Boxing’s three-ring circus

Prodigal son, departs

Welcome to the Mailbag

The Sports Guy: The Mailbag

My favorite moment of Tuesday-Wednesday’s Game 3, which had to be the least exciting extra-inning World Series game of all time, if only because everyone in the stadium seemed bored and ready to go home (including the announcers): During Geoff Blum’s soon-to-be-famous at-bat in the 14th inning, when Fox showed the “What you can do in five hours” graphic. The choices included:

1. Fly from New York to Los Angeles
2. Cook a turkey for Thanksgiving
3. Watch 1/5 of a season of “24”
4. Watch the longest game in World Series history

First, that’s fantastic. I never would have been able to figure out any of those choices on my own. Thank you, Fox. And second, why didn’t they go further? I would have included the following choices:

Phil Garner
5. Break out of prison with Lincoln Burrows on an all-new five-hour “Prison Break”
6. Have sex with 17 Minnesota Viking players in a row
7. Shave Phil Garner from head to toe
8. Listen to “Brandon” Arroyo’s album of rock covers six times in a row

9. Organize a ticked-off group of PETA members to sneak into Minute Maid Park to throw paint on Jeanne Zelasko’s fur coat
10. Say to yourself 50,000 times, “Wait a second, Pedro Astacio is still in the major leagues?” before realizing it’s another Astacio.

I could go on and on. Needless to say, Fox jinxed itself yet again — within 0.000003 seconds of Buck wrapping up the graphic, Blum homered to give the White Sox an insurmountable 6-5 lead. And thank God, because I was trying to write this mailbag for much of last night and couldn’t properly concentrate. Just think, if Ensberg had walked or singled in the bottom of the ninth, this mailbag could have been 25 percent better.

I believe it was Tim McCarver who said it best: “Some ground balls are hit into places where you have no play.” And some mailbag columns are meant to be tainted by the unforeseen distraction of the longest game in World Series history. Oh well. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: What would be the sports equivalent of Jeffrey Ross’ famous (and unprintable) line about Bea Arthur and Sandra Bernhard at Jerry Stiller’s roast? Since it came out of nowhere and defined roasts as we know it, the best I could come up with was either the Stansbury Statue of Liberty dunk or Dr. J’s dunk from the free throw line, as they both came out of nowhere and vaulted the contests to the next level, just as Ross’ line did for celebrity roasts. A case could also be made, I suppose, for Bob Beamon’s long jump in ’68, because I can’t see anyone topping the joke for quite some time. Thoughts?
–Zach, Washington, DC

SG: Hmmmmm … with apologies to the Stansbury dunk (one of my favorites), I would compare Ross’ joke to Doctor J’s dunk in the 1976 ABA All-Star Game, for seven reasons:

First, they both had afros at the time. Second, some of their competitors were probably coked out. Third, everyone in attendance went completely bonkers when the dunk/joke happened. Fourth, there’s a good percentage of people who didn’t see the dunk/joke for years after the fact. Fifth, even though it took a few years, the dunk/joke launched a new era of dunk contests and roasts, as well as a different level of popularity for those formats. Sixth, it was physically impossible for either of them to top those particular dunks/jokes, and yet everyone expected them to in every subsequent dunk contest/celebrity roast. And seventh, they both ended up having illegitimate daughters who played pro tennis. All right, maybe Jeff didn’t. But the other similarities are downright eerie.

Q: My buddy and I have started wondering if the nickname “F-Her” can possibly catch on for Felix Hernandez. Any thoughts?
–Andrew, Hadley, Mass.

SG: Um … you’re a genius? I’m delighted? You made my day? I wish I had thought of that first? And yes, I’m thinking all of these things, since I’m the same guy who once came up with “Man-Ram” for Manny Ramirez. Damn it all.

Q: Is there such a thing as Bland Sports Interview Face? I saw Alex Rodriguez using it after the Yanks lost to the Angels … and I’ve seen Mario Lemieux use it I don’t know how many times. It goes like this: Reporter asks question, athlete answers with vanilla, cliché-filled response, then scrunches his lips in some kind of an “I’m done with the answer now” shape. It’s similar to a let-me-think-for-a-second face scrunch or the greeting-someone-on-the-street-without-saying-a-word scrunch: your lips purse a little — not as much as a pucker, though — and move up towards your nose. You get the idea. Somehow every A-Rod interview ends with the Bland Sports Interview Face.
–Jay, Fergus Falls, Minn.

SG: Wait, wait, wait … you can’t give A-Rod and Lemieux credit for that face. Didn’t you just describe every interview with every NHL player from the past 30 years? After the Falcons-Jets game on Monday night, I was sifting through e-mails and forgot to change the channel when Rob Fukuzaki’s “Sports Zone” postgame show came on — the filler show that Los Angeles’ ABC affiliate airs after the Monday Night game. It’s not a bad show, with the bonus that Rob carries himself like a grown-up version of one of the “Better Off Dead” announcers. Anyway, poor Rob was stuck carrying the Niedermeyer brothers for about 4-5 segments as he showed Falcons highlights, other sports highlights and even sports bloopers, replete with exchanges like this:

Rob: “Let’s go to the third quarter — that’s right, another fumble by Vinny Testaverde. Have you guys ever seen anything like that? Isn’t this incredible?”

(Awkward silence as the Niedermeyer brothers look at each other, waiting to see who should speak. Finally … )

Alex Rodriguez
Brother No: 1 (face scrunching, followed by a monotone): “Well, Vinny’s been in the league a long time, he knows how to bounce back from a bad game, and you just have to deal with those things as a professional athlete.”

(Brother 1 purses lips and makes the A-Rod Face, followed by Brother 2 scrunching his face. That’s followed by another awkward second of silence. And then … )

Brother No. 2 (monotone): “Yeah, we all have our good days and our bad days, and Vinny certainly has experience with both types of days.”

(Brother No. 2 purses lips and makes the A-Rod face. They’re done talking. Cut to a rattled Rob … )

Rob: “Um, later on the third quarter, watch this pass by Michael Vick … “

And it went on that way for a good 40 minutes, followed by Rob covering himself in diesel gasoline and lighting himself on fire. Fortunately, I saved it on my TiVo.

But while we’re here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Niedermeyers were wearing matching $35 Polo-style shirts and jeans for their TV appearance, which got me thinking … screw the NBA, why isn’t the NHL the league that instituted a dress code? At least some NBA players take pride in their clothes — thanks to MJ, many were already wearing suits and stuff after games — whereas most NHL players dress like college kids on a Sunday afternoon who just woke up and haven’t decided whether they should clean up the puke in the kitchen yet. Plus, all the coaches dress like movie ushers. You’re telling me the NBA needs a dress code more than the NHL? Is there an NHL coach who wears a suit that costs more than $125? Forget about Abboud or Zegna … when Pat Burns coached the Bruins, I think he was sponsored by K-Mart. What an outrage.

Q: Shouldn’t we have magic numbers in real life? As in: “My magic number with my wife is 14. We will have carnal knowledge of one another through any combination of 14 household chores completed by me or unapproved luxury purchases by her.”
–Dave Main, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

SG: I’m with you. In fact, the magic number before I answer an e-mail using an semi-inappropriate word in a defensible way is “3.”

Q: I just wrote you an e-mail comparing A-Rod to David Caruso (I can’t spell, science guy not arts.) I decided my analogy [stunk] and I just hate A-Rod and David Caruso.
–Chris Madsen, Puyallup, Wash.

SG: Well, thanks for letting me know either way. I appreciate it. By the way, I concede the A-Rod thing, but how can you hate David Caruso? The man gave us a pantheon-level performance in “NYPD Blue,” one of the only solid Nic Cage movies in “Kiss of Death,” tremendous cameos in “Mad Dog and Glory” and “Proof of Life,” he’s been redefining the unintentional comedy scale as we know it on “CSI: Miami,” and his ill-fated “NYPD” departure spawned the phrase “pulling a Caruso” which lives on to this day. Plus, he might be the only leading man in the past 25 years with carrot-red hair. The man is an inspiration! He’s like the Earl Boykins of Hollywood! Again, how can you be against David Caruso?

Q: “Did I ever tell you about the time I was in Jose Offerman’s Cadillac?”

My wife randomly hit me with this question while we sat at a bar and watched Game 1 of the Red Sox-White Sox series. She could now say anything and nothing will ever shock me like that statement. Is there anything a wife or girlfriend could say to their significant other that would be more disturbing?
–Brian P., Beverly, Mass.

SG: Sure, I would go with these six …

Jose Offerman
1. “Did I ever tell you that I played women’s softball in college?”

2. “I never told you this, but I’m actually from a family of Yankee fans … “

3. “It’s better you found this out now than later — my old boyfriend was Fabio.”

(Note: Bonus points because this happened on the season finale of “Average Joe 2.” Needless to say, they didn’t end up together.)

4. “Did I ever tell you about the time I appeared on Playboy’s ‘Naughty Amateur Home Videos?'”

5. “I don’t want to make a big deal about this … but let’s just say that this isn’t going to be my first baby.”

6. “Did I ever show you my penis?”

Q: Will you please write a column or cowbell entry this week in which you deride Terry Francona in the same way that you used to with Jimy Williams? I’m so angry right now I can’t even see straight. Terry Francona is an abortion of a major league manager. To give you context, I just watched the Red Sox relinquish first place for the first time since July 18 (well, at least we had the “most days in first place,” as the Duke would say) because Timlin coughed up a 4-3 lead with two outs in the eighth after Francona predictably brought in his “closer” for the 3,125th appearance this season. I’m sorry, I can’t write anymore. I will now put my head in the oven.

Thinking of becoming a serial killer,
–Brian, Boston

SG: Sorry, that was left over from the 2005 season. Good times last year! Seemed like everyone enjoyed year one of the Five-Year Grace Period.

Q: After watching Game 2 of the World Series, I suggest that Scott Podsednik’s home run may be the single greatest black ink producing sports feat of anyone with the first name of Scott, at least in this country. Can you think of any competition? Unless not, I conclude that, for a fairly common name, we Scotts have collectively come up way short in helping sports bloggers do their jobs. For sheer pub value, we’re worse than Edgar Renteria’s 2005 season.
–Scott Silveira, Ann Arbor, Mich.

SG: Oh, boy. Right now, everyone in Buffalo is banging their desks, whipping books across the room and kicking their dogs. May want to steer clear of upstate New York for awhile, Scott Silveira. That was downright cruel.

Q: My friend and I are having a disagreement and since you are an expert on nickname theft, like your Glenn Robinson example … I’m hoping you can resolve it. I say that Carnell Williams of the Bucs stole Greg Anderson’s nickname, and therefore refuse to refer to him as “Cadillac.” My friend says it doesn’t count because it’s two different sports. If this is allowed, where will it end? Albert “Sleepy” Pujols, Laura “Big Dog” Davies, “Moochie” Wannstedt? Can we get a ruling on this?
–Vince Troyan, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

SG: I like that I’m considered an “expert on nickname theft.” Can I put this on a résumé? Anyway, I would say that Cadillac’s theft does count — sports nicknames should almost be like hurricane names or Web site domain names, in which a certain amount of time has to pass before the name becomes available again. And I think that amount of time should be 25 years. For example, imagine if they released all the available nicknames from 1980 this year, so we could read AP stories like …

“The Sports Nickname Committee announced today that the nicknames ‘Bad News,’ ‘Pops,’ ‘Too Tall,’ ‘Hacksaw,’ ‘Spaceman’ and ‘The Human Eraser’ have all become available for college and professional athletes. They join classics like ‘Three-Finger,’ ‘Shoeless,’ ‘Night Train,’ and ‘Crazy Legs’ on the open market.”

(Like you and your friends wouldn’t spend an hour talking about this? Like 20 nickname Web sites wouldn’t pop up immediately? Can’t somebody just start using Ed “Night Train” Reed to get the ball rolling? What’s wrong with Night Train Reed? Who’s against this? I really want to know. We’re reaching the point where 95 percent of all nicknames come from boxing, and they’re always contrived names like “The Pride of Newark” or “El Diablo Punchado.” The greatest sports nickname of the past 10 years was Rich “El Guapo” Garces … and he had to give that name to himself. It’s a damned shame, I say. We need to collectively do something here.)

Q: Come on, it’s been a week — who was the celebrity who showed up at your Denver signing?
–Kenny L., Boulder, CO

Bill Simmons, Pratyush Buddiga
SG: The one, the only … Pratyush Buddiga! You might remember him as the winner of the 2002 Spelling Bee (as well as one of the stars of my running diary of that event) — he was the kid who destroyed everybody, outlasted The Hyperventilator and even spelled the word “oubliette,” the fancy word that defines Buffalo Bill’s pit in “Silence of the Lambs.” PUT THE LOTION IN THE BASKET! Anyway, he’s a high school student and budding sportswriter now — he showed up with his father and brother (the 2003 runner-up), and we even ended up taking a picture (as you can see on the right). Good guy. And you wonder why I’m keeping this book tour going.

Q: Who is the most semi-hot to really hot celebrity chick of the ’70s and ’80s who has now completed a full metamorphosis into a hideous MAN?

A. Cloris Leachman
B. Tyne Daly
C. Glenn Close
D. Candice Bergen
–Kenneth Greenhill, Lindale, Texas

SG: I vote for E.) Jim Lampley. By the way, do you think Tyne Daly would be completely bummed out that she was included on that list, or would she be in complete disbelief that someone described her as a “semi-hot to really hot celebrity chick of the ’70s and ’80s?”

Q: Being from Massachusetts, I am very surprised you cheered for Sugar Ray Leonard and not Brockton great Marvin Hagler. I am 33 years old, and I remember the time in the ’80s where we all stopped what we were doing to watch Hagler fight. Just like we did for every Celts game during that time period. Hagler is very much a part of Boston sports history. Don’t you think?
–(Name accidentally deleted)

SG: Non-boxing fans, feel free to skip to the next e-mail. But Hagler-Leonard was my only real brush with sports bigamy. See, Sugar Ray was my favorite boxer dating back to the 1976 Olympics, the same year I fell in love with Nadia Comaneci (fortunately, she never reciprocated). I followed him on ABC through his first title fight with Benitez, made my stepdad drag me to both Duran fights on closed-circuit at the Milford Jai Alai arena, even made my father (not a boxing fan) take me to the closed-circuit broadcast of Hearns-Hagler at the Boston Garden. When Leonard retired because of the detached retina, I threw my support behind Hagler, never imagining that he would fight Leonard some day. So that part was unfortunate. What can you do? I approached the fight thinking, “I’ll root for them both,” but as soon as the fight started, I was vehemently behind Sugar Ray — it wasn’t even close. You can’t change how you felt as a little kid.

Two other notes on that fight:

1. When the Hagler backers criticize Leonard as being soft, or running away in that fight, or not having the stones to trade with Hagler, they need to remember something: Leonard fought three legitimate wars with Benitez (who was never the same after), Duran (the first one in Montreal) and Hearns (one of the most dramatic fights ever). Hagler’s style was similar to Duran’s — he kept coming and coming, so the best way to fight him was to dance around, pick your spots and make him look bad. And it worked.

2. Leonard never won that fight as much as Hagler lost it. Terrible performance by him — missed a ton of punches, never controlled the fight, looked a step slow. Everyone forgets this. Even a rusty Leonard managed to outshine him, which was especially shocking because Leonard humiliated Hagler three years before — during his first retirement announcement, when he convinced Hagler to show up, gave a long speech that made it seem like he was announcing their fight, built it up, then said the words, “And unfortunately, it will never happen,” as Hagler gave birth to the Marvin Hagler “I can’t believe this little weasel made me come to this and we’re not even fighting now” Face. In his prime, Hagler would have demolished Leonard for doing that.

Here’s my theory: I don’t think Hagler was ever the same after the famous Hearns fight in ’85, followed by a brutal 1986 fight against John “The Beast” Mugabi that ranks among the all-time underrated middleweight battles — they absolutely slaughtered each other in that one. Everyone thinks Hagler retired because his heart was broken by the Leonard decision; personally, I think he saw the writing on the wall. Hearns and Mugabi changed him just enough that he wasn’t the same fighter … and he knew it. I will always believe that.

(By the way, I feel like Larry Merchant right now. What just happened?)

Q: I just read your Week 2 picks and I’m stoned. A word of caution to other readers out there, don’t ever read the SG stoned, I almost p*ssed myself laughing because I’m a giggly high dude. I think I may have woken up the dorky Opera singer girl that lives below us too. Oh well, screw her.
–Chris, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: The thing is, I don’t even flinch when I get e-mails like this anymore. That’s what really scares me.

Q: I am a 16-year-old kid with no job and have a group of friends in the same situation. What is the maximum amount of money you would spend in our situation for a championship trophy for a Madden tournament?
–Kyle Flood, Windsor, Ontario

SG: Look, you’re in Windsor, Ontario — I would save the money for porn. Lots and lots of porn. You’re going to need it when it’s negative-35 this winter and every girl you know is wearing 15 layers of clothing. If you need a trophy that badly, “borrow” an expensive circular tray from somebody’s parent’s house — those nice pieces of silver that look like the women’s Wimbledon trophy, the ones your parents got as a wedding present because they registered for it, even though there’s absolutely no use for a silver tray that looks like the women’s Wimbledon trophy in any social setting — and just pretend that’s the “Madden” trophy. Or, you could steal an urn from church and nail it to a piece of wood. Either way, save your money.

Q: Give me your fantasy basketball sleepers please.
–JW, Bristol, Conn.

SG: Would you like fries with that? All right, if you insist (and I’ll go quickly) …

Bounce-back years: Paul Pierce, Sam Cassell, Yao Ming, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Jamaal Tinsley.

Making the leap: Tyson Chandler, Joel Przybilla, Joe Johnson, Emeka Okafor, Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng.

Making the super-duper leap: Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony.

Semi-Sleepers: Bonzi Wells, Caron Butler, Al Jefferson, Josh Childress, Kurt Thomas, Zaza Pachulia, Damon Stoudamire.

Mega-Sleepers: Orien Greene, Marc Jackson, Nate Robinson.

Stayaways: Rafer Alston, Sebastian Telfair, Baron Davis, Bobby Simmons, Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown, Antoine Walker, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shaun Livingston, Chris Webber, the Artist Formerly Known As GP, Grant Hill, Zack Randolph.

The ultimate stayaway: Eddy Curry.

Q: Did you see the “Charlie Weis Face” after he realized USC was getting the ball back at the end of the Notre Dame game? I believe it’s the same one he makes when he opens up his freezer and discovers that someone ate the last ice cream sandwich without his permission.
–Scott M., Southport, Conn.

SG: That was this month’s “Really Evil E-Mail That Made Me Laugh Out Loud.”

Q: As a new father (and especially the father of a girl), you should watch out for the following fantastically horrific trick to play on a buddy with a new daughter: The next time you’re in Vegas and end up in a gentlemen’s establishment, buy the new father a dance, only pay the lady friend a little extra so that during the dance, she tells your buddy her name is [insert buddy’s daughter’s name]. If you watch your boy, you will be able to tell the exact moment at which she reveals her “name.” Yes, I am going to hell.
–Bucky, Houston

SG: I would have found this e-mail 20 times funnier one year ago. But it did get me thinking … do certain names predispose women toward becoming strippers? Like, if we had named my daughter Tiffany, Amber or Desiree, would that have dropped her “becoming a stripper” odds from 100,000-to-1 to 75-1? What happens if you name your daughter “Cinnamon” — does she just start stripping right out of the womb? Or do all strippers have normal names, only they adopt relatively real-sounding pseudonyms when they start working at the gentlemen’s establishment? I wish somebody with an MIT degree and a giant stripper database could figure this out once and for all.

Q: What’s the protocol when you’re at a urinal in a public restroom and you can hear the uh, fireworks, coming from the stall behind you? Is it ever acceptable to crack a joke or is complete silence always a must?
–Big J, West Conshohocken, Pa.

SG: This happened six years ago, when my buddy Geoff and I were in a crowded men’s room at Foxwoods and I dusted off the old “You show that turd who’s boss, buddy” line from “Austin Powers.” Brought the rest room down. And yes, I was just looking for an excuse to write the words, “brought the rest room down.”

Q: Do you have any ideas for cool Halloween costumes? I’m sick of the slutty nurse, slutty french maid, slutty [insert female occupation here]. What is the Sports Gal going as?
–Jen M., Middletown, N.J.

SG: The Sports Gal is going as a mother of a young baby who doesn’t sleep enough — a permanent scowl and eye bags and you’re all set. But I’m glad you asked because a person’s Halloween costume says a lot about them, especially females. Halloween costume choices are distant cousins of playing pool at a bar. In bar pool, there are two types of women — the ones who bend over because that’s the only real way to make a successful shot, or the ones who perform a half-crouch so their butt doesn’t stick out … hence, jeopardizing their chances and proving to everyone that they don’t really care about winning the game, and they’re only playing so guys will check them out.

(Just for the record, I dated only two half-crouchers, and neither of them lasted long. Any woman worth her salt will bend over, stick her butt out, try to make the shot and deal with the consequences of random drunken dudes leering at her rear end. This separates the keepers from the pretenders if you’re choosing a mate for life — I’m telling you. Don’t end up with a half-croucher. These are also the women who wear makeup to bed during the first 6-7 weeks you’re dating and pretend they never go to the bathroom until you’ve been dating for like four years.)

Anyway, here are the three groups of female Halloween costumes:

Group A: Girls who use their costumes as an excuse to get attention from guys. Common examples include the slutty bunny/cat/genie/nurse/angel/cop/french maid/schoolgirl or slutty anything-with-a-tail. Please note, I’m not against any of these costumes — in fact, I support and applaud them. Mainly because they can be the equivalent of somebody holding up a sign and saying either, “I’m up for some casual sex tonight” or “I’m definitely ready to start cheating on my boyfriend.” But here’s the problem: Sometimes the girls who make these choices are the quiet/uptight/prudish types who think this is their way of letting loose for the year. So it’s almost like playing roulette, trying to figure out what their intentions are.

(By the way, for a less trendy, somewhat slutty costume, you might want to break out the cowgirl or dominatrix gimmicks — more elaborate, more expensive, but also more respectable, more commendable. You can’t go wrong. If you don’t have the money, steal it.)

Group B: Girls who go overboard and end up stuck wearing a sweaty mask or costume that legitimately hinders them for the entire night. This is bad — like Donna Martin dressing as a mermaid for the West Beverly High Halloween party. Could potentially kill your night. Plus, you always get like four monster zits after wearing a sweaty Halloween mask for too long.

Group C: Girls who are downright creative with their costumes. For instance, two years ago at the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Halloween party, Sarah Silverman dressed up as Sexy Hitler (basically, Hitler in drag as a sexy woman). People at the party were floored. In fact, my editors are floored right now as they decide whether this paragraph can run. But those are the costumes you end up remembering, not the 550,000,000th person who dressed up like a slutty cat.

Without further ado, four suggestions for Halloween, 2005:

Costume No. 1: “Taradise”
This bangs out the “I’m still cute, you might want to think about hooking up with me later” angle, but it’s also funny — you need a blonde wig, a slutty outfit, a liquor bottle, smeared lipstick, fake scrapes on your knees and giant fake knockers. And you just need to stumble around and scream crazy things while your friends hold you up. Later, when you get drunk and start acting like this for real, people will assume that you’re still playing the “Taradise” role. This also works for Courtney Love if you want to go in that direction.

Nicole Richie
Costume No. 2: Stripper
If you’re going slutty, go all out — wear a stripper’s outfit, stick dollar bills in your garter belt and carry around a makeshift stripper’s pole. Why not go all the way? People will notice you. Especially if you’re attending a party that includes Clinton Portis.

Costume No. 3: Nicole Richie
Dress in a skeleton outfit, only with fancy clothes on. Can’t miss and a guaranteed laugh when someone asks who you are.

Costume No. 4: Generic Women’s College Basketball Coach
My personal favorite. First, go to Marshall’s and buy the ugliest beige pants suit you can find. Second, buy a Nancy Reagan wig. Third, buy 8-inch high heels and practice walking awkwardly in them. Fourth, learn how to do that whistle where you stick your index and pinky fingers in your mouth, then make an excruciatingly loud noise. And you’re good to go.

Q: Couldn’t agree with you more about Leinart in the ND game … and I think he calls that audible and hits that long pass on fourth down precisely because he has become larger than life in LA … I mean, the guy probably came to the line, saw the press coverage and said to himself, “You know what, screw it, even if we lose, I can still have any girl Southern California, I have no class Monday, I’ll be a millionaire soon … bleep it, I’m going deep.” Basically, it was an “I’m Keith Hernandez!” moment.
–John Gworek, Nashville

SG: I couldn’t agree more. You bring up a great point, when an athlete reaches “I’m Keith Hernandez” status and their confidence becomes simply outrageous — that’s when you know someone is in the zone. That was one of my favorite Larry Bird moments, the Dallas game in ’86 when they were down two on TBS with like 10 seconds left, so he pulled up in the open court and drained a crazy running 3, with the implicit understanding being, “You know what? This is a ridiculous shot, but I’m Larry Bird and I’m on national TV, and I can do things like this.”

Sometimes this can have dangerous repercussions — like just about every ill-advised Brett Favre pass over the past four years — but it’s always fun when somebody reaches this point. I think that’s what I’m going to miss most about watching Reggie Miller — once Bird and MJ retired, he was the only guy in the league who would take those “I’m Keith Hernandez!” shots. Now? There’s nobody. With the possible exception of Damon Stoudamire with the right level of THC in his system.

Q: Interesting that you criticize La Russa for remaining stoic after Pujols hit the home run off Lidge, no? When your idol Larry Bird was similarly unmoved by Reggie Miller (I think it was Reggie Miller) burying a game-winning jumper for the Pacers against the Bulls back when Larry Legend was coaching in Indiana. I always thought that it was amazingly cool of Bird to remain unflappable at such a critical moment … There was a great replay of Pacers running around the court in pure ecstasy — while Bird stood there with his arms crossed, silently gauging the remaining 3 seconds on the clock.
–Terry Connor, Pelham, N.Y.

SG: Did anyone else just Google the words “Terry + Connor + Pelham + New York” to see whether there was an AP story with the title, “Pelham man hit by lightning bolt?”

Q: Because you’ve given us so many great free columns over the years, I only felt it was fair that, as a loyal reader, I give you something back. Did you know that “Ghetto Syrups” is an anagram for “The Sports Guy?” By the way, I just spent 3½ hours coming up with that.
–Nathan, Atlanta

SG: Yup, these are my readers …

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine and his Sports Guy’s World site is updated every day Monday through Friday. His new book “Now I Can Die In Peace” is available right now on and in bookstores everywhere.

Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

Archive @ BillSimmons