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Editor's Note: This is part 2 of Bill Simmons' running email exchange with pop-culture writer Chuck Klosterman of Esquire and Spin magazines. If you missed part 1, part 3, part 4 or part 5, click here to check out their other exchanges.
To: Chuck Klosterman
Subject: RE: Face Off
Time: 11:15 a.m. Chuck Wagon, I'm with you on the decline of American civilization. Last Tuesday, I was standing in line at Starbucks. The person in front of me was talking on a cellphone, as was the person behind me, and they were both shooting each other nasty looks because they thought the other person was talking too loud. Meanwhile, I was getting angry because the person at the front of the line was paying for a $3.75 venti soy latte with a credit card and holding everyone up, and it made me even angrier that I knew what a "venti soy latte" even was, or why it cost the extra 40 cents. I'm not sure what's happening. Our society is turning into a Charlie Kaufman script.
"Hey, Sonny, don't you think it's about time that we start worrying about that hit man?"
This entire Olympics has been creeping me out. First of all, there's nobody there. Bob Costas tried to explain that last weekend was a holy weekend in Greece or something, as if that was an adequate explanation why we're holding the Olympics in a place that only had 40 fans for every event. It's like watching an Atlanta Hawks home game for two consecutive weeks. For 2008, they should just move the Summer Olympics to Egypt during Ramadan.Meanwhile, the swimmers seem more androgynous and uncomfortable than ever. They look like they're out of a Bronski Beat video. One of them has even been nicknamed "The Thorpedo," which definitely sounds like a running series from Vivid Video. And the rules are downright crazy. For instance, one swimmer won an event by using an illegal dolphin kick, followed by the announcer saying, "It looks like he used an illegal dolphin kick," then simply letting it go, as if this wasn't a big deal. In Saturday's men's gymnastics, the judges told Blaine Wilson (definitely a stage name) before the high bars that they wouldn't give him a good score for his routine, so he should probably try something else. The poor guy is 30 years old and probably has $500 in his bank account -- now he has to "try something else" two minutes before the event? Couldn't that info have come a little sooner? Of course, he ended up falling right on his back. Two months from now, he'll probably be managing a hardware store and wondering what happened. As for the "women's" (and I use that word loosely) gymnastics on Sunday night ... I mean, what would possess someone to direct his or her daughter toward the seedy world of competitive gymnastics? Would you ever send your kid to the Karolyi Ranch? After the ongoing Michael Jackson fiasco, isn't it every parent's duty to avoid sending their kids to a place that features someone's last name with the word "Ranch"? Besides, what's the thought process behind pushing your child to such a sport? My daughter's a little on the small side ... maybe we should push her toward gymnastics. This way, she'll look like a hobbit for the rest of her life; she won't menstruate until she's 25 years-old; she won't be able to eat ... EVER; she'll never meet anyone other than tiny, non-menstruating gymnasts who look just like her; she'll have a decent chance of being socially dysfunctional because she spent 15 hours a day in her formative years with a pommel horse and high bars prominently involved; and as an added bonus, a frightening Romanian will become the dominant father figure in her life. Also, she'll suffer from chronic knee problems for the rest of her life. And we'll make this gamble just in case she defies million-to-one odds and wins a medal some day, which she can hawk off some day to pay her bulimia/anorexia bills as an adult. This sounds fantastic! Sign me up! Does anyone else feel terrible for these girls? They look so damned tortured, don't they? Like they might start uncontrollably crying at any moment? It's almost like Karolyi tells them before the tournament, "If you don't finish in the top five, I'm making you eat a double cheesburger, and you can't throw it up!" These girls would have a better chance in life if someone had steered them toward porn. Anyway, I vote for the Janet Jones Corollary for all future women's gymnastics events -- unless you're at least 5-foot-3, you have at least a 10 percent body fat, and you're at least a B-cup, you can't be on the team. That would solve everything.
To: Bill Simmons
Subject: RE: Face Off
Time: 11:53 a.m. ET Dear Bill "Don't Call Me Lionel" Simmons ... I never drink coffee, so I can't relate to your charming anecdote (although -- since you live in L.A. -- I can only assume the exchange was augmented by the fact that both of these people had fake breasts, can't read, and are really concerned about not seeing George Clooney at The Standard the night before). I was once watching "Shanghai Noon" when a woman behind me actually made a cell-phone call during the movie, from inside the theater to tell her friend that Jackie Chan was crazy. I thought this was a pretty brazen move on her behalf. Do you have HD-TV? It's really affecting my Olympic watchability. Usually, NBC-HD shows the exact same stuff (simultaneously) as "low-definition" NBC, but not during the Olympics. The programming is different. I keep turning to NBC-HD to catch some ping-pong (or whatever), but they're always showing images of the Parthenon or the Greek countryside or some kid on a bike buying fruit. I guess this is to remind me that the world contains beauty, and that beauty is truth. And the truth is that watching competitive swimming is like watching a bucket of vomit warm in the afternoon sun.
Which Ricky Williams do you prefer? And do you like "Singles" or "Reality Bites"? And, how are these two questions related again?
Swimming tends to have the same problem as track and field, which is that the fast guy always wins. Moreover, it has been my experience that swimmers are jerks. But to be fair, I suppose they have a lot of strikes against them: They have to train twice a day for years, and have to wear those stupid caps and Kareem goggles, and nobody cares if they live or die unless they happen to be in the same class as Mark Spitz. I also used to date a woman whose previous boyfriend had been a swimmer for the University of New Mexico, and she insisted male swimmers have the best bodies on earth. Well, of course, they do; there has to be some upside to being wet all the damn time. Don't these dudes realize that's how the Vietcong used to torture people?I don't mind watching gymnastics, although I no longer know who to root for. Back during the Cold War, I was always drawn to the idea of 14-year-old girls forced to compete on behalf of the Iron Curtain, secretly dreaming of winning the gold and defecting to America (where they could pursue democracy and Guess jeans and Wham! records). Now they're just a bunch of short, muscular girls doing flippity flips. Is drug use very rampant in gymnastics? Are these people blood doping? I only ask this because all those girls look so young, and blood doping seems like the kind of activity teenager girls would love to do ... GIRL No. 1: "Hey Cindy, what did you do this weekend?" GIRL No. 2: "Oh, we totally had the best time at Gwen's house. Her parents were gone, so we drank some wine coolers, watched "Bring It On" about three times, and then drew our own blood, placed it in the fridge for 24 hours, and then re-injected it into our bodies to maximize the red blood cell levels. And then we went to Old Navy." GIRL No. 1: "I hate you, bitch." Your thoughts on "Miami Vice" are chilling. Wasn't that show mostly about speed-boat racing and jai alai? I always pulled for the drug dealers. And as long as we're on the subject of drugs and Miami, I want your opinion on something: How do you feel about Ricky Williams? Because I have this theory that anyone who likes the film "Reality Bites" more then "Singles" will inevitably support Williams' decision to quit football, and anyone who prefers "Singles" over "Reality Bites" will criticize Ricky's choice and classify him as terrible role model. Where do you stand on this dichotomy?