Page 2 columnist
Q: I GOTTA HAVE MORE MAILBAG!!! I've got a fever, and the only prescription ... is MORE MAILBAG!!! Really explore the space of your column ... with MORE MAILBAG, DAMMIT!!! -- John Dugan, San Francisco
Sports Guy: Can I just say one thing? I'm standing here staring at John Dugan. That's right, the John Dugan. And if John Dugan wants more mailbag, then we should probably give him more mailbag. I'll be doing myself a disservice, and everybody in this band, if I don't perform the hell out of this mailbag!
(Sorry. Only, like, 10 people probably understood that exchange. Just trust me ... it's been awhile since my last mailbag ... before we're done here, we're all gonna be wearing gold-plated diapers. Let's do it.)
Three years ago, my buddy and I went to a Brewers game in County Stadium. My buddy polished off a bratwurst, Italian sausage and a Polish sausage. He missed the cycle by not consuming a hot dog. We're going to Miller Park this August ... what's the proper eating order for one to complete a "natural" cycle? -- Jamie Vervaecke, Denver, Iowa
Great question. Back in the '80s, my buddy Jim and I would debate the subject "What constitutes the ballpark cycle?" like two law school students debating Roe vs. Wade. I think the "Hot Dog" definition is too limiting. Here's the criteria we ultimately came up with:
1. Starting off, you have to throw down at least one hot dog. If it's a jumbo-sized dog or a bratwurst or something, you're good with one. If it's one of those smaller Fenway Frank-type dogs, you need to order at least two. And you need to inadvertently get mustard on yourself within the first six bites. That's a Simmons specialty. Sometimes I just squirt mustard on my shorts before I start eating, just to get it over with.
2. Now you need to make your refreshment choice. Either you have to order one of those 256-ounce souvenir cups full of soda, or you need to order the first of at least four beers. You can also compromise and have a regular soda, then two beers. Regardless, you need to start downing enough fluids that your bladder will start throbbing by the fifth inning. And then it becomes a battle of wills -- do you break the dam, or can you make it until the end of the game?
3. Popcorn or peanuts. Pick one. Personally, I don't see how anyone could eat popcorn at a baseball game, not when you could drop hundreds of peanut shells on the ground with no repurcussions. Plus, it's in the seventh inning song -- I mean, you have to eat peanuts unless you're allergic. I guess you could order popcorn -- it's not illegal or anything -- I just don't think it's right. That's just me.
4. Jim always called this stage the "Gay Food Item." Sadly, these days we live in a much more tolerant society, one where the word "gay" becomes offensive at any and all times, even if you're just trying to poke fun at one of your buddies because they're holding a plate of jamaican jerk onion rings. Let's change this to "The Wildcard Item," so we don't ruffle any feathers. Anyway, before they started building these state-of-the-art ballparks, your options were limited to fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets or cheesburgers (which are always disgusting at ballparks, for reasons that have never been fully explored). Now they offer crazy things like barbecue pork sandwiches, chinese food, cuban food -- stuff that isn't just edible, it's actually good. That throws everything out of whack.
So I'll update this stage -- if you're in a newer ballpark, you need to test out something noteworthy (along the lines of Boog Powell's stand at Camden, or Kowloon's "Chicken Fried Rice with Dead Rat" at Fenway Park). And if you're in an older ballpark, you at least have to step up and get garlic fries or chicken nuggets or something. Bonus points if you can nail two items from this group -- like a beef brisket sandwich plus cajun cole slaw. That's impressive.
5. All right, now we're in the homestretch. You need to get ice cream, simply because nothing goes better with lukewarm beer than some crummy soft-serve ice cream. I always look for those "ice cream dots" during this stage -- like the ones they serve in Yankee Stadium. I love those things. You can substititute one of those effeminate Minute Maid Lemon Ice thingies here ... as long as it's cold, it counts. Even if your friends will think you're a wuss.
6. The final frontier: You're bloated, you're full, you're drunk ... and then a vendor comes by in the eighth inning and you find yourself ordering another hot dog or sausage. No reason whatsoever. It's almost like you're trying to make yourself throw up. You're like an animal at this point.
Anyway, that's the cycle. Six stages of fun. And it's not negotiable.
What do you think is the funniest word to say with a Boston accent? I used to think it was "Nomar." But now I think it's "c-h-a-r-g-e." Just say it out loud. "Chahhhge." Add an "-ed" at the end for extra effect. "Chahhhged." Wow, that's good. -- Jeff Kearney, MA
I vote for "liquor." When the Massachusetts guy said, "Who drank my lick-ahh?" on "Real World: Paris" last week, that was the highlight of my summer that didn't involve Chris Moore obliterating a chair with the extra 30 pounds he gained since last summer on "Project Greenlight."
Congratulations on your recent marriage. Mine is about three months away. Do you have any advice for a guy on dealing with the whole wedding experience? -- Chris Muzzo
Now that you married to the Sports Gal, does her status change? I mean is she now the Sports Wife? I'm guessing that she will have to continue to be the Sports Gal, unless you change your status, too. Any thoughts? -- William, Jacksonville, Florida
You know, I've been thinking about this ... I don't like the word "wife." Makes me feel like an old fart. Remember how Lloyd the bartender told Nicholson in "The Shining," "You'll always be the caretaker, Mr. Torrance"? I think the same goes for the name "Sports Gal." She'll always be the Sports Gal. I can't imagine typing the words "Sports Wife."
Were the two best jheri-curls in all of sports Michael Cage and Ivan Calderon? Has anyone ever debated this? If not, they should. -- Robby H., Clarkston, MI
I think the argument stops and ends with Cage -- he did for the NBA what Eriq LaSalle did for Hollywood in "Coming to America." But how could you not even mention AC Green in the Jheri-Curl Pantheon? I know he's a little low on "street cred" -- being a long-time virgin and all -- but shouldn't he be included on that list? And whatever happened on AC's wedding night? Did they ever have the "Sports Century And Beyond" show about that? Was anyone injured in the explosion? I need to know these things.
(Speaking of "street cred," when did that emerge as the hot new sports phrase du jour? It has a ton of upside, doesn't it? Long phrase. Very high ceiling. If you're running downhill, this is the phrase to use. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the walkoff phrase of the sports year.)
I was out with the guys the other day at a strip club, and we started talking about when a person's life has jumped the shark. We decided that if you're over the age of 40, and at a strip club by yourself, you've officially jumped the shark. You've seen them before, the collar's undone, no undershirt, and no shortage of one dollar bills to get those strippers to give some personal attention. We say, at this point, it's time to pull a George Costanza, wear sweatpants full time, shower twice a week, and just plain give up. Any other ideas for signs? -- Jeff Long, Columbia, Missouri
That's a great question. I would throw in these other signs:
Great article about your dad. I just have one question. How did he take the news when he found out you were gay? -- Rodney Whitford, Pasadena, CA
(Searching for a comeback ...)
Your column about Luke Walton was the first intelligent thing you've written in about eight months. -- Eric G., Portland, OR
All right, I think the pilot has officially turned off the "Backhanded Compliments" sign.
In your opinion, what's the worst NBA contract of all-time? Jon Koncak has to be my choice, but I know you have a special spot in your heart for Vin Baker. Just wondering your opinion on this. -- Scott Sterba, Minneapolis, MN
Should I answer this question before or after Kenny Thomas signs with Philly for $50 million? Screw it, let's answer it now. Out of all the ridiculous contracts over the years -- Calvin Booth, Koncak, Austin Croshere, Vitaly Potapenko, Brian Grant and so on -- one stands out: When the Sonics signed Jim McIllvane for $33 million over six years, fresh off the season when they made the Finals.
This deal wasn't just bad because of the money, or because McIllvane was a grade-A stiff who made Greg Ostertag look lively. They actually screwed up a team that had at least three or four more runs at the title in them. At the time, Shawn Kemp was saddled with a crummy contract, he was coming off a playoffs in which he actually walked up to the Pantheon Door and took a couple knocks ... and instead of using their cap space to make him happy and rectify his contract, they signed a backup center who made more money than him. And every day, Kemp went to practice and saw this guy. And it drove him crazy.
Would Kemp's career have turned out differently if they took care of him in '96? Tough to say. All I know is this: Watch a tape of that '96 Finals some time. During the MJ Era, there was only one opponent who the Bulls couldn't handle ... and no, it wasn't Barkley in '93 (he was superb in that series; they still figured out how to handle him by Game 5). It was Kemp. Not only did he run amok, he actually gained steam as the series went along. Everyone always forgets this.
One other side effect: The Sonics should have dominated the West in the late-'90s. But the McIllvane signing sent them into the tailspin, and those Houston teams with Barkley and Hakeem never quite gelled, and Shaq wasn't ready yet ... and those Utah teams that fell short for something like 13 straight years suddenly became title contenders. Ridiculous. Kemp and GP should have been holding court for years and years. These are the dumb things that keep me awake when I'm watching ESPN Classic at 2:30 in the morning.
I think Dirk Nowitzki is the first guy since Abe Lincoln to successfully carry off the "beard with no mustache" thing. What do you think? -- Robert J. Smith, NY, NY
Wait a second ... Dirk did more than carry off the Abe Lincoln beard. Did you see the summer pictures of him and Steve Nash floating around the internet right now? Highest of high comedy. It's funny, when you take away the fact that they're NBA superstars, it's really just a guy with bad hair hanging out with his goofy German buddy. I love the NBA.
I was watching "Swordfish" for the 38th time the other day. I swear that it was for the Travolta scenes, when it hit me that many female stars, who never would have done it before, are surprising us by taking off their tops now. Halle Berry, Rene Russo in the "Thomas Crown Affair," etc. At what point in their career do they need to do this and who is next. I'm thinking either Catherine Zeta Jones or Julia Roberts. -- Kevin from Boston
I vote for Katie Holmes. Yeah, she went topless in "The Gift," but she needs to take things to the next level. She needs a kickstart -- one of those "'Basic Instinct' for the next generation"-type roles. Listen, ladies, Halle showed you the playbook. It can be done. And Jennifer Love Hewitt, I hope you're reading this.
(While we're on the subject, here's a wild card: What about Serena Williams? She's a fledgling actress, and the American public is clamoring for more. Wouldn't a shocking nude scene in some suspenseful cop thriller with Taye Diggs send America into an absolute tizzy? And can you imagine Bud Collins' rection? They'd have to carry him out of the theater.)
Love the draft, and your annual draft diary. You missed one thing, though. For each pick, ESPN had a "Must Improve" item that read "Must Improve: His jump shot" or whatever was the case. So the line of the night at my draft party came from my buddy Migs. When Luke Walton got picked, he deadpanned, "Must Improve: Dad." --Bobby T, Chicago
Lemme check with my editors ... Ummmmm ... can I at least laugh at that?
(Editor's note: No.)
I likely won't be the only person to bring this up, but you absolutely must -- your duty as a sports journalist -- must add the Greta Van Sustern Face to the Pantheon. The look she flexed after Tyson dropped the "I wish I had raped her" jewel was arguably the greatest look of shock/dismay/fright/confusion a TV broadcaster has ever sported. Truly priceless. I look forward to seeing her name etched for eternity in the Pantheon. -- David Larkins, Winnipeg
Done. And while we're here, let's add the Joe Maloof Face, which goes like this: "We've just been eliminated from the playoffs, I'm struggling to look sad, but I can't shake the fact that I own a casino and an NBA team and juggle hot chicks every night." And there's the Venus Williams Face, which looks like this: "My sister just kicked my rear end again, and I'm trying to be diplomatic about it, but I'm really thinking about contacting the guy who stabbed Monica Seles."
(Reader Joel Cookson adds this one: "I don't know if you saw the game when the Astros no-hit the Yankees, but the 'Brian Cashman Face' was absolutely priceless. He looked white as a sheet, and it was as if he couldn't decide whether he should be polishing his resume or simply making a run for the border. I think the man was legitimately scared for his life.")
If you were a professional baseball player and were allowed to pick a song to play every time you came up to bat, what would your song be? -- Scott, Cleveland, Ohio
Something cheesy from the late-'70s or early-'80s, like "Wheel in the Sky" from Journey or "The Kid is Hot Tonight" by Loverboy. I'd want my fans to reach the proper balance of "Giggling at the song I chose" with "Secretly enjoying the song" I chose. And it's a tough feat to pull off. Frankly, if anyone can do it, it's Loverboy.
From your 2001 Draft Diary:
9:27 p.m.: Joe Forte falls to the Celts at No. 21! Dad and I are fired up right now. Even the dogs are fired up -- Maggie just belly-flopped on Abbie, and they're rolling around on the ground. Good times ... good times.
9:30 p.m.: As the New York crowd howls in disgust, Vecsey reports that the Nets dealt Eddie Griffin to the Rockets for Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, Kermit Washington and the No. 23 pick, or as I like to call it, "C-R-A-P." Is there a worse franchise than the Nets?
For the record, those three minutes went for me the exact same way they went by for you. Can we get mulligans for this? If there was a "sports fan mulligan" you could use at any point in time to change your mind over something you originally supported, what would it be? I would go back and deplore the decision to turn the Celtics over to Pitino. God, I hate him. -- Jason McCallum, Washington, DC
For me, it was the Pete Carroll Era in New England. From Day 1, I bought into the whole "Parcells was wearing on the players ... this team needs a player's coach" mentality. Hell, during the first season, I even defended Carroll in a few columns on the old BSG site. What did I know? Within a year, I was comparing him to Fredo Corleone and openly plotting his demise. I would gladly take a mulligan on the whole thing.
Hey, speaking of Fredo ...
If you could own any movie prop from any movie, what would you choose? The reason I ask is, because I know of your love of "The Karate Kid," and while I was at Disneyland Paris last week, they had the most awesome prop displayed at the Planet Hollywood there ... the actual trophy from the All Valley Karate Tournament! You were the first person I though of when I saw this. --Bruce Fike, Rodenbach, Germany
Fantastic question ... I spent way too much time thinking about it. I judged my ideal movie prop with two rules of thumb: A) Is it something that, if I showed it to a friend, they would be totally blown away. And B) Would I be able to get some use out of it.
Without further ado, here's my wish list:
Honorable mention: Fredo's boat from "Godfather II" ... Michael Myers's mask from "Halloween I" ... the scoreboard from "Fast Break" that had everyone's nickname in it ("DC, Swish, Hustler, Preacher," and so on, that always killed me) ... a game-worn Paul Crewe No. 22 "Mean Machine" jersey from the "Longest Yard."
And the Top 7, in reverse order:
7. Roy Hobbs's "Wonderboy" bat from the "Natural" (pasted back together). Imagine bringing that baby out at parties?
6. Dirk Diggler's prosthetic from "Boogie Nights." Imagine bringing that baby out at parties?
5. This seems like the right spot for the All-Valley Karate Tournament Trophy. He's gonna fight! Daniel LaRusso is gonna fight! That reminds me, one of the my favorite things about California is driving on the highway through Receda and making the token, "Hey, look, it's Daniel LaRusso's apartment building!" joke. That never gets old.
4. Reggie Hammond's old Porsche from "48 Hours." Not just because it was a cool car, not just because of the historical significance, but because Reggie parked it in a garage for three years and Luther didn't even have to pay the ticket when he got the car out of the lot. Now that is some car. Now, naysayers would point out somebody blew up Reggie's car in "Another 48 Hours," but as far as I'm concerned, that movie never happened. You hear me? Never happened. It's not even up for debate.
3. Billy Baroo. No need to elaborate.
2. Andy's rockhammer from "Shawshank." Helped him crawl through 500 yards of s--t-smelling foulness the likes of which I can't imagine. Maybe it's because I don't want to.
1. Rocky's trunks from "Rocky 1." I would wear them around the house and stuff. And if you don't think that's cool ... well, if I can change, and you can change ...
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, and he's a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live.
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