When I heard about the “Fenway 100” anniversary celebration before Friday’s Red Sox–Yankees game, my guard went flying up at the speed of a vintage Pedro fastball. See, we went from having neglectful owners (the 1970s) to incompetent owners (the 1980s and 1990s) to opportunistic owners who transformed the franchise (in a good way — we won two titles) while scraping every possible penny of profit out of their investment, to the point that Yaz was probably afraid to come to Fenway today because he didn’t want to be murdered, chopped up and turned into commemorative Yaz-flavored kielbasa pieces for $499.95 per bite. The thought of a “Fenway 100” celebration made me nervous.
And then the players came pouring out on the field, one after the other, and well
What can you say? What can you say when every checkpoint from your entire life happens to be huddled as one big mass of Red Sox jerseys in the only hometown park you ever had? There were Fisk, Rice, Pedro, Big Mo, Nomar, Remy, Rico it was like a 35-man tie for “Guy I Was Most Excited to See Again.” Even better, they invited everybody, so for every childhood hero, there was also a Mike Stenhouse, a Shag Crawford, even a Steve Lomasney. I ended up getting greedy and being bummed out that El Guapo and Freddie Lynn didn’t show up. Talking about it with my father later, he mentioned the moment when Fisk, Yaz and Rice helped out with the first pitch — how he couldn’t help but notice that Freddie Lynn was missing, how there was something fitting about Lynn not being there for that moment, either.
“He never should have left Fenway,” my dad said for the 10,257th time. “Perfect park for him. He would have made the Hall of Fame if he stayed.”
We have been having the same conversation about Freddie Lynn since I was 13. He should have stayed. These are the things you think about when your entire life is flashing before your eyes. Football is more popular, basketball is more marketable, hockey is more exciting, soccer means more throughout the world. But baseball has a way of making you think about everything that ever happened to you, every conversation you ever had, every place you ever lived, everything. I saw Millar and thought of standing in the tunnel at Fenway in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, when he was drawing that walk against Rivera. I saw Yaz and thought about him popping that ball up against Gossage, seeing it coming down, praying for a miracle that wouldn’t come. I saw Pedro and thought of those precious nights at Fenway when he’d give up his first hit and the crowd would collectively sigh, as in, “Damn, I’m not seeing a no-hitter tonight.” I saw Mo and thought about that hideous strike season, a year after I had moved back to Boston, when Big Mo was the only Red Sox player worth seeing. I saw Nomar and thought about how, once upon a time, it was Nomar, then A-Rod, then Jeter (in that order). I saw Remy and Rice and thought about the time Remy blew out his knee and Rice had to carry him back to the dugout, and I saw Evans and thought about the time he got beaned in the Seattle game and my dad and I thought he was dead. I saw Fisk and thought about that first White Sox game when he came back and rammed it right between our eyes.
I didn’t see Freddie Lynn, and that mattered, too. So did the fact that I didn’t even realize Clemens was missing until about 20 minutes after the ceremony. All of this mattered. All of it. The Red Sox have been screwing just about everything up lately, but today wasn’t one of those times. Let’s hope that ceremony doesn’t end up being the highlight of the 2012 season.
Q: I’m turning 30 and the only thing I want for my birthday is a new mailbag. The only thing. I even told my fiance not to worry about giving me a gift. I hope you can come through for me, for all of us.
— Jana Fischer, Boise, ID
SG: I don’t know, Jana. Lots of people turn 30. I need a little more prodding.
Q: When a soon to be Holy Cross freshman is getting action in a 1966 Driver’s Ed class on episode of TV’s best show (Mad Men), I think that means it is time for a mailbag. Given that it is Holy Cross, it wasn’t co-ed yet and that it was before the “free love” era, what are the odds that was the best that guy was going to do until he got back home next summer?
— John, Dunwoody, GA
SG: The odds are lower than you think. My dad went to Holy Cross in the late-’60s — every Friday, he would flee campus to visit any other local school that had coeds, becoming so infamous for that ploy that his friends gave him the nickname “Suitcase.” Ironically, it became harder for male Holy Cross students to hook up AFTER the school started admitting girls. Either way, I’m not sure Hanson the Horny Future HC Student deserves credit for spawning a mailbag.
Q: It’s 4/20 on Friday. You almost always write Fridays and you have owed us a mailbag for weeks. Also half your audience will get high before they read that mailbag anyway. Do I have to spell this out for you Simmons? 4/20 MAILBAG!
— MG, NY NY
SG: OK, now we’re talking. I’m almost convinced. I’m on the brink.
Q: Sports guy. Deployed in Kuwait right now. Entering the 2-3 month point when you realize your life is depressing. How do you feel about a mailbag? I’m begging.
— Andrew Gerry, Udairi, Kuwait
SG: Now that’s a good reason for a mailbag! Stay safe out there, Andrew. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.
Q: Now that Dwight is out for the season, how likely is it that The Ewing Theory will soon become The Howard Theory?
— Kyle, Toronto, Ontario
SG: It’s a perfect storm: You have the possibly overhyped superstar who never won anything; everyone writing off his team for the playoffs; a group of players who probably weren’t crazy about becoming part of Howard’s soap opera these past few months; a first-round matchup against a totally unproven Pacers team; and a coach who’d love nothing more than to shove it to the guy who wanted him out all season.1 The Ewing Theory Committee is on high alert. Couldn’t you see Orlando making, like, 20 of 35 3s in Game 1 or Game 2, then doing the same thing in Game 3, followed by Indiana getting tight and everyone saying, “Wait a second, Orlando can’t actually win this series without Dwight, right????” More important
I like how the Pacers have been playing well since George Hill came back and Leandro Barbosa showed up but still, it’s one of those über-deep rosters that’s missing one I-know-for-a-fact-I-can-rely-on-this-guy alpha dog who can step up and stop the bleeding if anything weird starts happening. For instance, if a Clippers playoff game starts going south, Chris Paul will say to himself, “No worries, fellas, I got this.” Who’s doing that for Indiana? Now, that issue might not surface until Round 2 or Round 3. But at some point it’s surfacing. Anyway, that’s why the Round 1 Ewing Theory door is just a little ajar.
Q: With Howard out for the Olympics, Stiemsma has to take his spot right?
— @bobfuton (via Twitter)
SG: Look, Greg Stiemsma already went from never averaging 12 minutes a game for a Big Ten school to averaging 20 minutes a game as a valuable backup big man for an NBA title contender. You’re really telling me that “Greg Stiemsma, Gold Medalist, USA” is far-fetched at this point?
Anyway, I’m glad Mr. Futon brought this up because I spent the morning freaking out about our gold-medal chances. Here are the nine definites for Team USA
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony (played his way back onto the team these past three weeks) and Tyson Chandler (the team’s new defensive anchor with Howard out).
I also think Russell Westbrook is sneaking in as the team’s luxury uber-athletic combo guard/defensive stopper whenever Coach K wants to turn up the jets with the press. That makes 10. If you notice, we’re more than a little small, which means we have to cross off the token extra shooter (Steph Curry, Eric Gordon, etc.) and token luxury perimeter defender (Andre Iguodala) so we can add a taller forward and one more center/defensive anchor.
Don’t let anyone tell you differently: Our 2012 gold medal is riding on that one 40-minute game against Spain. They’re throwing both Gasols AND Serge Ibaka at us.2 They’re going to pound us down low and relentlessly bang the offensive boards. It’s just a fact. We can respond by being cute and saying, “We’re going small and beating them with LeBron/Durant/Carmelo playing the four,” but if the Gasols get in a groove (and we’ve seen them do it in these international games), we’re going to need size beyond Chandler and Love (and protection in case either of them gets into foul trouble). The candidates
How is Serge Ibaka playing for Spain when he grew up in the Congo? It’s a great question.
Blake Griffin: Rebounds, garbage-time dunks and marketing. That’s what you’re getting. Can’t imagine him playing a lick against Spain when he’s a mediocre low-post defender and can’t make 15-footers on the other end. With Howard onboard, you could have snuck Blake onto the team as the 12th guy. No more. If they pick Blake, they’re picking an All-Star team something they swore they wouldn’t do. I’m crossing him off.
Chris Bosh: A better fit internationally because he can make 17-footers. On the other hand, I don’t trust Bosh as the third-best guy on an NBA contender I’m going to trust him in the Spain game trying to defend the Gasols? Thanks but no thanks. Let’s leave Bosh’s Pit in Miami, please.
LaMarcus Aldridge: Just had hip surgery and was never exactly a defensive stopper. Cross him off.
Andrew Bynum: Most talented big man on the board but man, given all the maturity issues/health problems he’d had over the past few years, can you really see Coach K rolling the dice with him? Why does this make me so nervous? Read this article. And this one. And this one. You really want to trust Bynum against Spain? He has two months to change our minds.
Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan: Both passed the “No way I’m putting those extra miles on my legs during the summer when I’m supposed to be resting for next season and I’m old, anyway” checkpoint about four years ago. Hold this thought, though.
Stiemsma: Why are you laughing? Do you realize that the Stiemer is leading all American big guys in blocks-per-48 minutes? Plus, wouldn’t you want to own a Stiemsma Olympic jersey?
In all seriousness, here’s what we should actually do. First, we send Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Coach K and Durant to KG’s Malibu house right after the Finals. They deliver the following message:
We only need you for TWO games. You’re going to be using the summer to stay in shape, anyway — what better way to stay in shape than a few weeks of July practices against the best players in the world in Vegas? From there, we’ll go to London and stick you in a fire extinguisher case for the preliminaries — “ONLY BREAK IF YOU REALLY NEED KG.” You can cheer on the guys, F-bomb our opponents from the bench, scream encouragement like a lunatic and do KG things. Then, we’ll bring you out for the medal games against France and Spain. You can finally get revenge on Pau Gasol for the 2010 Finals when you were playing on one leg. You can win a gold medal and add to your legacy. And by the way? WE NEED YOU. Win this with us.
No way Garnett turns them down. He’s too competitive and too good of a teammate. So there’s your 11th. As for our 12th guy, it’s such a glaringly obvious answer that, when I give you his name, you will shake your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that???” I present to you the one and only logical choice for that 12th spot, something that we need to get done as soon as possible so I don’t have to spend my summer worrying about us blowing the Spain game
(Hold on, I’m letting it sink in for you.)
that’s right, we’re bringing in the Unibrow!
It’s the no-brainer of no-brainers! Anthony Davis just won an NCAA title. He protects the rim like nobody we’ve seen since a young Dikembe Mutombo. He’s the ultimate teammate, someone who can affect basketball games without taking a single shot. Unlike Bynum, we won’t have to worry about him screwing up team chemistry. He’ll be the ultimate happy-to-be-there young guy. He’ll even happily settle into that always-enjoyable role as the whipping boy rookie who has to carry everyone else’s bags and stuff. And by the way? We might actually need him! What am I missing? GIVE US THE ‘BROW! USA! USA! USA! USA!
The team one last time: Paul, Rose, Westbrook, Wade, Kobe (guards); LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, Love (forwards); Chandler, Garnett, The ‘Brow (centers). Do you feel better? I feel better. Let’s move on.
Q: How long do you think it will take for Bill O’Brien to get the “old person smell” out of his office?
— Mike P, Philly
SG: (Afraid to say anything.)
Q: Is it me or is Kill Frank Gore’s Head going to be the most popular team name in fantasy next year?
— Butter, West Palm Beach
SG: Absolutely. I’m also excited for the obligatory terrible metal rock song with the chorus, “KILL THE HEAD (AND THE BODY WILL DIE)!!! KILL THE HEAD (AND THE BODY WILL DIE)!!!” That reminds me, where was the WWE during this Gregg Williams saga? How did they not create a wrestling manager/Williams parody who keeps “crossing the line,” offers bounties for his wrestlers to injure other wrestlers, stirs up an ongoing moral dilemma and comes out to the entrance song, “Kill the Head (and the Body Will Die)”? How long do we have to wait?
Q: A few years back you wrote how Jennifer Love Hewitt was poison to the ears of women. Just the sound of her name would cause any women within earshot to perk up and say “her neck is too tall,” “her boobs are too big,” “her body is too disproportionate
” Well, I have found that Khloe Kardashian elicits the exact opposite reaction. She’s the anti-JLov. Every time I mention something along the lines of Khloe being the ugly Kardashian, every nearby woman comes to her defense. They always say “what?!?! She is sooo pretty!!” or “I weigh more than she does!” This is almost never true.
— Ken S., Brighton, MA
SG: I asked my wife about this. We had this exchange.
Her: “I hate all the Kardashians and I hate their show. But Khloe’s the most tolerable of the three.”
Me: “Why do you think women like her?
Her: “She’s funny and she’s honest — she tells it like it is. (Thinking.) You know, I actually like Khloe, I just hate her sisters.”
Me: “Do you feel bad for Khloe that she’s considered to be the fat sister?”
Her: “She’s not that fat!”
(And there you go. Meanwhile )
Q: How is Grantland not reviewing Jennifer Love Hewitt’s new show The Client List? It is female porn. There are so many guys with six pack abs that all need Jennifer to “massage” them in all the right places. Insecure men leaving their women. Overdone Texas stereotypes. Please get someone on this show asap.
— Jeffrey, Austin
SG: Done and done. We’re launching a weekly “Hate Watching: The Client List” recap post next week on our Hollywood Prospectus blog. By the way, just when you think J-Love had run out of ways to get women to abhor her, she launched a Lifetime show in which she gives out happy endings and potentially ruins marriages during the same month she posted a Twitter picture of herself without makeup (looking great, of course). That’s almost like declaring war on housewives everywhere, right?
Q: When the 8-seeded Kings took a 3-0 lead on the Canucks, I was reminded of how little advantage Vancouver received for their amazing regular season. Here’s a dramatic and controversial plan that could keep ESPN’s talking heads busy for weeks. I call it “Game 8.” It’s simple and beautiful. The 1 and 2 seeds only need to win 4 out of 7 as usual, but the low seeds need to win 5 games total. How do we do this? They could win 5-0, 5-1 or 5-2 in a normal 7-game series. But, if the low seed is leading 4 games to 3? The sportstalkopalyse: Game 8. At the high seed’s home arena. Winner take all. As you say: Who says no?
— Brent T., Los Gatos, CA
SG: Let’s be honest: The only hockey-related ideas that “could keep ESPN’s talking heads busy for weeks” would be Tebow, Peyton or LeBron signing with an NHL team. Anyway, I like the spirit of your idea but don’t agree with the execution — the no. 1 seed shouldn’t have to play an extra playoff game. I’d rather see the NBA, NHL and MLB adopt the following idea: give no. 1 seeds an extra home game in Round 1. In baseball, change Round 1 to a 2-1-2 format; in basketball and hockey, change it to a 2-2-3 format. While we’re fixing things
Q: I’m listening to Jalen and Jacoby’s latest podcast and they’re discussing flopping and possible deterrents. How about the NBA creates the proposed Flop Committee? If you accrue flops during the season, you start the next game with an automatic foul. And that keeps going every two flops after the first six.
— Sam, New Orleans
SG: I’d go even further — once you get to 10 flops for the season, after every ensuing flop, you start the next game with TWO automatic fouls. Can I be the chair of the Flop Committee? I want to be able to put this on my résumé and everything. Hold on, we’re not done fixing things.
Q: Hey Sports Czar — what’s your fix for NFL kickoffs? You can’t run for Sports Czar if you are sitting this one out.
— Jeremy, Omaha
SG: We can’t get rid of kickoffs entirely, right? For such a violent sport, we can’t suddenly start picking which violent parts make more sense than others. At the same time, this seems like a good chance to tweak the sport so there’s more incentive to go for touchdowns instead of field goals. Why? Because fans perk up when they hear the words “fourth down and they’re going for it!” and lose interest when they hear the words “and here comes [fill in any kicker] to try a field goal.” So, what if we tweaked the rules
• No more kickoffs to start the first and third quarters. Instead, each team gets the ball on the 25-yard line and we go from there.
• After any successful field goal, you kick off from your own 25-yard line.
• After any touchdown, you kick off from your own 40-yard line.
The end result (hopefully): fewer field goals, more touchbacks, more “fourth down and they’re going for it!” situations, and (most important) more decisions that will get screwed up by mentally overwhelmed coaches and eventually turn into comedic fodder!
Let’s apply the revamped rules to a game situation. It’s Sunday night and San Diego is playing Philly. The Eagles are trailing by four points with seven minutes to play. They’re on San Diego’s 22-yard line. It’s fourth-and-four. If they make the field goal, they’re still trailing by one, and they have to kick off from their own 25 (conceivably, giving San Diego excellent field position to finish off the game). But if they get the first down? Better chance of scoring the go-ahead touchdown coupled with an overwhelming chance of a touchback kickoff (and San Diego starting their next drive from their own 20).
So what would Andy Reid do? (Thinking.) Well, he’d waste a timeout to think about it — and if he could waste a timeout by challenging the previous play, then spend a second timeout to think about fourth down, even better. Then he’d probably decide on kicking a field goal because that would be the dumbest move. Then we could poke fun at him the next day for the entire sequence. See what I mean? We need more decisions in football; there’s just no downside. We win anytime Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Mike Smith or whoever has to make a decision with multiple variables in the spur of the moment.
Q: Where does Lane punching Pete rank in all time Mad Men moments?
— Gavin, Verona, PA
SG: SPOILER ALERT! Stuck my answer in the footnotes.3
Don’s “Carousel” speech from Season 1 has to be the no. 1 Mad Men moment. It’s not up for debate, actually. From there, my list goes like this: (2) Don getting revenge on Roger hitting on Betty with the oysters/elevator move, (3) the drunk secretary running over Lane’s replacement’s foot on a John Deere, (4) Peggy telling Pete she had his baby, (5) the Lane-Pete fight, (6) Betty confronting Don with his secret box, (7) Roger telling Joan, “Look, I want to tell you something because you’re very dear to me, and I hope you understand it comes from the bottom of my damaged, damaged heart: You are the finest piece of ass I ever had, and I don’t care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides,” (8) Don and Lane going out and getting slammered together, (9) the scene in “The Suitcase” when it looked like drunk Don and drunk Peggy might hook up (but didn’t), (10) every scene with Lee Garner Jr. P.S.: Adam in China summed up the Lane-Pete fight best: “Other than Pete getting creamed and Roger’s quip about wanting to see this go down, my favorite part of the whole scene was the non-verbal acting from the uninvolved actors/actresses. Jon Hamm’s face as he’s closing the curtains is classic, but Elisabeth Moss closes the scene perfectly with her ‘WTF Just Happened In Here?!’ face before walking away after peering in the door. This scene is why it’s easily the best show on TV right now.” Totally agree. Just don’t bring this up to Carles.
Q: Starting in June 2010 Minnesota sports teams have suffered the following injuries: Justin Morneau suffers a concussion. (misses the rest of the year and is not the same player through all of 2011); Joe Mauer gets “bilateral leg weakness” and has a terrible 2011; Adrian Peterson shreds his knee at the end of the 2011 season; Ricky Rubio tears his ACL in 2011-2012 season. Has any other sports city suffered catastrophic injuries to that many stars in less than 2 years, and when is Kevin Love going to need microfracture surgery?
— Paul Z, St Paul
SG: And to think, Paul sent that e-mail before Love suffered a concussion and the “Vikings might leave Minnesota” story broke. Is there a way to blame all of this on Brett Favre? Isn’t he Patient Zero for the Minnesota sports collapse?
Q: Any chance we can get Bobby V. to make some pro-Castro comments sometime soon?
— @sethrobbins77 (via twitter)
SG: Good one. You got me thinking about Boston’s equivalent sore spot to pro-Castro comments in Miami — what’s the one thing Bobby V could say that would potentially get him driven out of town?
It could go one of two routes. Either he’d have to make the following 10 points in the SAME interview
“I’ve managed in New York and I’ve managed in Boston New York just has better and more sophisticated fans. It’s a fact.”
“I have to admit, it’s weird to be managing in Boston given that I believe Magic was better than Bird, Gretzky was better than Orr, Kiss was better than Aerosmith, DiMaggio was better than Williams, and Manhattan clam chowder was better than that creamy white sludge they serve here. I even think Fire Island is better than Provincetown. Again, it’s just weird that I ended up here.”
“I’ve been a fan of Eli Manning’s game for a long time — those boys will go down as one of the best teams ever in any sport.”
“What’s up with the goofy accents here? These people sound like reeee-tahds. [Long laugh.]”
“I can’t believe how much they worship the Kennedys around here. Don’t they realize that JFK was the most overrated American president ever? Oh, and nice job pretending that Chappaquiddick never happened, EVERYBODY.”
“I can’t believe how much Dennis & Callahan’s political views echo my own.”
“Irish people are fat, freckled, drunken morons. And always have been, by the way.”
“Kevin Youkilis isn’t as physically and emotionally into the game.”
“I agree with Luke Scott — Fenway is a dump and they should have torn it down 20 years ago.”
“Sam Adams tastes like elephant piss and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee tastes like elephant shit. Sometimes I like to drink them both at once just to see how fast I can throw up.”
He’d have to answer a question about Boston’s busing riots in 1974 by saying something like, “I know that stuff happened almost 40 years ago, but I don’t care — I’ll always believe Boston is a racist city and you’ll never be able to tell me differently.” Every city has one sore spot. For Miami, it’s Castro. For Boston, it’s the racism thing.
(Wow, this turned somber fast. I think we need a little Mike Tyson.)
Q: After Mike Tyson revealed on ESPN that he got a prison official pregnant WHILE IN PRISON, can we officially stop taking challengers to the Tyson Zone throne? Charlie Sheen ain’t got nothing on Iron Mike.
— Mike Bell, Riverside, CA
SG: And you didn’t even mention Tyson’s recent (and disturbing) “I beat up seven hookers while zonked out on cocaine” revelation. Look, I have a lot of regrets about getting carried away during Sheen’s media frenzy and assuming that a few crazy Chaz Sheen weeks could trump 25 crazy years of Tyson. If Kevin Durant averaged 37 points a game in the playoffs and won the NBA title, I wouldn’t suddenly declare him the best NBA player ever. I have a lot of regrets. Sorry, Mike Tyson. Please accept my apologies.
Q: Billy, how come you didn’t do a post Super Bowl mailbag when you’re supposed to do a post Super Bowl mailbag? My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and do a mailbag at the same time!
— Gisele, Boston
SG: Gisele just reminded me of something: If there was ever a week for Tom Brady to give an interview and say, “You know, I’m 35 years old, I’m at the tail end of my prime, I don’t know how many years I have left here man, I wish we’d stop rolling over these no. 1 picks to next year’s draft and just bring in a couple of blue-chippers once and for all,” isn’t this the week? Speaking of aging superstars facing the tail end of their primes
Q: What are the odds that Kobe isn’t really hurt, just sitting out the last few games because he doesn’t want to lose the scoring title?
— Crooney, Miami
SG: Are you crazy? Don’t you realize that every time Kobe misses a game, he thinks to himself, I just lost 29 more career points? I wouldn’t be surprised if his office at home has a wall covered with some sort of Beautiful Mind–type scribbling that calculates in great detail every single scoring checkpoint he needs to hit from now until 2018 to catch Kareem. Kobe cares about two things and two things only: winning a sixth ring (to tie MJ) and breaking that scoring record (which would make him immortal, and he knows it). Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
Q: I already saw it as I commuted into the office at 8:00 am
I could sense it as I popped up out of the State Street stop
the abnormal warmth, the pep in the step of the women who passed by, the smiles
today is the day! it’s “Halter Top Day!!! Expected high of 87 on Marathon Monday
a bevy of beautiful women roaming the city in sun dresses or booty shorts and yes halter tops! Will there be sunbathing in Columbus park and the Common? Oh yes, because in this year of 2012 remember April 16th as Halter Top Day in Boston!
— Brandon, Boston
SG: The greatest Boston day (Patriots’ Day) merged with the second-greatest Boston day (Halter Top Day)???? And the Red Sox lost??? How could the Red Sox lose on Halter Top Patriots’ Day???? We’re headed for 72-90, I’m convinced.
Q: It was just reported that David Lee is out for the season with “groin pain caused by a hip ailment.” I couldn’t stop laughing after reading your article 24 hours earlier where you predicted a bogus injury would remove David Lee. I’m starting to think we should feature you on CSI: Miami sometime to find a serial killer or something.
— Chris, Toronto
SG: Just one measly CSI: Miami episode? You don’t think it could be its own CBS drama? What if I played a sports columnist who uses his telepathic powers to protect the NBA’s credibility in The Tankologist? Who’s playing me? Get Matthew Perry on the phone!
Q: With no clear MVP, doesn’t Steve Nash have to be at least considered if the Suns make the playoffs? If he’s not on that team, they’re probably competing with Charlotte for the ‘Brow. How many of his teammates would start for any of the other 7 west playoff teams. One?
— Steven, San Jose
SG: When I posted my MVP column 17 days ago, I had LeBron and Durant ranked 1-2, then Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Kobe and Dwight Howard, in that order. Since then, Love dropped out of the top six (because of his concussion), so did Howard (for a variety of reasons), and so did Kobe (missed too many games). What’s the top five right now?
1. LeBron James: Leads Miami in points (27.1), rebounds (7.9) and assists (6.3); finished with a 30+ PER for the third time (it’s only happened 16 times, and only seven players have done it; first-team All-Defense; best player on one of the league’s three best teams. Slightly better than the dreaded “somebody had to win it” MVP season — I think he’s earned a five-pound trophy (and not the Wimbledon platter).
2. Chris Paul: Quality numbers (19.4 PPG, 9.0 APG, 2.5 SPG, 48/37/86 shooting splits, third in PER) coupled with ludicrously good crunch-time numbers (only Chris ranks top-five for points-per-48 minutes AND top 10 for assists-per-48 minutes, backing up the whole “Chris does everything for them in crunch time” notion), and that’s before you throw in the “helped keep the Clips together in mid-March when they were quitting on Vinny Del Negro” and “Oh, in case you forgot, the Clips have always been the league’s laughingstock” parts.4 Chris Paul single-handedly gave the Clippers credibility. Read that sentence again.
Right now, the Clippers are 39-24 for a .619 winning percentage. Dating back to their first Buffalo season (1970-71), they’ve never finished with a .600 winning percentage. The 1975 Braves (49-33, .598) and 2006 Clips (47-35, .573) came the closest. Since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, the Clippers finished above .500 only three times (1979, 1992 and 2006).
3. Kevin Durant: Had a two-week window in which he could have hijacked LeBron’s MVP and couldn’t pull it off. Here’s why I ranked Paul ahead of Durant: If you replaced Paul with, say, Jrue Holiday, they finish 19-47. But if you replaced Durant with, say, Thaddeus Young? Don’t the Zombies still finish .500 or better?
Anyway, there’s a dropoff after those first three guys which leads us to Mr. Nash. If Phoenix sneaks into the playoffs in THAT conference with THAT team (basically, a 38-year-old point guard setting up a slew of role players, none of whom had ever been regular starters before except for Grant Hill, who, by the way, is 39 years old) after THAT start (they were 12-19 at one point), it could have only happened because of teamwork/chemistry/efficiency, and if that’s the case, then gee, I wonder who made that possible?5
If Phoenix misses the playoffs, Nash drops out of the top six and you’d look at Tony Parker, Kobe and Rajon Rondo for the next three spots. But it’s a STEEP drop-off.
Q: Looking back to Boston’s offseason what did you say when you acquired Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros? For me it was “Wow, I guess they didn’t know how much he sucks.” And you know what
you didn’t. Go ‘Stros, and yes, I know we blow enormous elephant sized shlongs.
—James B., Houston
SG: That’s right, it’s a new low for the 2012 Red Sox season — the time we were trash-talked by a Houston Astros fan.
Q: Last week I was talking to a co-worker and said, “what if there was a Hunger Games between Ravens fans, Eagles fans and Raiders fans? Put them all together in an arena and fight to the death. Who would win?” My co-worker, a Ravens fan, immediately said, “I would totally sign up for that.” What fans would make up the most epic Hunger Games, and what would your criteria be? And who would be your winner? My criteria was a rabid fan base, and a fan base that would immediately respond: “Where do I sign up?” P.S. I don’t know what’s worse: that I thought about making the Hunger Games real, or that I thought about not writing this to you because I was afraid these fans bases might actually do it.
— Amanda S., Los Angeles
SG: What a great question. The only thing we know for sure about the Fan Hunger Games: Cleveland fans would definitely make it to the Final Four before getting killed in the most agonizing way possible. For the other favorites, I’m leaning toward cold-weather fan bases like Boston (a history of dropping the gloves dating back to the 1770s), New Jersey (no need to explain), New York (biggest base to pick from), and Detroit/Baltimore (blue-collar). You also can’t underestimate some of the hockey-crazed Canadian cities if only because the NHL playoffs prove every spring that Canadians are supernaturally tough and can keep chugging along even when they’re semi-concussed or bleeding from three different places.
Still, I think Philly fans would have to be ranked as the favorites for two reasons. First, if you asked 100 random people the question, “What fan base is the most likely fan base to start a real-life Fan Hunger Games?,” Philly fans would run away with the vote. They just would. That has to mean something. And second, Philly fans are the only fans who would take it personally if they weren’t the favorites for the Fan Hunger Games. Boston fans would quietly smolder about being overlooked, then bide their time, relish being under the radar and get their revenge when the Games started. But Philly fans? They’d feel like it was a total slap in the face if they weren’t favored.
So who’d actually win? Here’s the wild-card component: Boston fans and New York fans would deliberately seek each other out and fight to the death. There would be no winners. Same for Philly fans and New Jersey fans. All four fan bases would be wiped out in the first 25 minutes. That leaves a Final Four of Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland and (in a huge upset) Portland! Have you ever seen the Trail Blazers message boards? Those frustrated fans are more than ready to take out 35 years of Walton/Bowie/Jordan/Oden/Durant/Roy bitterness in the form of controlled bloodshed. I have them shocking Baltimore in the semis before falling to Detroit in the Finals. But hey, if you disagree and want to cast your own vote, click on Grantland’s Facebook page and weigh in.
Q: I have been a Cowboys fan my whole life. After my graduation from Baylor in ’09, I have also watched RG3 become the most important Baylor athlete of all time. He brought a Heisman to Waco, but more importantly brought credibility to a program that has lacked it for so long. Simply put, RG3 has become my favorite athlete. I am about to watch my favorite sports figure get drafted by the team I “sports hate” the most. I want Griffin to retire with multiple Super Bowl victories but don’t want the Redskins to have any. What do I do?
— Matt, San Antonio
SG: Always side with the team over the player. You’ll watch Griffin for the next 15 years; you’ll watch the Cowboys for the next 60. There are only four ways a favorite player can trump a favorite team: If you’re related to the player; if you’re dating the player; if you’re close friends with the player; or if the player just knocked you up and agreed to pay for alimony. That’s it.
Q: After Nashville’s Weber received a $2,500 fine for slamming Zetterberg’s face into the glass but Chicago’s Shaw got a three game suspension for a collision in which he was obviously not trying to injure Phoenix’s Smith, I’m starting to think the NHL has a giant wheel that they spin whenever they need to dole out playoff punishment. Sometimes it will land on an much to heavy suspension and other times you’ll get out of jail free. What other explanation can there be?
— Peter, Chicago
SG: Even if Peter was kidding, he inadvertently stumbled onto a killer idea. Since there’s no rhyme or reason to these suspensions, anyway, why not build a giant punishment roulette wheel and have Brendan Shanahan spin it to decide every suspension? The wheel could look like the Price Is Right‘s “Showcase” wheel and have 10 different penalty spots repeated two times each — $2,500 fine, $5,000 fine, $10,000 fine, $25,000 fine, $50,000 fine, one-game suspension, two-game suspension, three-game suspension, four-game suspension and a series suspension — along with two “get out of jail free”–type spots (which would save the player from any penalty) and one “banned from the playoffs” spot (so you’d have a 1-in-23 chance of getting bounced). Three things I like about this idea
1. Wouldn’t we see fewer cheap shots because everyone would be afraid of taking their chances with the punishment wheel? Cross-check someone in the face and you might miss a couple of games. But with those 1-in-23 “banned from the playoffs” odds looming? Maybe you’d think twice.
2. You know how awkward between-period interviews are? Can you imagine how awkward the before-during-after sequence of Shanahan spinning the punishment wheel live on the NHL Network or WET6 would be? I would watch this EVERY time.
That’s from a previous mailbag — a reader thought Versus should rebrand itself as WET (the White Entertainment Network). Instead, they went with NBC Sports Network. You tell me, which one has a better ring?
3. Isn’t this admittedly absurd idea no less absurd than the haphazard way in which they doled out punishment during these playoffs? Really, you get $2,500 for slamming someone’s head against the glass like Triple H slamming Undertaker’s head against the side of a steel cage, but three games for semi-accidentally running into a goalie?
Q: After the Bobby Petrino scandal, I realize we have been missing a big part of why a coach decides to stay or leave one program for another — I think we should call the formula “The Tang Factor,” based on the hotness of the coeds at the school combined with how much the coach will make there. What do you think?
— Darrin, Palm Springs, FL
SG: I think you just stumbled across the best advanced metric since OPS. I didn’t have enough time to rank all 300 colleges — suffice it to say that the NESCAC is the Bizarro SEC.
Q: So, Bailey and Ellsbury are hurt, Melancon and Albers are getting lit up, Salty and Youk are hitting under .100, and Valentine is already losing control of the clubhouse. In April. On Patriot Day. After the 100th anniversary weekend. I’m tired of losing. Have another kid. Please.
— William G., Santa Fe, NM
SG: Believe me, I’ve been thinking about it. For those who might not remember, my wife was pregnant with our first child in October ’04 and our second child in October ’07. We stopped after two kids for three reasons.
• My wife hates being pregnant. Something about crazy hormones, gaining weight, being uncomfortable and feeling lousy for nine months, then trying to pass another human being out of a hole that’s a fraction of the size of that human being. I don’t really get it. Feels like she’s totally overreacting here.
• We have (hmmmm what’s a nice way to put this ) energetic kids. Our kids can swim in a pool for five straight hours, towel off, then ask, “What are we doing now? We’re bored.” So we feel like we have three kids, anyway — each one counts for one and a half.
• Everyone we know with three or more kids responds to the question “What’s it like?” one of four ways: Either they’re totally honest (and tell you, “I’d never, ever, in a million years, do this again”); they start laughing the same way Mike Tyson’s manager would laugh if you asked him, “What’s Mike like?,” then come up with some fake story about how it’s not that bad even though you know they’re lying and they’re clearly hoping someone else is stupid enough to have three kids so at least they’re not alone in their personal hell; they make the “It’s like going from man-to-man to playing zone” joke, which is a nice way of saying, “We’re just trying to get through the next 10 years without a catastrophe or someone losing an appendage”; or, they’re Irish-Catholic, which means they’re confused by the question because it’s like asking, “What’s it like to breathe?”
Anyway, I love the Red Sox. Really, I do. But enough to create a third miracle fetus and switch to zone D? No. Can’t do it. Sorry, William G — we’ll always have the 2004 and 2007 World Series videos.
Q: Zombies may or may not poop. But one thing I’m certain of is that vampires don’t have sex. That is, at the very least, vampires from Twilight shouldn’t be able to. I say this because it explicitly says in the book that vampires don’t have blood (uhhh, I overheard a group of teenage girls talking about this). No blood, no erection. No erection, no sex. And yet, Robert Pattinson both has sex with, and impregnates Kristen Stewart in the fourth installment of the series. Indeed, Robert may be the first man in history to reproduce without ever having had an erection. I am a male in college, and yes, I realize that it is pathetic that I have spent enough time thinking about twilight to be bothered by this.
— Stevie, Eugene, OR
SG: Oh, boy. I guess we’re in range.
Q: This may surprise you, but many of us count on the “Yup, these are my readers” portion of your mailbag. Now, I realize that, being the artist that you are, you feel compelled to experiment with your format, but I still must protest your latest venture. It was acceptable, and even funny, when you started teasing us with “in range” and “almost there”. At least we knew that “Yup” was coming. Now, you’ve not only taken to putting “Yup” in the middle of mailbags, you actually left them out completely or used different wording. I find this all very confusing. How are we supposed to know when the column ends ?!? Please, quit f-ing around and just put “Yup” at the end, the way it was always meant to be.
— John Nolife, Ft. Lauderdale
SG: Getting closer.
Q: My buddy and I are currently playing a game called “I’m 22, unemployed, and living at home.” He sent me this text: “Highlight of my day: the girl with the big plugs from my local pizza place recognized me.” My response crushed his: “I’m emotionally invested in the red-blue bachelor baseball game. Jennifer the ginger struck out swinging to lose the game, typical. The next scene, model Courtney says “there’s no crying in baseball, rub some dirt in it,” and i had a hard time concealing my partial erection from my mom. Also, I have yet to take off my house shoes all day. I’m 22, unemployed, and living at home.” Our next endeavor is to try to buy jet skis and recreate the last scene of the first season of Kenny Powers, and send the pictures to our dads. We wanna start a new game called “disappointed looks of our fathers.” Can’t we start a club where all recently graduated males in a town can get together wearing their slippers and robes and share their experiences? We can’t be the only ones right? It’ll be like a loser AA.
— James G, Santa Cruz
SG: Yup, these are my readers.