By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Week 17... blah.

Only two games involve potential playoff teams squaring off in must-win situations: Saints-Panthers and Jets-Rams. I like both home teams to cover, which means three things: A.) We get to wager against Mike Martz in a playoff game; B.) The Panthers officially become the most dangerous team in the NFC; and C.) Herm Edwards and Chad Pennington will be alternately skewered, barbecued and filleted by the New York press next week.

Mike Martz
Despite Mike Martz's best efforts, the Rams might still make the playoffs.

None of the other games matter; just stick with the "Who has more on the line?" betting philosophy and you'll be fine. Only Denver-Indy has a chance to have something goofy happen, if only because the Bills belong in the playoffs and the Football Gods have a way of taking care of business, even when a team with nothing to play for like Indianapolis is involved. And don't ever underestimate the Shanahan-Plummer factor. Other than that? Blah.

(Sounds like the perfect time to answer some more e-mails.)

As always, these are actual questions from actual readers ...

Q: Hi, my boyfriend is an ESPN fanatic. I'd say he's a fanatic, he'd just say he was loyal. All aside, Bill Simmings is his favorite writer and hopes to have a job just like his after we get out of college. Is there any internship opportunities with Bill Simmings I could let my boy know about? I hope to find something along the lines of an ESPN internship application to attach to his Christmas present this year. Also, I'd really like to e-mail Bill (Simmings) and ask him some advice for Ryan (my boyfriend). Please let me know of anything, especially if I could have a special note from Bill himself! That would be awesome!
-- Gabriela, Glen Cove, NY

SG: Would you settle for a cameo in Bill Simmings' holiday mailbag?

Q: The other night we were at a party and got into a fight where someone threw a full beer at one of my friends. As we were leaving, someone said, "He went Artest on you." How long do you think before it becomes routine with a thrown beer?
-- Aaron G., Boulder, CO

SG: Um ... how 'bout starting right now?

Q: Do you have a top five list of the actors that you would love to see die in a movie? I was thrilled when Paul Reiser was ravaged in "Aliens." I think Jimmy Fallon might be up there now after he ran onto the field at the end of the World Series.
-- Bob Brassil, Boston

SG: That's a great question. I never liked John Lithgow, so his demise at the end of "Cliffhanger" never gets old for me. Same for Glenn Close in "The World According to Garp" and Diane Keaton in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (although that was a truly disturbing ending). But you're right -- very fun game. My list includes Robert Wuhl, Renee Zellweger, Eric Stoltz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Spike Lee, Michael Rapaport, Gretchen Mol, Talia Shire (as Adrian), Jim Carrey, Kirstie Alley, Meg Ryan, Adam Sandler, the entire cast of "American Pie," and, of course, Jimmy Fallon.

(By the way, just coming up with that list was strangely cathartic.)

Q: After that Chargers game, are you man enough to admit that Peyton Manning is having one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport? Or did you miss the game because you were giving Tom Brady a three-hour lap dance? (Expletive.)
-- Paul B., Indianapolis

SG: Absolutely, Manning is having one of the greatest regular seasons in the history of the sport. So what if they changed the pass defense rules to make it happen? He's been fantastic. I loved when he waved the punter off the field on fourth-and-4 last week; that might have been my favorite moment of the season that didn't involve Herm Edwards screaming incoherently. Poor Tony Dungy. First, Gruden wins the Super Bowl with his Bucs team; now his decisions are getting overruled by his own QB. He's like the Steadman to Manning's Oprah.

What a game, though. And yes, in my book, what Manning did in the last few minutes of that game was infinitely more important than anything else he did all season. Ten years from now, that TD record will hold about as much weight as McGwire's 70 homers. We're entering an era of 70-point over/unders and 500-yard passing days, a decade where no-names like Billy Volek and Drew Bennett can look like Montana and Rice on any given Sunday. But Manning waving the punter off the field on fourth-and-4, then delivering that bee-bee to Wayne for a first down ... now THAT was a moment.

(And while we're here, kudos to the Chargers for slapping together an inspiring effort on the road. They could have put the game away twice -- once when they went up by 15 and gave up the kick return, once when Brees took that terrible sack to knock them out of range for the clinching field goal. Can you remember a better foursome in one conference than the Steelers, Pats, Colts and Chargers? Even the Best Picture category in the 1995 Oscars wasn't that loaded.)

Q: Most men can pinpoint the exact moment when they realized Keanu Reeves was perhaps the worst actor of our generation. Mine was his line of "Can't you see how special she is?" from "A Walk in the Clouds." What's yours?
-- Jeff W., New York, NY

SG: "I am an EFF BEE EYE agent!"

(Need I say more?)

Q: In the upcoming movie based on the TV series "The White Shadow" (not happening yet, but you know it's inevitable), is there any current actor who could match Ken Howard's immortal portrayal of Coach Reeves?  Can Googs act?
-- Tom Stoudt, Ft. Washington, PA

George Clooney
Anybody who can handle a role in "Facts of Life" can handle "White Shadow."

SG: Wait a second ... you're asking if Googs can act? How do you think he roped Danny Ainge into giving him $2.5 million this summer? You don't think he deserves Oscar consideration for his "Danny, my knee hasn't felt this good in five years!" routine? At the very least, we could stick a pair of glasses on him and cast him as Abner Goldstein.

To answer your question, there's only one guy out there who could match the great Ken Howard's portrayal of Coach Reeves: George Clooney. He could pull off the basketball scenes, the sarcastic wisecracks, even those awkward romantic scenes when the coach would put the moves on some sneaky-hot '70s chick. He's the best-case scenario. Of course, with our luck, we'd end up getting Vince Vaughn or Woody Harrelson as the Coach, with Master P as Hayward and Jonathan Lipnicki as Salami.

Q: Another Christmas has come and gone, and still no "White Shadow" DVD box set. Is there a show more deserving?
-- Brian Cota, Santa Barbara, CA

SG: Put it this way -- I just ran two straight e-mails about a show that was cancelled 24 years ago. Something tells me there's an audience for a "White Shadow" DVD box set. You know what would be weird? Three months ago, if you asked me what DVD I would have most wanted to see, I would have answered "The White Shadow: Season One," narrowly followed by "Miami Vice: Season One." And if you asked me what DVD I would have LEAST wanted to see, I would have answered, "An amateur sex tape starring Chyna and X-Pac."

Why am I mentioning this? Because we're one "White Shadow" DVD away from having all three of those things on the market at the same time, along with two World Series DVDs about the world champion Boston Red Sox. I really feel like my head could explode. Let's just move on.

Q: I need your help in resolving a debate my roommate Ha and I had last night while watching The OC. Yeah, it may be homoerotic, but seriously, it's the best show on TV right now. So we're discussing the finer points of the awkward moments that make The OC so great when it happened ... on the yacht when Jimmy says to Julie, "Nobody puts Julie Cooper in a corner."  My roommate says nonchalantly, "Hey, great 'Dirty Dancing' reference!" I sat up on the couch, appalled.  He continued, "You know, 'nobody puts Baby in a corner', you gotta know this stuff, man, it's pop culture." Then whipped out this doozy: "'Dirty Dancing' is totally a reference Bill Simmons would use, like 'Nobody puts MJ in a corner'; the guy seriously knows his pop culture." This is where I got upset and screamed, "No WAY; Bill Simmons would NOT use a 'Dirty Dancing' reference!"  Our disagreement continued at our usual Friday morning breakfast at Tom's, when we decided we had to ask you personally: Bill, have you/would you EVER use a "Dirty Dancing" reference???
-- Paul DeHaan, Beaverton, OR

SG: Of course not. But you touched on something interesting here. When I was working on Kimmel's show, fellow writer Dave Dameshek quoted the late, great Jerry Orbach (Baby's Dad in the movie) with a "When I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong" reference during a pitch meeting, which went over everyone's head until Dave explained it was from "Dirty Dancing." That launched a heated argument about whether such a reference was acceptable from a man. And we all decided that, no, it wasn't. Then again, I'm the same guy who TiVo's "Melrose Place" every afternoon, so maybe I shouldn't judge.

Q: Your mailbag column on which celebrity would sell the most copies of Playboy provoked a heated discussion.  We came up with three obvious choices that you missed: 1.) The Bush twins; 2.) Chelsea Clinton; 3.) Oprah Winfrey.
-- Andrew Hill, Tim Kane, Conrad Wai, Aaron Staple, Evan Doll, San Francisco, CA

SG: Wow, it took FIVE people to write that letter. But you're absolutely correct about the Bush Twins -- an egregious oversight by me. That raises another question: What would the headline be for a Bush Twins cover? Would Playboy go with an obvious choice like "Double Trouble" or "The First Babes"? Or would they go with something a little more ambitious like "Presidential Sweet!" And by the way, don't start racking your brain for fake headlines, because 45 minutes will pass before you know what happened. I'm not kidding.

Q: As much as I love your column, I never thought I'd have to write. But your response to the Clubber Lang-Karl Malone question last week was way out of line. You wrote that there was nothing Clubber Lang did that beat Karl Malone's "hunting little Mexican girls" line. How about killing Mickey for starters?  How about his treatment of Apollo Creed before his first fight with Rocky?  How is Karl Malone's line even close to calling the former heavyweight champion a "chump" and a "has-been"?  Clubber also beats Malone with his "pain" forecast in his pre-fight interview. Also, a little after the "hey woman" line to Adrian, Clubber spits out some unintelligible rant at Rocky. You try deciphering it and tell me Clubber wasn't a genius. Finally, he gets in a classic "I pity the fool" during another interview for good measure. I think you owe me an apology.
-- Alfredo Rivera, Pasadena, CA

SG: Alfredo, my apologies. You're absolutely right -- I enjoyed the Mailman's line so much, I lost all perspective with the big picture. And by the way, you forget to mention how Clubber ruined Rocky's retirement ceremony and made a pass at his wife. And then how Adrian and Rocky called Clubber's wife to tell him that Clubber made a pass at Adrian.

(No, wait, that was Kobe and Vanessa ... I'm confused ...)

Q: You mentioned that they could have done a blood test on "My Two Dads" to see who the real father was. This was addressed in the show, but she didn't want to go through with it because she loved them both equally, much like her mother, and would have hurt the one who wasn't the real father. They should have ended this show with them going on "Murray" and finding out that neither of them was the father.
-- Greg, Huntingtown, MD

Maury Povich
Doesn't this photo scare you a little bit? (And does anyone really still watch his show?)

SG: I just like how he referred to Maury Povich as "Murray." By the way, the number of readers who e-mailed about the blood test in "My Two Dads" was simply startling. And I thought I needed a life.

Q: You wrote that there was no reality-TV equivalent to the Red Sox coming back from 3-0 in the ALCS. I beg to differ: Sarah's five Gauntlet wins in the "Real World-Road Rules Challenge" might very well be the equivalent of the 2004 Sox run. Not only did she win the Gauntlet five times, but she went on to make the final group against the wishes of every member of her team, then turned in an inspired performance in the final challenge to help her team win the big money. It may not be the 100-percent equivalent, but it's damn near close.
-- Pablo Gersten, Potomac Falls, VA

SG: No, it's not. On paper, the comebacks were comparable; but when you throw in the unfathomable irony of the Sox turning the tables on the Yankees -- as well as the Yankees being involved in the Greatest Choke Job in Sports History -- you can't call that "damn near close." In 85 B.D.S. (before Dave Roberts's Steal), I used to cringe whenever I was wearing a Red Sox hat and came across someone in a Yankees hat. You just knew the smug smile and patronizing remark were on their way. Now I love seeing people wearing Yankee hats. Nothing makes me happier.

(And while we're on the subject, is there anything more entertaining than Steinbrenner's inevitable post-ALCS meltdown? Please, George, keep signing guys like Jaret Wright to three-year deals! By all means, give up on Javy Vasquez after one season and trade him with all your good prospects for a 41-year-old, 6-foot-10 guy with a bad back! Is there anything better than the Yankees turning into the New York Rangers of baseball? Seriously, anything? When are they going to sign Bobby Holik to a $40 million deal?)

Q: I just wanted to say I was the first person from Scarborough, Maine, to send you an e-mail. Have a nice day!
-- Martha, Scarborough, ME

SG: That won the award for "Most perplexing e-mail of the past two months." Did Scarborough, Maine, just get hooked up with Internet access? Did Martha assume that nobody else read me there? Did she have inside information that nobody else has ever sent me an e-mail from there? Is this a town of like 10 people? Is Martha dressed like Kathy Bates in "Misery" right now? Would somebody else e-mail me from Scarborough, Maine, so I can feel better about this?

Q: OK, where's your review for "Million Dollar Baby"?
-- John K, Baltimore

SG: It's right here. This was supposed to be its own column two weeks ago, but since there's no way to delve into the movie without discussing the ending, as the great Steve O'Donnell would say, I demurred. With 35 minutes remaining in the movie, I thought we were looking at the greatest sports movie since "Jerry Maguire" ... and by the time the closing credits were rolling, I realized that I couldn't even recommend "Baby" to my readers.

Here's the thing: Movies are supposed to be entertaining. That's the goal. So when a decision is made during a movie that removes all the entertainment value -- for no real reason, other than to depress everyone in the theater -- I can't possibly recommend it. The performances were great, the boxing scenes were good ... and I wanted to hang myself afterwards. Proceed at your own risk.

A few other thoughts:

1. You can't go wrong with Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood working in a boxing gym. You just can't. Which was one of the reasons I was so frustrated by the last 35 minutes. And having Freeman doing the narrating never fails ... even when that same narration basically disappears for the entire last hour of the movie. Can you put a price on Freeman saying things like, "Everybody's got a particular number of fights in them ... nobody tells you what that number is."

Hilary Swank
Who knew Carly would turn out to be such a great movie actress?

2. You could make a strong case for Hilary Swank getting an Oscar for her performance as the female boxer, and here's why: I can't think of a single actress who could have pulled off that part other than her. It's like when Val Kilmer nailed Jim Morrison in "The Doors" and sang all the songs -- who else could have done that? Shouldn't these things matter when they're handing out Oscars? At least 20 actresses can gain weight and play a homicidal hooker, or throw caution to the wind and perform in a graphic sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton. But could someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones play a female boxer with a white-trash background and make you care about her? Of course not.

3. Speaking of Swank, when you've worked with Eastwood, Freeman, Pacino, Ziering and Morita in a 10-year span ... I mean, that's a career. There's no other way to say it.

4. We're two days from 2005 ... should we really keep making movies where the white boxer needs to beat the evil black villain for the title? Spike Lee will have a heart attack when he sees this thing.

5. The movie ad should have come with this tag: "WARNING: CLINT EASTWOOD CRIES." I know actors have to make that leap at some point, but this was 50 times worse than Stallone breaking down in "Rocky 3" and 200 times worse than finding out about Mike Ditka's erectile dysfunction. Some lines just shouldn't be crossed. Could they at least leak a story that Clint couldn't make himself cry, so they had to use onions and salt water? I'm not sure I will ever get over this one.

Q: What is the official ruling on double grace-year periods, namely applying to my Broncos? This would be the sixth year after the second win, so I could bitch about their annual collapse; but with that pesky back-to-back, I still feel a little wrong. I need clarification.
-- John Sharkey, North Dakota

SG: After consulting with my buddy Gus (the co-creator of the "Five-Year Grace Period" theory), we decided that back-to-back titles extend the grace period to seven years. In other words, you have to endure this Shanahan-Plummer hell for one more season before you can openly bitch about it. Even after they blow the Colts game this weekend.

Q: If Ron Artest comes back in the playoffs and the Pacers win the championship, how would it rate on the Awkward Moment Scale if Artest wins the Finals MVP and David Stern presents him the award? Imagine Stern saying, "After a grueling 10-game regular season, a rap record, a brutal brawl with the fans, suspensions and ongoing lawsuits, you have risen to the challenge here in the playoffs and led your team to its first championship in the NBA. Ron Artest, you are the NBA Finals MVP!"
-- Maynard Maleon, Philippines

SG: Just for the record, that's the funniest e-mail I've ever received from the Philippines. But you're right -- that would be a tremendous moment. The best part would be the thin smile on Stern's face, mixed in with a hint of condescension and disdain -- basically, the same look he has when he's shaking hands with a high-schooler at the NBA Draft, combined with the look on his face during every appearance on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," with some genuine fear thrown in.

(You know my "How Much Would You Pay?" game? I think I would pay $2,500 to see this happen. I'm not even kidding.)

Q: In your Pats-Dolphins column, you wrote: "We could have a Corey Haim-Corey Feldman presidential ticket and it wouldn't be any less improbable than the Patriots becoming the model franchise in professional sports." Are you saying that in such a ticket, you would put Haim on top and Feldman in the 2-slot?  I think it has to be the other way around.  Feldman has much more charisma, and although less of a hit with the ladies, probably had a better career. Plus, as you remember from "Goonies," Feldman is much better thinking and talking on his feet than Haim ever was. Your thoughts?
-- Adam W, Jersey City, NJ

Corey Feldman
What the heck was this girl thinking? He can't have any money left, can he?

SG: You're absolutely right. From now on, it's Feldman-Haim. And given that we're in Year 2 of the Governor Schwarzenegger Era, I'm not ruling anything out.

Q: With Dave Wannstedt coming to Pittsburgh, I think Heinz Field will soon be recognized as the official mustache capital of the world. I don't even think it's debatable. Wannstedt and Cowher -- that's some serious upper lip hair.
-- Chuck R., Pittsburgh

SG: And you haven't even mentioned the female Steelers fans yet.

Q: Recently, a female friend of mine set me up with one of her friends. I asked her if the girl was "cute" and she responded "yes." I trusted her judgment and didn't even ask to see a picture.  When we met at a restaurant, I was horrified to see that she was not even in the vicinity of cute. Close proximity to brutal, terrible, atrocious, yet light years away from cute. Aside from the annihilation of any pride I once had, I had to endure a dinner which I ultimately got stuck paying for. (Side note: Blind date etiquette should require a 50/50 split of the check, discretionary based on the guy's overall enjoyment of the date.) 

Anyway, the question is this: How do you think the "Girl Description of Another Girl" Decoding Scale should work? This is my decoding scheme for what a girl really looks like based on another girl's one-word description:

"Gorgeous" = Beautiful
"Beautiful" = Hot
"Hot" = Cute
"Pretty" = Alright
"Nice Face" = Bad Body
"Cute" = Brutal
"Alright" = Train Wreck
"Good Personality" = Morbidly obese/drug addict
-- Marc G, Stamford, CT

SG: You forgot two good ones between "Alright" and "Good personality" ...

1. "One of the Nicest People I've Ever Met" = Probably disfigured.
2. "Very, Very Cool" = Missing a limb.

Home teams in caps

PATRIOTS (-14) over Niners
BILLS (-9) over Steelers
RAVENS (-10) over Dolphins
Vikings (-4) over REDSKINS
Bengals (-3) over EAGLES
BEARS (-3) over Packers
PANTHERS (-8) over Saints
TITANS (+3) over Lions
RAMS (+3) over Jets
TEXANS (-10.5) over Browns
CARDS (-3) over Bucs
Falcons (+6) over SEAHAWKS
Colts (+9) over BRONCOS
RAIDERS (+3) over Jags
Chiefs (-3) over CHARGERS
Cowboys (+3) over GIANTS

Last Week: 8-7-1
Season: 121-112-7

Q: Is it too late to dub Dave Roberts' contribution in Game 4 as "The Steal"? Seriously, has there ever been a steal in major league history that would evoke immediate recollection of base runner, pitcher, ballpark, situation in the memories of even the casual followers of the game? Maybe only Willie Mays Hayes against Goose Gossage in the one-game playoff with two outs in the ninth inning compares. And like Hayes, everyone watching KNEW Roberts was going ... and he made it, too.
-- Jason M., Charlotte

SG: I'm glad you caught the "Major League" parallel -- the similarities are eerie, right down to the Yankees shortstop wearing No. 2 in the movie, as well as the fact that the Red Sox inexplicably replaced Roberts with Omar Epps for the 2005 season. Anyway, to my knowledge, there was no such thing as a famous stolen base before Roberts, unless you count Jackie Robinson stealing home in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series (a game that Brooklyn ended up losing). In fact, if you Google "famous stolen bases," "memorable stolen bases" or "greatest stolen bases," they give you the old "Your search did not match any documents" response. So yes, I think it's safe to give Dave Roberts full ownership of the title "The Steal."

Which brings me to another point: How could the Red Sox not bring him back? I know Roberts asked for a trade so he could start somewhere else, but so what? Between Nixon's back and Manny's various aches and pains, Roberts probably would have gotten 250-to-300 ABs next season, regardless. Wouldn't you want to keep the 24-hour reminder of the most important play in the history of the franchise, just from a karma standpoint? What's wrong with someone on the team getting a standing ovation for the rest of his career in Boston? They couldn't have convinced Roberts to stick around for one more season and given him the whole "You're a hero here!" sell?

(Whoops! Five-year grace period ... five-year grace period ... five-year grace period ...)

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.