Wednesday, August 31, 2011

6 comments TMQ: Gregg Easterbrook Talks About Player Safety Again

For a guy who writes a whole lot of words on a weekly basis (or possibly because of this), Gregg Easterbrook repeats himself a lot. This week when not giving us an NFC Pre(Re)view, Gregg talks about how it is time to focus on player safety. This is not to be confused with the other TMQs where Gregg talked about player safety as well. Player safety is very important, but I think we are at the point we get it. Football teams on all levels practice too hard, too long, unsafely, and coaches are too focused on winning to pay attention to their players' needs. Gregg thinks there should be an independent person who should watch practice to look for players who have had concussions, players should wear the same helmet as Aaron Rodgers (which helmet? Who knows...Gregg hasn't told us for sure), and coaches should be judged on player safety. I have summed up Gregg's entire point about player safety in one paragraph. Of course, it takes him a few more words to do this.

Though spectators and viewers think of games as the dangerous part of football, because it's during games that injuries are widely seen -- coaches whom I have interviewed think players are more likely to be injured at a practice than during a game.

I find it interesting Gregg Easterbrook has to interview coaches to know players are more likely to be injured in practice than a game. Anyone who follows a NFL beat writer’s Twitter account most likely notices more injuries occur in practice rather than games. That's why there may be five players sitting out a game due to injuries a fan never knew existed.

Partly this is simply because players spend so much more time practicing than performing, meaning more hours of risk.

On a side note, this is true for nearly every single sport. Nearly every single professional athlete spends more hours practicing his craft than competing at his craft. In the NFL, that means hitting each other constantly for longer periods of time.

If two players repeatedly bashed each other in the helmet during a game, flags would fly. But if this happens during practice, no one knows except the players and coaches present.

If a head coach doesn’t run a closed practice then the beat writers who follow the team would also know about this. Of course most likely they wouldn't report it, but they would know about it.

There's often no penalty for the coach who orders a dangerous drill -- he knows he can abuse his players all he pleases, and will probably never be sanctioned in any way.

But if a coach covers up the fact his players traded tattoos for signed memorabilia, then that coach should be fired immediately. Free tattoos are the real problem in sports.

Gregg actually has a point here, but it doesn’t mean his point isn’t redundant from when he made these exact points prior to this column.

This can be worst at the high school level, where most players are, legally, children under an adult's care. Coaches may scream at a child with obvious heatstroke symptoms to get up and keep running.

I haven’t viewed any high school football practices lately, but I would imagine the coaches screaming at a child with obvious heatstroke symptoms are the exception not the rule.

The National Football League sets the tone for football, and its new collective bargaining agreement sets a positive tone. The CBA states that during two-a-days, only one of the two practice sessions can be in pads. Practices are limited to three hours each. Once the season begins (to simplify a complicated new rule), teams can stage only one full-contact practice per week. During the offseason, contact practices are tightly restricted.

These new rules don't go far enough -- medically unsafe drills need to be banned.

You mean medically unsafe drills like the actual playing of the game of football? Merely playing a football game and being tackled repeatedly is medically unsafe. The game of football is an inherently dangerous sport.

The Virginia High School League, which regulates public high schools in the state, "strongly recommends" six practices without pads before contact, and no back-to-back contact in two-a-days.

We all know the same high school coaches that Gregg is painting as dangerous menaces to society and their player’s health are going to pay great attention guidelines that “strongly recommend” something. I am sure that will stop the coaches in Virginia that Gregg describes as:

“High school coaches who order such drills are thugs who don't belong in any position of responsibility.”

Coaches that don’t care enough for their player’s health aren’t going to care enough either to what is “strongly recommended” or not.

In other football news, everybody's complaining about the NFL's decision to move the kickoff spot from the 30 to the 35, in order to increase touchbacks -- which should translate to fewer kicking-play injuries.

I have grown to dislike this rule over the first three preseason games. Another way to reduce injuries on kickoffs is have every team start their drive at the 20-yard line. I would almost rather that happen than have the kickoff moved to the 35-yard line.

Kicks soaring into the end zone are dullsville. But bear in mind -- this is the preseason. Regular-season tactics have not begun yet.

What “regular season tactics” can a team use? Refuse to kickoff from the 35 yard line? The Bears have already tried that. Kick the ball up in the air really high in order to keep the ball in the field of play? That would result possibly in more fair catches called on kickoff than anything else.

I guess I fail to see how the receiving team can use special tactics to return a kick if the opposing team kicks the ball 8 yards in the end zone or out of the end zone. Really, the team kicking the ball would have the best chance of using tactics on a kickoff, but I am not sure teams kicking off would have incentive to use tactics other than to kick the ball as far into the end zone as possible.

Moving the kickoff spot to the 35 makes a surprise onside kick somewhat less risky. Now, a failed onside will give the opponent possession at about midfield, rather than in your own territory, as with a failed onside from the 30.

It is a difference of five yards, but I am not sure the idea there may be slightly more onside kicks and more excitement on that end will make up for the fact there will most likely be more touchbacks this year...which is the major complaint teams have.

If onside kicks increase as a result of the new spot, complaints about touchbacks will be forgotten.

Not really, because I would doubt a difference of five yards would cause teams to try an onside kick more often. This is especially true since teams kicking off now have a greater chance of ensuring the opposing team starts their drive off on the 20-yard line. I would guess the 5 yard difference on a failed onside kick would be offset by the kicking team’s advantage of having their opponent start their drive at the 20-yard line.

Of course a team trying an onside kick isn’t really doing this for field position, but to gain possession of the football. So if a team is trying an onside kick, that team may not care where the opposing team would start off their position if they just kicked the ball off, since that team wants the football. I think I’m confusing myself now.

Next week -- as a season-start treat, there will be a TMQ-Mel Kiper collaboration.

So next week TMQ will officially be even less accurate than usual!

And now, Tuesday Morning Quarterback's NFC preview.

Review. It is more of a review.

Arizona has a lot invested in the notion that Kevin Kolb is the team's quarterback solution. To get him, the Cardinals gave up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a young Pro Bowler; a second-round choice; and about $22 million in contract guarantees.

If Kolb is the franchise quarterback the Cardinals have been looking for then giving up a quality cornerback and a second-round pick will seem like a small will the $22 million in contract guarantees. If the Cardinals had kept Rodgers-Cromartie around then he would have gotten a large contract extension at some point if they had chosen to re-sign him. I hope Gregg doesn't forget that when judging this trade.

Is Kolb the next Matt Cassel or the next Rob Johnson? The latter drew a similar king's ransom (first- and fourth-round draft choices) for a similar short résumé as a backup, and was a bust as a starter.

The Cardinals are hoping Kolb is better than Matt Cassel or Rob Johnson. They want him to be the next Matt Schaub.

Exiled Eagles quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Donovan McNabb fared poorly once they left Andy Reid's system.

It also helps prove Gregg's point that A.J. Feeley wasn't a great quarterback to begin with and McNabb got traded to the Redskins and had a variety of issues with them that weren't all related to performance on the field. McNabb also wasn't exactly in the peak of his career when he got traded to the Redskins, unlike Kolb who is only 27 years old.

Quarterback Matt Ryan would make Don Coryell proud. Coryell preached that anytime a quarterback sees an open man, even if only for a short gain, he should just throw the ball, then worry about a long gain on the next play. Ryan seems to play by this simple rule, which a surprising number of quarterbacks never learn.

Normally this is the part where I would mention that quarterbacks have progressions to go through and there are receivers that are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th options on a passing play, so if the 1st read on a passing play is open then he will probably get the ball. This is the part where I normally would mention I would love for Gregg to provide me a list of quarterbacks who don't pass the ball to their 1st read when he is open because it wouldn't provide enough yardage. I would also normally say I know I can't get a list of these quarterbacks who ignore open receivers from Gregg because he's just talking out of his ass. I won't say all of that though.

Falcons fans may wish their team had tried harder to retain Mike Koenen, who left for City of Tampa in free agency. Koenen was both skilled at downing punts inside the 20, and as a kickoff man, finished third in the NFL last season for touchbacks. With the kickoff line moved up 5 yards this year, the strong-legged kickoff man rises in value, and teams like Atlanta, that score a lot, benefit most from lots of touchbacks.

Since I am nitpicky, I will nitpick this statement. Actually, a player with an average to above average leg rises in value because kickoffs that once went to the edge or just short of the end zone will now go all the way into the end zone. So teams don't necessarily need a strong-legged kickoff guy since kickers don't have to kick the ball as far to reach the end zone.

After using their second pick in 2010 on quarterback Jimmy Clausen, the Cats used the first overall choice of 2011 on Cam Newton. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called this "admitting a mistake." But Newton wasn't available in the prior draft. If a better player becomes available based on unknowable turns of events, why not choose him? Economic theory says that acting on the information available at the time is, on average, more efficient than attempting to guess the future.

Interesting and true, but later Gregg writes the following and makes me wonder if he sometimes accidentally makes good points like this one:

Roughly a year ago, the Panthers told defensive end Julius Peppers to hit the road. Peppers had a great year for the Bears, who hosted the NFC Championship Game, while Carolina went 2-14. This offseason, the Panthers gave defensive end Charles Johnson, who had one pretty good year with the league's worst team, a $30 million bonus to stay. Now that was admitting a mistake -- the Peppers mistake.

First, the Panthers offered to make Peppers the highest paid defensive player in the NFL during 2009 and he declined the contract offer. So they didn't exactly kick him out the door. Carolina didn't admit the mistake of not re-signing Peppers by re-signing Johnson. That's just bizarre thinking. Statistics and ages for Peppers in 2010 and Johnson in 2010:

Peppers: 31 years old, 54 tackles, 8 sacks (He was 30 years old and had 10.5 sacks when he was a free agent)

Johnson: 25 years old, 62 tackles, 11 sacks

So re-signing Johnson wasn't "admitting a mistake," it was Carolina (over)paying one of their players who was younger and more productive in 2010 than Peppers was.

So really Carolina didn’t re-sign Johnson because they were admitting they made a mistake with Peppers, they re-signed him because he is younger than Peppers and has a reasonable chance to duplicate Peppers’ production over the length of his contract. Or Johnson may not duplicate this production, but either way Carolina signed a younger player than Peppers who they perceive to be worth the contract the player was requesting.

In college and junior college, Newton always was on stacked teams that were all but certain to win much of the time.

The 2010 Auburn team was not stacked. No matter how much Gregg wants to make you believe it was. There’s a reason Auburn is barely projected to be in the Top 25 and it isn’t because boatloads of talent left the roster. A loaded college football team doesn't lose 4-5 quality players to the draft and then drop out of the Top 25.

For the Cowboys, reputation seems to matter more than performance. Despite going 6-10 in 2010, the Boys will appear in five prime-time games in 2011, plus their annual Thanksgiving game, which is for intents and purposes a prime-time event.

In deciding which teams appear on nationally televised games, reputation matters as much as performance. Dallas has a huge fan base, which is why they appear on nationally televised games frequently. This isn’t new.

Ndamukong Suh is a tremendous football player but also a dirty player -- he deliberately body-slams quarterbacks,

Is this as opposed to a defensive lineman who accidentally body-slams quarterbacks? How does that work?

So why not carry the idea to its logical conclusion and eliminate the kickoff, simply giving the receivers possession on their 20? Maybe allow the kickoff in the final two minutes of each half, and then from the 30, so there's a chance of excitement. If the NFL wants touchbacks in order to reduce injuries -- and this is a fair choice -- let's get rid of the annoying snap-commercials-kickoff-commercials sequence.

I have to say, I already am very annoyed with the amount of commercials between play after a touchdown. I am not in favor of getting rid of the kickoff, but Gregg may have a point here. If the NFL wants to reduce injuries and keep the fans interested in the game then this commercial-kickoff-kneel-commercial sequence may become a problem to where NFL may decide teams should just have the ball at the 20-yard line.

I would miss having the kickoffs, no doubt about that. Who knows, maybe it won’t be a problem, but it already annoys me slightly more than it used when the kickoff was from the 35-yard line because I enjoyed seeing returns and don't like the commercial-kickoff-kneel-commercial sequence. I would rather than NFL just go back to kickoffs from the 35-yard line.

For years the maxim in football has been that only 10 percent of expected onside kickoffs succeed, but 60 percent of surprise onside kicks do. That's why Tuesday Morning Quarterback long has touted the surprise onside. There's a 60 percent chance of creating a turnover, versus a 40 percent chance of surrendering about 30 yards of field position. TMQ likes those odds.

And I have always responded if more teams start doing surprise kickoffs then teams will no longer be as surprised and the amount of successful onside kicks will decrease.

But as noted by Football Outsiders, in the 2010 NFL season, only 20 percent of surprise onside kickoffs were successful. Why? The New Orleans surprise onside to start the second half of the 2010 Super Bowl -- that game's signature play -- was etched on everyone's minds. Special-teams coaches and players were keenly worried about the surprise onside.

Exactly as I suspected. Though it is hard to tell the exact reason “surprise” onside kicks failed 80% of the time, Gregg’s hypothesis seems reasonable.

Gregg then advocates teams continuing onside kicks in large amounts because coaches will forget about the 2010 Super Bowl onside kick to start the second half. I forgot that Gregg believes NFL coaches have the worst long term memory among all professions in the United States. Gregg is the same guy who thinks the 3-4 defense is a “fad” that comes and goes because offensive coordinators forget how to score against 3-4 defenses every ten years.

I am not kidding about this. So it should not shock me Gregg thinks NFL coaches will forget about the impact of surprise onside kicks. I think Gregg has me rambling now.

A minor mystery is why Green Bay, which came into the 2011 draft with five choices in the sixth and seventh rounds, used them all, rather than bank a couple by trading for 2012 picks. Typically it's hard for late-round draft choices to make the roster of a winning team, and the Packers just won the Super Bowl.

This could be because other NFL teams know 6th and 7th round picks rarely make a dent on the roster and so they won't give much in return for a package of these picks. Mystery solved.

One more thing...isn't Gregg Easterbrook the guy who tries to tell us every single NFL season that lowly-drafted players outperform highly drafted glory boy draft picks? He has an entire TMQ dedicated to this sort of thing and if I hear him talk about Pierre Garcon and how he is better than highly drafted bust wide receivers I am going to throw acid into my eyes.

In fact, just last week Gregg stated the Colts and Patriots stayed at the top of the NFL so long because they get contributions from lowly and undrafted players. I quote:

Indianapolis gets more from undrafted free agents than any other team except perhaps New England -- a reason the Patriots and Colts are Nos. 1 and 2 for most wins over the past decade.

So wouldn't a team like the Packers want to keep these 6th and 7th round picks that are better than 1st and 2nd round draft picks, since those types of players are what have helped keep the Colts and the Patriots on top for so long? We will probably hear 100 times this season from Gregg instances where a lowly drafted player will outperform a highly drafted player. Yet Gregg still criticizes teams that don't trade draft picks in the 6th and 7th round to accumulate better picks, even though he himself believes lowly drafted players have less of an ego and are better players than highly drafted players.

This is further proof that Gregg Easterbrook always wants it both ways. He wants to criticize teams for not trading their late round picks and compliment teams that have productive 6th and 7th round picks, while also claiming lowly drafted players perform at the same level as highly drafted players. Gregg will change his opinion around depending on who and what he wants to criticize at that time. Depending on what he is trying to prove, a team should go for more undrafted or lowly drafted players or trade these picks away for better draft picks.

Jersey/A: The G-Persons seemed awfully blasé about letting Steve Smith and Kevin Boss depart in free agency. Both had monster plays in Jersey/A's Super Bowl win over the Patriots.

I can't believe the Giants got rid of Boss and Smith when they had made good plays in the Super Bowl three years ago! That's so relevant to their injury history and performance in 2011. The Giants should have re-signed Plaxico Burress for the reason he played well in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. You know he caught three passes in one preseason game this year, which means he is going to make the Pro Bowl and the Giants will weep and gnash their teeth that they didn't make him a larger contract offer.

For those new to Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Hidden Plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives.

For those of you new to this blog, Hidden Plays aren't hidden and are very important to a drive, and what makes a highlight reel should not be the judge of what plays in a game were important and what plays were not.

Teams coming off a disappointing season often give their quarterback ye olde heave-ho. The Vikings gave the heave-ho to two quarterbacks, Brett Favre retiring and Tarvaris Jackson traded.

And here the Vikings thought they didn't make an offer to Tarvaris Jackson making him an unrestricted free agent. I bet even the Vikings didn't know they had actually traded Jackson the Seahawks since they haven't gotten compensation from the Seahawks for Jackson leaving as a free agent. Who needs the statements in TMQ to be completely factual?

The Rams used their first draft choice on Robert Quinn, one of nine University of North Carolina players chosen in the draft, tied for most of any school. Four Tar Heels went in the draft's first two rounds alone; nine USC players also were drafted, though most not so high. Yet North Carolina and USC both were 8-5 in 2010, unexceptional by the standards of football factories.

Holy shit, really? North Carolina went 8-5 despite many of their best players being suspended for much or all of the college football season. So tying how many picks the Tar Heels had to their record is misleading. Anyone who follows college football knows UNC played a good portion of the year without some of their best players.

Why were so many North Carolina and USC players chosen? Perhaps NFL general managers assumed that because North Carolina and USC are coming off NCAA scandals involving agents who were raining cash, therefore these schools must have premium athletes.

Or perhaps, and this is just a guess based on logic, quite a few North Carolina were taken because they had a lot of talent on the team, including players who didn't get to play last Robert Quinn. In fact, if Quinn had played last year he would have possibly been a Top 5 pick. He's really good at the whole football sport-thingie.

Daniel Bell of Rome, Ga., reports a Halloween City store has been open in his town since early August.

People do think about what they are going to wear for Halloween well before the actual day comes. Most likely parents of young children pick a costume out well before October 31.

Last season was a disaster for the NFL's playoff format, which TMQ has long maintained should be replaced with a seeded tournament. Two teams finished 10-6 and missed the postseason, while the Seahawks finished 7-9 and hosted a playoff game.

Which is a playoff game the Seahawks won. I have no problem with Seattle not hosting a playoff game, but they did beat a team that had finished 10-6 during the regular season. So in retrospect it seems they deserved to be in the playoffs, while a seeded format would have eliminated them. Just food for thought.

Financial note: When the free-agency period began, there was a slight difference between the Bucs and the defending champion Packers -- City of Tampa had $59 million in salary cap space, Green Bay had $63,000.

Based on last week's TMQ, I am sure Gregg thinks the Bucs have all that cap space because they are really, really cheap and not because they want to have money to re-sign their young key players like their 22 year old quarterback.

I wrote, "The New England Patriots have not won a playoff game since Spygate." Many readers including Melissa Foster of Weymouth, Mass., protested that Spygate began in September 2007; the Patriots won their first two games of that postseason; then, at 18-0, faltered to the Giants in the Super Bowl, setting in motion the current string of playoff losses.

My wording left much to be desired.

No amount of proper wording can cover up for the fact you were dead wrong. Gregg's opinion on when Spygate actually began is just plain stupid.

In my view, the serious part of Spygate commenced two days before the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl, when The New York Times ran the allegations that Bill Belichick cheated in his Super Bowl victory against the Rams.

Oh, so Spygate began AFTER the Patriots got punished for Spygate and two days before the accusations that led to jackshit being discovered about the Patriots cheating against the Rams in the Super Bowl? The serious part of Spygate, which was proven incorrect if I am not wrong, began after the proven allegations were made, investigated and punishment was handed down? I am not sure how logic can defend Gregg's point of view.

So did World War II begin when Japan surrendered? Or did World War II begin once Europe was completely rebuilt after the war was over? Did Watergate begin with the break-in at the hotel? I bet Gregg thinks Watergate began after Nixon resigned.

Since that story rolled off the presses, the Patriots have not won a playoff game. I don't think this was caused by The Times story, or the next day's more damning account -- since retracted -- in the Boston Herald.

Again, I don't know how anyone can defend this point of view. Spygate started after the serious accusations, that were proven false, were alleged? Wouldn't it make more sense if Spygate began when it was proven the Patriots were actually spying on other NFL teams and the Patriots got punished for this?

I think the reason is the football gods will continue to punish Belichick until such time as he may admit he was wrong to set up an illegal taping system.

Oh! So Gregg doesn't think the Times story is what caused a curse to be put on the Patriots, but the curse is caused by the football gods? Ok, that sounds pretty crazy.

As silly as this theory of Gregg sounds, it is fine to believe this. People are entitled to their opinion, no matter how insane. Unfortunately, Belichick got caught and didn't admit to it in September 2007. The Patriots also got punished at this time. THEN the Patriots won two playoff games. So they have won two playoff games since Spygate and since Belichick refused to apologize.

Gregg can argue however the hell he wants to, but Spygate began before the pre-Super Bowl Boston Herald story came out. I would consider this to pretty much be a fact proven by the truth that the Patriots were found out and punished before the Super Bowl and this fact can't be disproven by a theory Gregg produces to prove some bullshit about football gods and the New England Patriots not winning playoff games. So Gregg is wrong about when Spygate began and it really doesn't matter anymore.

Next Week Still America's original all-haiku NFL season forecasts.

I hate haikus, so I will be debating whether to even cover TMQ next week. It remains to be seen.


Monday, August 29, 2011

8 comments Don't Have Friends Because They Find You Annoying? Does Your Family Hate You For the Same Reason? Then You Should Email Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons is in the middle of doing a mailbag every single week for He got one email from a pathetic individual who missed Bill's mailbag full of partially made-up questions (Oh I forgot, the questions are all real and not a single one is made-up). Then Bill got the bright idea the world missed him answering questions from his blind followers and decided to do a mailbag for way-too-many weeks in a row. This is the mailbag for Week Three of Bill's weekly mailbags. Fortunately for everyone I saved you from having to read Week Two's discussions about mustaches, since Bill Simmons wearing a mustache on "PTI" caused a great discussion among his SimmonsClones. I would imagine there are a lot of SimmonsClones right now having lengthy discussions about mustaches and fu manchus so they can be like Bill.

This week Bill limits himself to a paragraph per response, not because he doesn't have enough original material for more than two weeks of a mailbag, but because he wants to get to more questions. See, Bill is a very popular writer and there are a lot of insecure individuals who feel the need to email him in order to obtain his approval. So Bill wants to give more SimmonsClones more time in the spotlight of having the honorable Bill Simmons answer their mailbag question. It's all very sad.

As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

I’m not 100% sure I believe this. I see this one of two ways. If these are Bill’s actual readers it is fairly sad to hear such a large group of people attempt make such a blatant attempt to talk and act like another individual. It is a little weird how these people email Bill seeming to look for his approval. If these are not Bill’s actual readers and he is making the questions up, then Bill is pretty sad and too-impressed with his ability to tell jokes to act as if others mimic him so closely.

Q: Was the Georgetown/China brawl our generation's assassination of Archduke Ferdinand? Should I get my bomb shelter ready?
— Lee D., Portland

SG: I had the same thought: Please don't tell me Los Angeles is going to blow up in three months because of this.

If anything the United States should blow up parts of China for the officiating in those “Friendship Games.” It was so terrible, it wasn’t even possible to get angry. The Chinese officials would make a call and I would have no clue what the hell had happened, I just knew a different team now had the ball. Also, I am pretty sure at one point a Chinese official called a foul on an American player for fouling the basketball. To be fair to Georgetown, they handled themselves well for having (I think) a 57-15 free throw disadvantage in that game.

I kept waiting for Brick Tamland to magically appear wearing a Hoyas jersey and throw a trident at a Chinese player riding a horse.

In fairness to Bill, a pop culture reference from 2004 does count as new for him. So this is a new reference.

But here's the part that everyone missed: No matter how this shakes out, at the very least, don't we have the opening for the next 24 movie?

Yes, the part everyone missed is thinking the exact thought that Bill Simmons was thinking. Everyone missed having the same thought Bill did. Bill knows by using his telekinetic powers which tells him what everyone is thinking…and he knows no one was thinking of this terrible movie idea like he was. Bill is so original. Don't make him give you an example of how creative he is by making a list of pop culture "All-Stars"

You have the brawl, you have the chaos afterwards … and then, you have the obligatory shot of Jack Bauer watching from the stands and debating whether to get involved. Done.

If the purpose is to have a 24 movie which effectively ends the franchise and ruins any further interest in other 24 movies, this would be the set up that would allow this to happen.

Q: The Yahoo story on the U says Shapiro paid for prostitutes for the Miami players. Isn't the entire point of playing football so that you don't have to pay for sex?
— Jeff, Irvine

SG: The short answer: Not exactly.

Short answer: You took Bill’s joke, so he will now write a lot of pointless shit only to agree with you in the end…but only in a way you don’t realize he is actually agreeing with you.

I've spent the past year messing around with brainwashing strategies on my own son (who turns 4 in November).

Whoa, Bill has a son? I haven’t heard about this since he hasn’t mentioned his son over the last month. I assume much like the Red Sox or Bruins, when his son wasn’t interesting anymore or isn’t the smartest kid in class, Bill put his son up for adoption only to take custody of his son again once he became interesting again. Since Bill only talks about some of his sports teams when they are good, I would assume he would do the same in other parts of his life.

The one that's stuck: If you ask him "Who do girls like?" he responds, "Girls like boys who play music or football, or if they're Spider-Man." Which is absolutely 100 percent true. I wouldn't say the entire point of playing football is so you don't have to pay or grovel for sex, but it's definitely one of the top-five reasons, right?

So really the short answer is: Yes. The entire point of playing football is to not have to pay for sex. So Bill agrees, but in an obscure way to make it look like he is creative.

Jeff from Irvine, Bill Simmons agrees with you but he can’t allow you to be the one to tell the joke. It has to be him who tells the best joke. It’s pretty much an ego thing. You should know this by now.

Q: Now that this season of The Challenge is coming to an end I want to get your take. Seeing as how the "Frenemies" premise came from your mailbag, were you satisfied with how the "Rivals" season played out?

SG: I thoroughly enjoyed the season and believed — in all seriousness, without a hint of facetiousness — that this week's Challenge with Tyler/Johnny and CT/Adam was the single most dramatic sports moment since the Women's World Cup final.

I can’t believe there are still people who watch “The Challenge” on a regular basis.

My biggest gripe: Challenges and eliminations dominate so much of the show (and have become so athletically complex) that it chews away from the partying/fighting/ball-busting/hijinks time.

Which the partying/fighting/ball-busting/hijinks get old after about an entire season’s worth. That’s why Jersey Shore ratings aren’t what they used to be. It’s the same shit every single episode. I usually have to take a 2 year break between seasons of “The Real World” for this very reason. Watching people party gets old after a while, it is much more fun to be a participant than a viewer.

Q: 600 homers, 5 teams, no standout season, no ring. Who is Jim Thome's NBA equivalent?
— @hakondevries (via Twitter)

Really? No standout season? I guess 2002 when Thome hit .304/.445/.677 with 122 walks, 139 strikeouts, and 52 home runs doesn’t count as a standout season in somebody’s book? If so, this person is an idiot. Maybe you weren’t paying attention, but Thome had a few standout seasons. 1996, 1997, and 2002 should count. Let’s just say if Thome played for any team in a large market, not Cleveland, during this time then it wouldn’t be said he never had a standout season.

Really? 2002 wasn't a standout season for Thome. That's a fantastic season with zero steroid allegations brought against him.

Q: The picture of the 1980 Lake Placid Medal (from this week's Sports Collectors Convention photo essay) has to be a hoax. The USSR vs. USA game was a SEMI-FINAL game. Thus the USSR could not have won Silver because they did not even make the final.
— Matthew Havens, Greenfield, Iowa

SG: Roughly 2.3 million readers brought up this same point over the past 24 hours … and they were all wrong. It was a round-robin tournament.

Bill then goes on and on for a few sentences about why these 2.3 million people were wrong and explains the entire situation. No problem, except here’s the rub. Bill was wrong about this too. He didn’t know the USSR got the silver medal, but his ego can’t handle outright admitting from the beginning he didn’t know this either and so he rambles on and on and then leaves us with this:

It's weird how few people remember this.

Bill Simmons wasn’t one of these people who remembered this. As we will learn right now...

And I include myself: When I saw that silver medal at the Collectors show, I asked the guy, "Wait, didn't Finland win the silver?"

That’s where the answer to this question ends. So Bill goes on and on telling us exactly why Finland did not win the silver as if he had this knowledge prior to the convention. Then at the end he says he didn’t know Russia won the silver either. It’s just a weird way to word an explanation and I can’t think of any other reason Bill would write the explanation this way, except to not hurt his ego when admitting he didn’t know this fact either. Let's say someone asks me a question:

(Person X) “Ben, a lot of people only remember Sid Bream’s slide to beat Pittsburgh in the 1992 NL Championship Series, but a lot of people forget everything that led up to it was fairly remarkable as well.”

(Me) “I am amazed at how few people remember Terry Pendleton’s double that looked like it was going to go foul. It is shocking how few people remember this. Then, the normally sure-handed Jose Lind commits an error which, if field cleanly, would have led to the Francisco Cabrera hit and following Sid Bream slide never happening. How can people forget this? It would have completely changed the Bonds era. If the Pirates make the World Series and win the World Series he may choose to stay in Pittsburgh. The best player on a World Series team can’t leave can he? So the Jose Lind error gets forgotten by many people and I consider that to be more remarkable than Cabrera’s hit. No one recalls this though! That's weird. Someone reminded me of Lind's error the other day. I had forgotten about it too.”

Who answers a question that way? Explaining what happened and then revealing you didn’t originally know the answer yourself at the end of the explanation?

SG: The easiest way to get into my Mailbag every month: any fairly clever Shawshank e-mail. I can't lay off them, much like Carl Crawford can't lay off pitches in the dirt.

“Our high-priced free agent isn’t outperforming his contract! We’re so cursed to be able to afford expensive players, but not have them work out to be exactly the kind of player we want!”

I'm sorry for Bill's presence in the world Red Sox fans. It has to annoy you a bit when he talks about the Red Sox. Bill can be such a great writer at times, but I feel like he gives in to laziness sometimes in his writing.

Q: Honestly, you are the WORST person I have ever watched on ESPN. You, as a person, are completely non-descript. Your even worse than your uncle and my friends & I can hardly believe that we've found someone who's more boring than him. Honest to God, your terrible. Do us a favor and pick a good trade school and get out of sport's media business. Geez.
— Ron Cromer, Pubelo, Colorado

SG: Why don't do us a favor and get out of a city named after pubes?

There is no Pubelo, Colorado. So either Ron misspelled it, and Bill didn’t fix it so he could make a pretty weak joke, or Bill changed the name of the city around to make his weak joke. Either way, the result was a weak joke. I would have more respect for him if it turns out he didn’t switch the name of the city around to make a joke though.

Q: Enjoyed your sports memorabilia piece. A question though: Were there ANY women there at all? I mean, if there is 'press box hot' what constitutes as 'sports memorabilia convention' hot?
— Torey, Pittsburgh

SG: I'd put NSCC Hot just below Female Prison Guard Hot. It's so bad that you're startled every time you see a woman under 40. Even pregnant moms pushing baby strollers get checked out. One collector had the bright idea of having a pretty women in her early 20s sit in his station with him; she was clearly hired for the event (like a convention escort), but the ploy worked. Guys in Hawaiian shirts were awkwardly wobbling by like they'd just seen a lunar eclipse.


There are some surnames that demand a male person refer to another male person by a derivation of this surname in almost every context outside of a court of law. In my opinion the top 5 are: Murphy ("Murph"), Sullivan ("Sully"), Jones ("Jonesy"), Smith ("Smitty") and Brown (Brownie) with an honorable mention to O'Brien (Obie).
— Murph, New York

SG: Liked the list except I'd replace "Brownie" with "Fitzy" (for anyone named Fitzgerald or Fitzsimmons).

Like always, Bill Simmons can’t let a reader tell a joke without Bill showing how funny and original he is as well. It never fails. A reader comes up with a good idea and Bill will nitpick the shit out of it to replace part of the idea with an idea of his own. This is a great example here. Brown is a much more common name than Fitzgerald, though possibly not in Boston (which I should know by now is the only city that counts for Bill), but he feels the need to insert at least one of his own ideas in to show off his own creativeness.

Q: You have officially made me want to become a sports writer. The fact that someone might actually pay me to write random bullshit that crosses my mind like you do is both amazing and awesome at the same time. Thank you for the inspiration.
— Lewis, San Ramon, CA

SG: The "Backhanded Compliment of the Week" really needs its own sponsor.

Then maybe you should sell your column out in order to become a corporate shill. Maybe call it the “Miller Lite Backhanded Compliment of the Week.” Wait, that wouldn’t work because Miller Lite was already one of Bill’s corporate sponsors in his NFL picks column, so they can't sponsor two items in Bill's column could they?

Q: I am a little disappointed that my "preseason fantasy football" idea hasn't caught on. Wouldn't this make preseason games 100 times more watchable? Who would be the number 1 pick?
— Tory, Blacksburg

This brings me to one of my big questions. Why can’t there be a college football or college basketball (preferably college basketball) fantasy league? I haven’t done any research on this, so maybe it violates NCAA rules or something. I don’t care to have player’s names as long as they editable and there is an index where I can look up the player I am drafting so I can look up the name. I would play in this league.

(That was a serious idea partially written in the form of how Bill Simmons writes)

Q: I just read your photo essay for the 2011 NSCC, my only suggestion is that name for Landon Donovan's all male porn movie should be "Penalty Shot" or "Chip Shot" instead of "Extra Time".
— Mark, Deerfield

Damn it Mark from Deerfield! You DO NOT challenge Bill’s ability to think of funny jokes. He may be wrong, but he is still going to prove he is funnier than you are just out of spite.

SG: You're right that I blew that joke,

He blew the joke, but have no doubt Bill will now trump your measly joke Mark from Deerfield. Don’t you know Bill always has to be the funniest person in the room (or on the Internet) at all times?

but you missed the one I should have used: "Handballs."

Like Bill Simmons’ ego would allow his joke to be topped. Please.

Q: I was watching Con Air for the 200th time last night. How unlikely is it that Nic Cage got 7-10 years for a plea bargain for killing some trailer trash in self-defense??? From a PLEA BARGAIN! I mean I'm sure he was from Texas or something, he could have shot all 3 dudes in the face and gotten a year at most. Oh well.
— Chuck, Washington, IL

SG: And that's not even the most unrealistic part of the movie; it ends with Cage landing the Con Air plane in the middle of the Las Vegas strip at night without crushing hundreds of cars and plowing over hundreds of pedestrians.

Are Bill’s SimmonClones so blinded by their love for Bill they can’t see the trend when they write into him with an idea? I don’t get this. Every time a “fan” of Bill’s writes into his mailbag with an idea, Bill has to top that idea with one of his own. It’s pathological how Bill will not allow anyone else to make the last or the funniest joke in his mailbag. He always has to top their idea or joke with one of his own. In real life the asshole who has to be the funniest or most clever person in the room at all times quickly becomes annoying, yet the SimmonsClones continue to worship Bill. I don’t get it. The level of worship has always amazed me.

Please think about this for a minute. The only person Bill will allow to have a better idea than his is either one of his friends or a celebrity he knows. That’s it. Otherwise, if you aren’t famous or one of Bill’s friends he will always attempt to top your idea. If you are famous or Bill's friend, your ideas are gold. If you are one of Bill's followers (thereby not on Bill's level), then he will top one of your jokes with one of his own.

Q: How much longer before the U enters the Tyson Zone?
— Thomas Belcher, New York

How long before you get a life of your own and don’t email Bill to validate your existence? What is the point of emailing this question to Bill other than to get off at seeing your name in one of his mailbags?

SG: Strippers, prostitutes, abortions + cocaine = we're there.

I’m pretty sure if there was such a thing as “the Tyson Zone” then the Miami Hurricanes should have made it there two decades ago. But since Bill wasn’t writing for ESPN at that time, the Hurricanes have made it now. Remember, events in the world only happen in the world once Bill has acknowledged their existence.

I have nothing against the Miami Hurricanes nor do I think they should get the death penalty, but does this type of thing about the program really shock anyone? Only if you haven’t ever paid attention to the Canes past. I guess that’s the only way you could be shocked. Of course they aren't the only school that does it either.

Q: Dumbass — your "fu manchu" is NOT a fu manchu. It's a cheap dirty goatee. A fu manchu is what Sam Elliot rocked in Lebowski or Tombstone. Quit patting yourself on the back with pathetic facial hair. Glad you're 40 and finally have to shave. And nothing says "I'm lazy and not creative" more than a mailbag, asking your readers to write your articles and come up with ideas for you! Nice job.
— Paturzo, NYC

I thought reading this insult would feel good, but it just felt mean to me. Well, the next-to-last sentence didn’t feel mean actually, it felt sort of spot-on.

Q: I think that you need to give more credit to Curb's "Ski Lift" episode in season 5. Please re-watch this episode. How does it not get pantheon status?
— Rob S., New York

SG: Enough readers made this point (some passionately) that I'm giving it belated "Pantheon" status.

What an honor! Enough readers pointed out that Bill left out a great episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that he will ever-so-kindly let that episode be a part of the fake list he keeps. It’s a real honor to make a fake list that Bill Simmons has created, even though his number of fake lists have to be nearing 50 by now. At some point, everything and everyone will be on a Bill's Simmons list of "All-Stars."

Q: Did you overlook Matt Stone and Trey Parker as contenders for the 2011's Funniest Guy Alive award or were they excluded on a technicality? I'm a big fan of Louis CK's work. I also think Larry David is a comedy GOD and has been far and away the greatest American humorist over the past 22 years (since Seinfeld's premier in 1989). They have both been great this year, but the Book of Mormon has been transcendent and the single greatest piece of comedy since Borat in 2006. Admit you were wrong.
— Kris, Long Island

SG: I was wrong. Pulling off the Book of Mormon, making it funny and getting non-Broadway fans to see it was harder than anything CK or David did.

(Bengoodfella has a heart attack at the realization Bill admitted he was wrong with no hedging)

Even if Larry David might be having a career year on Curb, that's the only thing he's doing; that drops him to no. 3 in the discussion right now (making him the Jered Weaver of this race), with Matt & Trey (Sabathia) and Louis CK (Verlander) in a dead heat heading down the stretch. I'm fine with cowinners if it comes to that.

Apparently Louis CK is now the official “comedian that everyone who works in the entertaiment industry says is really funny, but there are a large group of people who just don’t get it.” Lately, I have begun to think is partially sponsored by "Louie." Louis CK is like the opposite of Dane Cook and I don’t mean that as a compliment or an insult. A lot of people seem to like Cook for no reason. I’ve watched Louis CK’s work and just never gotten it. Sue me for being out of touch with good comedy I guess.

Q: Our IT guy was doing some work on my laptop and asked me for my network password. How do you respond to the old guy when your password is Vagina69?
— Rob M., Ames

I guess I would respond with “can’t I just type it in myself since no IT guy I have ever worked with has requested my password for anything and can pretty much access something remotely if necessary so this is clearly a made-up story.” That’s what I would say at least to the IT guy when he asks for my password. Maybe I don’t understand the in-depth work this IT guy was doing.

SG: Yep, these are my readers.

Yes, they are. It’s sad isn’t it?