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The Sweet Scent of Spring Mailbag

The Sports Guy on PEDs, Mad Men, and Red Sox savior Jackie Bradley Jr.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC, Jackie Bradley #44 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Yankees during Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on April 1, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Red Sox defeated the Yanke

So Nino from Queens sent me the following e-mail: “I saw you on TV the other night and told my 3yr old son that Bill Simmons is so big headed that he cant do a little old mailbag anymore. My son asked what is big headed daddy? And I replied thats when you forgot where your came from. My son replied by saying ‘silly.’ He says everything is ‘silly’ these days but it was perfect timing on his part. Hey I hope you get kicked out of espn someday cause of some ridiculous scandal and then maybe you will start the mailbags again.”

Come on, Nino, couldn’t you have just written, “I’d love for you to write another mailbag soon, I really enjoy them”? But thanks for the wakeup call. I can’t disappoint Nino or little Nino Jr. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: Where does Worm go when he leaves Binghamton?
—Jeff, OKC

SG: I’ve only been wondering this for 15 years. That’s why I couldn’t resist asking the guys who wrote Rounders, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, for the answer. Here’s what they e-mailed back:

“Worm meant it when he said ‘highway time.’ But he needed to fill his pockets for the road. So he found his way to a backroom game in the Bronx, far away from KGB’s territory. Unfortunately, he forgot that he’d heard about this game from the guy he’d fleeced for the cigarettes in the prison hearts game. That guy had been released too, saw Worm and chased him halfway across town on foot. We actually shot that scene, edited and screened it too, but it ended up on the cutting room floor.”

(Quick interruption from Simmons: Whaaaaaaaaaat? That scene exists? Why isn’t there a Rounders Blu-ray that includes this scene? Isn’t that the whole point of Blu-rays? I’m so pissed off. In the Blu-ray game of life, you guys are the rake, Koppelman and Levien. I demand a new Blu-ray with all the deleted scenes. OK, back to their e-mail.)

“Here’s what happened after: Worm took full advantage of all the scamming opportunities presented by the Moneymaker/online poker boom. He joined up with a series of dodgy sites in distant locales, promoted, ripped off, profited like mad. After that … well, that’s where Rounders 2 will pick up. In fact, Jeff from OKC, if you and other Rounders fans want to see what happened, e-mail Harvey Weinstein (who has always been a loyal supporter of Rounders) or tweet him at @weinsteinfilms. We’re sure he’d love to hear from you. Matt, Edward, John and the rest of us are all set to go.”

Wait … what?????? Matt, Edward, John and the rest of us are all set to go. It’s that easy? What are we waiting for? Who’s not going to see Rounders 2? Can’t somebody fund this already? What the hell is happening? How am I supposed to finish the mailbag now?1


1.

If you’re a Rounders junkie who wasn’t reading me way back when, check out my two-part awards column about the 2001-02 NBA season using Rounders quotes (here are Part 1 and Part 2), as well as my 2006 exchange with Koppelman and Levien, in which we broke down everything you ever wanted to know about Rounders, plus I unveiled MY idea for how Rounders 2 should play out.

Q: Did you see Gregg Williams’ new goatee and dyed hair after he was reinstated? Did he think that looking like his own evil twin would help his image? With that sport coat and no tie look, he looks like he is about to embark on an epic journey for revenge against Roger Goodell straight out of the movies. He actually looks like a bounty hunter now.
—Tiny, Philly

SG: And did you see who’s teaming up with him in Tennessee? Someone who never had to be told that you kill the head and the body will die … that’s right, BERNARD KARMELL POLLARD! Are you kidding me? We’re just going to allow Gregg Williams and Bernard Karmell Pollard to join forces? How is Roger Goodell allowing this? Hold on, I’m gonna look at the 2013 Titans schedule again just to make sure that the Patriots aren’t on there. (Checking.) Nope, still not on there. Thank God.

Q: Your readers got it wrong; there’s no way that Bill Belichick becomes Bernard Karmell Pollard’s next victim. He has yet to complete his on-field set. Think about it: He’s taken out a QB, a TE, and a WR…. He needs a running back to complete the PKC (Patriot Killer Cycle). Not only that, but the Pats desperately need the run in order to beat this Ravens team, and Pollard’s going to know this. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley is rolling on the ground Sunday clutching their knee.
—Jack Manley, New York, NY

SG: For the record, I received that e-mail on January 18 at 4:33 p.m., a couple of days before the Pats-Ravens game. And after that game, I received so many Pollard e-mails that I eventually just stuck them into a Word doc called “FUPOLLARD.” We had to give them their own Grantland page. And also …

Q: I have a new idea for a reality TV show. It’s called “Jeer Factor.” Basically, it’s a contest to find out which situation causes the highest volume of boos: parading Fidel Castro through Little Havana, LeBron James through Cleveland, Kim Jong Sun through Seoul, and Bernard Pollard through Boston. What do you think?
—Colin, Jacksonville

SG: Here’s a more realistic idea: Is there a way to figure out which opposing athlete’s jersey would go over the worst in a local sports bar? I feel like Pollard-Boston wins this contest going away. We thought about filming a clip for the Grantland Channel in which two guys wearing Pollard jerseys (one for Baltimore, one for Kansas City) entered a Boston sports bar during a hectic Friday night, sat down and just tried to eat dinner and drink beer, just to see how long they’d last … but then we realized that they’d be beaten up, carried to Charlestown and dropped from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument like water balloons.

Q: You mentioned unbeatable records (in Friday’s Miami piece) and missed the most unbeatable one of all: Wilt averaging 48.53 minutes per game in the 1961-62 season. Unless the amount of time in the game changes no one will ever get near the 48.53….no one has gotten close since the early 70s.
—Fred, Newark

SG: You’re right, that’s one of those unbreakable, era-specific records that can’t realistically be broken — along with Wilt scoring 4,000 points in one season, grabbing 2,000 rebounds in one season (something he did twice) or sleeping with 20,000 women while somehow never siring an illegitimate kid (that we know of). Wilt’s statistical résumé remains astonishing — by 2075, everyone will be convinced that he was the greatest basketball player ever, as well as the greatest condom user ever. I’m already resigned to it.

Q: Another record that most likely will never be broken: Ron Artest’s suspension length in 2004-05. He missed 86 games in all, meaning a playoff-bound team would have to have a player suspended in the first few weeks of the season. The only suspension to come close was Arenas pulling a gun on his teammate, so it would take something pretty crazy right? Strangely enough, the only guy I can even imagine breaking this record is, gulp, the artist currently known as Metta World Peace.
—David Weinfeld, Ann Arbor, MI

SG: Only Latrell Sprewell challenged it post–Carlesimo strangling, when he got suspended for the last 68 games of the 1997-98 season for a Warriors team that missed the playoffs. And he still fell 18 games short! Artest missed 73 regular-season games and 13 playoff games, which may have been the perfect suspension storm. The good thing about Artest’s record? It’s easy to break — you’d only need a lunatic on a playoff team who says to himself on opening night, “I’m going for Artest’s record” and decides to hit Joey Crawford over the head with a folding chair. I nominate Ryan Hollins.

Q: You mentioned in your LeBron column that you hate only five teams, and I was shocked to see the Jets not on the list. As a Pats fan, how do they not make your blood boil? They might be my least favorite team in all of sports other than the evil Iceland team from the second Mighty Ducks movie and Kentucky from Glory Road.
—Chris, Perth

SG: I know they had a nice little mini-run of relevance and hate-ability, but please, let’s not forget the DNA of the New York Jets: one great playoff moment that happened 44 years ago, followed by Joe Namath quickly becoming the most overrated QB who ever lived (look up the stats, it’s true); Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino; losing John Riggins to free agency during the one year in the 1970s when there was free agency; Rex Ryan’s wife’s foot-fetish video; Brett Favre’s penis; Tim Tebow’s everything; A.J. Duhe outscoring them in the 1982 AFC title game; Belichick spurning them for three Super Bowls in New England; Fireman Ed; Vernon Gholston and Dewayne Robertson; Doug Brien’s two playoff misses; Johnny Lam Jones and Blair Thomas; Jeff Lageman; Neil “I was brought here to win games” O’Donnell; Rich Kotite and Bruce Coslet; Bruce Coslet and Rich Kotite; Mark Gastineau crossing the ’87 picket line; this poster; “I want to kiss you … “; choking away a 10-point lead with four minutes to go in a playoff game to the CLEVELAND BROWNS; Marino’s Fake Spike Game (they lost); Joe Walton picking his nose on the sidelines; the second-half collapse in Denver in 1998’s AFC title game; most recently, the Butt Fumble; and as Grantland’s Sean Fennessey points out, “The future: dealing the second-best player in franchise history for a 2014 first-rounder and a conditional fourth-rounder to the Bucs, who will go on to win the Super Bowl.”

Anyway, I always felt something of a kinship with Jets fans because their experiences from 1970 through 2000 made them just as self-loathing as every Patriots fan after our experiences from 1970 through 2000. We basically took turns serving as the dregs of the AFC East for three solid decades, only every six years or so, one of us would have a team that would give us hope for a better future that eventually kicked us in the nuts and knocked us back to square one again. Their 1982 and 1998 playoff teams may as well have been our 1985 or 1996 playoff teams: They reeled us in, made us believe, then gut-punched us and made us remember that it was stupid for us to believe in them.

And then, for whatever reason, our fortunes changed for four years from 2001 to 2004, then things slowly turned and now we’re on the road back to being self-loathing fans who always expect the worst again. So really, we’re the more successful younger brother of the Jets — they’re like Ed Burns, and we’re like the dude who always played Ed Burns’s brother in Ed Burns movies who now appears in Geico commercials — only we come from the same effed-up family and we’re bonded by our mutual hatred of the same person (in this case, the Giants). That’s why I don’t totally hate the Jets, even if I can’t stand Rex Ryan and look forward to the day when Fox replaces Tony Siragusa with him.

Q: You ever consider the missed nudity opportunities that we’ve experienced because actresses either hit their prime right before a show or movie hit or because a cable channel passed on a series. Obvious one that comes to mind is Mad Men which HBO passed on. January Jones and Christina Hendricks were not household names and locks for nudity in Season 1 if not on HBO. Thoughts on other missed opportunities like this?
—Matt S., Washington, DC

SG: I look at it the other way — what if Jon Hamm decided to pull a Fassbender and get repeatedly naked in Season 1? That would have been the most frightening moment in HBO history, narrowly edging everything that happened on Hookers at the Point. I think I’m good with Mad Men being on AMC. Speaking of Mad Men

Q: In a 2009 mailbag (scroll down to end) you compared Tiger Woods to Don Draper. With Tiger regaining his No. 1 ranking and dating Lindsey Vonn, is this now the equivalent of when Draper married Megan and seemingly regained his mojo in Season 5?
—Kyle, Cambridge, MA

SG: Absolutely — right down to the point where you can’t shake the feeling that Draper peaked professionally 10 years earlier, but you wouldn’t wager against him, either. The Tiger-Draper parallels continue to be astonishing. Isn’t it weird that Season 6 of Mad Men launches four days before Tiger’s latest chance to fully regain his professional mojo at Augusta? Keep an eye on this.

Q: It’s around the “I haven’t written a Mailbag in a few months and would rather respond to emails than write a Final Four column” time for you. Here’s a question that needs a wider audience: Sausage-fest is to clambake as cock-block is to … ?
—Marty, New York

SG: First, you know me too well. Second, that’s an easy answer, but probably offensive, so I’m relegating it to a footnote.2


2.

The female equivalent of a cockblock is a “boxout.” Don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger.

Q: Do you have any idea how lucky you are to watch Jackie Bradley Jr on a daily basis?
—Pete Shahid, Charleston, SC

SG: Yes! I’m well aware! Jay-Bee-Jay! Jay-Bee-Jay! Jay-Bee-Jay! Jay-Bee-Jay! Jay-Bee-Jay! Sorry, I interrupted you … keep going.

Q: As a lifetime, long suffering University of South Carolina Gamecock fan, watching JBJ play college ball was amazing. His speed in center, his patience at the plate, and his speed on the base paths turned our baseball team into back-to-back College World Series champs. In an elimination game in 2010 against Oklahoma, he hit a 2 out game-winning single in the bottom of the tenth and won the CWS MVP. In 2011 he came back from an injury just in time for the CWS and helped lead us to a championship. Look up his college highlights and you’ll feel your Red Sox undies stiffening as you watch flying catches, game winning hits, and, if you notice how he interacts with his teammates and the overall buffonery. Enjoy.
—Pete Shahid, Charleston, SC

SG: This e-mail gave me flashbacks to those NC State and Wisconsin alums gushing about Russell Wilson in my inbox last summer. Could JBJ become baseball’s Russell Wilson — one of those absurdly likable athletes who transcends stats, says things like “I don’t get nervous to tell you the truth” (an actual JBJ quote), gets better when it matters, and almost seems too good to be true? More parallels: Even though they both succeeded in college on the biggest possible stages, Wilson fell to the third round in 2012 because of his height, and Bradley fell to the 40th pick in 2011 after battling a wrist injury that season … both weren’t expected to start before winning over the coaches, making their fan bases swoon and barrelling their way into the starting lineup … both have fantastic sports names … and both caused me to write gushy paragraphs like this one (although at least I didn’t commission an illustration of Bradley levitating above cult followers like I did with Wilson).

Here’s the point: The Red Sox took heat for starting Bradley on Opening Day over sending him down for two weeks, then bringing up him in mid-April so they could delay his free agency for a year. And if they were Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh, I get it — small-market teams should always protect themselves against potential stars fleeing for big bucks as long as they can. But the Red Sox have gobs of money to spend every season, as well as a much bigger immediate dilemma: Their fan base had turned on the owners and couldn’t have been less excited about this year’s team. That left the Red Sox with two choices.

Choice A: Send Bradley down for two weeks, look like cheapskates, weaken this year’s team for the first two weeks, derail his momentum after a sparkling spring training.

Choice B: Reward Bradley by bringing him up right away, get the fans excited, hope he helps the team get off to a monster start, then ride the ensuing momentum to a “NOBODY BELIEVED IN US!” season that hinges on pitching, defense, chemistry and that 10-3 start (I’m being super-duper-duper optimistic) that never would have happened if they acted like big cheapskate wusses who didn’t bring up Bradley right away.

For me, that’s a no-brainer: The upside (Bradley killing it and the team taking off) far exceeded the downside (losing a year of free-agency control). Let’s say that decision cost them $10 million in premature Bradley free-agent money down the road … for God’s sake, this is the same team that gave Shane Victorino THIRTY-NINE MILLION over three years. Do you think they care? The Red Sox just wanted to be relevant locally again for anything other than beer and chicken, salary dump trades and newspaper smear campaigns. The mere chance that the 2013 Bradley Experience could rival 1975 Lynn or 1997 Nomar made that risk worth it. So they have to sign him for $130 million in 2019 instead of 2020 … why should Red Sox fans give a flying hot damn? Last time I checked, I wasn’t rooting for Tampa Bay. And by the way, I love any baseball player who even casually reminds me of this sketch.

https://dailymotion.com/video/xbbotr

Q: A friend of mine and I have been following you since 1999. We were trying to figure out how many words you have printed since that time. Rules: no Twitter/Instant Media, and no support (you get credit for the comments in the mailbag, but not the mailbag itself). The Over/Under is 2.5 million words. I took the over; hoping that the books cover the slow slide in weekly production. As there is a case of Johnnie Walker Blue resting on it, maybe you can settle the answer. Still a fan.
—John, Houston

SG: Way way way way way over. Let’s say I averaged 5,000 words per week since 1999, which feels super low to me. That’s 260,000 words a year multiplied by 14. And that’s a conservative, super-low estimate. I’d argue that no two-fingered typist has ever cranked out more words. Where’s the Guinness committee? I want the “most prolific two-fingered typist” title! GIVE ME MY JUST DUE!

Q: Question for your mailbag, not to be answered in a glib way. I am just curious. Was Kevin Ware’s broken leg the worst injury that you’ve ever seen during a game? I wasn’t alive for Theismann’s broken leg. Was this worse?
—Michael, Quincy, MA

SG: Ware’s injury was a little worse for three reasons: HD for Ware (and no HD for Theismann); that one replay of his teammates reacting in abject horror (which was basically the bizarro version of the “Teammates Jumping Out of the Dugout After a Game-Winning Playoff Home Run” reaction); and the fact that players and coaches were crying on the court afterward. But the worst thing I’ve ever seen live was Red Sox pitcher Bryce Florie getting nailed by a line drive. I can’t even describe how scary and unsettling it was — everyone who watched it knows what I mean. Let’s just move on.

Q: In light of Washington’s recent play (beating the Lakers, Grizzles and seemingly everyone else) would they not be considered one of the best proponents for your ‘Entertaining as Hell Tournament’? Obviously their season was over before it started with Wall being out the first few months, but they’ve been one of the most entertaining teams in the league ever since. Who wouldn’t want to watch them compete for a playoff spot??
—Adam, Calgary

SG: For a quick refresher, check this footnote.3 Why wouldn’t we reward late bloomers, discourage tanking, tighten the playoff race, create more win-or-go-home games and basically do everything that that EAH Tournament allows? I would have picked the resurgent Wiz to beat Milwaukee in the East finals until Bradley Beal went down; now I’m thinking the Bucks would squeeze out the 8-seed. But one thing’s for sure: In the West, the Lakers would beat Utah with help from a controversial 95-10 free throw advantage, along with Al Jefferson fouling out 83 seconds into the game. No matter how it plays out, that tournament would be entertaining as hell. And by the way, how could you enjoy what happened to Florida Gulf Coast this month and NOT like this idea?


3.

I’ve been tinkering with this idea for six years: Only seven teams make the playoffs in each conference, then we have a 16-team, single-elimination tournament for the two 8-seeds in each conference. Why call it the Entertaining As Hell Tournament? Because teams wouldn’t be able to tank down the stretch and shut down the best players anymore. Because late-bloomer teams (like the Wiz) would be rewarded with a chance — repeat: a chance — at making the postseason. Because it’s harder to get one of seven playoff spots instead of eight, and because teams like the Celtics and Lakers would be freaking out right now trying to get those 7 seeds. Because the real playoff teams would get a much-needed week of rest, instead of using the actual season for that rest (like Miami right now). Oh, and because it would be entertaining as hell! Here’s how easy this would be: Shorten the NBA season to 78 games, end it one week early, then make the EAH Tournament first round start Monday/Tuesday, followed by Round 2 on Wednesday/Thursday, then the Eastern/Western finals for the 8-seeds on Saturday afternoon … and then the playoffs start the following day?

Q: Please. Please. If I read about one more “superhuman” or “miraculous” NFL recovery… How stupid are we supposed to be?
—Zach, New Haven

SG: Come on, why can’t we just be on a streak of superhuman recoveries???

Q: Did human beings suddenly evolve to the point where major surgery recovery time has been cut in half in the last two years and I missed the memo?
—Matt, Lawrence, KS

SG: Stop it, science is getting better and better!!!

Q: Dr. James Andrews is clearly a genius, but how many baby knees has he seen the inside of? Are kids getting chop blocked in the maternity ward a lot in Alabama?
—Skinta, Portland, OR

SG: Don’t you dare doubt Dr. James Andrews!

Q: After reading this article and seeing those pictures. I can confirm with 100% certainty that there isn’t a PED problem in football.
—Matt M, Lexington

SG: See, we’re totally fine!

Q: A number of readers in your PED feedback post mentioned golf and the PGA, but why didn’t anyone specifically mention Tiger? When he suffered his knee injury, HIS FREAKING DOCTOR WAS ARRESTED WITH STEROIDS & HGH TRYING TO CROSS THE BORDER!! I know Tiger had other issues around that time, but why was that not one of the biggest stories ever? It was completely buried on all of the major sports sites. It was briefly touched on, and then disappeared very quickly. Did someone buy the networks’ silence on this? Did his handlers say to someone — “If you ever want Tiger to be interviewed on your network again, you’d better bury those details”? What are we to believe anymore? Why would anyone ever believe anyone is clean anymore?
—Daryl S., Burlington, ON

SG: Come on, that’s not fair. We never actually found out if Dr. Galea gave PEDs to Tiger and other professional athletes who were his “patients” because he immediately pleaded guilty over exercising his right to have a trial for reasons that remain unclear. In the words of Frank Drebin …

Q: I just watched the whole series of Rockys and the whole time was thinking ‘oh no, Rocky was definitely on PEDs’. You have officially ruined Rocky for me. I am fairly confident that he was clean when he won the title in Rocky 2, but straight away I noticed in Rocky 3 his head was about twice the size and he was ripped like never before (despite the fact he was meant to be ‘aging and past his prime’).
—Josh, Adelaide, So. Australia

SG: You’re right, Rocky doesn’t get mentioned enough in PED conversations, especially since the one guy who really, REALLY looks like Rocky was involved in an HGH scandal five years ago. The biggest red flag for me other than ripped musles and a larger head: After winning the title by beating Apollo Creed in the Ain’t Gonna Be No Rematch rematch, Rocky’s record was 45-21 with 39 knockouts. From there, he ripped off 10 straight knockout victories over the next five years over Trevor Faus, Joe Czak, Big Yank Ball, Vito Soto, Bobby Jalali, Dave Fossan, Flip Folsom, Joe Green, Matt Delarue and Philip Hammerman before Clubber Lang finally beat him. Ten straight knockouts after he turned 30? With a significantly different muscle tone and physique? And by the way, he prevailed in the fight that quadrupled CompuBox’s record for “most power punches landed” (that 15-round war with Ivan Drago in Russia) when he was 39 years old — coincidentally, the same winter when he scaled a 40,000-foot Russian mountain while only wearing a ski jacket and boots. I think Josh might be on to something.

Q: In Boogie Nights, we are lead to believe that the money Buck gets from being the only survivor of a Donut Shop stick up gone bad. How much cash is on hand at a donut shop in the evening in the early 80s? Enough to start “Buck’s Super Stereo World?” My guess is that Jack Horner is a silent partner in Buck’s venture. At least until it burned to the ground in the Rodney King riots. Poor Buck, can’t catch a break.
—Ron W, Lenexa, KS

SG This mailbag is slowly turning into “Ruin Every Movie Bill Simmons Ever Loved.”

Q: You like to fancy yourself as a late night TV expert. Who’s getting Fallon’s 12:30 spot on NBC?
—Mark Lisanti, Los Angeles

SG: I answered this question in a Hollywood Prospectus blog post yesterday along with a bunch of other Grantlanders who weighed in with their picks. Check it out — I went with someone over the age of 50 whom you might not expect and made a pretty strong case for him. (And no, I can neither confirm nor deny reports that I was reverse-jinxing NBC into picking Seth Meyers.) I’d say the favorites are Seth and Andy Cohen.

Q: Do you get a boner every time you type Lebron James?
—Joseph Watley III

SG: Not every time.

Q: You know there’s an ex-college linebacker named Marlon on the Real World this season, right? He started for three seasons and was an honorable mention all Big 12 at Texas Tech. A former college athlete who wasn’t able to make money as a professional has now turned his attention to getting on the challenge and dominating in order to make a living? This is the next step in making The Challenge America’s fifth major sport! If Marlon succeeds we will soon have a day when recognizable athletes use their athletic ability for a career as a professional Challenge player. I’m inappropriately excited for this.
—Ben, Plymouth

SG: So you’re saying it’s a little like when NFL teams started converting NBA players into tight ends? I’m nervous about the Real World franchise — the Portland season premiered last week to the lowest ratings in Real World history. What happens to America’s fifth professional sport if MTV cancels its feeder system? It would be like having major league baseball without the minor leagues, right? That reminds me …

Q: I’m flipping back and forth between the NCAA tournament and MTV’s retro marathon of the 1993 San Francisco season of the Real World. Is this really how people acted in the 90’s? These people suck. There hasn’t been any sex, barely any drinking and all conflicts have been resolved through open discussions. Did everyone in the 90’s take themselves this seriously? Did everyone feel they need to take up a cause? Why are they rock climbing so much? Watching this is making me thankful to be in my 20’s now and not then.
—Pat, Chicago

SG: And you wonder why everyone from Generation X is so bitter.

Q: You wrote: “LeBron allowing Hinrich to keep driving past him so he could block the ensuing layup. I’ve been watching basketball forever … I have NEVER seen that before.” In fairness, Lucas did that to his half-brother Nathan in the deciding point of the epic one on one playground battle on the River Court on One Tree Hill. That was the apex of the Lucas-Peyton-Nathan triangle, itself a fine tribute to the Brandon-Kelly-Dylan triangle.
—NC, New York

SG: I never watched this show and couldn’t resist clicking on the clip …

SG: It’s kind of amazing. Like the Ray Allen–Denzel Washington battle in He Got Game, crossed with every one of Jason Priestley’s best sports moments on the original 90210, crossed with every CW show, crossed with complete and abject absurdity, only with 9-foot rims. That clip led me to e-mail the only person I know who watched this show — Grantland’s own Juliet Litman — to find out exactly what the hell happened. A brief Q & A.

Me: Why were they battling at River Court? What was at stake? Was it a season finale?

Juliet: Season finale? This is the pilot! This show started out with high stakes, which only escalated as the characters encountered nearly every crisis that can strike high school students. In the first episode, Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) has challenged his bastard, estranged half-brother Lucas Scott to determine who stays on the Tree Hill Ravens, their high school basketball team.

Me: A bastard estranged half-brother? And they were both basketball rivals? Why wasn’t I watching this show?

Juliet: I don’t know! But Nathan is the rich basketball star while Lucas is the poor outcast in the shadows (even though he is ridiculously good-looking and that’s all that matters in high school — whatever). With Lucas threatening to usurp Nathan’s hegemony, Nathan attempts to disgrace his brother on Lucas’s own turf, the River Court, where normal rules of basketball don’t apply.

Simmons: Normal rules of basketball don’t apply? Is this like every Lakers game when the NBA needs them to make the playoffs?

Juliet: The subtext to the challenge is that Lucas is also making a play for Nathan’s girlfriend, which is what NC was referring to with the love triangle. I wish I could think of an appropriate Game of Thrones brothers analogy, but there is none. Nathan and Lucas’s relationship is too demented for even George R.R. Martin.

Simmons: So you don’t agree with the 90210 comparison?

Juliet: Not really. You could never make a compelling case for Nathan and Peyton, though you could with seeing Kelly with Brandon or Dylan and argue about it for hours. Peyton and Lucas were always meant to be.

Simmons: You don’t have to sell me on anything not being as good as Kelly/Brandon/Dylan.

Juliet: Now that you’ve watched this clip, you could drop in on almost any episode of One Tree Hill from Seasons 1 through 5 and more or less understand what was going on.

Simmons: I think I’m good.

Q: Why wouldn’t Oscar Pistorius blame a jealous one-armed man for the murder of his girlfriend? There’s clearly motive: the one-armed man could have been jealous of Pistorius’s fame because he couldn’t achieve the same Olympic fame. Why can’t Lifetime show, The Fugitive: South Africa? Think of Pistorius’s on the edge of a waterfall diving 100 feet with specialized flippers after screaming “You find that man!” to Jack Bauer or something.
—Alex Futter, West Lafayette, IN

SG: These are all fantastic questions and I don’t have answers. But I was watching The Fugitive on AMC two weeks ago and noticed a flaw that ruined the movie for me. These things tend to happen after you’ve watched a movie 320 times over a 20-year span, but still. Here’s the flaw: So Dr. Kimble is on the loose with everyone in the Midwest looking for him. Two different times, he reaches out to his old friend Dr. Nichols (the guy with the goofy accent), not knowing that Nichols was the one who set him up and hired the one-armed man. OK, so why does Nichols help him? Why doesn’t he immediately alert the police, or even better, just hit Kimble over the head and knock him out until the police arrive? Why help the one guy who could foil a plan that worked perfectly? Why? How could you be a conniving award-winning doctor who’s also the dumbest person on the planet? I can’t watch that movie anymore. Fine, that’s a lie.

Q: “Cassel looks left … throws over the MIDDLE to Jennings — ohhhhh. Jennings is down. Jennings is down and it does not look good. Cassel overthrew him down the middle of the field and it does not look good for Greg Jennings. Adrian is huddled over him and … oh. my. goodness.” (That’s Vikes radio guy Paul Allen’s Future in Week 7.)
—Ben Ginsburg, MN

SG: Too soon.

Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that the Patriots signed Danny Amendola to keep Ras-I Dowling, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski company in the training room?
—Dr. Jeff, Narragansett, RI

SG: Also too soon.

Q: So when did Brady and Belichick officially morph into Jim Kelly and Marv Levy?
—Jeff Ruder, Victoria, BC

SG: Too. Soon.

Q: Is it just me or is the Amendola for Welker swap eerily similar to the Celtics downgrading from Ray to Jet.
—Ben R., Philadelphia

SG: Or Johnny Damon to Coco Crisp. Welker’s departure remains odd to me — either the team believed he was more banged up than the general public knows, or Belichick never totally forgave him for making the Rex Ryan joke that got the Jets fired up before that 2011 playoff game (and decided Welker was a loose cannon from that point on), or both. But dumping a guaranteed 110-120 catches per year for someone who in a best-case scenario might grab 110-120 catches per year if everything goes right … I mean, isn’t that weird? Every time I’m with a Boston fan, things turn to Welker and we end up having the inevitable “So … are you as secretly pissed off about this Welker thing as I am?” conversation.

The bigger point: Why would the NFL stick with a salary cap that effectively prevents ANY signature guy from finishing with the team that made him a signature guy? Couldn’t every team get a slush bonus fund of $8 million per year that doesn’t count against that year’s cap and can only be used to incentivize 9/6 guys (anyone who’s played nine-plus years and spent the last six-plus years with the same team) to stick around? So it would be a little like the Franchise Player tag — if we made it easier for teams to keep signature veterans, maybe guys like Welker and Ed Reed wouldn’t be switching teams every spring. I don’t want to see Ed Reed on the freaking Texans. He should have been a Raven for life. And I hate the Ravens! But it won’t be the same rooting against them without Ed Reed. Bad system.

Q: Awesome PED article. It is refreshing to hear someone be so brutally honest. Thank you. I know no Buffalo athlete uses steroids because we never win anything.
—Joe, Buffalo

SG: Just remember, it could be worse …

Q: Baltimore now has two Super Bowl titles since moving from Cleveland. Once again, God hates Cleveland.
—Josh Peterson, Omaha, NE

SG: (Nodding.)

Q: Since the Browns returned to Cleveland, Bill Belichick won 3 Super Bowls, Pittsburgh won 2 Super Bowls and Baltimore won 2 Super Bowls. And that’s just what happened in football. God does not hate Cleveland; the last 20 years are definitive proof that there is no God.
—Kyle, Canton

SG: (Still nodding.)

Q: Wouldn’t the sport of hockey be infinitely more entertaining if the penalty box was converted into a sensory deprivation chamber? I’m talking no light, no sound, no nothing. When players take a penalty they have to spend a whole two minutes in the dark and silence while they feel shame. Not only that, this would mean that when the penalty is over, players get to fall out of the chamber and onto the ice with the same look of disorientation of a newborn baby. Granted, players would end up taking less penalties as the penalty box would now be as scary as the “Boo Box” in the movie “Hook” albeit with less scorpions. What say you Sports Czar? Are less power plays worth the added entertainment value?
—Eric T., Montreal

SG: Let’s at least try this in the KHL or OHL to see if this works. But I’m glad you brought it up. Wouldn’t the concept of a penalty box work just as well for the NBA and NFL? If all double technicals and flagrant 1 fouls led to three minutes in the NBA “penalty box” (just them sitting sadly at midcourt) — with the player being replaced on the court, obviously — wouldn’t that be a fascinating wrinkle? And for the NFL, it makes even more sense: They never know what to do when players fight other than give them matching 15-yard penalties that accomplish absolutely nothing. If an NFL player had to sit out a five-minute chunk or even a whole quarter/half, would they think twice about ripping someone’s helmet off during a fight, or nailing someone with a cheap shot over the middle? All team sports should have yellow/red cards or penalty boxes.

Q: As sports fans, we all have a list of players that we say, “If I find out Player X used PEDs, I’m going to be absolutely crushed.” There should probably be a name for that list.
—Dave, Boise, ID

SG: It’s the Junior Griffey All-Stars. If it ever came out that Junior used PEDs, an entire generation of American men would be emotionally destroyed. Here, watch — yesterday afternoon, I e-mailed Grantland’s Rembert Browne (age 26) and pretended Griffey was going down in a PED scandal. This is what transpired.

Simmons: “Yo, just heard from Bob Ley — big PED scandal breaking tomorrow. Junior Griffey is involved!!!!”

Rem (38 seconds later): “no no no no no no no no nooooooooooooooooooo childhood byeeeeeeeeee.”

Here’s the crucial point about Junior: He’s the only home run hitter from the 1990s and 2000s who makes everyone definitively say, “Well, at least we know HE wasn’t cheating.” What’s weird is that Frank Thomas was defiantly anti-PEDs even during his playing career, and never gave anyone any reason to think he might have been cheating … but somehow Griffey grabbed the “Well, at least we know HE wasn’t cheating torch.” Sorry, Big Hurt.

Q: What would be the most devastating PED story ever? Wouldn’t it have to be the Miracle on Ice team? Would this destroy the Internet completely along with all semblance of American pride? I can’t think of anything worse possibly happening in the sports world.
—Jeff Kelly, Phoenixville, PA

SG: I can think of one thing worse involving the Miracle on Ice team …

Q: If you were a crazy Russian millionaire, wouldn’t you bid on Mike Eruzione’s gear in that auction? Burn it in effigy, wield it like The Conch, hide it away forever…. Where would this rank in sports international incidents?
—Jonathan Harwell, Nashville, TN

SG: I intentionally waited until after the auction to run that e-mail. Imagine if Kim Jong-un had gotten the Eruzione jersey? We shrug off his nuclear threats, but buying Eruzione’s jersey and burning it, then sending the YouTube clip out for the world to see? Yeeessh. While we’re on the subject …

Q: So this morning I tell my wife that North Korea is going all crazy again, and she says “Too bad Dennis Rodman didn’t just kill him when he had the chance.” Needless to say, my coffee went out the nose. She was right! The Worm could have single-handedly changed the course of human history. And then I thought, if Rodman had assassinated Kim Jong Un at the basketball game, what would have been the repercussions? Would he get to take over the country by default? Would he end up as an even crazier dictator? Can someone please make this movie script happen immediately? I can’t stop thinking about Dennis Rodman killing a dictator.
—Ben, Milton, MA

SG: What if I told you that Dennis Rodman killed a crazy dictator and became the most powerful man in Asia? ESPN Films presents the newest 30 for 30, Whup ‘Em Rodman Style, directed by Peter Berg. Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Q: okay, so you are on my “list”, you know, the “list” i have w/ my husband that if i were ever to meet you i could hook up w/ you and he wouldn’t divorce me. it is even to the point that he calls you my boyfriend and that got my 5 year old daughter to say, “mommy, you have a boyfriend?” well, we saw you the other week on TV and you looked soooo skinny and you hadn’t shaven in what looked like a week. my husband turned to me and said, “that is your boyfriend, have fun with that” please, eat some hamburgers so i don’t have to be embarrassed that you are on my list. thanks!!!
—Nichola, Fontana

SG: I put on four pounds since this e-mail — we still have a chance, Nichola! DON’T YOU QUIT ON US!

Q: Pacino’s last great performance is now being used to sell Jeep Cherokees? C’mon Sports Czar, you have to use your powers to make this travesty disappear.
—Aaron Wheeler, San Antonio

SG: I’m glad you brought this up. Here’s Al Pacino’s 2013 so far. I only made one of these things up.

1. Played Phil Spector in an HBO movie as if Phil Spector were the Scent of a Woman guy, only with a gun and a ton of wigs.
2. Was immortalized in a video called “Al Pacino’s Full Roar” that immediately went viral — just 378 seconds of Pacino screaming.

Press Play VIDEO ESSAY – Pacino: Full Roar from Nelson Carvajal on Vimeo.

3. Last great performance used to sell Jeep Cherokees.
4. Won a 2013 AVN Award for “Best Solo Scene.”
5. Won the Simmons kids over with his (they-thought-it-was) hilarious performance in Jack and Jill, which they watched on cable over Christmas break and absolutely loved. In the movie, Pacino plays a Hollywood director who falls in love with Adam Sandler’s twin sister (played by Sandler in drag). I should mention that the Simmons kids are 7 and 5.

(Remember my “De Niro or Pacino?” argument from a 2002 mailbag? You could argue that De Niro finally finished him off this past year with Silver Linings Playbook combined with everything you just read. And you know what? If Al Pacino was half the man he was 10 years ago, he would have taken a flamethrower to this mailbag!!!!!!!!!! HOOOOOOO-AHHHHHHHHHHH!)

Q: What does it say about your NBA team when they have been in an arena for 25 years, only this was voted as the biggest moment of the arena by a local radio show?
—Andy Diehl, Madison, WI

SG: It says, “If Seattle doesn’t get the Kings, it’s getting the Bucks.” I’m only half-joking, by the way.

Q: You can learn a lot about a person from their google searches. My last 5 searches before typing “Bill Simmons Email” were:

1. Who rocks the party that rocks the body
2. Safe Haven
3. Lebron Free Agent
4. Irritable Bowl Syndrome
5. Aloofness

What were your last five searches for?
—Aaron, Columbus

SG: I don’t use Gmail and can’t figure out how to find my last five Google searches. But in a weird way … doesn’t that prove your point that you can learn a lot about people through their Google searches?

Q: I can’t believe you haven’t commented/noticed this before. David Stern completely changed fashion for today’s youth. After the dress code was put in place players started dressing up, loved it so much that they totally embraced it! Now most players go all out. It even spawned the hip nerd look. Which spilled over to rap and now everyone! David Stern will live on forever!
—Mike Cyert, Winona, MN

SG: I’m moving this e-mail into “David Stern’s Top 10 Greatest Accomplishments Ever” and making it no. 6 all time, right between no. 5 (pulling off 2012’s lockout and bumping every franchise’s value by 30 percent within a year) and no. 7 (escaping from the Donaghy scandal relatively unscathed, even though games like this happened).

Q: Simmons been listening to ur take on nba games ,u never coached ur take on games is at best bias how u got this gig is beyon me , u suk & ur words mean nothing .go back to that rock u crawled out from .moron
—Dennis, Boca Raton

SG: Boca Raton has a prison?

Q: So it’s Monday morning and I was having breakfast with the kids before work. With my head down in the Lucky Charms, I didn’t see my wife turn on the TV and all of a sudden I heard Pomp and Circumstance. I had a reflexive reaction that jerked my head up and was disappointed when I realized it was only the Obama inaugeration. I honestly would have even settled for the President grabbing a guardrail and spinning his hand around in a circle. I think you and I are on the same page with this one.
—Tim, Kansas City

SG: You’re damned right we are. That reminds me, we have an ABC Countdown show on Sunday followed by a doubleheader that takes us through about 6 p.m. ET. (We have to stick around for the entire game just in case it ends early and we have to fill.) That reality created the following two real-life dilemma moments for me.

1. Our producer, Amina, e-mailed us yesterday that we had to stick around after the second game to tape something for ESPN, leading me to start typing a “Do you know how long we have to stick around? I want to be home in time for the WrestleMania pre-PPV …” response before staring at the e-mail for a few seconds and realizing, “Oh, wait, I can’t send this.”

2. After getting up at 6:30, disappearing for 10 hours and ditching my wife with our kids all day, I have to figure out how to watch WrestleMania within an hour of my return home without my wife (a) killing me, (b) divorcing me, (c) just silently packing a duffel bag, getting in her car and driving away (never to be seen again).

Any advice on how to deal with Scenario No. 2 is much appreciated. By the way, I’m 43 years old.

Q: When you Google image search “drunk hockey players,” it turns out these dudes really like to take their shirts off when they are drunk. Is there another sport that would make a 28 year old male Google search “drunk _______ players”?
—Scott M, Chicago

SG: I might have to add this to Sunday night’s itinerary — I can watch WrestleMania while Google image searching “drunk hockey players.”

Q: Wasn’t losing Wilson the best thing that could have happened to Tom Hanks in Cast Away? Think about it. Hanks comes back with Wilson and he’s not letting that volleyball out of his sight … he’s introducing him at parties and trying to feed him a shrimp cocktail during the reception. Inside of 3 months the guy is in a mental institution. Hell, even with the way things panned out he’s probably talking about him like a real person that people suspect Hanks may or may not have eaten in his time there. All things considered, it turned out for the best.
—Paul Parsons, Vancouver

SG: I’m probably a bad person to ask — I’m the same guy who thinks they should make Cast Away II: Wilson Lives, a thriller about Hanks going to the dark side, forcing hookers to wear volleyballs with eyeholes on their heads as he has sex with them, then eventually becoming a hooker-killer referred to by police as “The Volleyball Murderer” before one of his old friends from FedEx puts everything together and they chase him down. But you’re 100 percent right. Had Wilson survived for the rescue, Hanks would have brought him everywhere and it would have been REALLY weird. How has this not been a “Funny or Die” video yet?

By the way, you know how NBC turned Hannibal into its first potential hit drama in eons? And you know how NBC desperately needs an identity and can’t come up with any good original ideas? Why wouldn’t they just turn 20 movies that we like into TV shows? For instance, I’d absolutely and unequivocally watch a Cast Away show. The two-hour pilot could blow out everything that happened leading up to the plane crash. The next eight to 10 episodes could revolve around life on the island interspersed with how everyone’s lives changed back home (including Helen Hunt’s character grieving, then eventually falling for the dentist); maybe you could even throw in a couple of wrinkles like “someone else survives the crash with Hanks and lives on the island with him for a couple of episodes before dying of gangrene” and “Hanks has to fend off three crazy natives who lived on the other side of the island.” Then the last couple of episodes could be about Hanks escaping the island and getting rescued, then landing back in Memphis and trying to get his old fiancée back. VOILÀ! We just cranked out Season 1.

Five other popular movies that could absolutely become NBC TV shows: Jerry Maguire (how great would the Tidwells be?); Bull Durham (I’m not entirely sure how this hasn’t happened yet); Midnight Run (no-brainer — just build it around Jack Walsh as a wise-cracking bounty hunter; you already know you’re getting a four-star review from Alan Sepinwall no matter what happens); Dave (fake president pretending to be the real president — COME ON, THIS WOULD WORK); and Big (chronicling 13-year-old Josh Baskin’s rise to the top of the toy industry). I would watch all of those shows.

And by the way, NBC? You can always just run back shows that you KNOW already worked. Kevin Wildes and I have spent multiple Half-Baked Ideas podcasts pitching a Cheers remake set in Chicago, only this time, Sam Malone is a former alcoholic star Blackhawks defenseman played by Vince Vaughn. Like that show isn’t immediately going no. 1? And why wouldn’t L.A. Law and ER just come back for a different generation? That could be your identity, NBC.

NBC … We bring back shit we know you like.

Q: Do you realize Monica and Chandler’s twins would be 9 this year, Phoebe’s triplets are 14, Ben is 18, and Emma is 11 this year?!? Why can’t they do the soap opera thing where their ages inexplicably jump 10 years and BOOM! we have a new sitcom. Seven 20-somethings living in NYC. Same writers, and Joey can stop in to hit on the girls. Why isn’t NBC all over this???
—Steve, Burlington, ON

SG: There’s another one! Just give me Robert Greenblatt’s job already. This is too easy.

Q: The power outage during the Super Bowl gave me a great idea for a Law and Order episode. The power goes out at the Super Bowl. Once the power is restored, they discover Jim Nantz murdered in the broadcast booth. The kicker line by the police before the Law and Order theme starts: “Goodbye friend,” playing off Nantz’s famous “Hello friends” introduction to games. The police believe Phil Simms is the murderer, until they discover a blood stained, white Ravens’ jersey in a locker room garbage can. The number on the jersey … 52. Ray Lewis is awarded the Super Bowl MVP a few weeks later because the Super Bowl was delayed due to Nantz’s murder. As Lewis is giving his acceptance speech, the police arrest him in front of 80,000 people. Then, he’s convicted of murdering Nantz. The final lines of the episode after Lewis is sentenced to life in prison: ADA “He thinks he’ll get out on parole.” Jack McCoy “Get out on Parole … ? To quote the Raven, ‘Never more.'” This is either the best or worst idea I’ve ever had.
—Paiul Vogl, Chicago

SG: Good Lord, we’re finally in range? That took forever.

Q: My male secretary (not my choice) keeps bothering me when I’m in the bathroom and hasn’t gotten the hint that’s not an appropriate time to see me about business. My wife thinks I should sit him down and express what I want him to do in that situation. My unemployed brother thinks I should call him from the stall and have him dictate a letter and see if he types all the grunts. I leave it up to you, please choose like your job would depend on it.
—Michael, Pittsburgh

SG: Getting closer …

Q: The Blazers are playing at the Hornets right now, and the score update says “POR NO.” I love this game!
—Morgan Chase, Seattle

SG: Getting closer …

Q: Every time I hear “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John, I feel like strutting around my office, home, or store like the Bushwackers from the Old WWF on Speed. Yes, I know I am heterosexual married male with two children. But that song just makes me want to stand up and move and shake my money maker.
—Matthew Branch, Traverse City

SG: Yup, these are my readers.