Big Shot Bob bags another one

Reign on their parade

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Sports Guy Mailbag

I’m writing this with a heavy heart …

On “Hit Me One More Time” last night, the great Howard Jones somehow lost to Irene Cara. How can an ’80s icon who pumped out at least 10 quality songs lose to someone who had two? That’s an excellent question. Sure, it was partly his fault – he should have played a more upbeat song than “No One is to Blame,” and he should have covered Coldplay instead of Dido. But still, it felt like the ’80s died last night – when the crowd made its choice, the mutant Australian host was congratulating a stunned Cara, the crowd was going bonkers, and poor Howard Jones was headed back to England and taking the ’80s with him. I will now ram a shish kabob needle into my Adam’s apple.

Onto the mailbag – as always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: I fully expect that after Clemens wins his 333rd game, in his press conference, he will take off his cap and will pull back his hair – revealing an identical 333 burned into his scalp; thus fulfilling the prophecy. This will immediately be followed by all the reporters in the room melting away, with their bones exploding like in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
–William S., New York

SG: The best part about this would be Wilbon and Kornheiser discussing the incident on PTI the following day.

Kornheiser: “All right, Wilbon, some sad news last night, we found out that Roger Clemens was indeed the anti-Christ, as nearly 50 reporters – including some of the best this business had to offer – were melted to death after the prophecy was fulfilled. Wilbon, you were there, but you were able to get out of the room in time … how does this affect Roger Clemens’ legacy?

Wilbon: “Oh, it absolutely affects his legacy! There’s no question! Tony, he killed 50 media members! He melted them to death!”

Kornheiser: “But he’s still the greatest pitcher of the last 50 years!”

Wilbon: “Tony, he’s the anti-Christ!”

Kornheiser: “I don’t see how that affects his Hall of Fame resume – 333 wins, over 4,500 strikeouts, 7 Cy Youngs … ”

Wilbon: “Tony, he’s a mass murderer! Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame for gambling on baseball, this guy melted 50 people! He almost killed me!”

Kornheiser: “Well, that shouldn’t affect what he accomplished on the field. Ty Cobb wasn’t a nice guy either. [We hear a bell in the background.] Moving to the NBA Finals … ”

Q: Bill, i was just enjoying your latest mailbag, including the potential hits on dale sveum. i was at “game on” (a bar in Boston) after their games last week and saw sveum. needless to say, my friends and i were intoxicated and shouted out that we saw him. immediately, 5 of us started shouting and waving our arms in the classic “windmill” motion. He was looking right at us, and it was priceless.
–Todd, Boston

SG: We’ll be back on “Drunken 3 a.m. e-mails from the Boston Area” right after this.

Q: Some time ago you answered the question of the best “holy crap, she is actually going to show her breasts” moment in cinema. What is the worst “holy crap, what a disappointment” moment in cinema? JoBeth Williams in “Teachers” and Goldie Hawn in “Wildcats” spring to mind.

–Zach W., Deerfield Beach, Fla.

SG: That’s easy – the nude scene with Jaye Davidson in “The Crying Game.” I remember people screaming in horror when it happened, like they had just seen a baby carriage getting run over at a busy intersection. In fact, that was such a disturbing moment, it actually got Davidson nominated for the “Best Supporting Oscar” that year – it was like the Academy was saying, “Here, we’ll give you a nomination if you promise NEVER to do that again.”

Q: My buddy Chuck and I just had a 20-minute conversation as to why Bavetta is not involved in Game 3. As two of the other 19 NBA diehards left, we figure that Stern is saving Bavetta for Game 4. Stern desperately needs this series to get to 2-2 – the NBA cannot have a lackluster Finals followed up by a lockout; it would sink this league. And Stern still has this game covered with Crawford and Salvatore. So, here’s to Bavetta in Game 4, and a 2-2 tie.
–Kyle Blanton, Las Vegas

SG: Yes, I received this e-mail on Tuesday night, before we found out Dick Bavetta was reffing Game 4. All joking aside, I’m worried that the NBA is morphing into professional wrestling. With all due respect to the Pistons, who may have played the best playoff game of any 2005 team Thursday night (four turnovers?!?!?!), Game 4 was decided in the first few minutes when it became clear that the Pistons were allowed to clutch, grab, paw at the ball and contest every shot with no repercussions, culminating in Ben Wallace raking Duncan across the arm (probably the worst no-call of the playoffs) and Popovich picking up a technical. The Spurs were D-U-N done after that. Of course, in Game 2, the Pistons weren’t allowed to breathe on anyone without a foul being called.

Sometimes I feel like Mel Gibson in “Conspiracy Theory” complaining about this stuff, but I honestly feel that the officiating is slowly undermining the credibility of the league. My friends who follow the NBA feel that way. Enough of my readers feel that way that I don’t think I’m crazy. And it’s getting to the point that I can actually guess which referees will be assigned to which games … and I’m right! That’s insanity! This is a much bigger problem than high schoolers entering the draft, six-year contracts, revenue sharing and anything else. Where have the quality referees gone? Why are some playoff games called completely different than other games? Why are certain refs only assigned to must-win games for the home team? Why does it seem like certain refs have grudges against certain teams, and more importantly, why has there been a preponderance of coaches calling out these grudges (more than any other year)?

Q: If you had to compare entertainment vs. sports career flameouts, would you say Lindsay Lohan is Doc Gooden? In other words, she may still have a career but never the same? And Britney would be Strawberry, I guess – constantly reaching new lows.
–Bill, Atlanta

SG: I love the Lohan/Gooden comparison – both of them were once-in-a-lifetime performers at precocious ages, and I’ll be telling my male grandchildren about both. I don’t know about the Britney/Strawberry comparison though; Straw definitely had the charisma, but statistically, he never really backed it up … whereas Britney was one the most successful/famous celebrities on the planet for a good 4 to 5 years. I would compare her more to someone like Junior Griffey – unquestionably successful, definitely memorable, but too much happened too soon.

Some other comparisons, and only because this is a fun game: Colin Farrell/Penny Hardaway … Kathleen Turner/Shawn Kemp … Michael Jackson/O.J. Simpson … Bill Hicks/Drazen Petrovic … Ben Affleck/Nomar Garciaparra … Alicia Silverstone/Danica Patrick (you know, when she flames out) … River Phoenix/Lenny Bias … Matthew McConaughey/Ricky Williams … Judd Nelson/Steve Avery … Jean-Claude Van Damme/Carl Pickens … Kevin Smith/Bernie Kosar … Sam Kinison/Mark Fidrych … Christian Slater/John Daly … Courtney Love/Roy Tarpley … Eddie Murphy/Frank Thomas … Vanilla Ice/Rick Ankiel … Anna Kournikova/Anna Kournikova … and there’s no possible equivalent to Jason Giambi or Mike Tyson.

Q: I was about to see the remake of “The Longest Yard” without seeing the original (I’m 14). After I read your article, I decided to rent it instead. While I’m sure it was better than the Sandler version, I was thoroughly disappointed with the original. I wouldn’t say it was horrible, but I certainly didn’t think it was good. What you see is the movie trying to be introspective, funny, etc., but at the same time I saw confusion. The scene where Ray Nitschke gets hit in the groin was great but you felt bad about laughing when he wasn’t breathing at the end (not to say it wasn’t funny). Also, the slow-motion scene at the end was outdated. I’m sure that it was revolutionary at the time and everything, but so was a PC. Maybe you should reconsider the relevance of the movie.
–David Roher, Chappaqua, N.Y.

SG: It’s official – this is the oldest moment of my life.

Q: Is it just me or is Ozzie Guillen some sort of next generation Tony Montana? The first time I saw him lose it in a press conference I thought I was watching a test scene for “Scarface 2: Back in the Minors.” When Frank Thomas eventually goes down with his yearly injury can’t you totally see a bug-eyed Ozzie standing over his bedside snarling: “I can’t even have a kid with you! Your womb, is so, polluted!” And what happens when the Sox start to slump in the second half? Does Ozzie slide completely into the role of Tony and eventually kill most of the Twins before finally having his throat cut from behind by Jacque Vaughn?
–J.S. McCredy, Chicago

SG: I actually thought Jose Guillen sounded exactly like Tony Montana when he was calling Mike Scioscia a piece of garbage after Wednesday’s game. I kept expecting him to start screaming, “[Bleep] the [bleeping] Diaz brothers!” These are the kinds of things they should be figuring out on “Baseball Tonight” – which baseball player or manager sounds the most like Tony Montana. And while we’re on the subject, can you imagine if 69-year-old Frank Robinson had decked Scioscia? That would have dwarfed every baseball fight that ever happened – Nolan Ryan would have to find Robin Ventura at a baseball card show and beat him into a bloody pulp just to take his title back.

Q: I’ve been reading your columns on the toilet for about five years now, so I feel we’re close enough that I can tell you this: Some of these people in your mailbag columns, who get drunk at a game or watching a game, then feel the need to e-mail you at 2 in the morning and complain about it … are scary. I swear, if I ever go out and feel the need when I come home all bleary-eyed to e-mail some dude I’ve never met who complains about reality TV for a living instead of a) getting in bed with my girlfriend, or b) grubbing down and then passing out, I want someone to kill me. You should hide, one of these weirdos is probably outside your window now.
–Bob Pfeiffer, Atlanta

SG: Come on, my readers aren’t that bad!

Q: At what point in your life do stop thinking about taking a cop’s gun every time you see one?

–Frank, Minneapolis

SG: Well … on second thought …

Q: I started working it with these two real cute girls in a bar last night. Turns out they are both Holy Cross grads. First thing I ask is if they know who Bill Simmons is. Neither had any clue. I seized the moment and explained how you were the most famous alumni out of the Cross. They claimed Joe Shortsleeve was bigger. Either way, I still got to make out with the one girl who had, let’s say, the tighter-fitting shirt. Keep up the good work.
–Mo, Boston

SG: Hmmmm … you started working it with two real cute Holy Cross grads at a bar, one of whom was well-endowed, and that’s the one you made out with. Why do I feel like this story has more holes than Onterrio Smith’s Whizzinator alibi?

Q: I was watching “The Karate Kid” for the 700th time and two things kept nagging me. I figured of all people to help me with this you were the most qualified. When Miyagi and Danielsan go to the Cobrakai dojo after the 5-on-1 beating why does Johnny have a black eye (Miyagi never punched him in the face)? And, whose San Diego Chargers jersey (No. 89) is Danielsan wearing in the classic Halloween Dance as a shower scene (and on top of that Danielsan sells out his East Coast sports roots that fast after moving out West)?
–Zach W., Deerfield Beach, Fla.

SG: Johnny’s black eye can’t be explained, and No. 89 was Wes Chandler. More important, I keep wondering why I get e-mails about the same 20 to 25 movies over and over again, and then I realized something as I was watching “Rounders” on Sunday afternoon for the 730th time. It’s one thing to continually discuss the ’80s movies like “Rocky 4,” “Karate Kid,” “Fletch,” “48 Hours” and everything else of that ilk, since you can only truly dissect a movie after you’ve seen it 700 times. But if you look at the most re-watchable movies from the past 10 years, the list looks like this: “Rounders,” “Boogie Nights,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Almost Famous” and “Swingers.” Any time one of those five movies comes on, I’m watching. Even if I stumbled in halfway through the movie.

But did you notice something about that list? Each of those movies came out between 1996 and 2000 … which means there hasn’t been a Hall of Fame re-watchable movie in five full years. So what happened to the really well-done, really entertaining movie that could be watched again and again? Where did it go?

Here’s what my generation grew up with: “Saturday Night Fever”; “Caddyshack”; “48 Hours”; “Night Shift”; “Midnight Run”; “Hoosiers”; “The Natural”; “Road House”; “Stripes”; “Animal House”; “Shawshank Redemption”; “Pulp Fiction”; “True Romance”; “Dazed & Confused”; “Godfather 1 and 2”; “Scarface”; “A Few Good Men”; “Reservoir Dogs”; “Top Gun”; “Breakfast Club”; “Escape from New York”; “The Warriors”; “Karate Kid”; the “Rocky” movies … I mean, the list is endless. So what happened? You’re telling me that they just decided to stop making rewatchable movies? Are we stuck in a talent drought? How can this be explained? Some people swear by “Office Space,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Memento” and “Donnie Darko” … I’m a big fan of “Outside Providence” and “Kicking & Screaming.” But those are cult movies more than anything; they certainly wouldn’t make the average guy between 20 and 40 come to a screeching halt on TNT or HBO3. Even “Sideways,” as good as it was, probably wouldn’t impact anyone under 30 in a recurring way.

The one that comes closest is “Old School,” which some people absolutely loved and others found wildly disappointing. I thought it was hysterical for about 25 minutes, then it fell apart at the seams once they introduced the beyond-sappy love story with Luke Wilson. Other than that, I can’t think of a movie that could even start the old “wait, how could you forget so-and-so!” argument. Anyway, I’m strangely disturbed by the Re-watchability Drought. I’m tired of four of the aforementioned Big Five from 1996-2000, and at some point, I’m going to get tired of “Boogie Nights.” I know it’s going to happen. I can only keep rocking and rolling for so long. And then what happens to me?

Q: With the Michael Jackson trial over, my office has started a pool over who the next big celebrity trial will center around. We’re allowed three picks. Who would you go with, and why? Also, who would you pick as a dark horse candidate (someone you would never in a million years expect to see in court, like Martha Stewart)?
–Steve Reynolds, Weymouth, Mass.

SG: My three choices are pretty easy – Billy Joel, 50 Cent and Russell Crowe, with Lindsay Lohan, Tara Reid and Kirstie Alley as potential dark horses. We haven’t had a major celebrity trial involving a female yet. It’s time. But here are my five super-dark horses:

1. Mike Piazza
Buster Olney pointed it out last week – have you seen any of Piazza’s sullen at-bats for the Mets this season? It looks like he’s about three weeks from randomly pulling a Juan Marichal on somebody. What’s going on? The guy had a great career! He’s headed to the Hall of Fame! He married a Playboy Playmate! What am I missing?

2. NBA union head Billy Hunter
He’s been messing with David Stern for way too long. I just have a feeling he’s going to be framed like the senator in “Godfather 2” soon. What have I done? What have I done????

3. Tom Cruise
He’s gone completely insane. I’m prepared for anything – Cruise turning Katie Holmes into the next Patty Hearst, committing a string of pharmacy robberies, trying to acquire nuclear weapons, running amok on the red carpet of “War of the Worlds” with an M-80, you name it. Or, nothing could happen. But it’s safe to say that the ceiling has officially been removed for Tom Cruise.

4. Kiefer Sutherland
He’s been playing Jack Bauer for too long – you can almost picture him sitting by himself in a Denny’s at 3 a.m., screaming things at the waitress like, “Find me a breakfast menu now!” and “Where’s the maple syrup? I’m only going to ask you one more time. Where’s the maple syrup?!

5. Andrew Bogut
For killing the Bucks franchise when they draft him first overall.

But seriously, did you read Chad Ford’s article this week about the NBA combine scores? Bogut finished 66th out of 70 prospects. Sixty-sixth! Chad rated Bogut the No. 1 loser from the process, adding: “While his vertical leap is actually above average for a guy his size, his lateral quickness and sprinting speed were just awful. That will hurt him defensively.” Note to everyone in Milwaukee: There’s still time. You can prevent this. Start calling the Bucks’ front office and tell them to draft Chris Paul.

Q: In response to your “Cinderella” review regarding boxing movies, you said that the only ones Hollywood has missed are Nazi prison camps and the Special Olympics. Well, there was a movie about boxing in Nazi prison camps. In 1989, Willem Dafoe starred in a fact-based movie called “Triumph of the Spirit.”

–Brendan S. Joyce, Laguna Niguel, Calif.

SG: And not only that, but Johnny Knoxville is making a movie called “The Ringer” in which he plays a boxer who fakes a disability to fight in the Special Olympics. In other words, my line from the column that went, “And now that we’ve had a Depression boxing movie, the only possible settings that Hollywood hasn’t tapped yet are a Nazi war camp and the Special Olympics (and those are probably on the horizon)” has been rendered moot. There are no boxing movie scenarios left … well, except for a female boxer in a Nazi war camp faking a disability to fight in the Nazi Special Olympics.

Q: If I placed a wager of some moderate value on a WNBA game, would that make said WNBA game watchable?
–John, Houston

SG: I mean, you’re asking the same guy who once set a spread on a computer-simulated game of “Madden ’97” with his roommate, wagered on one of the teams, then sat down and watched the computer play out that game for the next 25 minutes. I’m probably not the guy to ask.

Q: If you ever bought a horse, what would you name it? I’d have go with with “NamathKissesKolber.”
–Tom Keefe, St. Louis

SG: That’s a good one. I would name mine “Tony Soprano” – I like when horses have the names of commanding TV/movie characters. For instance, you would never wager on a horse named “Screech Powers,” but you would definitely be enticed by “Tony Soprano” or “Sonny Corleone.” Same goes for a great athlete. If there was a horse in the field called “Michael Jordan,” do you really think it would finish last? Other than that tactic, I would go with “The White Shadow” (for a white horse) and “John Elway” (as a homage to Norm McDonald’s 2000 ESPYs performance, which was one for the ages – why the heck doesn’t ESPN Classic re-run that?).

Q: You’re more of an “I’m drunk, and I want to see what the Sports Guy wrote” kind of columnist, whereas Rob Neyer is more of a “I’m totally stoned to the bone and let’s see what the Sabermatrician has to say” kind of writer.
–PB, Philly

SG: Can I have your permission to use that for one of the blurbs on the back of my book?

Q: Do you have an all-time food pantheon? So far I have come up with the buffalo wings for Nicks (a place near my house); Cracker Jack; and any combination of the word chili, spicy, cheese, jalapeno and fries. But then I realized that this list is almost impossible for a large audience or even a small group because so many people have different eating experiences. But, just for fun, can you give us some of yours?
–Rick, San Diego

SG: What the heck? In no particular order …

1. The chili cheese fries at Pat’s Hubba Hubba (Portchester, N.Y.)
Best drunken late-night food ever. Start out playing shuffleboard and drinking $6 pitchers at Sam’s down the street (which apparently is still kicking, contrary to previous reports), then finish the night at Hubba Hubba and that’s as good a night of a male bonding as you’re going to have in life. My buddy Jim and I would stumble out of there at like 3:30 a.m., covered in mustard and stale beer, followed by a harrowing walk back to his house, highlighted by Jim throwing up somewhere along the way. Ah, the good old days.

2. My Aunt Jen’s braciolas (Stamford, Conn.)
I know, I know … it sounds like the name of a Weezer album or something. But this is an Italian delicacy: You take little pieces of steak, stuff them with raisins, garlic and Parmesan cheese, tie them together with string so they don’t fall apart, sautee them in olive oil, then let them simmer for a few hours in tomato sauce. And nobody makes them better than my Aunt Jen. These are so good and so rare, you never even see them offered in a restaurant. They’re too hard to make.

3. Baked Lays Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips (anywhere)
The perfect junk-food item – not that bad for you, tastes good, always crunchy, and unlike the Baked Ruffles Cheddar Potato Chips, they don’t leave red gunk on your hand. I hate the red gunk.

4. Cynthia’s famous fried chicken (West Hollywood, Calif.)
Fried chicken is one of those things that – when it’s done correctly and it’s boneless – you can order it at dinner and everyone else hates you because they know your entree was better than theirs. I like being the guy who ordered the best entree.

5. Barbecued ribs (?????)
Still looking for the perfect ones. It’s been a 20-year odyssey.

6. The Cha Cha Bowls (Pac Bell Stadium)
When I went to a Giants game five years ago, my friend Mikey dragged me to a BBQ place in the center-field bleachers for Cha-Cha bowls, saying, “It’s all about the Cha-Cha bowls.” You tend to trust the opinion of someone who once owned a mammoth Traci Lords video collection. At least I do. Anyway, he wasn’t kidding – it was all about the Cha Cha bowls: Caribbean jerk chicken, beans, rice, BBQ sauce, other goodies … all in a big plastic bowl for just $8.50. Best ballpark food ever.

7. The well-done 14-inch cheese pizza at either the Larchmont Village Pizzeria (West Hollywood) or Pino’s Pizzeria (Brookline, Mass.).

Here’s what I want from my cheese pizza: I want the cheese to be brown and a little bubbly. I want a thin-crust that isn’t too doughy. I want just enough sauce that the roof of my mouth burns. And I don’t want to feel like I need a bypass after I eat it. Only two pizza places have ever accomplished this for me, and they’re 3,000 miles apart. Go figure. It’s harder to find a white punt returner than a good pizza place, isn’t it?

8. The corned beef hash at The Heritage (Auburn, Mass.)
When I was attending college at Holy Cross, there was a pantheon diner right over the town line in Auburn called “The Heritage.” Nobody loves diners more than me – especially the Greek ones where they have an old lady who tries to make conversation with the table, only they know like three questions in English, so it’s the same conversation every single time you go there (“How you doing? How’s school? You boys hungry?”).

Anyway, my friends and I would always drive over there for hungover breakfasts, especially because their coffee was surprisingly good (flagrantly violating the little-known rule that all diners have to have crappy coffee). Well, their signature dish was “The Heritage” (two eggs, hash browns, toast and pancakes), which always cracked me up because I think it’s funny whenever a restaurant names a dish after itself, and it’s even funnier when one of your friends looks up from their menu and says, “I’ll have the Heritage,” like they’re about to eat everything in the diner. But the hash was off the charts. It even tasted good when it was coming back up an hour later.

Q: Isn’t the fate of Paul Crewe after defying the warden undoubtedly one of the best (if not the best) unanswered questions in cinematic history?
–Alfonz, Fairfax, Va.

SG: It’s cracks my top five along “Shawshank” (what happened after they reunited?), “Breakfast Club” (what happened on Monday?), “Good Will Hunting” (what happened when he made it to California?) and the obvious No. 1 choice … what happened after Shelley Duvall and her son escaped the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining”? When they reached the police station, did she tell them the whole story? So my husband, he was slowly going insane because of all the ghosts in the hotel, and then he finally snapped and tried to kill us with the ax, and the ballroom turned into cobwebs, and 45,000 gallons of blood poured out of the elevator, and then my husband chased our son into the giant maze … wait, why aren’t you writing this down?

Q: If I was Stevie Wonder’s game describer with courtside seats, would it be bad if I scalped them for $1,000 each, then bought upper-level seats instead? Or if I scalped them and took him to a pickup game at the Y? He still gets the enjoyment of “attending” a game, and I get $2K. Win-win. I know I wasn’t the only one who wrote in about this. Was I?
–Jeremy Gaynor, Charlotte, N.C.

SG: Yup … these are my readers.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy’s World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.

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

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