The October Mailbag, Part I
Bill debates April versus October and goes through his inbox
If you like sports, like television and actively look for reasons to waste time, your two favorite months are probably April and October. In a related story, those are my two favorite months. I love wasting time. I love nothing more than to waste time. I even created a career around wasting time while intermittently handing in columns and recording podcasts. So yes, I like April and October.
Here's what April brings to the table: Opening Day; the Final Four; the NFL draft; the start of the NHL and NBA playoffs; the Masters; Halter Top Day and the start of the outdoor exercise season (East Coast and Midwest only); serial network shows such as "Lost" and "24" setting up their season finales; spring weekend in college; Easter Sunday; and the first slew of weddings. That's a lot of wasted time.
October has the entire baseball playoffs; four football weekends (college and pro); football tailgates; the start of the NBA and NHL seasons; foliage; Halloween, trick-or-treating, Halloween decorations, replays of "Halloween," Halloween parties and girls wearing slutty Halloween costumes; Columbus Day; quality fall shows such as "Mad Men" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm"; fantasy football; the last slew of weddings; the height of the book release season; fantasy basketball drafts; and, again, girls wearing slutty Halloween costumes.
I consider myself to be an October guy for four reasons. First, hay fever season starts in late April (and always crushes me). Second, living on the West Coast makes me ineligible for April's "Cool, it's gonna be nice outside soon!" buzz in cold-weather cities. Third, I'm a sucker for Halloween, dating back to my first costume (Freddie Lynn, a big hit) and the original John Carpenter "Halloween" movie (my first favorite scary movie and the one that prompted me to once write a "SportsCentury: Michael Myers" column). I love Halloween so much that I'll be stopping my book tour for two days -- even though it's the first week, only the most crucial part of the tour -- so I could fly cross-country to trick-or-treat with my kids. It's my favorite day of the year other than Kanye West's annual public breakdown.
(Important note: Being a parent of young kids sucks. Don't let anyone tell you differently. About six months ago, I wanted to start a Twitter account of quotes my wife screamed in the heat of those my-kids-are-driving-me-crazy-moments such as these: "If you don't stop crying, I am going to stick you in the microwave!!!!" and "Fine, climb up the stairs again; I hope you fall down, I really do!" She wouldn't let me because she thought child services would arrest us. The truth is, every parent snaps from time to time. We can't help it. Our kids' job is to suck all forms of life from us, frighten us, embarrass us in public and prevent us from sleeping until they turn 4. We pretend it's not so bad when, really, it's mostly horrible and even somewhat indefensible. But -- and this is a big but -- they parcel out just enough, "Wow, I'm so glad I had kids" moments to make it all worth it. And that's what Halloween is: an entire "Wow, I'm so glad I had kids" day. At least until they eat too much chocolate and wake us up at 5 the next morning because they're Exorcist vomiting. But I digress.)
Fourth, only October (and this year, thanks to a random calendar fluke, the first few days of November which will have Game 4 of the World Series, Sunday NFL and Vikes-Packers at Lambeau) features games from all four professional sports. We're headed for a surreal final week Oct. 25-31: Week 7 of the NFL and a possible Game 7 of an ALCS/NLCS (Sunday); "Monday Night Football" (Monday); opening night for the NBA (Tuesday); Game 1 of the World Series (Wednesday); Game 2 of the World Series and two TNT NBA games (Thursday); an NBA doubleheader on ESPN (Friday); college football, Game 3 of the World Series and Halloween (Saturday).
And that's not counting NHL, Premier League games or that Wednesday's episode of MTV's "The Ruins," America's unofficial fifth professional sport and our only televised "league" that actively encourages violence, inappropriate sexual conduct, implants and performance enhancers. (Note: Wes showed up for this year's season looking like Sammy Sosa right before the 1999 Home Run Derby. Needless to say, he's been in 175 screaming matches in two episodes. In this week's show, he nearly got into a fistfight with a water cooler. Best of all, we don't have to worry about something like the Mitchell report submarining the show because, again, performance enhancers are encouraged. They even have a human growth hormone fountain in the living room. OK, I'm making that up.) Throw in Nov. 1 (Game 4 of the World Series plus Sunday NFL) and that's a monster eight days. And yes, it happens every year.
For all of these reasons, my vote goes to October. Still, "April or October?" remains one of the underrated arguments. The truth is, we're all winners. And with that being the case, we probably should crack open another mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: Is it too early to make jokes that LeBron's 2010 signing with the Nets will coincide with the return of one of his kidnapped children unharmed?
-- Ian, Purchase, N.Y.
SG: Please. A Russian billionaire bought an NBA team? Every conceivable joke is in play. I have been writing this column for 13 years and can't remember a single time someone sent me a "You need to lay off the Russians" e-mail. Remember, only two decades ago, "Red Dawn" and "Rocky 4" were released within a two-year span. We're still living on the Cold War fumes of those classics. I can't make fun of the Russians? Did you SEE what they did to Harry Dean Stanton in "Red Dawn"? If you don't think I'm doing backflips about Russian Mark Cuban, you're crazy. It's like he has a free "KICK ME" sign on his back, only it's written in Russian.
Some additional thoughts:
1. You know the NBA is in at least a little trouble financially when it allows a Russian billionaire to buy a team. Five or six years ago, how fast do you think David Stern squashes the idea when someone says to him, "So, I guess the best way to describe him is that he's like a Russian Mark Cuban"? Two seconds? One second?
Which raises the question: Did Stern just open the door to all foreign billionaires, or was this a one-time thing? I'd argue that the NBA was soooooooooo desperate to fix this Nets situation and salvage the Brooklyn complex that it didn't care where the money came from. This was a one-time exception. We need a cash buyer. Period. I think a Saudi oil sheik would have been approved as an owner. I think Tom Cruise would have been approved. I think everyone short of a Pablo Escobar-type buyer would have been approved. It's the NBA and it's faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan-tastic ( -ally in need of some cash).
2. An inordinate amount of readers mailed me some variation of the "New Jersey Nyets" joke, and it made me laugh every time. When is the New Jersey Nyets T-shirt and logo going online? How much longer do we have to wait?
3. This completely changes the landscape of the LeBron Sweepstakes. Before, the Clippers and Zombie Sonics were the best basketball situations for him (no way for both); the Lakers were out; the Bulls seemed far-fetched; and the Knicks are such a mess that adding LeBron would have been like reliving Gretzky and the Kings all over again. But Russian Mark Cuban's deep pockets coupled with Brooklyn and a decent young Nets roster? Intriguing!
4. Russian Mark Cuban is much funnier to imagine than to actually see from day to day. In my mind, I'm thinking about a crazy Russkie like the poker players from "Rounders" -- someone who swears angrily after bad calls, wears fur hats, carries a wad of hundreds and always has two skanks flanking him. I'm also thinking about poorly dressed Russian cheerleaders or a game-fixing mob scandal or even fans being forced to stand for the Russian national anthem.
In reality, he's probably just a quiet foreign guy with a ton of money who barely speaks English. I almost don't want to see him interviewed. Let's keep the mystique going for as long as possible, Russian Mark Cuban. Right now, I'm picturing a fat guy with a furry hat and Randy Quaid's beard from his recent mug shot. Don't ruin this for me.
Q: What if there was a day on Twitter where everyone tweeted Leno-esque jokes? Such as: "Dr. Christopher Post saved a man's life at a Pirates game. His only regret? The newspaper printing that he was at a Pirates game!"
-- Dan, Philly
SG: I like it. How's Oct. 16? "Sad day for Charlie Weis yesterday. No, Notre Dame didn't lose again. His local Red Lobster canceled its all-you-can-eat buffet!"
Q: In your "Screwed-Up Celebrity Kids in 2025 Draft" (from last week's column), how did you guys forget Levi McConaughey? That kid must have came out of the womb with a bong and dreadlocks. He will get nailed for marijuana possession in kindergarten.
--Jason K., Los Angeles
SG: Allrightallrightallright! We also forgot Jenna Jameson's twins, which was inexcusable, especially given that Tito Ortiz fathered them. In fact, we forgot so many celebrity kids that, arguably, we could have gone 30 rounds. I have a lot of regrets.
That reminds me, my daughter is one of the most outgoing kids on the planet. She is completely unafraid of any situation, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. But two weeks ago in a playacting class in preschool, she got shy and wouldn't do her fake scene. So why did she get shy? Turns out there was a new boy in her class that she really liked -- according to her, "He has curly hair, and I like how he dresses" -- and she was so smitten that she was afraid to playact in front of him. Who was the kid, you ask. The young son of Slash, the Guns N' Roses guitarist.
(In other words, maybe I shouldn't be having drafts for Screwed-Up Celebrity Kids in 2025.)
Q: Watching the Pats game as the injured Ravens player is being carted off the field
did you notice that the immobilization board had the team logo on it? Since when did these things become official NFL gear?
-- Rob, Chandler
SG: Not sure, but shouldn't we able to purchase them? What a great thing to have in college. Any time people pass out at a keg party or a dormitory hallway, you just strap them to the immobilization board and carry them back to their room. There's no way this wouldn't be fun every time. Especially when their drunk friends accidentally drop them.
(That reminds me, the VP of Common Sense has one more idea to make sports better: Any time an NFL player gets IBI'd ("immobilization board injured") -- and really, it happens twice a week, and you know within about 40 seconds that it's headed that way -- why don't we make a rule that the networks bang out as many slotted commercials as possible until the injured guy gets carried off? We could have finished off 10 minutes of ads in last week's Ravens-Pats game, enabling us to actually play a quarter or two without the brutal "score-commercials-kickoff-commercials" sequence that grinds every NFL game to a halt and kills the crowd. Doesn't this make almost too much sense? Same for replay challenges -- just bang out some ads and tell us what the replay judge decided when he comes back. Really, we're cool. I don't need to see the 19 angles. Thanks, anyway.)
Q: I spent August driving across America. I brought 3,000 giant, self-addressed postcards with me, and tried to meet 3,000 new people in 30 days. I gave everyone I met a card and asked them to write down their best piece of advice and mail it to me. I was hoping to run into you in L.A. but no luck. What would you have written on your card?
-- Matt, Philly
SG: "Starting a Facebook account would have been so much easier."
Q: At what point do we start addressing the Giants' Steve Smith as "Steve Smith," and Carolina's Steve Smith as "The Other Steve Smith"? Do we even go there, or should we just go the nickname route to definitely distinguish one from the other?
-- Antonio S., Mexico City
SG: You're right this is uncharted waters for sports names. Right now, New York's Steve Smith is more relevant than Carolina's Steve Smith in every conceivable way except for one (teammate punching). He's having a better season; he's on a better team; and, truthfully, he might just be better. Has this situation ever happened before? Someone with the same name completely usurping that name from an established guy who plays the same position in the same sport at the same time?
Anyway, I came up with a solution: Why can't we approach this like versions of software? Carolina Steve becomes "Steve Smith 1.0." New York Steve becomes "Steve Smith 2.0." Done and done.
Q: Here this whole time I thought Brad Childress was growing out his beard to fill his Megan's Law obligations. But after watching his postgame press conference after the Packers game, doesn't it appear like he's getting ready to take over as the Men's Wearhouse spokesman? I keep waiting to hear him end the interview with, "You're going to like the way you look, I guarantee it."
-- Andrew Lehman, Columbus, Ohio
SG: Yup, that was the "Really Mean Brad Childress E-Mail/Tweet of the Week." I even voted for it over my own Tweet during Monday night's game. "If Minny makes NFC title game, do you think Childress will be asked to stay 100 yards away from the Punt Pass + Kick winners?"
Q: On a scale of 1 to Christina Hendricks Nude Scene, how excited are you about the NBA ref strike?
-- Eric M., Heidelberg, Germany
I was Christina Hendricks Nude Scene fired up last week. Now, I'm about a 3. And why? Because it was all fun and games until the preseason started and we remembered that, yes, the word "replacement" means "not as good as the original." (Did you see some of the free-throw totals? Egads.) Regardless, you know things are bad when we're looking at a referee strike that could cripple the sport from an entertainment standpoint and fans are saying things like "Well, at least this finally enables us to get rid of a few of these guys" and "It will be interesting to see whether the replacement refs are better than the real ones." That's not even a joke. I received e-mails like that from readers who were completely serious.
Quick tangent: When I was working at Jimmy Kimmel's show in 2003, one of the writers needled a producer with one of those ouch-that-hit-a-little-too-close-to-home barbs, "I have an idea -- don't show up tomorrow; let's see if the show is any different." That's what this reminds me of. I have an idea, NBA refs. Don't show up for a few weeks. Let's see if the show is any different. Through one week of gawd-awful preseason games, we learned that, yes, the show is different. And not in a good way. At the same time, this doesn't take the NBA off the hook for refusing to create an effective system that recruits fledgling officials, trains them and gives them incentives to want to pursue such a career in the first place (an issue I tackled last June). It's a mess all the way around. The success of this season suddenly hinges on the return of a group of people who weren't collectively good at their jobs. How weird is that?
(Honestly? I'm more excited about the idea that Eric from Germany came up with: "on a scale of 1 to Christina Hendricks Nude Scene." I'm never writing "on a scale of 1 to 10" again. That's just brilliant. I even thought about tweaking it to "On a scale of Kathy Bates Nude Scene to Christina Hendricks Nude Scene" but opted against it. The original way is too good.)
Q: As long as I have watched sports, the term "games over .500" has perplexed me. A 61-21 team is regarded as 40 games over .500, when in reality, it's only 20! Is there someone I can complain to that will fix this and prevent everyone from continuing to make this error and bothering me again?
--Mike U., Norwood, Mass.
SG: I get this e-mail all the time, and it never ceases being dumb. The 61-21 team is considered "40 games over 500" because it would need to lose 40 straight games to drop back down to .500. Also, I'm doing the Dikembe Finger Wag at you.
Q: I am working the overnight shift here at JFK and was bored. So I went into your Wikipedia page and put that you love boobs. You're not mad, right?
--Marc Rabinowitz, New York
SG: Mad? I'm just happy that there's one accurate thing on my Wikipedia page.
Q: Last night I'm looking over the final stats from Favre-a-palooza and I notice that Sidney Rice went 0-1 with zero yards passing, but had a QB rating of 39.6. JaMarcus Russell's QB rating for the year is 42.4!!!! Do you find this as hilarious and embarrassing as I do? A WR that throws one pass that goes for an incompletion almost has a higher QB rating than the Raiders' starting quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick three years ago.
-- Jason, New Port Richey, Fla.
Q: FYI, while playing beer pong, if you throw it too far and completely miss the table, it is now called a "JaMarcus Russell."
-- John, Fairfax, Wash.
Q: As JaMarcus Russell's QB rating draws closer and closer to 0.0, shouldn't statisticians change the QB rating system just for him? I was thinking it would go something like this: Once a quarterback's rating drops below zero, he enters "the Russell zone". This rating is based on stats such as yards off target per pass, attempts to the wrong team and number of broken jaws in coaching staff.
-- Bryan, Manhattan
SG: As you can tell, we had a three-way tie for the "JaMarcus Russell Historically Sucks" E-Mail of the Week. By the way, the "historically (blank)" trend has become one of my favorite media trends this year, and I'd like to think I played a small role in it. It's a subtle but effective way to completely exaggerate something. Someone can either suck or historically suck. A team can be great, or it can be historically great. What's weird is that there is no in-between phrase like "generationally (blank)." And there should be. In fact, I now can't decide whether Russell generationally sucks or historically sucks. Maybe we need a few more weeks.
Q: Here's a better/more sensible ending for the "Entourage" finale than what actually happened: Right after E proposes to Sloan, her new boyfriend, OJ, shows up and kills him. As he buries E's corpse, a three-way breaks out between Sloan, Meadow, and the coed girl. Would anyone have had an issue with this?
SG: You left out one final scene that starts with Turtle scratching "TURTLE WAS HERE" into a ceiling beam, then hanging himself in a New Zealand hotel room. I continue to think it's time for "Entourage" to dump Vince and his boys, then flip the show so it involves Ari signing another rising star (this time, an African-American rapper/actor -- think 2Pac circa 1994) and we basically go through the whole "getting famous" thing again. And every four years, we dump the guys and find a new actor and a new entourage. It should be like a presidential term. Four years and you're out.
Q: I'm a 24-year-old female looking for a Halloween costume that (a) isn't skanky (does that exist anymore??) and (b) will piss off as many people in NYC as possible. I'm from MA and it goes without saying a huge NE sports fan and somehow got sucked into living and working in Times Square for the past two years so I'd love a costume that would further alienate myself from the people in this city. Suggestions??
-- Shannon, Astoria, N.Y.
SG: Shannon, you're my hero. I ran this by my unofficial Mailbag Committee (my buddies House, JackO, Wildes, Jacoby, Rydholm and Connor, and yes, I have elections every year to fill those seats because tough mailbag questions deserve that kind of commitment), and we came up with three options for you (that could actually be printed).
Runner-Up No. 1: Plaxico Burress
Just buy a Plax jersey online, cover your right leg in fake blood, then limp around while holding a fake gun for four hours.
Runner-Up No. 2: Bernie Madoff supporter
Make a big "FREE BERNIE MADOFF!" sign with a matching T-shirt, then walk around screaming "Free Madoff" chants until they kick you out.
Runner-Up No. 3: Eliot Spitzer and Ashley Dupre
But with a twist because you won't go skanky: You dress up like Spitzer (nice suit, bald wig) and get one of your male friends (preferably someone who's overweight and/or hairy) to cram himself into a call girl's cocktail dress as Dupree.
Winner: Derek Cheater
Buy a Jeter jersey, cross out the "J" and write "CH" over it. Then buy a bunch of fake syringes and stick them into various parts of your body. And carry a big fake bottle that says "STEROIDS" on it, but fill it with Altoids. Then, walk around all night introducing yourself as "Derek Cheater." This is my favorite idea because not only is it funny but Jeter has such a good reputation, and it's so preposterous that he'd ever cheat -- really, he's one of the top-3 picks in any "Which Guy From the '90s and '00s Definitely Didn't Cheat" draft -- that your costume would get a wide range of reactions ranging from "perplexed" to "truly ticked off," and people might even yell at you and stuff. Also, you'll definitely have your choice of romantic suitors because half the guys there will want to have hate sex with the girl brazen enough to wear a "Derek Cheater" costume to a New York Halloween party. Best of luck.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 OF THE MAILBAG & WEEK 5 PICKS
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos and more, check out Sports Guy's World. His new book, "The Book of Basketball," will be released Oct. 27.