniest Guy Alive” award (from a few mailbags ago),6 “The Polarizing Female of the Year” (we’re getting there), “The Celeb Who Can Steal Anyone’s Wife/Husband If He/She Really Tried Hard Enough” award (for a future mailbag) and “America’s Sweetheart” every year, the world would be a better place. Four notes on the America’s Sweetheart title:

1. You can’t be a freak like Lady Gaga. No freaks. There’s no messing around with this title.

2. Women need to approve. They can’t be threatened by her, and they can’t become catty after a few drinks if the candidate’s name comes up. It needs to be someone who, if a roomful of women were watching her on TV, they’d say things like, “She’s so classy” and “I love how she dresses.”

3. Guys need to be attracted to her, but in a way that you’d want to see her naked, only you’d feel about 12 percent uncomfortable if she filmed a sex scene. That’s a hard line to straddle. If you were picking an America’s Sweetheart for last decade, it would probably be Reese Witherspoon for this exact reason.

4. If she’s had a little tragedy/heartbreak/personal trouble, even better. That’s how Sandra Bullock became America’s Sweetheart in 2010 — once Jesse James humiliated her with a bunch of tattooed motorcycle bimbos right after she had adopted a baby and named it “Louis,” no other candidate had a chance.

This year’s America’s Sweetheart might surprise you because she’s British, and because she hasn’t had any tragedy/heartbreak/personal trouble recently, but regardless, she wins in a landslide: Kate Middleton. She cemented it with the wedding, then her honeymoon trip to California when my wife was saying things like, “Where is Kate today? Is today the polo match?”

Now here’s where it gets interesting … the difference between what men find attractive and what women think we should find attractive was personified by the Middleton sisters, Pippa and Kate. Women want men to be more attracted to Kate because she’s a princess, she dresses well, she’s stable, she’s elegant, she handles herself well in public and she’s not threatening to them in any way … but actually, men gravitate towards Pippa, and it’s not even close. She’s sexier, she has a cool name, she seems like she might secretly have some baggage, and also has that “My sister gets more attention, so I’ll have to make up for it in other ways” dynamic going that pushes her to another level.

Every time I’ve mentioned Pippa trumping Kate to a woman (including my wife), instinctively, it makes her angry. She can’t believe it. “What? Pippa over Kate? That’s ridiculous!!!” So really, we’ve made history here — a pair of sisters from England have seemingly clinched the “America’s Sweetheart” AND “Most Polarizing Female” titles in 2011 unless Emma Stone starts dating someone who publicly cheats on her before Christmas.
 Pippa Middleton
Q: Can we start a petition that no announcer can compliment a pitcher who is facing the Mariners? I am getting tired of hearing how “untouchable” every damn pitcher is when the pitch against the Ms. They aren’t F&^#*!# untouchable — they’re just pitching against the equivalent of a JV girls softball team. My wife doesn’t heap praise on me when I beat my 8-year-old in basketball, so can we please stop thinking these pitches are having the performance of a lifetime just because they two-hit the worst hitting team of our generation?
— Brett, Seattle

SG: Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Seattle Mariners!

Q: Did you, the asshole who just won 7 titles in the last 10 years, really just try one of your stupid reverse jinxes on Twitter to ruin my Eagles season? Do you realize we haven’t won a championship since before my dad was born??? Save your admittedly effective reverse jinxes for more important things like the debt crisis and Kate Upton taking her clothes off in a movie. Thank you.
— Still a fan even though you’re an asshole, Tim in Colorado (via Philly)

SG: You’re right, you’re right. I got a little freaked out by the Asomugha signing on the heels of the Kolb trade bonanza (a no. 2 pick AND Rodgers-Cromartie???) and the Patriots potentially infecting their locker room with Albert Haynesworth and Chad “I Haven’t Gotten Separation from a Decent D-Back in Three Years” OchoCinco. That was dirty pool by me. I should be saving those tactics for more important things, like pointing out how Ivan Nova has apparently turned into Orel Hershiser circa 1988. You know what’s crazy? I think he’s for real. I could see him ripping off 14 or 15 straight victories with the way he’s throwing. I’d take the Yankees’ one-two punch of CC Sabathia and Nova over any other pitching duo right now … and maybe for the next five years, the more I’m thinking about it.

Q: Randy Moss’ retirement made me wonder about the five player-specific NFL career highlight films that would be worth buying. My personal list would be Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Moss, Brett Favre and Ronnie Lott. There are players with better career numbers, but for “did you see what he just did” moments, these guys have to be at the top of the list.
— Eric, Ann Arbor

SG: I like this idea — seems like a natural for iTunes. (My five would be Moss, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson and Earl Campbell.) We could buy 15-minute “Best Of” highlight packages of any retired NFL star for 99 cents. But if they do it, they should also do the reverse idea: “Worst Of” highlights for the likes of Laurence Maroney, Derek Anderson and every throw that a Miami Dolphins quarterback makes in 2011.

Q: You tweeted a link to Kobe’s Turkish Airlines ad and asked “‘Why does Kobe peek at the chef’s ass?’ has replaced ‘Why does MJ have a Hitler mustache?’ as No. 1 weirdest ad subplot.” You realize Kobe was actually watching the guy limp away, right? Or do you just hate Kobe so much that you see what you want to see?
–JB, Van Nuys, CA

SG: I just watched the clip 24 straight times. Six of the times, it seemed like he was watching the guy limp away. You might be right, JB. You might be right.
Jerry McGuire
Q: As Jerry Maguire walked Rod Tidwell across the floor of the 1995 NFL Draft, he introduced him to Mel Kiper Jr. and quickly boasted that Rod had 1550 receiving yards and 110 catches “last year.” That means in the 1994 season, Tidwell led the league in receiving yards and finished 4th in catches. Yet his on-field dominance yielded a local waterbed endorsement deal, a lowball offer from the Cardinals, and a house infested with ants. No wonder Jerry lost every other client, right?
— Jeff Hoose, Las Vegas, NV

SG: Au contraire! Jerry Maguire was released in December ’96, which means Jerry brought Rod to the ’96 draft and Rod’s big season happened during the Great Receiver Boom of 1995. The 10 best receivers that year (including Rod):

Jerry Rice: 1,848 yards, 15 TDs, 122 catches
Isaac Bruce: 1,781 yards, 13 TDs, 119 catches
Herman Moore: 1,686 yards, 14 TDs, 123 catches
Michael Irvin: 1,603 yards, 10 TDs, 111 catches
Rod Tidwell: 1,550 yards, ?? TDs, 110 catches
Robert Brooks: 1,497 yards, 13 TDs, 102 catches
Brett Perriman: 1,488 yards, 9 TDs, 108 catches
Cris Carter: 1,371 yards, 17 TDs, 122 catches
Tim Brown: 1,342 yards, 10 TDs, 89 catches
Carl Pickens: 1,234 yards, 17 TDs, 99 catches

Suddenly Tidwell’s touchdowns number is huge. Assuming he scored somewhere between eight and 12 times, that places his season between Brett Perriman and Robert Brooks … two guys who certainly weren’t raking in a ton of endorsement money in 1996. Now throw this in: The ’95 Cardinals finished 4-12, scored just 17.2 points per game and started Dave Krieg (3,554 yards, 16 TDs, 21 INTs) at quarterback. There’s no way Tidwell scored more than seven or eight times, and by the way, if he had, Jerry Maguire would have mentioned it. That means Tidwell was no better than Perriman, who teamed up with Moore and Barry Sanders in an explosive Lions offense that made the playoffs and finished second in the NFL in points scored … so really, Brett Perriman had a bigger profile than Rod Tidwell heading into that 1996 season. It’s amazing Tidwell even had a waterbed deal.

Besides, there were two significantly bigger flaws in that movie:

1. Right before the draft, Cush’s father dumped Maguire for Bob Sugar because Jerry was brokering a deal with the no. 1 overall pick (with San Diego trading up to get Cush) while Cush’s family just wanted Denver to keep the pick. Why would Cush’s family want him to back up John Elway instead of playing for a Chargers team one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance that was starting the immortal Stan Humphries? What????

2. We already covered this in a 2005 mailbag, but screw it, let’s run it back: In the movie’s climax, Tidwell’s breakout game happens in Phoenix and probably finishes around 9:30 p.m. West Coast time (Monday Night Football started at 9:00 p.m. EST back then). Maguire sticks around for the postgame interviews (another 45 minutes easy) and suddenly realizes that he needs to tell Dorothy Boyd he loves her. He sprints out of the stadium and drives to the airport (another 45 minutes), purchases a ticket, checks his bag (pre-9/11, so this could have happened quickly) and hops on a midnight flight back to Los Angeles (a flight that doesn’t currently exist, but whatever). It’s a 150-minute flight but you gain a time zone, so let’s say Jerry lands at 1:30 a.m. PST, takes a parking shuttle to his car (another 15 minutes), then drives home (another 20 to 25 minutes), gets home no early than 2:10 a.m. and inadvertently interrupts Dorothy Boyd’s “I hate men” support group … which was apparently in its seventh or eighth straight hour, with everyone wide awake. That would have been the biggest flaw of any 1990s movie if not for 6-foot-5 Andy Dufresne fitting so snugly into the Warden’s suit.

Q: Now that Fox bought the movie rights to the ESPN book, who do you envision being cast to play you? I vote for Matthew Perry because A) He kinda, sorta looks like you and B) He really could use some kind of career bump.
— Rob, Toledo, OH

SG: Thanks! That could have gone to a really mean place and didn’t. Perry would work from a doppelganger standpoint but could never pull off the whiny/entitled/petulant routine that I executed so successfully (or unsuccessfully) in the book. I thought I came off like an asshole, so naturally, the guy who should play me is Jeremy Piven. He could just wear blue contacts and a salt-and-pepper wig and we’re good.

Q: Who is playing you in the movie about the ESPN book? I think it should be Adam Sandler — you both peaked 12 years ago.
— Timmy, Winchester, MA

SG: And … there’s that mean place I was telling you about.

Q: Who do you think is the player most likely to become ridiculously overweight during this NBA lockout?
— J. Olafsson, Reykjavik

SG: I’ll never forget the ’99 lockout abruptly ending in February, then Antoine Walker quickly inking a six-year, $71 million extension and showing up for the first home game looking like Sammi Sweetheart in Jersey Shore’s Italy premiere. In fact, let’s call this the Wiggle Award after Antoine. It’s really Baron Davis’ trophy award to lose — this is someone who packed on pounds even when there wasn’t a lockout. He’s also stuck in Cleveland backing up Kyrie Irving, he’s guaranteed $30.65 million over the next two seasons, and his only real competition (Eddy Curry) was already obese.

Baron Davis

Actually, the more I’m thinking about it, maybe we need to change these odds to “Baron Davis vs. The Field,” a little like during Tiger’s prime when we could either bet on Tiger winning the Masters or anyone else winning. If I gave you Baron at 4-to-1 odds for the Wiggle Award or The Field at -350 odds (bet 700 to win 200), which side would you take? Tough call, right? If you want to wager on someone individually, here are my odds:

  • Baron Davis (-500): His award to lose.
  • Ray Felton (even odds): Some heavy action on him recently after he looked semi-obese at a summer game. He’s in a contract year, though — even Baron wouldn’t be apathetic enough to show up heavy for a contract year. On the other hand …
  • Zach Randolph (+250): Inked a four-year, $63 million extension right before the lockout started. Uh-oh. He was already someone who should have been one-year deals only. He’s also packed on pounds before. And he’s coming off a career year and a Z-Bo love fest in last spring’s playoffs, which is always dangerous. Keep an eye on these odds.
  • Brendan Haywood (+400): The best candidate for your token “Overpaid Role Player Who Already Has a Lot of Guaranteed Money Coming and Just Sacrificed to Help a Team Win a Title” spot.
  • Mo Williams (+500): Owed $17 million over the next two years when he’s worth half that … and he’s a Clipper. That’s a Molotov cocktail of potential obesity.
  • Michael Beasley (+500): I think we’ve learned over the years never to leave Beas off any list projecting negative/erratic/criminal behavior involving NBA players.
  • Jared Dudley (15 to 1): Fits the “carried more weight once upon a time” and “recently signed an extension” categories. Also, teammate Steve Nash had a profound effect on JMZ’s eating habits and conditioning these past two years, only the longer the lockout drags on, the longer Nash and JMZ will be apart. I’m concerned. I’d give him better odds but he seems pretty serious on Twitter about becoming J.Lo’s rebound boyfriend, so it would be in his best interest to stay in shape.7
  • Dwyane Wade (20 to 1): Come on, we had to have one superstar on here, right? Maybe he’s eating and partying in South Beach, maybe he’s having trouble dealing with the fallout from playing for our most despised American sports team in 20-plus years.… you just never know.

Q: How long till Greg Oden is starring in a porn movie titled Trail Blazers?
— Patrick, New Orleans

SG: Uh-oh, we’re suddenly in range.

Q: If I came down with a terminal illness and Chris Connelly showed up at my door, I would definitely request to spend the day with C.T.
— Austin, San Francisco

SG: Getting closer …

Q: I am venturing out to start a new business franchise that I believe will be very successful. The idea is to combine various fast food restaurants with a strip club. The first undertaking will be a Chipotle/Strip Club combo, aptly named Strippable. Once our first business takes off, we’ll move on to other restaurant strip club enterprises. Taco King (Taco Bell / Burger King / strip club), Chicks-Grade-A (Chick-Fil-A / strip club), Jimmy’s Johns (Jimmy John’s / strip club), Hardee’s (Hardee’s / strip club)…. you get the idea. I am writing to ask for your financial support of this exciting new opportunity. You can be a founding member of the franchise that will soon sweep the globe. There’s a limited amount of time before we open our doors, so act soon.
— Josh, CEO and President, Stripotle Inc.

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

A previous version of this story featured a photo of Billy Bulger instead of Whitey Bulger.

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:

Red Sox Report Card
‘Good Lord! That’s His Music!’
If I Ruled the (NBA) World

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

Filed Under: Bill Simmons, Grantland, People, 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.

Archive @ BillSimmons