Bake Shop Mailbag: James Dolan Meltdowns, Tinder Swipes, and Alexei Kovalev Troll Dolls

What were the odds of a full-blown Dolan meltdown if Melo left?
—Daniel S.

Imagine what a Dolan meltdown would be like — so many late-night phone calls to Isiah, so much moody free jazz, so many days spent staring blankly at the horizon from the deck of a sailboat. He’d have Herb Williams rehired just so he could fire him. He’d initiate new messy cable channel litigation just because.

What’s funny, though, is that this NBA offseason has been so bonkers that Dolan would have to get pretty creative just to get inside the velvet ropes of Club Cray. The offseason in basketball is always a manic time — you could basically tell me that any player or combination thereof had moved to any team and I’d take it completely at face value — but this year is completely insane.

I have so many favorite subplots. There was the Cleveland Cavaliers removing Dan Gilbert’s impassioned letter from their website (sad!) and eagerly scrambling to prepare a seat for LeBron on the bench like he’s Elijah or Mort Guffman. There was Chicago and Houston wooing Melo with some very public glory-Photoshopping, some of which was at the expense of poor Jeremy Lin. Most importantly, the sentence “The Russians told Jason Kidd he’s no longer welcome with the Nets” was an actual thing — a thing prophesied, no less, by a user named Carl2680 on the RealGM forums 48 hours before the news broke.

It’s all happening! It’s all so great. That is, it’s all great until Melo demands a trade to Chicago and the sad Knicks are left to linger on, batted around by the gross midtown air like a discarded fast food wrapper, a dirty husk of empty calories and broken dreams.

What is your stance on Tinder?  I’m new to it and giving a whirl. Can you provide some tips on ideal profile pic: suit, casual enjoying a beer, family photo, playing a sport, selfie? Any good openers, even if they swipe right you still have to say something clever? Has anyone ever formed a real relationship on Tinder or is it just a waste of time?
—Eric S.

Highly pro-Tinder over here. Disrupt late-night boredom! Change the world through one-liner one-upmanship! Anything that advances the monetization of the booty call and/or sext falls into the category of noble quest, even if its heroes are fatally flawed. I’ll always have cherished memories of the first time a friend of mine let me in on the early existence of the app. This is like the lame San Francisco version of seeing a cool band in its thrilling infancy. Kids, your mother got an Uber sneak preview. It was just a black-car service then!

But alas, I’m no longer in Tinder’s target audience, so this question made me feel boring and uncool. When I looked up suggestions of winning Tinder opening lines, on the other hand, the first page of Google results included links to,,, and, which made me feel less bad about aging. It also gave me daydreams and nightmares about what life would be like if Tinder had existed a decade ago. (It’s similar to how I both fear and respect today’s tweens for fully growing up in a world with text messaging.) There’s a 100 percent chance that I would have been part of a date like this one.

At any rate: Avoid the selfie, keep your expectations low and your enthusiasm high, and maybe try out the opening lyrics to this classic tune as an opening remark. The song was always about Tinder, but like so much great art it just came ever so slightly before its time.

Are there any American sports parallels to Brazil getting smoked by Germany?
—Matthew B.

Not that I can come up with. It would be like moving the 1992 Barcelona Olympics to New York City and having the Dream Team get blown out at MSG. Or adding American football to the Games and then having the U.S. throw pick-sixes on its first five possessions in a knockout round. And even those fake scenarios wouldn’t really approach it, I’m sure.

It’s hard to decide if it’s more or less devastating to lose a game like that — when it’s over before halftime — rather than, say, to go down on penalty kicks when a ball hits a post. As a Mets fan, I immediately thought about the team’s last game of the 2007 regular season, when they capped off a meltdown of historic proportions with a loss to the Florida Marlins that officially eliminated them from the playoffs. It wasn’t just any loss: Tom Glavine gave up seven runs in the first inning.

Watching it was like losing all your money in the first 10 minutes at a casino — you didn’t even get to enjoy the ride before you crashed and burned. Sometimes it can be better that way, but usually it’s so much worse.

On a level of one to jumping up and down screaming how excited are you for the Gone Girl movie?
—Johnny B.

Currently hovering at around a “far more psyched than I am about the This Is Where I Leave You movie, because it’s seriously bullshit that Judd isn’t being played by Mark Ruffalo”–level of anticipation.

Alexei Kovalev’s troll doll goes up for auction. At what price do you tap out?
—Jamie H.

I got this message on Twitter after posting, on the occasion of the great AK-27’s retirement, this Stanley Cup celebration video of a great man and his ’90s novelty toy.

I’ve been thinking about Kovalev’s troll doll auction ever since. That might be one of the all-time top pieces of sports memorabilia, right down to its champagne-soaked yellow hair. A good-luck charm that actually worked, bringing a Stanley Cup not only to the Rangers, but to Russia! A totem of one of hockey’s most lovably maddening careers! “My big man, my good man!”

If it came packaged as some sort of multimedia art installment in which you moved the troll’s arm and a nearby projector began flickering with split-screen footage of Kovalev hot-dogging it on one side while dekeing some poor defenseman out of his hockey pants on the other, I’d take out a loan so I could bid, like, high five figures. Can I Kickstarter this or something? I’ll make potato salad on the side if that’s what it takes.

Is it okay to wear an American flag bow tie, white shirt, blue linen blazer and red chinos to a wedding on the 4th of July?
—Denis K.

Absolutely, and the goal in life is to get to a point where you can wear this getup to any social function and no one bats an eye. Like Steve Jobs and the turtleneck, or Jerry Seinfeld and the sneakers — this would be the leisure-patriot’s version of Tom Wolfe’s white linen suit.

(IMPORTANT UPDATE: He wore the outfit and was lookin’ fine.)

Other than the scheduling issues how is having a World Cup of Hockey better than having NHL players in the Olympics? A player tearing his MCL (John Tavares) in September seems just as bad if not worse than tearing it in February.  What does Bettman know that we don’t?
—Mike J. 

Signs seem to be pointing to the NHL not wanting to go to South Korea in 2018 — unlike with Sochi, the league doesn’t have any star players who would put up a big stink if they couldn’t go play in their native land — which makes a potential World Cup arrangement more likely.

The NHL wants a World Cup of Hockey so it can control and profit from it; not only does the Olympics force the league to shut down midseason, the owners also don’t have access to that revenue stream. (Furthermore, they’re not really treated like VIPs in Olympics land, which is a constant sticking point when deciding whether to send NHL players to the Games.)

But there are bound to be issues. Having international competition during what is essentially the preseason seems like a recipe for a lot of season-ending surgeries, for one thing. But whenever the question is “What does Bettman know that we don’t?” the first answer is always “Where the bodies are buried” and the second is always “$$$.”

A good friend of mine has a question submission form on his wedding website and I saw an opportunity for some mischief.  So every week since December, I’ve been emailing them anonymously as a Confused Wedding Guest.  

CWG has taken on the persona of a mid-40 year old woman who has a teenage niece that keeps her abreast of all things cool.  CWG couldn’t find a dress in Gangnam style and was hoping the couple could help out. CWG also wanted to warn the couple about “Turking” on the dance floor and needed to know by May 13 at 10:34 pm if the wedding was a bring your own cured meats affair. 

The wedding is over Labor Day and I’m running out of ideas for the final stretch.  Any suggestions on how to have some fun without driving the bride-to-be nuts, which I think I’ve avoided up to this point?
—Confused Wedding Guest

I’d suggest announcing that you’ll be bringing Debbie, “a really nice gal I met at Curves,” as your uninvited plus-one — but tread lightly, because six weeks before a wedding is a volatile time for any bride, and this could easily be what breaks her.

You’re really probably best off sending a silly-but-sweet gag gift (cheese of the month club? Matching velour track suits? A session at this place? Anything from SkyMall, including and especially that giant wine glass that can hold a whole bottle’s worth? A basket of Fluff?) in Confused Wedding Guest’s name.

Greetings from Salem, MA! aka the ‘burbs. You are going to love living in the country.
—Kate S. 

This note came in response to my tweet that I put a rental deposit down on a place in the woods where I have to have a PO Box at “Sticks’ Market.” This is what living in San Francisco these days will do to a person! I’ll be re-creating this scene from Baby Boom in just a few short months.

How do you see Brad Richards being used with the Blackhawks? Will being moved down to the second or third scoring line center and being sheltered from the opposing team’s top matchups rejuvenate his old legs?
—Mike D.

It’s hard to feel bad for players who get bought out because they make such enormous sums of money, but I did feel a little sorry for Brad Richards, an immensely proud athlete who had to have seen the writing on the wall for upward of two years. That can’t be fun. But I think Chicago is a fantastic situation for Richards and vice versa.

His $2 million one-year contract is great value and better motivation. After this season the Blackhawks will find themselves in a very different position, with some tough choices to make to remain under the salary cap. But this year, they might as well go for it with gusto.

As you said, he can be sheltered (I like the euphemism “optimized”) and used on the power play, which Chicago sort of inexplicably struggles with. It’s fun to imagine him feeding passes to Patrick Kane, but I think he’s more likely to see time with Patrick Sharp. He’s a legitimate veteran on a team where even the old hands are still, in the grand scheme of things, young pups.

Don’t you wish they had parties when you were a teenager like they do in “The Leftovers”?
—Dennis K.

What, your Seven Minutes in Heaven games didn’t involve erotic asphyxiation and smoldering silverware? These kids and their personal branding.

(By the way, speaking of parties, how are YOU celebrating the Tom Perrotta Solstice, the semi-occasional eclipse in which Tom Perrotta the darkly comic novelist has a high-profile project out at the very same time that Tom Perrotta the Wall Street Journal tennis writer is busy covering a major tournament? For the longest time I thought they were the same guy, and I thought that that guy must be the most productive and intriguing man on earth.)

FMK: Khloe, Kourtney, Kim?
—Elizabeth A.

This mailbag took an “after dark” turn at the end here. K, M, F in that order. But I’ll go a step further and present my definitive Kardashian ranKings, presented in descending order of how likely I’d be to watch a marathon of a spinoff show about each one.

1. Scott Disick (seriously, the guy’s Instagram handle is “@letthelordbewithyou.” He is the finest creation that reality television has ever spawned.)

2. Kendall Jenner

3. Khloe Kardashian Being Cruel to Kris Jenner

4. Childhood Photos of Khloe That Clearly Prove She Has a Different Father Than Kourtney, Kim, and Rob (can we get Ken Burns to direct?)

5. Kourtney Kardashian

6. Brody Jenner

7. Jonathan Cheban

8. Kris Jenner

9. Kim Kardashian

10. Lamar Odom :( #missu

11. Kris Humphries :‘( #missumore (Remember that time Scott Disick totally warned him not to throw a party while Kim was away and he did anyway and Kim was soooo maaaaaaad? Always trust content from Scott Disick!)

12. Bruce Jenner

13. That Other Jenner Brother

14. That Other Jenner Brother’s Girlfriend/Wife

15. Khloe Kardashian Otherwise

16. Rob Kardashian

17. Kanye West

18. Khloe’s One Friend

19. Kylie Jenner

Filed Under: mailbag, NHL, NBA, James Dolan, New York Knicks, 2014 World Cup, Hockey, Bake Shop

Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes