The Greg Oden-Kevin Durant battle took a turn at the end of the OSU-Tennessee game Thursday night, with the Vols trailing by one in the waning seconds and Ramar Smith driving for the game-winning bank shot. For a split second, it looked like Smith might get off an easy 4-footer that had a chance, only Oden was already flying over to contest the shot ... and he jumped ... and he kept going up ... and up ... and then he had both hands raised ... and it seemed like he was 12 feet in the air ... and then he swallowed up the shot with both hands and swatted it out of bounds before nearly breaking his neck falling over Mike Conley on his way down. Game over. Then Oden broke into his Robert Parish routine and that was that. I don't even think he pumped a fist. We might as well start calling him "The Chief" now and get it over with.
There have been whispers that Oden has been holding back, that he's been afraid to cut loose because of his healing wrist, that he didn't want to fall on it awkwardly and get injured again. On this particular play, that's exactly what almost happened -- he shifted to a gear that nobody had ever seen before, and it almost resulted in his reinjuring that wrist. But the important things to remember are this:
1. When he wants to be, Greg Oden is a force of nature.
2. There was no way in hell Ramar Smith was making that shot.
So if you're picking first in the 2007 NBA draft, and you have a sneaking feeling that Oden spent his entire freshman season in third gear so he didn't reinjure that wrist ... is there any way you could pass him up after seeing that awesome Ramar Smith block? That's the lingering question.
In the meantime, let's bang out a mailbag. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers:
Q: After reading your Basketball Blog and re-listening to the YouTube clips, I am now even more convinced that Gus Johnson deserves a nickname that reflects his rabid approach to calling a game. Might I propose: GuJo?
--Adam, Reading, Mass.
SG: Done and done. He's "GuJo" from now on.
Q: Can we start calling Kevin Durant "The Durantula?" He's big, he's dangerous and even a little spidery at times.
--Dan Cote, Washington, D.C.
SG: I'm vetoing that one. Sounds like a failed WWF character from the late '80s.
Q: How much does Jack Bauer get paid? Would A-Fraud's contract be enough for him or should President Palmer just go ahead and agree to put his face on the front of $100 bills? After all the s--- he has been through I just want to know what he is thinking when he gets his check. How much could Scott Boras get him when his contract is up at CTU?
--Chris D., Altoona, Pa.
SG: Look, you should know by now that Jack Bauer doesn't need to shower or brush his teeth; he doesn't need to work out; he doesn't need to go to the bathroom; he doesn't need anything more than one room to live; and he doesn't need money for anything other than an endless supply of tight, long-sleeved T-shirts and lifts for his shoes. As long as he has medical insurance, I think he's happy. And since he's a government employee, I'd estimate that he makes $130,000 a year and probably has a stack of three year's worth of uncashed checks in the glove compartment of his 1998 Dodge Stratus.
Q: Every time I see Joakim Noah play I can't help but smirk in anticipation for the day that Florida repeats as national champion, when he whips out his (her) breasts during the trophy presentation like Joyce Hyser in "Just One of the Guys," with David Stern appearing from the shadows to throw a Detroit Shock jersey on him and the Sports Guy screaming, "Nooooooooooooooo!" at home. I assume this will finally make you a WNBA fan?
--Mike, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
SG: Um ... no. Still not biting.
Q: While tailgating at Giants Stadium, we came up with the next best sports game show guaranteed to be 10,000 times better than trying to stump the Schwab. ... It's called "Heckle." In it, you go through three rounds. First round you heckle a particular player of a team you hate, then you heckle a particular fan of a team you hate, then in the final round you have to heckle a random team. We have three judges and the winner gets 15 seconds to make his "cross the line" statements such as saying to the Saints, "[editor's note: this joke was too tasteless to run]." Tell me this doesn't have great show all over it?
--Mike P, Cockeysville, Md.
SG: It either has "great show" or "really, really crappy SpikeTV show" written all over it. I can't decide.
Q: I think it's time for the Hartford Civic Center to remove all the banners of the Hartford Whalers from its rafters. That place is like a guy who got dumped by some girl 10 years ago but still has pictures of her on his wall from a trip they took to Mount Washington in '91.
--Jeff from Manhattan, N.Y.
SG: Couldn't agree more. And when it finally happens, there's no question that Channel 3 in Hartford will run a slow-motion montage of the banners coming down one at a time, along with Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" playing in the background. By the way, I think that's when hockey officially jumped the shark for me -- when the Devils won the Cup with that unwatchable zone trap, followed by the Mighty Whale fleeing for Carolina and the NHL expanding to about 10 new cities in two years. Has any incompetent executive flown under the radar over the years more than Gary Bettman? He's like Isiah Thomas with a better PR staff.
Q: Has Pacman Jones entered the "Tyson Zone?"
SG: And then some.
Q: They need to just put Favre on the cover of "Madden" and end this once and for all.
--Robert, Ann Arbor, Mich.
SG: See, I'd like to see Pacman on the 2008 cover. Conceivably, an appearance on the cover ensures bad luck for the player involved. ... I mean, how could Pacman's life get any more screwed up? Maybe it would have the opposite effect and turn his career around (like a bizarro Madden cover) and turn him into an All-Pro who says and does all the right things on and off the field. Wouldn't you love to find out, if only as an experiment?
Q: I find myself actively HATING the new Red Sox. Since winning it all in 2004, it has been a complete nightmare for me -- from the out of control bandwagon of Pink Hat wearers, etc., to the Chavez Ravine-esque feel of games at Fenway now (arrive in the third, leave in the seventh!), to the well-moneyed cabal of front office carpetbaggers with a "hometown boy" dangling at the forefront like a Tammany Hall vote wrangler at the docks of old Manhattan, to the string of bad personnel moves -- we are mirroring EVERY SINGLE bad aspect of the post-2000 Yankees. Everything that every fiber of my being loathes. Their obsession with catching up to the Yankees has made them forget about what got us the title in the first place: a TEAM.
--C. Fleming, Boston, Mass.
SG: You know, I felt twinges of this reader's anger this winter, because the truth is, I never wanted to root for a team that bought championships like the Yankees, even though our 2004 payroll was easily nine figures and we landed Schilling, Pedro and Manny mainly because we were one of the only teams that could afford them. Even so, it was always more fun believing that the Red Sox were the "underdogs" in the ongoing blood feud because we didn't spend as much money as the Yanks. But when they have similar payrolls? Not as much fun. So I was bummed out. For instance, the Dice-K signing seemed excessive to me at the time, and I would have much rather seen them go the "Moneyball" route with right field and try to get lucky there (like they did with the Mueller-Ortiz-Millar signings in 2003) over just saying, "Screw it!" and throwing $70 million at J.D. Drew. There was no art to the way they slapped together the 2007 team; they started writing big, fat checks and that was that.
And then spring training rolled around and I watched a couple of Dice-K starts. That's all I needed. The guy's great. If you're a Red Sox fan, you'll be checking the paper every day just to make sure you don't miss one of his starts this year -- he's not as overpowering as vintage Pedro, but he has a similar arsenal of pitches (including a ridiculous collection of off-speed pitches) and a real swagger on the mound. You always feel like you're in good hands with him. Same with Papi and Manny. And Papelbon. Lugo and Drew are enormous upgrades over Gonzalez and Nixon. Beckett looks ready for a comeback year. Schilling looks like he has one last good year in him. And so on. And so on. And now that the one question (closer) has been resolved with Papelbon's willingness to take the job back, it feels like we're headed for a monster season. It's the best team that money can buy. Literally. And you know what? It's not my money. So screw it. I'm on board. Even if there's absolutely no difference between the Red Sox and Yankees anymore.
(Well, except for the fans. We have jobs.)
Q: You hate Duke because you are bitter you had to go to Holy Cross ... you wouldn't have sniffed Duke.
SG: (Searching for a comeback ...)
Q: Sports Guy, you are in charge of making sure that Durant does not show up draft night wearing a cream-white suit and a green Celtics cap.
--David, Woonsocket, R.I.
SG: (Afraid to say anything ...)
Q: So me and my buddies were making a team in NFL Street and decided to make Jesus Christ our running back. We gave him the beard, long hair and torn clothes. Turns out, he's amazing! You think the pass is incomplete and all of a sudden, here comes Jesus flying to make a diving catch. Do you think this would work in other sports games? I'm curious as to whether it will work in a basketball game considering Jesus was only like 5-feet tall.
--Colin M, Attleboro, Mass.
SG: (Legitimately terrified to even breathe ...)
Q: When did the undershirt go out of style in college basketball and can Roy Hibbert bring it back?
--Alan, Colorado Springs, Colo.
SG: He's not just bringing the undershirt back, he's bringing the '72 Olympics "slightly grown out afro with sideburns" look.
Q: You mentioned the luck of the '02 Pats and '06 Steelers. Obviously you are referring to the year they won the Super Bowl, but weren't they really the '01 Pats and the '05 Steelers? What is the proper terminology here?
--Jim K., Denver
SG: Glad you brought this up. Roger Goodell needs to throw a news conference just to explain this once and for all. Do we use the year of the season or the year of the playoffs? I always use the year of the Super Bowl because it seems more logical -- after all, the Patriots won the Super Bowl in February of 2002, which makes them the 2002 champs, right? That's how it works in the NBA and the Artist Formerly Known as the NHL, right? I'd just like an answer either way.
Q: Wondering if you could settle an argument between me and my buddies? We were discussing how many sexual partners Jenny had in "Forrest Gump." Everyone seems to think the over/under should be set at 250. I argued that it's got to be at least 500. And that's conservative. Keep in mind she was a hippie, drug addict in the '60s the time of free love. She was naked on stage playing an acoustic guitar. She was molested by her father. I'm pretty sure she took down that whole Black Panther rally. Am I way off here? I'm not saying she's a bad person. But if a hot girl has sex with someone like Forrest, chances are she's got a bad case of the "Ben Stillers" -- i.e. she can't say "no." Now that I think about it, I'm saying a grand easy.
-- Keith, Hermosa Beach, Calif.
SG: All right, let's figure this out. According to Jenny's gravestone during the scene when Forrest says goodbye to her and it gets overwhelmingly dusty, she was born in 1945 and died in March of '82. We know that she went to an all-girls college in the mid-'60s (probably not a lot of sex at that point), that she got expelled for posing in Playboy, that she did the naked guitarist thing, and that she eventually became a traveling hippie in the late-'60s, leading to the scene where she spots Forrest speaking at the Washington Monument and runs across the water to see him. At this point, she's dating the guy from Berkeley who Forrest ends up punching in the face; you'd have to guess they'd been dating for a year or two, and the Free Love Era had just started ... so she couldn't have topped 25-30 partners at this point. We also know that she got knocked up by Forrest in the 1977-78 range, cooled things down and became a diner waitress to provide for her son over the next few years -- can't imagine a lot of sex happening for her from 1978 to 1981, and then we know that she moved back in with Forrest and their son Haley Joel Osment, married Forrest and died a few months later.
So Jenny's sexual prime happened from 1970 to 1978 and culminated in her turning into a coked-up disco queen and nearly jumping off a balcony. Even if she averaged 40-50 partners per year over that stretch -- which wouldn't have been a Chamberlain-esque pace by any standards -- there's no way you're getting to 500. Also, girls who sleep with hundreds and hundreds of guys inevitably start to look weathered and worn down. As my old Boston buddy Mark Fanning used to say, "You can usually look at a girl and SEE the number of guys she's slept with." That's why women don't last long in the porn industry; they're aging in dog years. So since Jenny looked relatively good even when she returned to Forrest's house in 1978, I'm putting the over/under at 220.5 and making a guess of 205 for her total number of partners.
(The bigger question: The movie implies that Jenny died of AIDS ... and yet, she died in March of 1982, nine months after the first recorded case of AIDS in the United States. So how did she get AIDS in the 1980-81 range if she was taking care of Haley Joel Osment and working in some random diner? Could that have been a bigger plot stretch? Or was she still throwing it around even as a single mom? On second thought, maybe we need to bump up that over/under.)
Q: Plain and simple: So how was the Art Shell Era for you??
Q: Regarding your comment about your life being a DVD you could pop in at any time -- that is my worst nightmare. In fact, I have a theory that when I die and arrive at the pearly gates, God is going to HAVE that DVD, and he is going to make me watch it. All those drunken nights in college when I made-out (or worse) with some ugly loser, all the times I said something insanely embarrassing and inappropriate when completely wasted, all the nights I thought I was a good dancer, all the times I puked and came out of the party looking like Britney Spears ... you know, those things that cobwebs have conveniently allowed me to "forget" happened. Not to mention what happened during any official unfortunate "blackout." Yeah, God has it all on tape and he's going to humiliate me with it, and he's going to want answers. For good measure, he might show it to my parents when THEY arrive up there. Can you imagine? The horror!
--Amanda, Blue Bell, Pa.
SG: Right now every red-blooded male in the Blue Bell area is organizing a search party for Amanda's favorite bar. Anyway, if you think that DVD was your worst nightmare, imagine being Lindsay Lohan, being 19 years old and already having made enough mistakes and crazy decisions that VH1 was able to stretch the last three years of your life into a one-hour "Lindsay Lohan's Most Shocking Moments" special. That's a superhuman pace that even Jenny Gump couldn't have matched.
Q: I fancy myself something of a dead-eye at staring contests, having bested all comers of all species in my (admittedly short) lifetime. Which led me to wonder, who would win a celebrity athletes staring contest? The basic rule would be that a strict poker face has to be maintained until one contestant breaks a smile or flinches. I'd like to see the following competitors go at it: Tiger Woods, Phil Ivey, Dikembe Mutumbo, Rasheed Wallace, Clemens, Pedro (my dark horse pick; dude is scary intense), Ray Lewis, Brett Favre, Michael Jordan. This should be part of an annual special -- a decathlon of essentially trivial events featuring the most competitive athletes in the world. Staring contests, simple card games, mini golf, ping pong, HORSE, rock paper scissors, etc. It would be like Superstars except, instead of focusing on athleticism and skill, it would emphasize pure competitiveness and intimidation. Tell me you wouldn't watch this.
--Hilaire, Washington, D.C.
SG: Come on, who are you selling this to? Of course I'd watch it. Hell, I'd love to be one of the broadcasters. But I don't think a staring contest would catch on because Phil Ivey would destroy everybody. We'd eventually have to either ban him from the competition or pay Miguel Alvarez from "Oz" to gouge out his eyes.
Q: I was in Toronto during the NFL playoffs and during one of the games, the "This is Our Country" commercial came on, only it wasn't fire fighters and steel workers. It featured elk (yeah the animal), people playing hockey on a pond, and finished with an image of some clip from the '80s of an Olympic player whom I could not identify donning a Team Canada jersey. Definitely an 7.0 on the unintentional comedy scale, but at the same time I was a little offended by the rip off. I thought to myself, "Hey this isn't my country!" What do you think Bill?
--Jack Crouse, Philly
SG: You know what? I am! I mean, make no mistake about it -- I can stand beside ideas I think are right. And I can stand beside the idea to stand and fight. I do believe there's a dream for everyone. I also believe that there's room enough here for science to live, and there's room enough here for religion to forgive, and try to understand other people of this land. But from the East Coast, to the West Coast, from the milky highway, down the Dixie Highway, back home ... I mean, this isn't ouuuuuuuuuuur country, isn't it?
Q: I'm now convinced that all men do the following three things at some point in their life: (1) seriously contemplate opening a bar with a bunch of buddies; (2) toss around the idea of writing a book about their college years; and (3) contemplate if a relationship with a stripper could work.
--Ian T., Charlotte, N.C.
SG: I'd throw in these three as well: Make an honest effort to count cards at a blackjack table; pop a Viagra just to see what happens; and buy a lottery ticket with three buddies with the understanding, "If we win, we're buying a sports team."
Q: So in other words, you were handed your lunch by your wife making football picks, proceeded to rave about Miami for six days, ignored the Colts because you're such a pathetic homer, met Tom Brady, which led to damp stains underneath, then got your ass kicked in a go-kart race by another woman and a cheesy Hollywood schmuck. You just earned pole position as the star of the next Vagina Monologues.
--Jon Picou, Paradise
SG: I've been waiting to run that e-mail for two months. One of the better mean-spirited slams I've ever received. Particularly enjoyed the ending. And you know why e-mails like that never get me down?
Q: I'm an overweight, alcoholic, factory worker from Georgia. I'm 30, my life sucks, and I drive an '85 Honda Accord. One of the very few bright spots of my otherwise miserable life is reading your columns. Keep up the good work.
--Brad, Stilson, Ga.
SG: Because I have Brad in Georgia. That's why.
Q: I have a man-crush on you. There, I said it.
--Joey Tiefenbach, Regina, Saskatchewan
SG: And Joey in Regina. I have him, too.
Q: It's 1:26 on Saturday night. I was out with my wife a little bit earlier, so we did some drinking. She went to bed about an hour ago, so I am literally sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and reading your book (that's not gratuitous -- it's time for me to finish it) while watching TV. At 1 am, "Full Metal Jacket" came on channel 212, so I tuned in. At 1:10, "Naked and Betrayed" began showing on channel 211 (Skinemax). Why not, right? So I tuned in for the first "Obviously, we'll have nudes within 30 seconds" scene. Sure enough ... except when this girl got naked, she was wearing a nicotine patch up between her shoulder blades! It was clear as the fact that sports radio guys are idiots, and yet they let it in. I understand the need for patches in certain, um, places during soft porn, but a nicotine patch in a nude scene? Could there possibly be anything less exciting than for the supposedly attractive girls in these movies to be shown as the down-on-their-luck, things-didn't-work-out, just-trying-to-make-a-buck unfortunates that they are? Seriously, how do these movies serve their, um, purpose with nicotine patches on the ladies? I have more questions on this topic, but I really want an answer, so I'll stop here.
PS: In the 15 minutes I've been writing this, "Naked and Betrayed" has picked up considerably. But I still can't get over the nicotine patch.
--Jude G., New York
SG: And you wonder why I'm always excited to check my reader mailbox after a Friday or Saturday night.
Q: Why do I get the feeling that in about five years there will be a Buster Olney-esque book about the "Last Night of the Patriots Dynasty" written by Michael Smith.
--Jason, Richmond, Va.
SG: See, this is what happens when I wait three months to write a mailbag. In January, this was a valid question. Then the AFC runners-up landed Adalius Thomas, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Kyle Brady, franchised Asante Samuel and managed to keep the Nos. 24 and 28 picks in next month's draft without losing a single valuable player from last year's team other than Daniel Graham, who couldn't catch a ball in traffic to save his life. I mean, their biggest crisis of the offseason was the star quarterback's ex-girlfriend pulling the goalie on him. (The lesson, as always: Don't date an actress.) Meanwhile, San Diego ushered in the Norv Turner Era, Miami lost Nick Saban, Pittsburgh lost Bill Cowher, the Bengals refused to clean house, Indy lost a number of key players and nobody else in the conference improved except Denver. I am EXCEEDINGLY optimistic about the 2007 season. So there.
Q: Every week I check my wife's US Weekly to see if you and the Sports Gal have reached celebrity status. When it finally happens, what will you be doing that makes you "just like us?"
--Keith, San Fran
SG: Thank you for the question; I think about this constantly. Every time I take out the trash, I look around for photographers until I remember that I'm not a celebrity. But to answer your question, I'd like to be photographed at a baseball game or basketball game eating a hot dog at the precise moment that a huge wad of mustard is falling on my shirt, and the caption could say, "THEY GET MUSTARD ON THEIR SHIRT!" But you just reminded me, the greatest "they're just like us!" moment in Us Magazine history would be a male celebrity coming out of a porn shop and holding a brown bag with the caption, "THEY PLEASURE THEMSELVES TO PORN!" My money's on Michael Rapaport.
Q: Can we just say once and for all that an NBA player contract can't be voided unless said player is caught red-handed carving up bodies in a mass murder ritual?
SG: And even then, the player's union would probably appeal.
Q: I was just paging through your Red Sox book, getting myself into the mood for the upcoming season, when I noticed in your October 20, 2004 column you wrote that "A-Rod is a liar and a cheater of the highest order -- the kind that would turn over an R in Scrabble and pretend it's a blank tile." Flash back in my mind to reading the Sports Gal's NCAA picks where she reveals that after six months of dating you turned a letter over and pretended it was a blank, and she didn't realize until the end of the game. Care to defend yourself on this point, or are you really that comfortable being filed in the same category as A-Rod?
--Daniel, Manchester, N.H.
SG: Glad you brought this up. I am not allowed to remove anything from the Sports Gal's rants -- that was one of her conditions before she agreed to start writing them. Just know that we have been fighting over the details of that Scrabble game for nine years. Early in the game, I grabbed an "I" from the bag, looked at the wrong side, didn't feel a letter on the other end and assumed it was a blank. An honest mistake. Near the end of the game, when the second real blank came out of the bag, we realized there was an inadvertent blank on the board, and it turned out to be on one of my words (the aforementioned "I"). She's been convinced ever since that I cheated. In my defense, look at it logically -- if you fake a blank in Scrabble, eventually, you WILL get caught during the game once the second blank letter comes out. So what's the point? Plus, I don't need to cheat in Scrabble because I double her score every time we play.
So I had been waiting for the right time to use the Scrabble analogy in a column and A-Rod delivered with the famous hand slap of Bronson Arroyo in the 2004 playoffs, which was really like flipping over the blank in Scrabble -- you can pretend that you didn't cheat, but eventually, the truth will come out. Anyway, I did NOT flip over the blank in Scrabble. It didn't happen.
Q: I think there is a problem with ESPN.com -- the main headline has to do with women's basketball. Please inform your webmaster right away of the error! Thanks! A concerned reader.
SG: Dear Scott,
Thanks for alerting us to the error. I e-mailed the relevant technical people and we tried to fix the problem as soon as possible. We hope you continue to read ESPN.com.
Q: I wanted your thoughts on what is the best possible movie scene we could have Gus Johnson do the voice-over for? I have it narrowed down to the scene in "American Pie" when Jim and Nadia are in his bedroom for the first time, or the entire male rape scene in "Pulp Fiction."
--Chris D., Pennsylvania
SG: Here's my top-five in reverse order:
5. The entire Balboa-Drago fight.
4. The rape scene in "Pulp Fiction" and the naked wrestling scene between Azamat and Borat (tie).
3. The final penalty kick in "Victory." Hatch makes the save! The Allies have done it! The Allies have done it!!!!! And now the fans are rushing out of the stands! They're knocking over the German police and running for freedom! Ha ha ha ha! Take that, Nazis!!!!!!
2. Happy Gilmore's final putt to beat Shooter McGavin.
1. The scene in "Deathtrap" when Michael Caine kisses Christopher Reeve. I really feel like Gus could have driven that one home. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Ohhhhhhhhhhh! Oh my God! Where did that come from?????
Q: I had to tell you I had my vasectomy today! As I stripped to nothingness and put on the all-encompassing "sheet" they have you wear, the hottest nurse I've ever seen walks through the door. Of course, I was concerned at getting "excited," so I have to think of something to control the senses! What happens?? I start thinking about your columns! I even laughed out loud when the nurse asked why. For the love of all that is holy, I couldn't say it out loud! Thought you should know.
--JSG, Tucson, Ariz.
SG: The amazing thing is that JSG didn't earn "yup, these are my readers" honors this week. In fact
Q: Simmons (I hope you don't mind, but that's how we refer to you in my house),
My husband and I figured that there might actually be a handful (or more) of people who decide to FedEx their turd sandwiches to their respective team/coach/ex-coach. We decided the occasion called for a delicious recipe. Bon appetit!
1 loaf ciabatta bread
2 Tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto
1 tomato, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 lb ground turd (Cleveland Steamer, preferably)
4 ounces mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tsp grill seasoning
2 Tbsp oil
Combine ground turd, grill seasoning, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Heat oil in fry pan over medium high heat. Divide turd mixture into four equal-sized balls and form into patties. When oil is hot, add turd patties. Cook until done, about five minutes per side.
Meanwhile, slice ciabatta bread in half, horizontally. Place under broiler until just lightly browned. Remove from broiler and spread with pesto. Place steaming, cooked turd patties on ciabatta bread. Top with mozzarella cheese and place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Remove from heat and top with baby spinach, tomato leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cut into four equal portions.
Serve with a side of roasted asparagus.
--Jennifer, Lafayette, La.
SG: Yup ... these are my readers.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available in paperback.