By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Please keep in mind, everything you're about to read came from actual e-mails sent in by readers over the past few weeks.

On to the e-mails ...

Dyan Cannon
A detailed conversation about Dyan Cannon can ruin the experience of watching a Lakers game.

Question: What is the proper response to give to a girlfriend who annoyingly asks questions about sporting events? Mine asks the worst questions at the worst times. For example, as Luis Gonzalez stepped into the box in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, she asked me, "Where do the player's wives sit?" We're in the middle of one of the best baseball games ever, and she wants to know where the players' wives sit. Who cares? I can't take it. What can I say that will not hurt her feelings, but at the same time, make her be quiet? -- Steve, Lebanon, Conn.

Sports Guy: Unfortunately, the best way to handle this involves a padlock, rope and duct tape. My stepmother has been pulling this "Wacky Questions" routine for three decades now -- no matter how many nasty looks, frustrated sighs and eye rolls she endures from my dad, she keeps coming back for more. And when she's watching something with the Sports Gal, all bets are off -- there could be three minutes left in Game 7 of a Celtics-Lakers Finals and we would hear exchanges like this:

    "Look, there's Dyan Cannon."

    "Think she's had a few Botox injections?"

    "Just a few."

    "Did I ever tell you the story about my friend who tried Botox ...?"

And they're off! It's an amazing phemomenon. So here are three methods to combat it:

Method No. 1: Two televisions. Very simple. Best money you will ever spend.

Method No. 2: Hoard plenty of attention-grabbing magazines, then trot them out when you absolutely need peace and quiet. The best three mags: Us Weekly (tons of pictures, plus the life-altering "Fashion Police"), In Style (a more sophisticated Us Magazine), and the National Enquirer (there isn't a female alive who can turn down that one).

Method No. 3. About five minutes before you're getting down to crunch-time, the late innings, or whatever, tell them that a sister/close friend called them before, you forgot to tell them, and they said it was urgent. Sure, it's a white lie, but once they make the return call, you've killed them off for 40-45 minutes. My dad patented this move about five years ago. He used to perform a rain dance in the kitchen trying to get one of my stepmother's sisters to call -- now he just pretends that they actually called. Much easier. He's a savvy veteran of the process.


Q: What is your favorite "intimidation" line from an action movie? You know, like when Arnold tells Killion in "The Running Man," "I hope you leave enough room for my fist, because I'm going to ram it into your stomach, and tear out your spine!" -- Bryan Nabas, Danville, Calif.

SG: Either "You're a disease, and I'm the cure" (mumbled by Stallone in "Cobra"), or "I used to (bleep) guys like you in prison" (hissed by one of the bad guys to Swayze in "Road House"). Choosing between those two would be like choosing between Elway and Montana in their primes. I simply can't decide.


Q: If the Sports Guy was drafted into the NBA, what's he wearing on draft night? -- Tyler Johnson, Kentucky.

SG: A condom.


Weekend Update
Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon are solid All-Stars for "Weekend Update."

Q: How bad did Lorne Michaels screw up by not hiring Jeffrey Ross to do Weekend Update on "Saturday Night Live"? It was between him and the current anchors Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon. Was it "Mike Ditka not letting Walter Payton score a touchdown in Super Bowl XX" stupid? Or an "I'm leaving KG to be near my family in New Jersey" type disaster? Fey and Fallon are Sam Bowie. Dammit! -- Liz, Los Angeles

SG: I think you're being a little hard on the Fallon-Fey combo -- with Will Ferrell gone, they're looming as the only bright spot of the show next season (unless Maya Rudolph makes The Leap). But I agree that passing up Jeffrey Ross was pretty frustrating -- he would have been the best "Weekend Update" host ever, even better than Norm McDonald. I wouldn't compare it to Michael Jordan-Bowie; it's more like the Mavericks taking Mark Aguirre over Isiah Thomas in '81. In other words, they passed up a potential Hall of Famer for two All-Stars. Hopefully, Ross will come back and haunt "SNL" some day.

That reminds me, my favorite homemade videotape (made up of things I taped myself) contains two "SNL" shows -- a Best-of-the-Year show from '84 and a "Film Festival" from '85 that included the synchronized swimmers ("I'm not a very strong swimmer") and Tyrone Green ("Dark and lonely on a Saturday night ... kill my landlord, kill my landlord") -- as well as three David Letterman specials (the second, third and fourth anniversary shows, which practically redefined comedy as we know it). Needless to say, after nearly 20 years of usage, the tape finally gave out and stopped running. You couldn't put a price value on this tape. It's impossible.

So here's my question: Is it possible to salvage old videotapes once they stop working? If anyone knows the answer, send an email to me through Page 2. And remember, "You're not angry at me, you're just pointing at me. You're just saying, 'Hey, you ... I know you, I know you ...' "


Q: A bunch of my buddies are taking me to Vegas for my bachelor party. One of them brought up a trip to Hoover Dam! We're obviously not going, but is there some other action I should take? Should I ban him from the trip altogether? It upsets me just to think about this. -- J. Halpin, New York

SG: Either bounce him from the trip or force him to wear the Doug Christie jersey all weekend. There's no middle ground.

(You know what's funny? Just reading that e-mail upset me. Hoover Dam? Hoover Dam???? I don't know if I could even make eye contact with someone after that. Let's just move on ...)


Q: How is it possible that nowhere in your review of All-Star week did you mention the most recent slaughtering of the national anthem? It left the crowd in stunned silence. -- Keith Desser, Trenton, N.J.

SG: There's a good reason for that ... I missed it. While Anastasia was belting out the Canadian national anthem, I seized the chance to pull the old "hit the bathroom and buy beers" double play, so I missed her butchering the anthem. At least 50 people e-mailed me about this, so it must have been truly wretched. Couldn't they have had her sing a duet with Carl Lewis?

While we're here, two other subjects garnered numerous e-mails last week:

"Why was last Friday's column (about the '84 draft) so short?"

Because it was written for ESPN The Magazine (every other week, my Magazine column runs simultaneously on Page 2). I only have around 750 words for those columns.

"Why didn't you write about the ESPYs? Wasn't that entire night right in your wheelhouse?"

Tom Brady
Contrary to Melissa Rivers' belief, Tom Brady is indeed a single man.

Absolutely ... and it killed me to stay away. But since the event was sponsored by ESPN and involved a number of ESPN people, I wouldn't have had enough "creative leeway" to give the telecast the treatment it deserved, if you catch my drift. My favorite moments included ...

1. Everything that happened on E!'s "Red Carpet Show," capped off by Melissa Rivers' interview with Tom Brady (with Melissa confusing Tom's sister for his old girlfriend, then thinking he was still attached to the old girlfriend, prompting a bummed-out Tom to pull the "No, no, she's just a friend -- I couldn't be more single!" routine), immediately followed by Joan Rivers' memorable interview with a completely incoherent Evander Holyfield (who clearly deserves his own talk show at this point). Maybe the most uncomfortable five minutes in TV history.

2. The part of "Serena Williams" being played for the night by Ru Paul.

3. Sue Bird winning the Cynthia Cooper Career Achievement ESPY for "Most awkward attempt to walk on the stage in high heels."

4. "The Rookie" winning the ESPY for "Best Sports Movie." Yeah, it probably deserved it, but ... I mean ... jeez...

5. The Patriots getting screwed out of the ESPY for "Best Team," which actually prompted to me to blurt out a "You've gotta be (expletive) kidding me!" in my living room. Any time an award show gets you riled up, that has to count for something. How did the Patriots not get that award? I'm still outraged. That almost caused me to wing my remote control across the room ... then I remembered that I was watching the ESPYs.

That reminds me ...


Q: As I was reading your column on the 13 levels of losing, I was reminded of one of the greatest gut reactions to a loss that I have ever witnessed/heard of. It was Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, the Guillotine game (Indians-Marlins) that you mentioned. I was at the University of Dayton at the time. One of my roommate's buddies calmly walked over to the TV, dropped his pants, climbed up on the TV table and took a (expletive) on the TV. What was your most memorable gut reaction to a loss? -- Brian Kraus, Charlotte, N.C.

SG: I'm not sure I can top that one. Yikes. Anyway, when I was little, Montreal would bounce my beloved Bruins from the NHL playoffs every spring. And each year, it became a little more excruciating. So when the B's stretched the Canadiens to a Game 7 in '79, took a one-goal lead into the final few minutes in the Forum, got whistled for an improbable "Too many men on the ice" penalty with 150 seconds left, gave up the game-tying goal to Guy Lafleur, then squandered the game in OT ... well, I took it personally. For only one of two times in my life, I started crying because of a sporting event. And it was one of those "frustrated crying tantrums" that little kids have, so I was really crying, then I was getting mad because I was crying, so that only made it worse.

Needless to say, all the crying gave me a bloody nose, and since my face was embedded in a cushion on our living room sofa, and I didn't realize my nose was bleeding ... well, the sofa ended up looking like an exhibit from a murder trial. Easily one of the most humiliating moments from my childhood. On the bright side, that was the last sporting event that ever made me cry ... although Game 6 of the '86 World Series left me catatonic for two weeks.


Q: Hey Bill, I'll be going to Holy Cross in September for my freshman year. Anything I should know? Thanks. -- Craig L., Highland Mills, N.Y.

SG: Absolutely. Stay away from my little cousin, Carrie. She's more off-limits than a $500 blackjack table.


Q: How long do you think Phil Connors spent in Punxsutawney, Pa.? I think he was there at least six months to a year (given some of the skills he developed, like ice sculpting). These clowns I work with are saying a week or two, one month at the most. Morons. What do you think? -- Sparky, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bill Murray
Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day" must have spent at least two years in Punxsutawney, Pa.

SG: Cool! A "Groundhog Day" question! I love that movie. I took this question so seriously, I actually went out and rented the DVD. Of course, that begs the question, "Why didn't I own the DVD?" Frankly, I don't know. I own "Karate Kid III," "LockUp," "Halloween 2" and "Tango and Cash" and yet somehow I don't own the best Bill Murray movie of the past 10 years? Go figure.

Here's my answer: Phil Connors spent about 27 months in Punxsutawney. For the first few months, he struggled with the whole "I keep waking up, and it's the same day all over again" thing, then he came to grips with it, then he started trying to win Andie McDowell over on a series of dates, then he became so depressed that he spent a few weeks trying to kill himself. That's at least six months right there. Then he made the best of things, learning how to become a world-class ice sculptor, learning how to speak different languages, becoming certified in CPR, even learning how to become an accomplished pianist. And he really developed into quite a pianist, didn't he?

Anyway, learning all those things had to take at least 18 months, pushing Phil into the 24- to 30-month range. Minimum. I think a much better question here is, "Why didn't he just try to stay awake all night?" That's always bothered me.


Q: What is your greatest video game achievement ever? Is it the famed 52 at River Highlands? Or have you accomplished an even greater feat? -- Jason Giza, Chicopee, Mass.

SG: That 52 is old news. On "Tiger Woods 2002," I shot a 49 on Pebble Beach, playing on the treadmill, no less. A 49! I haven't played the game since. How do you top a 49?

Now I'm eagerly awaiting the release of "Madden 2003." I haven't been this excited for a video game in years. The defending champion Patriots getting some love in the introduction. Tom Brady's first appearance with a rating in the high-80s. The video opening of CMGI Field. Troy Brown and Adam Vinatieri finally getting their proper Video Game Due. The chance to re-enact Super Bowl XXXI over and over again, although it won't be as fun without seeing sullen Rams fans stumbling out the Superdome after the game like they had been quickly replaced by the pods from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Hopefully, they'll even include a feature where Mike Martz makes excuses right after he gets badly outcoached in the biggest game of his career; his video alter-ego could say things like, "We didn't play our game," and "They caught all the breaks," and even "I still feel we're the better team." Then we could electroshock him with the L2 button.


Q: What are your five greatest NBA "in-game" dunks of all time? -- Jason H., Catania, Italy

SG: I opened this question up to my buddies, sparking a series of spirited back-and-forth e-mails last week. We decided two things: 1) the best NBA dunks always happen when somebody's dunking on somebody else's head, and 2) a playoff dunk carries more weight than a regular-season dunk. Anyway, here's what we came up with ...

Michael Jordan
No list of in-game dunks would be complete without Michael Jordan.

Honorable mention: John Starks slamming down a lefty baseline jam on two Bulls (including MJ in the general vicinity) ... Shawn Kemp's swinging, alley-oop jam over Chris Gatling in the 1992 playoffs ... Tracy McGrady throwing it off the backboard to himself in the All-Star Game ... Baron Davis dunking on Kevin Garnett ... Scottie Pippen dunking on Patrick Ewing ... Chris Webber going behind his back, keeping it, then dunking on Charles Barkley in one motion ... Bill Walton dunking on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar... Vince Carter ending Frederick Weis' career ... Dominique Wilkins' follow-up two-hander in Game 7 of the '88 Playoffs (best dunk I've ever seen in person).

Toughest omission: From the '79 Finals ... Seattle's Gus Williams was one of those guards who never dunked -- he always did the "hand above the rim like he's going to dunk, but ends up laying it in" routine. In this case, the Sonics were wrapping up the title, and Williams found himself alone on a fast break, so he slowed up a little, waited for one of the Bullets to catch up with him, then improbably dunked on the guy's head. The second-best Exclamation Point dunk of all-time. Did it get any better than Gus Williams?

Onto the top-five (which contains six dunks) ...

6. From the late-'80s ... Tom Chambers jumps from the circle, tries to go over Mark Jackson, somehow his momentum collides against Jackson's body and pushes him even higher, and he ends up two-handing it from about 20 feet above the rim. There has never been a better dunk by a white guy.

5. From the '77 Finals ... on a fast break, Julius Erving throws down a tomahawk dunk on Bill Walton's head. Imagine if Orlando played L.A. in the Finals next year and McGrady tossed down the most vicious dunk imaginable right in Shaq's mug? That would have been the equivalent of this one.

4. From 1991 ... MJ dribbling with two guys guarding him, fakes going toward the middle, spins baseline (losing them both), goes toward the basket, sees Ewing coming over, decides "What the hell?", rises in the air, keeps rising, and dunks right on Ewing's head. Plus, it happened at MSG. MJ's defining dunk.

3. From the '83 Finals ... Doc wraps up Game 2 with the famous "Rock-a-bye baby" dunk over Michael Cooper, sticking a fork in the series, bringing the house down at the Spectrum and causing near-pandemonium. The greatest Exclamation Point Dunk of all time.

2. From the '94 playoffs ... KJ throws it down on Hakeem Olajuwon. Considering that Hakeem was a) 11 inches taller, b) a terrific shot-blocker, and c) in his prime at the time, I still can't believe this happened. Probably deserves its own "SportsCentury And Beyond" at some point.

1. From the late-'70s ... Darryl Dawkins dunks over Bill Robinzine, breaking the glass backboard over him in the process. That will never be topped.

Bill Simmons writes columns for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. Over the next five weeks, his Page 2 column will only run on Tuesdays ... the old schedule will return in mid-August.



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