By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Please keep in mind, everything you're about to read came from actual e-mails sent in by readers over the past few weeks. As always, thanks to everyone who takes the time to send in something. And by the way ... Go Celts!

Vin Baker
As we all know, nobody wins in a swap involving Vin Baker and Shawn Kemp.

On to the e-mails ...

Q: I am a huge NFL fan and a huge gambling fan. The problem is the NFL only runs for five months a year. I don't follow basketball enough to gamble on it, and you can't gamble on baseball and hockey. So what do I do? What's there to gamble on? Am I missing something? Please advise.
-- Ben G, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Sports Guy: You desperately need a trip to the Holy Land (a k a, Vegas). Sounds like you're getting the shakes. Hey, we've all been there -- I haven't been to a casino in four months -- every time I hear the Foxwoods Casino song these days, my right eye starts twitching. But since my mom was a Boston College grad and I've had a gambling problem since the womb, I'm always figuring out ways to bet on things.

For instance, when I headed over to my father's house for the NFL draft Saturday, we needed something to keep our interest until the Patriots finally picked, so we played the Draft Game (works for any draft): When each team went on the clock, we tried to guess their choice. As an added wrinkle, we couldn't pick the same guy -- Dad picked first for No. 1, I picked first for No. 2, and so on -- so we would each be rooting for someone on every pick. Winner takes all: 20 bucks. I'm telling you, it was riveting stuff. Of course, Dad ended up winning, but only because he cheated with Detroit's first-rounder (but that's a story for another time).

Anyway, you can always come up with things to gamble on, especially if you're in college and you have the following scenario: "Multiple people, nothing to do." Here are some other gambling ideas:

  • 1. "Madden 2002"
    Cue it up, pick two teams, create a line for the game, pick sides, make a wager ... then have the computer play it out. Strangely absorbing, especially at 3 in the morning. Depending on your state of mind at the time, it can almost feel like a real NFL game. Almost.

  • 2. "The Weakest Link"
    Works best if you have a group of people that precisely match the number of contestants -- then everyone gets to pick one person. Let's say they're running a "Celebrity Edition" with disgraced celebs. You draw straws before the show to see who gets first pick ... then during the beginning of the show, when they're introducing everyone, you quickly hold your draft. And the draft could be more entertaining than anything else, just for when you have exchanges like this:

      "I'll take Corey Feldman." "Dammit, I was gonna take him!"

    Can you put a price on that kind of fun? I think not. Plus, if you have eight people throwing in $20 apiece ... well, you do the math. That adds a whole new level of excitement to the final round, doesn't it?

  • 3. MTV's "Dismissed"
    There are two segments during "Dismissed," so before the show starts, you divvy up the contestants; Person A gets the first person introduced in Segment One and the second person introduced in Segment Two; Person B gets the other two people. And you go from there. Just to make sure somebody wins money, you need to stagger this one -- Segment One is worth $50, Segment Two is worth $75 (or whatever you feel like wagering).

    Two great things about this idea: First, when the contestants are introduced, it's more fun than humans should be allowed (you end up saying things like, "This is no fair! That's the second time this show that you got the chick with big guns!"). And second, you find yourself debating some of the strategies like you're Hubie Brown ("No! No! You cannot use the Timeout Card that soon! What is she thinking?").

  • 4. Figure skating
    Everyone picks a skater, throws in some cash and roots for everyone else's skaters to fall down. Good times.

  • 5. The WWF "Royal Rumble"
    I'm convinced they created this just for people with gambling problems. There are 30 entrants, so before the event starts, everyone draws numbers. If you have 10 people in the room, everyone gets three numbers between 1 and 30. If you have five people in the room, everyone gets six wrestlers. And so on. And when the Rumble starts, if you have pick No. 7, you get the seventh wrestler that runs out.

    (Note: Not only is it easy to follow, even non-wrestling fans can enjoy this one. I already told this story, but back in college, we had a "Rumble" pool and my buddy JackO drew two scrubs -- like Haku and Tugboat -- and flipped out. Chairs were flying everywhere. All it was missing was Jim Ross screaming, "Good God, JackO has flipped out! My God, somebody stop him! This is insane!")

  • 6. "Survivor" and "The Bachelor"
    Any of these "Reality-TV shows that take place over an extended period of time and eventually have a single winner" work splendidly for gambling purposes. It's almost like picking the winner of the NCAA Tournament. You just need someone who can get the names of every contestant, then organize some sort of pool.

    I mean, imagine the excitement during "The Bachelor" if you randomly ended up with Trista in the pool, then you found out she was a Miami Heat dancer in the first episode (you're locked in) ... then you worried that she doesn't like Alex the Ambiguously Gay Bachelor (you're locked out) ... then he goes out of his way to win her over (you're locked back in) ... then she confesses to him that she can't have orgasms during intercourse (uh-oh, baggage alert! you're locked out again) ... then it's down to the Final Two between Trista and The Chick With Big Boobs Who Was A Little Too Easy (you're locked back in). What a roller-coaster ride! And you won some money to boot.

  • 7. SportsCenter Anchor "Catch Phrase Roulette"
    This works a little like the "Price Is Right" showcase. Let's say you're watching the 2 a.m. "SportsCenter" and you see Steve Berthiaume. Well, you know "Say hello to my little friend!" is coming, you just don't know when. So you each pick a time: You might take 2:22, your buddy might take 2:38. Whoever gets closer wins the bet. Say hello to my little friend!

  • 8. Golden Tee 2002
    But hey, you knew this already. If you see an unattended "Golden Tee" at a bar and, within three minutes, you're not A) playing Skins, and B) gambling heavily ... well, we can't be friends. I'm serious. We need to go our separate ways.

  • 9. Bowling, darts, shuffleboard, pool, mini-golf, etc.
    Any of the sports from the Pseudo-Sports Decathlon (which still needs to happen) work perfectly for head-to-head gambling purposes. My favorite is probably bowling, which combines all the fun elements of Golden Tee -- the drama, the trash-talking, the skill -- with the added bonus that you get to rent shoes, pick bowling balls, make fun of everyone else in the bowling alley and actually display some (pseudo-)athleticism.

    How was that for an answer? Some other burning questions from the readers ...

    Q: What is your take for most unappreciated, subtle moment of intentional comedy? You know, the one where no one else in the room is laughing quite as much as you are because they haven't realized the brilliance of the moment and may never fully appreciate it? Mine is from "Christmas Vacation," the scene at Wal-Mart where Clark is discussing the fact Eddie's gotten no Christmas presents for his kids ... as they're talking, Eddie is loading up a year's supply of dog food. And then smashes the lightbulbs Clark sets down. They're both aware of it, but treat it as an everyday occurrence and leave it completely unacknowledged.
    -- Mike Overman, Los Angeles

    SG: I'd vote for my favorite scene in "48 Hours," when Reggie Hammond rousts the cowboy bar and lifts the wad of cash from the redneck. Reggie asks where all the money came from, the redneck says, "Tax refund," so Reggie replies without missing a beat, "Bull----, you're too (bleeping) stupid to have a job." That line always kills me, even after the 700th viewing. That might have been the most underrated comedy of my lifetime. Did it get any better than Jack Cates? Seriously, did it?

    Tracy McGrady
    Orlando's Tracy McGrady is carried off the court after injuring his back on a drive. Bad times, very bad times.

    Q: How did you fare in your fantasy basketball league this year?
    --Matt Geiszler, San Diego

    SG: I missed out on first place by 120 total points. Totally my fault. For one thing, our league operated on three-week scoring periods, and there was one three-week period when I mistakenly kept Vin "You Knew I Would Break Your Heart" Baker active even though he had just been placed on the injured list. For the final three-week period, I needed someone to replace Baker, and Shawn Kemp had just come off two straight double-doubles, and ... well, you can guess what happened next. Kemp gave me a total of 88 (points, rebs, blocks, steals and assists) in the final nine games. He might as well have just given me VD.

    But here's what really killed me: When Vince Carter shut down and opted for knee surgery, I broke the cardinal fantasy rule -- "Never send out a taunting e-mail during a fantasy season, lest you jinx someone on your own team."

    Stupidly, I sent out a "Hey, I'm really sorry to hear about Vince's knee -- hopefully, he'll recover in time for next season" e-mail around 3:30 in the afternoon ... about five hours later, my best guy (Tracy McGrady) was getting carried off on a stretcher in the O-rena. Hence, the onset of T-Mac's back problems, which hampered him the rest of the way and killed his stats. And I was D-U-N done. Any team that relied on Shawn Kemp, Jason Williams, Vin Baker and Derrick Coleman probably didn't deserve to win, anyway.

    Sorry, I had to vent.

    Q: Is it wrong for me, as a lifelong Red Sox fan, albeit for 17 years, to date a Yankees fan?
    -- Kyle, Natick, Massachusetts

    SG: Not at all. Go for it. By the way, the Taliban has some job openings ... that could be your next step.

    Ashley Judd
    Ashley Judd makes Simmons' "Freebies" list, probably to talk hoops and Rick Pitino.

    Q: Remember the episode of "Friends" where the crew discussed, "Freebies," that is, five celebrities that, if you get the chance, you're allowed to sleep with with the consent of your spouse? You're off the hook on the potential "cheating" because of a once-in-a-lifetime shot. Who are your "Freebies?"
    -- Mike, Glastonbury, Connecticut

    SG: Do the Olson Twins count as one or two? Just kidding. The Sports Gal and I played this game a few weeks ago, and her list caused me to consider some extensive therapy. Let's just say that she thinks the NBA is FANNNNNN-tastic. She loves this game. I will now light myself on fire.

    Anyway, I get this question all the time, so we might as well settle it once and for all: Katie Holmes; Ali Larter; Carla Gugino; Ashley Judd; and, of course, the immortal, incomparable Tiffani Amber-Theissen.

    Since we're here, I'm taking this a step further and giving myself access to a time machine, giving me five more freebies from any era: Cheryl Ladd (undercover on the Hawaii nude beach in Hawaii for that life-transforming two-part episode of "Charlie's Angels"); Famke Janssen (from "Rounders," just because somebody had to step in there); Heather Graham (dressed as "Rollergirl"); Kelly Preston ("Secret Admirer" -- good God); and Jennifer Aniston (from the first season of "Friends," before she stopped eating). Glad we settled this.

    Q: I don't think you should ever plug a Disney flick on your column -- not just for obvious reasons -- because it frankly diminishes your credibility ... you know the whole ABC/ESPN/Disney conglomeration thing right? How are we, your readers, ever to know if you are for real or just regurgitating corporate BS that you have been ordered to write about?
    -- Daniel Schwartz, Evanston, Ill.

    Dennis Quaid
    Disney or not, Dennis Quaid's "The Rookie" was a fine flick.

    SG: Believe me, I never intended to write about "The Rookie" -- I just thought it was a terrific movie and that more people deserved to know about it. That's all. Ignoring it just because it happened to be produced by Disney ... that doesn't make sense to me.

    But you raised a good point, which is that the restrictions and limitations of this gig can be pretty depressing sometimes. ... So I approach things on a case-by-case process; I wouldn't recommend something on ABC or ESPN unless I really felt strongly about it. And I felt really strongly about "The Rookie." Still do.

    Q: Soon, David Lee Roth will be seen singing Van Halen stuff ... a new "Star Wars" movie is out next month ... the Celtics are winning playoff games on the parquet floor ... Jason Voorhees is back in theaters this Friday ... and by God, Hulk Hogan is the heavyweight champion of the world. Are we back in 1984 and nobody told me?
    -- Matty, Boston

    SG: I keep waiting to turn on the 2002 World Karate Championships on ESPN2 just in time to see Daniel LaRusso limping towards the center of the ring as the announcer screams, "He's gonna fight! Daniel LaRusso is gonna fight!"

    Q: In "Rounders," what was Teddy KGB holding on his last hand when he loses to Mike McD? Pre-flop, Mike makes a small raise, Teddy calls. Flop comes up 6-7-10, Mike flops the nut straight, checks, Teddy raises. Obviously, he hit something good. I think he thinks Mike has two pair, 6-7, or perhaps J-10 ... and Teddy has either a pair or ace-10. He definitely would have played 6's pretty slow to see what comes up; on the other hand, if he had 10's, he would have gone all out to win right away.

    Next card is a 2. Mike still hangs in there. Last card is the ace. Now, at this point, Teddy knows Mike has something to hang around ... yet he's still confident, anyway. A player like Teddy KGB doesn't go all in unless he's pretty damn sure. So here's why I think he's got 7's. He's thinking that Mike could have A-10, that the ace helps him (because he says, "the ace didn't help you"), and he's going to run him over anyway. But he probably wouldn't go all in with 6's, just in case Mike had 7's. And he definitely wouldn't go all in with A-10. He might bet it, but not that huge. So the call is 7's. Your thoughts?
    --Mark Noferi, Massachusetts

    Sammy Hagar, David Lee Roth, friends
    Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth, center of back row, pull out all the stops for a comeback tour.

    SG: Hey, poker talk! Giddy up! I wish we could bring Johnny Chan in here to do a SportsCenter Breakdown on this one.

    Here's what I think: Teddy was sitting on two aces. He played it cautiously in the beginning, because he wanted to keep Mike McD in the hand. When 6-7-10 went down, he became a little more aggressive, trying to bully Mike out of the hand in case he was gunning for a straight (worst-case scenario, Mike either had two pair or three of a kind). But once the final two cards were dealt and Teddy landed that third ace (the highest possible Trip), he thought he had it locked up ... never imagining that Mike McD was sitting on a straight the whole time. That's why Teddy said, "The ace didn't help you" -- he thought Mike's best possible hand was Ace-Ten (two pair), which Teddy easily topped with three Aces. So he couldn't imagine any way he could lose.

    (We'll be back on "Really Technical Conversations About Poker That Probably Went Right Over Your Head" after these messages.)

    Q: If there were an NBA All-Asphalt Team -- basketball players you would most want to have in a pickup game -- who would be your starting five?
    -- Jacques, Lower Allston, Mass.

    SG: Very good question. Most of the NBA stars would be just as effective in pickup games, although low-post players like Tim Duncan and Shaq probably wouldn't be as effective, because they'd just get hacked all the time. High-flying forwards like KG and C-Webb would be more effective (the "follow-up dunk" factor), as well as guards who handle the ball and can create their own shot (Stevie Francis, Baron Davis). The guys from the Kobe/Pierce/T-Mac group would probably have the greatest effect on a particular game (because they could score from anywhere and nobody could check them).

    Kevin Garnett
    High-flying Kevin Garnett would be huge in a pickup game.

    I'd tweak this question and ask, "Which NBA players would have a much greater effect in pick-up games than NBA games?", which means we'd have to include the following guys: Cuttino Mobley, Nick Van Exel, Moochie Norris, Ricky Davis, Keon Clark, Darius Miles, Jalen Rose and team captain Troy Hudson. Every time I watch Hudson, I'm always thinking to myself, "That guy would be totally unstoppable in a pick-up game." Same thing with Jalen.

    (You almost wish they created old-fashioned summer leagues for NBA players, divided teams up by the player's hometowns -- the L.A. guys, the Detroit guys, the Chicago guys, the Philly guys, etc. -- and played a pick-up hoops tournament "Above the Rim" style, replete with drug dealers and gang members on the sidelines and everything. That would be FEEEEEE-nomenal. Too bad it could never happen.)

    Q: Are you aware of any conversion chart I might use to let my wife know how long I'll be up watching the end of a sporting event? I can't tell you how many times I thrown out the "there's only two minutes left in an NBA game" excuse and the next thing I know, I'm up for another 30 minutes.
    -- E. Smith, Lincoln, Neb.

    SG: Conversion chart? Are you kidding? Why help them out? As we all know, the most dangerous development of the past 20 years was the Evil Box -- the constant score/time box that remains in the corner of the TV screen during games. Back in the day, you could just tell your wife/girlfriend, "Two more minutes, the game's almost over," and they'd be totally fooled (it could have been the sixth inning or the start of the fourth quarter and they would never know, except for those dreaded moments right before a commercial when the huge score graphic would come flying out of nowhere).

    Now? When you pull the "Two more minutes" routine, they immediately glance at the Evil Box and they know you're lying (only wrestling is safe). The whole thing sucks. As Rick Pitino would say, it stinks and it sucks and stinks. If Circuit City created a TV chip that digitally erased the Evil Box, I'd pony up $300 for that baby in a heartbeat.

    Q: What with all your talk about the Unintentional Comedy Rating (UCR), I started to wonder: Can anybody achieve a zero UCR? And, if not, who has the lowest UCR you've ever seen?
    -- Mark Young

    SG: That's a tough one. You could pick at least 20 different professional golfers that probably fit the bill, if only because of the little-known rule that you must endure six electroshock treatments once you get your PGA Tour card.

    At gunpoint, I would go with John Havlicek. Just a genuinely nice guy, one of the best basketball players of his time, always friendly and accommodating, could never be considered either funny or bland, had a nice-looking family, always played hard, didn't have any picadilloes or foibles that jump out, never got into trouble ... there was just nothing to work with there. He gets a zero UCR.

    On the flip side, six people have achieved the coveted 100 out of 100: The Coreys (Haim and Feldman), Dikembe Mutombo, Ozzy Osbourne, Rickey Henderson and Kip Adotta ... although Magic Johnson is edging into the high-90s at this point (his TNT stint just pushed him ahead of David from "Real World: New Orleans" in my all-time Top 10). If they ever released "The Best of the Magic Hour" on DVD, that might push Magic over the top. Probably needs to happen at some point.

    Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2.


  • Bill_Simmons