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Mail Time!

Anyone who has ever read Bill Simmons, aka “The Sports Guy,” on espn.com knows that every once in a while, when he needs some material, he resorts to writing a “mailbag.” A mailbag is just a compilation of 15 or 20 questions from his readers, followed by responses of varying length from Simmons. The questions are often intriguing, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally clever, but they all do one thing – they give Simmons a ton of free subject matter to cover.

The mailbag is to Simmons like the cut fastball is to Mariano Rivera – no matter how much trouble he gets in, he can count on it to make something good happen. It’s his “slumpbuster” (a word which I highly recommend you look up on Wikipedia). It’s his “sure shot,” like G-Love describes so poignantly in his ballad “Booty Call.” I think you get the idea.

And if any writer out there needs a little help, it’s probably me (READ: still unemployed). So I figured I’d steal a page out of Simmons’ book and bust out a mailbag of my own.

The only obstacle – and I mean the ONLY obstacle – is that I have no readers’ email. Sure I get the occasional email from someone who has a son who happens to be named “Anders,” and once I got a correction on my Dumb and Dumber column, but… in general, the cupboard is about as bare as Duke’s quarterback depth chart.

Never fear – I have plenty of questions myself. Readers? We don’t need no stinking readers. So here it is: the first edition of the Anders Larson stream-of-consciousness mailbag.

Am I the only one getting sick and tired of all the non-stop updates on Terrell Owens on Sportscenter? – Larry Sellers, Los Angeles, CA

Great question, Larry. You’re not the only one – in fact, Ed Werder is now the last living man who ever wants to see Terrell Owens do another shirtless locker room interview. Although, one positive repercussion was the fact that Ron Jaworski and Michael Irvin nearly came to blows in a three-minute segment over the question of whether the Cowboys are regretting signing Owens. I’m not positive, but I think Irvin gave Jaws the “talk to the hand” at one point. Very high-level sports journalism.

Have you seen the alleged 720-degree dunk on the AND1 tour? Have you noticed that it is in fact a 540-degree dunk, because he dunks the ball facing the opposite direction he started in? I mean, they even have an ad-campaign based around the thing, and it’s not legitimate whatsoever. – Reginald vel Johnson, Portland, OR

Good point – I thought I was the only one who realized that. But seriously, Reggie, I just want to express my condolences for the fact that your career peaked in Family Matters.

Did you read Bill Simmons’ column on poker? What a whiny bitch, huh? – Skip Bayless, San Francisco, CA

Those were my first thoughts as well, but it got me thinking: he does have a point that poker isn’t the same as it used to be. But the problem is exactly people like him – people who saw Rounders and believed that explains everything you need to know about poker. The fact of the matter is that poker, in the long run, isn’t about luck at all (and they pointed this out in Rounders). But what was misconstrued in the movie was the fact that it’s not about luck in the short-run – of course it is about luck, why else would they shuffle the deck?

People have to realize that no one can win every tournament, and everyone takes bad beats (like Simmons did), but in the long run, the best players (I’m not including myself in this category) win the money and all the suckers just think they do. The suckers play bad hands, trap hands (like Simmons’ A-10), and when it’s all said and done, they only remember the big hands they won. They forget all those times when they mucked their garbage hands after the flop, and the pots that the experts took from them while they were bemoaning their bad luck.

ESPN has contributed plenty to the problem (although they have brought tons of popularity to the game, which is a good thing for any poker player). The pocket cams make it easy to feel like you can read anyone at a poker table, when in reality only the elite players can make accurate reads. In addition, nearly all you see on ESPN are bad beats, big bluffs, and pros getting knocked out. These tournaments last for days – there’s much more going on than just a bunch of crazy all-in hands. (For an example of how much really goes on, read my friend Ben Logan’s 2006 World Series Blog at http://wsop-2006-.blogspot.com – he finished 87th and won some serious dough.)

Can you do an impression of Drew Rosenhaus? – Terrell Owens, Dallas, TX

Next question.

Did you hear it has been confirmed that three members of the Carolina Panthers NFC-Champion team of 2004 had obtained steroids that year? – Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Bayside, CA

Unfortunately, I did hear that, Mark-Paul. And to be honest, even if we as Panthers fans can probably assume that guys on all the other teams were using as well, this taints our season. Our guys got caught cheating, and there’s no way to deny that. But in my opinion, this would be much worse if we had won. The media would be all over this, people would be calling for an asterisk next to our name – it would be awful.

So nobody get caught this year, baby! We’re ranked #1 by ESPN!! Panthers Super Bowl 2007, whooo!!!

How did this season’s Real World compare with seasons past? – Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, Louisville, KY

Well I’ve only been watching since Real World: Paris, so the previous four seasons are all I have to compare it to. But of those seasons, Real World: San Diego was easily the best, and Real World: Philadelphia was probably the worst. So what qualifies one season as better than another? usually heavy drinking, lots of intra-house romance, and at least one cast member who doesn’t get along with anyone. That legendary San Diego season had all three (Brad and Randy boozing it hard, the Brad-Cameron and Randy-Robin flings, and of course Frankie).

This season started out with great promise, as Paula hit the bottle early and often, often leading to comical late-night exchanges with John. Unfortunately, too few others joined her in taking advantage of the opportunity to binge drink with no repercussions, and soon her “kiss my ass” routine grew weary. Also, after John’s classic meathead attempt to woo Svetlana, no one had any in-house romantic activity, unless you count John ripping Janelle’s bra off and nearly getting kicked off the show.

Plus, by the end, everyone was acting all lovey-dovey and Paula was trying to pretend that she wasn’t just three months away from getting arrested for biting her boyfriend. So all things considered, this show can’t rate that high. If we consider San Diego a 10 and Philadelphia a 1, then I would give Key West a 4.

For reference, Paris would get a 5 and Austin would get a 4. Jonathan Murray, if you can hear me, we are in a rut. Go back to the formula: a couple hot girls, guys who are heavy drinkers, and one person who will immediately regret the decision to join the show.

How many more questions? – Bill Parcells, Dallas, TX

One.

A couple years ago, when Napoleon Dynamite came out, you promised a column on it. Why no column? I know that everyone who reads your site probably already knows what you think about it, but why nothing in print? - Anders Larson, Winston-Salem, NC

Well, Anders, I've been really busy. You know, I joined a new gym, that was one thing... you know, just little things. But if you want my opinion, you got it.

First of all, as many people realized, this is one of those movies that you must see twice. It's impossible to fully "get it" the first time around. So in some ways, I understand how Branson could conceivably say it was "the worst movie I've ever seen in my life."

But the second (and third and fourth) times around, you begin to appreciate the subtleties of the movie, like Uncle Rico's comment that how he used to be able to "throw a football a quarter-mile." That one always kills me, or when he lamented that if "coach had put me in fourth quarter, we'da won states. No doubt, no doubt in my mind." For some reason, that isn't truly funny until you've heard it at least three times. (As you can tell, Uncle Rico was a favorite of mine.) No matter how many times you see it, something new always gets you, which is a hallmark of some of my other favorite movies (The Big Lebowski, Dazed and Confused).

The other thing is the fact that this may be a lightning-in-a-bottle situation, because it seems no one from that movie is doing anything significant these days. Jon Heder (Napoleon) teamed with Rob Schneider and David Spade (that's probably all you really need to know) to make The Benchwarmers, which is undoubtedly the second worst movie (Howard the Duck being number 1) of all-time, and no, I do not need to have seen it to make that statement. Jared Hess directed Nacho Libre, which I actually enjoyed, but primarily because they just let Jack Black be Jack Black and that's always funny. Hayley Duff (Summer) is now collaborating with her sister Hillary, so we can count her out of anything good from now on. But I think all this stuff adds to the allure of Napoleon Dynamite.

So, if pressed, I'd give Napoleon Dynamite 3 stars (out of 4). Maybe after a few more views and it gets bumped to 3.5.

Two questions: Is that the end of the mailbag? And also, am I annoying as hell? - Jay Mariotti, Chicago, IL

Yes and yes. Thanks, Jay, and thanks again to everyone who sent in mail.


Anders Larson Archive

You can actually send me an email at anders@alumni.wfu.edu