posted: Dec. 23, 2005  |  Feedback

I'm not going to overreact to Johnny Damon's defection to the Yankees. That feeling isn't universal, however. Check out these Damon-related e-mails that floated into my mailbox this week ...

I'm so distraught after hearing the news of Johnny Damon going to the Yankees, I don't know what to think. Until now the Red Sox/Yankees and Star Wars comparisons have always been thin, but when I read the news I felt like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV when Alderaan was destroyed.
-- Mike Kmiec, Phillipsburg, N.J.

Personally, I have not been this shocked and angered by a change of allegiance since Sgt. Slaughter teamed up with Colonel Mustafa and supported Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.
-- Brenda, Washington

Johnny, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the hotels, I don't want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?
-- Kevin Juica, Boston

Is it truly just about the money for every single athlete? Why do we pour our hearts into a team and its players just to get stabbed in the back by the team and the players? After all that Damon went through in Boston ... the clutch guy in Game 7 to beat the Yankees, the face of the Red Sox when they broke the curse ... why the hell would he sign with the Yankees less than two years later? He's an icon, a Red Sox legend ... until now. Now he's just another baseball player who will go down as a guy whose true team color came out in the end ... green.
-- Chad Stewart, Raleigh, N.C.

What do you feel the reaction is going to be like at Fenway when he returns for this first game as a Yankee? I mean, he helped us win a World Series, and now sells out for the Furcal-esque price of $52 mill. I'd say the best response would be dead silent ... 33,000-plus saying nothing. Now THAT would bug the hell out of anyone.
-- Brez, Pittsfield, Mass.

In what has become a sports rivalry of biblical proportions, do you find it ironic that Johnny Damon, a.k.a Jesus, turned out to be, in fact, Judas? Can this rivalry between New York and Boston get any bigger? I know you can't bear to think of it but the only logical countermove by Red Sox management is to sign Clemens and instigate a brawl by having him bean Damon.
-- J. Wood, Natick, Mass.

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I was completely mortified when I heard Johnny Damon had sold his soul to the devil. He was my favorite player, and although I want to shove hot pokers in his eyes, who would you blame in this situation: Damon, Boras, or Lucchino? MLB has lost a fan today. And although I'll always love the Sox, I feel sick to my stomach. I really thought Johnny D was a ballplayer and loved the game, but he just showed us his true nature. The dollar signs.
-- John, Columbus, Ohio

If the Yankees are the Evil Empire, and the Red Sox are the Jedi, undoubtedly Johnny Damon is Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. The only quetion left is who is Luke?
-- Ted Simmons, New City, N.Y.

Johnny Damon just stole Christmas.
-- MF, Los Angeles

Johnny Damon. Johnny Bleeping Damon. Johnny Benedict Arnold Damon. Johnny Baseball-Jesus-Turned-Baseball-Antichrist Damon. Johnny Traitor. Demon Damon. Johnny All-About-The Cash. Johnny Roger Clemens Damon. Johnny Rocket. Johnny No-arm Damon. Johnny Foulball-into-fans-heart Damon. Johnny No-Loyalty Damon. Johnny the Commie. Johnny Money-Grubbing-Bastard Damon. Johnny Back-Stabbing Damon. Johnny Steinbrenner. T.O. Damon. Johnny Unfrozen-caveman-"I-Don't-understand-team-loyalty"-lawyer Damon.
-- Jeremy, Albany, N.Y.

Remember the SNL skit from the '90s labeled "Steroid Olympics" and that guy tries to dead lift 900 pounds and as he jerks up, both arms rip clean off his shoulders and are still attached to the barbell on the floor and blood is spurting out everywhere from his shoulder sockets. ... I hope Damon's arm comes flying off while he is trying to make a throw home and his hand and arm are still attached to the ball as it weekly lands in front of A-Rods foot and then A-Rod vomits and passes out, and Joe Torre has to come out and give mouth to mouth to A-Rods bloated purple lips ... That would ease the pain of this trade
-- Mark Faselle, Dallas

So, how do you feel right now, just hours after the Damon debacle? I feel like I just found out Princess Leia is my sister, only it's to little to late because I made out with her last week. I'm gonna go stick my finger down my throat again.
-- Dana, Whitman, Mass.

When we signed A-Rod, I felt sick like Richard Gere before he whacked that French guy with the snowglobe in "Unfaithful." For any true Yankee fan (as I am), signing Johnny Damon is like asking the last guy who nailed your new wife (prior to getting married to her of course) to come and live with you.
-- Jason, Phoenix

Johnny Damon: looks like Jesus, throws like Mary, and betrays like Judas ...

(And that just came out of the mouth of a Jewish girl. What do I do with my No. 18 Red Sox jersey now?)
-- Lindsey, Boston

A brief highlight real of Johnny Damon's telephone interview after signing with the New York Yankees:

"We know George Steinbrenner's reputation. He always wants to have the best players, and I think he showed that tonight."

"A good leadoff man is tough to find, and I think that New York just found the best leadoff hitter in the game."

"Hopefully now they (the Red Sox) can go off and get one of the center fielders they've been courting for the past month or so."

Am I a terrible person for wishing bodily harm on an individual who helped my team to the World Series but now seems bent on some kind of celebrity power trip?
-- Chris, Boston

My husband did this to me. Three years ago he made me believe. I kept the Faith, and I became a cap-wearing, Sports-Guy-lovin', J.-Damon-jersey-toting, "Idiot"-reading member of the Red Sox Nation. I have never felt so betrayed. I have lost my last scrap of faith in humanity. This could turn me off to sports forever, and cause a real problem with my marriage. How can I cope?
-- Shelley Thompson, Oak Park, Calif.

Look at it this way: from now on, any time you see a replay of Jonny Damon getting his face caved in by Damian Jackson, it'll be as funny to you as it has always been to the rest of us.
-- Brian Pierce, Bowling Green, Ohio

Don't you miss New England during this time of year? The weather here is crisp but not paralyzingly cold. There's snow, but it's more "decorative" snow than the typical February "shovelling" snow. Sweaters, cocoa, egg nog, peace on earth and goodwill toward men -- there's not a better time to be a New Englander.

-- Tom, Mystic, Conn.

If there's a silver lining on Johnny leaving the Idiots, it's that maybe I will be able to go to Fenway without having to sit next to That Girl. You know her. She's the one wearing her pink Sox hat and pink Sox shirt, whose only commentary on the game consists of, "Is that Johnny? He's like soooo hot," followed by a comment on his obscenely shiny hair.

This not only makes for an annoying game, but it makes the rest of us girls look bad. Can it, That Girl. I expect you will all relocate to Gillette Stadium, where you can talk about Tom Brady's butt in those pants all you want.

Besides, who'd want to go home with Scrawny Johnny when you could have a Big Papi?
-- Emily, Charlotte, N.C.

All right, I am sick and tired of sports broadcasters who talk about great rivalries and how "These two teams really hate each other." With Damon signing with the Yankees, I now know that it is all lies. There are no rivalries, there is no hatred. There are just bank accounts.
-- Jason Gilman, Toronto, Ontario

To say Johnny Damon has sold his soul to the devil is a complete and utter understatement. I skipped studying for my final last night to walk around my house intermittently cursing him and the Evil Empire. I feel like a jilted girlfriend who has just been dumped for no reason and then finds out that my ex-boyfriend is now dating the biggest skank in school. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
-- Erin, Norwell, Mass.

Where does the defection of Johnny Damon to the Yankees rank on the stomach punch scale? Is this akin to Paul Orndorff clotheslining and piledriving Hulk Hogan out of nowhere? Or is this more of a Steve Austin slowly allies himself with Vince McMahon moment?
-- Adam G., Dallas

Top 10 reasons to love the Johnny Damon signing:

10. Watching him throw goes from tragedy to comedy overnight
9. No longer confused Christians in Boston asking what the extra D in "WWJDDD?" is for
8. Thirty percent chance he gets career-ending disease from a NY stripper
7. Being able to say "hey, almost reached second base with that throw, Johnny!" and not cry afterwards
6. $52 million will weigh down his pockets, reduce range in the outfield
5. Hoping the prospect of a locker room full of "Coco Crisp" jokes is enough to make Manny happy in Boston again
4. Did I mention he throws like a girl? A girl-throwing lefty
3. No longer having to defend his abhorrid personality
2. Yankees-Sox rivalry was wearing down. "bloated payroll" now a valid argument again
1. No longer have to listen to girls argue the relative physical merits of Johnny vs. Gabe Kapler
-- Corey Zue, Boston

In the words of Mike McDermott: "That turncoat mother ..." I have printed out a picture of Derek Lowe to replace the Johnny Damon feature on my "World Series '04" poster. I was at Game 7, and this has taken something away from one of the greatest nights of my life. There will now always be an asterisk next to the quote "grand slam Johnny Damon." What a rat bastard.
-- Ben K., Newport, R.I.

As a Red Sox fan, does Johnny Damon signing with the Yanks tick you off as much as it ticks me off as a Yankee fan? I hate Johnny Damon. There are members of the Red Sox I would love to have in pinstripes, but not Damon. He has this unnerving effect on me, because whenever I see him, I have this dire need to hit someone with my '99 All Star Game souvenir bat. The much-loathed Damon is replacing our beloved Bernie in center field, and Yanks fans are split on the Damon signing, which will cause Yankee fan in-fighting for the whole season. Do those facts at least give you a sick little sense of satisfaction?
-- Geoff, Albany, N.Y.

I woke up this morning to my girlfriend reading a text message from a friend about Johnny Demon going to the Yanks. I said "(bleeping bleep)" and then went back to sleep. Damon really is an idiot. Seriously, he's just plain stupid. I think he sits at home with a Hooked on Phonics set every night and learns how to read with his pinup Michelle. He had it made here. He wasn't just Jesus, he was God. He flew around the city in his Harley, had 75 percent of the female population that is remotely into the Red Sox drooling over him, and was getting endorsments up to wazzoo (I've always wanted to say wazzoo because it's just so ridiculous when I hear it).

In N.Y., he will be a NOBODY. Jeter, A-Rod, Sheffield, Mo. The only reason he came to cult status was his crazy look and now that will be gone. He'll be what he was in K.C. and Oaktown; A great leadoff man with great range in center with no arm. Yeah he's in a bigger market, but he could not possibly get bigger than he was here, just smaller. The only logical move he could have made besides Boston would be L.A. At least there, he could live it up with the other former Sox players/managers and then could have dumped his wife for a Playboy bunny or movie star. Now he's a nobody who will get booed to its greatest extent next year ... for an extra $3 mil a year. That money means nothing to him, but I don't think he knows that, he's just an idiot.
-- Chris Catena, Somerville, Mass.

Damon left because the Sox didn't counter. How could they not counter? Lucchino -- "I think it's fair to say that we left the door ajar for a subsequent formal offer." Could he qualify that statement any further? Some negotiator. I'm sure Theo would not have allowed this thing to sit on the back burner. Remember the Schilling negotiations? Theo flying out to Arizona ... management with urgency. The new management structure is doomed to fail, it emasculates both of the non-GMs. So here's the real question: the Sox are doomed as long as Lucchino is here, right?
-- Mo Green, Hartford, Conn.

Hey Bill, I think we need to look a little closer at what transpired this week ...

Johnny Damon now says he was offered more to play elsewhere for six years (not four) by a team other than the Yankees -- yet he conveniently won't reveal the source of that offer. He also says he turned the larger offer down because he's really just a gamer and wanted to play for a contender -- so he was really just forced to go to New York. So basically this sheepish little tramp is trying to get the best of both worlds -- making it look like a.) he wasn't really disloyal -- because the Sox dropped the ball in negotiations and b.) a money grubber because he accepted less money to play in New York. It's an impressive alibi but I don't believe it for a second. After all, in the spirit of negotiations, wouldn't it be to his benefit to reveal that there was a six-year deal on the table? Of course, it would! I think we also have to recognize his agent is Scott Boras -- no stranger to spin. In addition, we all know Johnny is a sucker for the spotlight! So I say good for the Sox to play hardball with these guys. It is clear to me that Johnny's ultimate goal was to play baseball under the bright lights in the big city ... and to see just how far he could take his celebrity. In short, he is a major league tramp and a traitor of the highest order. Sayonara, Johnny!
-- P. Baldwin, Boston

Damon signing with the Yankees only reinforces that today's athletes DO NOT CARE about the fans and a city that has grown to love them. Damon owned Boston, he was a Rock Star and Idiot. What is he now? He's nothing but another mercenary who went for top dollar. Boston fans, DAMON COULD CARE LESS ABOUT YOU!!! No, today's athletes ONLY care about how much they are getting paid. Didn't Damon say back in May that he would never play for the Yankees and that getting top dollar on the free-agent market wasn't a top priority? What crap!!

Fans and the media like to hype up the Yanks/Sox matchup as a heated rivalry. They like to romanticize playing baseball for these organizations and the love players must feels for fans or a city. The fact of the matter is that players (guys like Damon) do not feel the hatred between the organizations that fans do. They play the game not because they love it or love a particular city, they play the game to get the most money that they can. This desire will make players do unspeakable things like sign with the Devil (Damon, Giambi, Randy Johnson, Clemens, Boggs, Sheffield, Mussina, etc) or they will even sign with a last place team (A-Rod, Pudge Rodriguez). The desire for the best deal outweighs any loyalty a player feels. That lack of a soul is why a guy like Damon would sign with the Devil.
-- Mike Walsh, Fort Myers, Fla

posted: Dec. 6, 2005  |  Feedback

Well, the second book tour starts today: Washington today, Philly on Wednesday, Manhattan on Thursday, Boston on Sunday, Providence on Monday, Peabody on Tuesday, Boston on Wednesday and L.A. on Friday. For all the details, click here.

Just a heads up: I'm taking a pseudo-break over these next two weeks because I'm working on a couple of other projects AND this trip is doubling as my holiday vacation -- still writing the NFL column on Fridays and that's it. (Note: If anything major happens -- a Manny trade, an NBA trade, Pat Morita dying again -- we can always dust off an Emergency Cowbell.) Wish I had better news for you. I look forward to two straight weeks of "Get off your ass and write more columns you butthead" e-mails -- nothing like a little holiday cheer. And yes, I'm already kicking myself for accidentally scheduling this trip during a week where there was FOUR Clippers games, including last night's beating of Miami that included yet another MVP performance from Elton Brand, an 0-for-10 shooting display from old buddy Antoine Walker and a fan making the halfcourt shot for a new car by throwing the ball over his head.

One more thing: NO sports book recommendation this week because I wanted to do a compare-and-contrast between two basketball books, only I wasn't able to finish the second book in time because the Sports Baby decided to remain awake for five straight hours on the plane from L.A. to Washington, to everyone's chagrin (and I mean, EVERYONE'S chagrin). I have been conspicuously silent about the whole Dad Thing in this space, and only because I'm not sure anyone cares except for other people who have kids ... but at the same time, I'm kicking myself for not keeping a running journal of this entire experience. Absolute comedy galore. It's like trying to deal with a completely bombed roommate in college, only if they were a 27-inch midget. Um, little person.

Anyway, more than a few readers asked for us to stick all the sports book recommendations from the past few months on one page -- which made way too much sense, so we resisted the idea as long as we could. Finally, we got around to doing it and will keep adding reviews to that page as we go along.

Here's the page.

posted: Dec. 1, 2005  |  Feedback

Quick follow-up note on the second book tour: Some people have asked if they could just bring the books they already bought to get signed (instead of buying a new one). Absolutely. Should have made that more clear.

I wanted to mention two online petitions today:


If you're a Sox fan, here's your chance to sign a petition and express your disappointment that the Red Sox are thinking about trading Manny Ramirez -- a future Hall of Famer who plays 150 games a season and always delivers the goods on the field. After five years, we know what we're getting here. Two or three times a year, he's going to stop running hard on fly balls, he's going to passive-aggressively mention that he's unhappy and wouldn't mind being traded, and nobody's going to take him that seriously, the clubhouse will keep chugging along, and then he'll start hitting again and that will be that.

You know what? I understand the ground rules. And I'm fine with them. So is just about every other rational Red Sox fan. Why would we ever trade this guy for 50 cents on the dollar? I didn't understand this logic last July when they almost traded him, I don't understand it now, and I will continue not to understand it. Sure, he's a little overpaid, but when you consider that Big Papi is outrageously underpaid, it all evens out, doesn't it? So you're paying the best 1-2 offensive punch in baseball a combined $27 million-$28 million a year for the next three. Isn't that the going rate? And what about the dramatic effect that Manny's departure would have on Big Papi for 162 games a year? Would he ever see another strike?

Here's the thing about Manny that you have to remember: You know when your girlfriend/wife is getting ready for a party and irrationally flips out because she can't find her favorite dress, or because she ran out of eyeliner, or because one of the heels on her favorite shoes is broken, and she breaks down like a complete maniac for about 25 minutes and starts ranting and raving, and you're thinking, "My God, she's a lunatic, I'm stuck with a full-fledged lunatic," and then she finds the dress/eyeliner/second pair of shoes, calms down and everything's fine? That's Manny. Every once in a while, he flips out. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and it's usually for a reason like "somebody parked in my parking spot today" or "the guy behind the counter at CVS accidentally called me Pedro." But it never affects the other guys on the team, and he usually settles down, and that's that. I can't possibly fathom why you would trade someone who produces like Manny does. Besides, he's not smart enough to genuinely sabotage his relationship with the team to force a trade -- it's just not in him; he lacks the requisite savvy. I'm not being mean, it's a fact. So keep him around.

Anyway, I'm signing the petition. If you're a Sox fan, I hope you will follow suit. It would be a shame to see Manny traded because the Red Sox' front office is in shambles and John Henry lacks the requisite spine to stop Larry Lucchino from micromanaging the baseball operations, bullying team employees (including the manager, who last season was routinely awakened at 6 a.m. to hear Lucchino ranting on the other end of the phone) and driving valued employees out of the organization when he didn't even put up one-fiftieth of the money to purchase the team. He's turning into one of those characters on "24" who works for the president and runs roughshod for half the season before the president realizes what's happening.

Yo, Mr. Henry? You're the owner. The buck stops with you. Get rid of this guy. There's a reason nobody wants to interview for your GM job, and there's a reason Theo inexplicably walked away from his dream job. Deal with it. If we lose Manny because nobody has the guts to deal with Lucchino, like many other Sox fans, we will be blaming you and you alone. Prepare for our wrath.


All right, this is stupid, and I don't care if you think less of me …

But the Sports Gal made me start watching "Reunion" on Fox this season, and I ended up getting hooked for five reasons:

1. I'm a sucker for any show or movie where the characters age over the course of time, as well as any show that's set in a certain time period, plays the music from that period, has everyone dressing like they did in that period, and so on. (When you think about it, that was really the only reason "The Wedding Singer" was funny.) When watching the 1991 episode, all the girls will be wearing baggy sweaters, and I get to relive the days when girls ate whatever they wanted and everyone was afraid to have sex. Good times!

2. I'm a sucker for any show where the acting is so staggeringly bad, you can't even believe it's happening, and then you reach a point where you're actually rooting for the actors to pull off scenes. In other words, it's like any bad '80s movie -- "Secret Admirer," "Oxford Blues," "St. Elmo's Fire," "Just One of the Guys," you name it. Seriously, this was the first TV show ever made with the hopes of being as bad as your average '80s movie -- I'm convinced everything was intentional, right down to the casting. In particular, the black guy from "Six Feet Under" pretty much ends his career on this show -- he plays a "hard-hitting detective" whose idea of an intense scene is furrowing his brow and making the Mike Tice "Did we win that replay challenge, I'm confused?" face. Fantastic work by him. He'll be serving me coffee at Peet's in about six months.

3. I like shows where I can predict everything that's about to happen before it happens. Literally, everything. It makes me feel smart.

4. The girls on the show were hot. There. I said it. I don't care if I get divorced -- actually, the Sports Gal loves the guy who ends up getting paralyzed, so we're probably even. My favorite was Amanda Righetti, who played Kirsten's sister in the "OC," then spun off to "North Shore" (canceled) and "Reunion" (canceled). She should change her name to Shareef Abdur-Righetti at this point. But she's gorgeous and you will definitely be seeing her playing a detective investigating a murder at a brothel on Skinemax in about 18 months. Same for the curly haired girl who had Will's baby and gave it up for adoption -- she's one set of implants away from becoming the Tiffani Amber Thiessen of this generation.

5. The murder mystery was actually pretty cool -- these six high schoolers started out as best friends in 1986, one of them was killed in the present day, and then they go back year-by-year starting in 1987 to figure out what happened (with new clues every year). Interesting concept. And just when I was totally hooked …


Umm … what????

How can you cancel a sequential murder mystery? Apparently, they were scheduled for 22 episodes, but Fox pulled the plug after 13, which means they'll be speeding up the rest of the years (we're up to 1993 right now, the Grunge Era) so we can figure out what happened. I find this unconscionable. Look, people at Fox, I didn't ask to watch your show. You kept plugging it, and you stuck it on after "The OC," and you put Amanda Righetti in the cast, and you eventually sucked us in … now you're screwing us? Sure, only 4.3 million people were watching, but still, that's 4.3 million people! At the very least, move it to FX for the remaining episodes. This is an outrage.

Anyway, I have never had a favorite show canceled before -- it's almost like finding out that one of your teams randomly made a horrible trade, multiplied by 10. So here's my plea to Fox. Next weekend, run all the "Reunion" shows in a row on a Saturday afternoon -- just bump all the crappy reruns that nobody would have been watching. People can get caught up. They'll watch the first one, think it's terrible, vow to stop watching it, then inexplicably keep watching. By the third show, not only will they be hooked, they'll feel like an idiot for being hooked. But they'll keep watching.

The thing is, it's tough to find watchable TV shows that aren't mentally challenging, remain vaguely interesting, keep you visually stimulated and give you the chance to crack 200-300 jokes per episode. So please, bring "Reunion" back. Run all 22 shows. I don't ask for much.

(And if you want to sign the petition to help me out, feel free.)

December 2005