In response to your second question: It's more fun to argue about sports, but it's more interesting to argue about music. When someone argues about music, you can usually get a remarkably clear portrait of their personality -- you can get an idea of how they view authority, or if they have an adversarial relationship with mainstream culture, or if they are extremely worried about being cool. You can deduce which subcultures they experienced in high school, and you can figure out how much they are engaged with modernity. Of course, the downside is that people who always want to talk about music tend to be profoundly annoying (and often unshaven). Which is probably why it's more fun to talk about sports.

Arguing about sports is the ultimate cultural equalizer: I can't think of any subject that so many people know so much about. I feel like I personally know at least 100 guys who have a "near expert" understanding of the NFL. If you watch the games each week (and especially if you grew up watching the games each week), you can easily have a 90-minute conversation about pro football with a total stranger in any airport bar (assuming said stranger has had a similar experience). There is a shared knowledge of sports in America that is unlike our shared knowledge of anything else. Whenever I have to hang out with someone I've never met before, I always find myself secretly thinking, "I hope this dude knows about sports. I hope this dude knows about sports. I hope this dude knows about sports." Because if he does, I know the rest of the conversation will be easy.

Also ... the best Bruce Springsteen song is either "State Trooper" or "Thunder Road." And I never said the '86 Rockets were bad -- I just said that the Celtics' beating Houston had less symbolic value than if the Celtics had thumped the Lakers that year (regardless of how good the teams were).

Simmons: You argued earlier that the Lakers threw that series! Anyway, we should write an NBA book together where we just argue about dumb things like this for 400 pages -- it could be like that Red Sox book that Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan whipped out, only lazier (if that's possible). I would love to argue about stuff like "Gheorghe Muresan vs. Manute Bol, who was more underrated both from a talent standpoint and from a freak standpoint?" and "Realistically, can the Clippers ever become a competitive franchise, or do they have too much baggage -- is it like Tara Reid bouncing back and suddenly becoming an award-winning actress? Should they just change cities and change their name?"

Klosterman: I don't know if either Manute or Muresan could possibly be underrated within the "freak" idiom. Manute supposedly iced a lion in the Sudan, so he always gets free pancakes at my house. I think the most underrated sports freak would have be former San Francisco 49er cornerback Merton Hanks, who (almost certainly) had the longest neck in NFL history. He was like an emu. The only guy who came remotely close was Brad Johnson, a player my friend Jon Blixt's wife regularly referred to as, "That ex-Viking quarterback who has the second-longest neck in the league." I am not kidding about any of this.

Continued...

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THE SPORTS GUY