Quick break from basketball

Time for a one-day shift from the Basketball Blog only because readers keep asking why I never wrote anything about last Sunday's Super Bowl. Take Dan from Chicago, who writes, "After bashing Peyton Manning for years and unashamedly praising your Patriots, I am very disappointed that you have nothing to say following Super Bowl XLI. Come on, admit it, it makes you mad that Manning has a Super Bowl ring and proved everyone (including you) wrong."

Fair point. I probably should have written something. And yes, I hate being wrong. More than anything. But did you really need a column from me on Monday? Wasn't the game crummy enough? Did you really want to endure my crummy, bitter, filled-with-backhanded compliments, sour grapes thoughts about it? The Colts had the best team, they deserved to win, and I hope that we never have to see highlights of that out-and-out affront to American football ever again. Even the S.I. commercial selling the Colts team video should blur out the highlights like they blur out breasts in those "Girls Gone Wild" ads. In all seriousness, couldn't you have made a legitimate case for Rex Grossman winning the MVP? What single player did more to affect that game for the Colts? Think about the definition of that award -- it goes to the most valuable player on the field, right? Who was more valuable to that final score than Rex?

The bigger picture: We've entered a legitimate drought for championship finals and title games. The last three Super Bowls were horrible. The last three World Series were horrible. The last two NBA Finals were horrible. The last college football and basketball championship was horrible. Other than the 2006 Rose Bowl, the most entertaining Final or Finals since 2004 was the year that the NHL cancelled their Finals because of the lockout. At least we didn't suffer. But that Colts-Bears crapfest was the worst of all of them -- not only did it make the Seahawks-Steelers game look like the climactic game in "Varsity Blues," not only did the rain kill the fun for the fans, not only did CBS forget to bring wipers for their rented HDTV cameras, not only was Phil Simms rambling to the point that someone at my party questioned his blood/alcohol level, not only did the commercials stink, not only did the Bears embarrass themselves on both sides of the ball, but Prince disappointed every FCC-hater by not ending the halftime show with "Darling Nikki." Just a slew of frustrations all the way around.

On the other hand, a win's a win. So congrats to the Colts, congrats to their fans, congrats to Manning, you guys rule, you shoved it in every Patriot fan's face, blah blah blah. Let us know when you get to three rings.

(See, this is why I didn't want to write about the Super Bowl -- you knew I'd get petty and turn into a Yankee fan. And no, I didn't attend the game. You really think I wanted to be sitting in the building thinking about Troy Brown running the wrong way on 3rd-and-4 as Manning held up the Super Bowl MVP trophy? Please. I left treadmarks getting out of Miami on Sunday morning. Now you need to do me the favor of allowing me to adjust to a world where A.) my wife is a superior football handicapper than me, and B.) the Manning Face no longer exists. Please respect my family's privacy at this time.)

Anyway, Jemele Hill did a great job of recapping Super Bowl Weekend for Page 2, even if she greatly overstated my "juice" and omitted the fact that we shared a cab ride from the ESPN party to the Maxim party in which her boyfriend and I spent 25 minutes arguing about the '80s Celtics and '80s Pistons. That's all I have as a Celtics fan anymore -- arguments about things that happened 20 years ago. There should be a show like "Pardon the Interruption" where people argue about stuff that already happened; I'd love to go on there and argue about the '87 Eastern Finals with Jemele Hill's boyfriend. (Whoops, we already had a show like that called "Classic Now." And, uh, it didn't do very well. Scratch that idea.) The ESPN party was memorable mainly because of the free booze, the athlete sightings and the sneaky humidity inside and outside -- it turned out to be a great place to see someone holding a sportscoat with damp stains underneath each armpit. Maxim's party had less body heat, more booze, more bimbos and the cooling psychological presence of the Sagamore Hotel's gigantic pool, with the added bonus that none of my bosses were staring at me in horror every time I went back to the bar for another drink.

It's also the place where I finally met Tom Brady -- not because he knew my columns, but because one of his friends knows a good friend of mine from back home. Poor Brady was trapped inside a roped-off area hiding next to the bar, with his buddies shielding him from any unexpected approaches, almost like an offensive line. He's extremely friendly and jarringly tall (a legitimate 6-foot-5). We ended up commiserating about the Pats-Colts loss for a few minutes (needless to say, he was still kicking himself about the 21-3 lead) before one of the Farrelly Brothers appeared out of nowhere and I ducked away -- if we were introduced, either he would have taken a swing at me for my "Fever Pitch" review, or I would have taken a swing at him because it was his fault that I had to see Jimmy Fallon high-fiving Curtis Leskanic 45 seconds into the greatest sporting moment of my life. So that was my brush with Brady. Much more exciting than the time I met Neil O'Donnell.

Three other belated highlights from Saturday:

1. As Jemele described in her column, they held the Playboy party at the American Airlines Arena (where the Miami Heat plays), a somewhat sterile location that made me feel like I was standing at the biggest, most elaborate wedding ever thrown. It was also an out-an-out sausage fest, and not even a sausage fest of younger guys -- I'd say 80 percent of the people there looked exactly like James Dolan. Then you'd see the Playmates walking around and think, "Wait, this isn't a wedding." I would have been much more impressed if I hadn't spent six days in South Beach -- by the end of the weekend, I was burned out on beauty. You could have trotted out the top-100 women from Maxim's hot list, in order, and I would have been standing there saying, "Yeah, she's not so bad ... yeah, she's O.K. ... yeah, she's decent ..." Basically, it was like my experience in college, only the exact opposite. And did I mention there was copious amounts of free food and drinks? I enjoyed the Playboy party.

2. Around 1:00 am that same night, I tagged along with some friends to the Versace Mansion, which is located in South Beach and known as one of the great party houses of all-time. Sure, it's a little weird that the original owner was gunned down on the front steps by a crazed stalker, but you only think about that for about three seconds before moving onto more important things like "What kind of vodkas do they have?" and "Do you think anyone will get pushed into the pool tonight?" There's a huge open courtyard that features a pool and bars on both sides (maybe 50 yards deep), and the sides of the house hug either side, so you have dozens of staircase/balcony/indoor room options for hanging out (would have made a great setting for a "Miami Vice" episode). Throw in all the celebs, football players, models, wanna-be trophy girlfriends and drunken clubbers in attendance and this could have been the Lambeau Field of party houses. What a scene. I'm starting to wonder if I hallucinated the whole thing. My favorite moment happened when the old guy with the hat who dresses strangely and goes to every Clips/Lakers home game was there, standing in the middle of a packed crowd outside, only he wasn't moving -- he was just kind of standing there like a corpse -- and one of my friends yelled out, "Look, it's Bernie!" Perfect setting, perfect timing, perfect subject ... that was the perfect storm for a joke. I enjoyed the Versace Mansion.

3. That afternoon, I was asked to participate in the Cadillac Celebrity Go-Cart Race even though I'm not a celebrity. The event was held near the American Airlines Arena and featured celebs like Nick Lachey, Fergie, Josh Duhamel, Matt Leinart, Queen Latifah and others, all of whom were infinitely more famous than me. Before the race, I was talking to one of the PR people running the race and some "Access Hollywood" anchor named Tony Potts approched us. Apparently he won the race two years ago; you might remember reading about this in Celebrity Go-Cart Illustrated. When we were introduced, the PR person said, "Tony, do you have any advice for Bill?" After all, this was my first go-cart race -- seemed like an innocent conversation starter, right?

Here's what Tony tells me: "If you feel a tap on your bumper, it's either me, Tweeden or Duhamel. That means you need to get out of the way. And if you don't get out of the way, we'll spin you right out of there."

There were a couple of things I loved about this. First, he referred to the other two celebs (LeeAnn Tweeden and Josh Duhamel) by their last names, like they were professional athletes or something. Second, this blowhard was completely, totally, 100-percent serious. I swear to God. I know it's impossible to believe that someone could be this much of a d-bag, but believe me -- I have a witness. This happened. Third, did I mention that this was a celebrity go-cart race???? It was for charity!!!!!!!!! It's not like we were racing for a new Escalade. And fourth, he completely underestimated my competitiveness and driving acumen. Hell, I once went 120 miles an hour on the Merritt Parkway in a car that was 9 years old and had 105,000 miles on it. Now I was supposed to be afraid of an anchor from "Inside Hollywood?" Er, "Access Hollywood?" Please.

I pretended not to be perturbed, waited for him to leave, confirmed with the PR person that he was completely serious -- he was -- then made plans to run him off the road like Bo Duke. Any chance of me calming down was erased during the "safety lecture" before the race started, when they went over the track and all the precautions -- including how it's not good to bump other drivers -- and Tweeden and Potts (two of the last three winners) sat in the front row cracking jokes like, "just stay out of our way and you won't get hurt" and getting a little TOO into it. They were like the too-cool-for-school kids, only the school wasn't that cool. Again, this was a celebrity f***ing go-cart race.

They broke the groups into five heats, with my heat coming last -- I was in a foursome with Leinart (who looked like death warmed over and a possible threat to puke in his helmet), Lachey (who's constantly smiling, like he can't believe he's having sex with someone who enjoys it) and some girl from "Heroes" who had a lot of letters in her last name. Normally I would have been favored but I was bordering on being legally drunk from the night before. Plus, size dictates who wins go-cart races; someone like Tweeden (40-50 pounds lighter than everyone else) or Lachey (light for a guy) possesses a distinct advantage over heavier people like Leinart, Shawne Merriman (who was allowed to race since they didn't have drug-testing) and Queen Latifah (sorry, I had to). And since the top two advanced to the semis, I knew I'd advance as long as I didn't crash ... which I didn't, finishing second behind Lachey (the weight thing again).

(Note: In the Pantheon of "Things We Don't Do With Our Buddies Nearly Enough": Driving go-karts has to rank right up there with football tailgates, bowling and miniature golf skins games for $50 per hole. Pass your mid-20's and none of these things are ever suggested or broached again -- yet it's a guaranteed afternoon of fun every time. Come on, what's better than zooming around a track trying to intentionally injure your friends? Nothing, I say.)

Now the semis roll around. As fate would have it, Potts wasn't just in my heat ... our cars were side to side in the front row, with Potts to my right. And as fate would have it, Potts's lane partially closed about 125 feet ahead, so if he didn't get out in front of me at the start, either he'd have to jump behind me as we passed through the smaller space, or he'd have to trust that I wouldn't run him into the sand bags to his right.

Of course, I planned on veering right and pushing him into the sand bags. The mere scenario had me so giddy, I could barely keep a straight face. It was like the Celebrity Go-Cart Gods had put this right on a platter for me. Right before the race, he looked over at me and I looked back blankly, with part of me wanting to make the Sprewell throat-cutting gesture (I held off). So the starter yells, "Ready..." and Tony starts revving his engine like an ass. Again, it's a f***ing go-cart. Then the starter yells "set ..." and wouldn't you know it, this sleazeball jumps the gun and takes off. By the time the starter said "Go," he had a two-second headstart on everyone, which they would never penalize him for because, again, it's a celebrity f***ing go-cart race.

(This seems like a good time to mention that the winner of this race got to give $10,000 for their favorite charity -- I was driving for the Jimmy Fund -- and this slimeball cheated to get a jumpstart in the semis. How do you cheat in a celebrity go-cart race for charity???? How does this happen??? I expected so much more from a guy who lives in Hollywood and hosts a syndicated entertainment/gossip show.)

Anyway, I took off like a bat out of hell trying to catch him. And since the race lasted for only five laps, it wasn't looking good. Three laps in, he's still about 50 feet ahead of me but coasting because he has a top-two spot locked up. I'm comfortably ahead of the two cars behind me and have the other Finals spot all but locked up -- it would have been me, Duhamel, Potts and Tweeden, ironically enough. But that wasn't cutting it. I was just close enough that it was conceivable I could catch him from behind, spin him out and possibly kill him ... which, in all honesty, would have been my happiest moment of 2007. And I'm flying around the track hitting the big 90-degree turn on Lap 4, but I'm going a little too fast, and ... skiddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd.

I spin out.

Not egregiously, but just enough that the last two cars pass me and I have to settle for fourth. The lesson, as always: Don't let your temper get the best of you during a celebrity go-cart race.

As for the finals, I couldn't even bear to watch -- Tweeden ended up winning again (remember, the weight thing) and seemed far too happy about it, spraying champagne over everyone in Winners Row like she had just won the Daytona 500. Whatever. Go shoot another calendar, honey. The good news was that she won the race by spinning out a seething Tony Potts, who was mildly furious afterwards but played it off like it was all fun and games. No way. He was definitely ticked. And frankly, so was I. You know you're sulking at a celebrity event when Queen Latifah comes over to cheer you up.

Where does this leave me and Tony, you ask? Well, I'm going to one of those four-day driving schools to learn all the tricks. No, seriously. That's how competitive I am. Maybe I have a bad back and had to retire from basketball, but I can still drive cars and go-karts, right? Next year, I'm getting revenge on Tony -- whether it happens in a go-kart race, a stoplight on Wilshire, the 405 or wherever else -- and if it leads to one of those "Days of Thunder"-type messes where we're ramming into each other's cars in public for 20 blocks, so be it.

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