posted: Sep. 15, 2005  |  Feedback

First, an update on my book: Even though it wasn't supposed to be released until Oct. 1, apparently and Barnes and Noble online have it in stock as we speak. Not sure about bookstores yet -- I think it depends on the store -- so if you want to flip through it before you decide on buying it, just call your local bookstore and ask whether they have it in stock. It's fun to harass bookstore employees, anyway.

From what I can gather, if you preordered the book, you should be getting it any day (or you might have received it already), and if you were waiting to order the book until it came out, then you can order it right now and have it within a few days. And no, I'm not putting the link at the end of this paragraph, because that would be shameless. Just know that, if this book doesn't sell, I'm going to pull a Ricky Williams and end up traveling around Australia in some 24-hour-a-day marijuana fog with a Grizzly Adams beard, stinky clothes and like $3 in my pocket. Not only would that be terrible, not only would my column disappear, not only would my family suffer as a result, not only would ESPN sue me for breaching my contract ... but it would be all your fault. So buy the book. Here are some early reviews:

"I loved it! I'm very proud of you!"
-- My dad

"This is the best book you have ever written!"
-- My mom

"I bought 10 copies already!"
-- My stepmother

"Great [expletive] book man, its gonna be huge!"
-- My buddy J-Bug

"Looks fantastic! Can't wait to read it!"
-- Jimmy Kimmel

As you can see, the early feedback has been tremendous.

Also, later this month, I'm embarking on a 10-day book tour starting Sept. 27 (New York City), then going to Stamford (Sept. 28), West Hartford (Sept. 29), Holy Cross (Sept. 29), Boston (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1), Washington (Oct. 4) and Chicago (Oct. 5). That schedule hasn't been finalized yet, but those will be the dates. So if you want an autographed copy that will bump the eBay value of the book from $5 to $7 ten years from now, here's your big chance to get the book signed and have an awkward 10-second conversation with me. And yes, if you insist, I will sign your breasts.

While I'm spending your money, if you haven't given to the Red Cross yet, here's the link. Make sure you click on the "Hurricane Katrina" choice so the money goes directly to relief effort in New Orleans. It's tax-deductible.

One more random note: Gabe Kapler's tearing his Achilles tendon while scoring on someone else's home run, reacting like he tweaked his ankle, finally crumbling to the ground, then insisting he wanted to run out the last two bases ... I mean, this has been one of the weirdest Red Sox seasons ever, and that pretty much crushed every weird thing that ever happened, especially because Dale Sveum was frantically waving him home even as Kapler writhed on the ground. All right, I made that last part up. But that was nuts. Sad moment though because he was one of the truly likable guys on the team. And while we're here, can anyone think of a single reason why a team would pitch to Big Papi in the last two innings of a close game anymore? Why isn't he getting the Bonds treatment here?

(Actually, disregard those last two sentences ... um, I think he's about to cool off. It's only a matter of time. Teams should take their chances with him, he can't possibly keep this up.)

Anyway, here are some follow-up e-mails, corrections and other goodies playing off things I wrote over the past week or so:

I had to write in to debunk the "Jerry Maguire" time lapse that was brought up in yesterday's mailbag. The game was on Christmas day, meaning that it probably started earlier at, say, 4:30 p.m. Phoenix time. This is a stretch but, if Maguire talks to Tidwell at 8:30, that puts him at the airport at 8:45. Southwest flies to LAX just about every hour, even this Christmas (I looked it up). So, pre-9/11, he's on the 9:15 flight because there is no way that flight is full on Christmas night. Now, because Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings, in the winter there is a time difference between LA and Phoenix. So, he actually SAVES an hour while in the air, putting him in to LAX at 9:15. Using SG's best case, "Mr. Black People" is in his car at 9:25, home by 9:45, just in time to save his marriage and catch the late SportsCenter.
-- Chris C., Scottsdale, Ariz.

(Note from SG: I don't remember the Christmas day part, but if that's true, the game would have started at the earliest for an 8 p.m. East Coast start, which means 6 p.m. Arizona time. He wouldn't have made the airport before 10:15/10:30 at the earliest, which means he wouldn't have gotten home before 11:15/11:30 at the earliest. More important, why would Renee Zellweger's sister have an "Angry Women Who Hate Men" support group meeting on Christmas night?)

Regarding reader Doug Cantor ruining "Jerry Maguire" for us, unless I'm missing a shot to a clock in that womens' group scene that states it's only 8:30, I think it's plausible that such a desperate group of women were still up at 2 a.m. when Jerry truly arrived. "With all the constant chocolate-eating" as the one girl says, perhaps there were still bon-bon's left to be eaten. It's sad that I felt compelled to save this movie for everyone.
-- Pat S, Cleveland, Ohio

About the "Jerry Maguire" questions: You're obviously forgetting that the various collection of divorced, well-over-35, single moms (non-moms after 35 would support my theory even better) would be up well past 2 a.m. bad-mouthing all the various men of their collective pasts. You figure they each have 3-4 terrible men in their pasts if they're 30-40. That means each one would talk for an hour minimum on average throughout the night. I don't have a true count, but I'm guessing there were 6-8 women in the room when Jerry walks in. That means if they started eating their pot-luck at 6 or 7, they'd all still be there at 2 a.m. Also, by midnight, they would have sucked down a gallon of coffee each -- essentially getting themselves wired on caffeine, furthering the yap-fest. And, of course, just as women compete to out-do each other with their clothes, jewelry, etc., they would probably embellish their horrible men stories to one-up each other, making the girl talk continue indefinitely. Therefore, I find the ending of "Jerry Maguire" incredibly plausible.
-- J.P., San Francisco

"Jerry Maguire" is one of my favorite movies, and as a result I've seen it about 3,459 times. The MNF game is flawed in terms of when it ends, but so how 'bout some of the other flaws. Rod Tidwell picks up an excessive celebration penalty with only 1:30 or so left in the game. This sets Dallas up for one last drive with a short field, but no one seems to care. Or how about earlier in the movie when they're discussing Rod's stats from the previous season. Go back and listen to them. They're ridiculous! But somehow no one at the draft even knows who Rod Tidwell is? Any football person should know who a receiver is that amassed something like 1,500 yards. Am I the only one bothered by this?
-- Mike W., Ann Arbor, Mich.

One more Forrest Gump moment for Al Michaels that you forgot: He announced the "Rod Tidwell Game" in "Jerry Maguire" that put the Cardinals into the playoffs and eventually led to Cuba Gooding Jr. starring in "Boat Trip."
-- Ethan, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Doug Cantor pointed out the horrendous timing problem in "Jerry Maguire." However, the worst example of this is in the "Blues Brothers." At the end of the movie they play the sold-out concert to raise the money to save the orphanage. The Blues Brothers play two songs before sneaking out to avoid the police. Even granting that they were late to the concert, considering that the entire audience is still in attendance it can't be much past 11 p.m. when they leave. There is then the classic line "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses." The Blues Brothers then lead a massive police chase driving roughly 100 miles per hour. The 106 mile trip, therefore, should not have taken much more than an hour, putting them in Chicago at midnight. Yet somehow they arrive in Chicago around 10 a.m.! The fact that a federal building is open and operating is a sure sign that it is at least mid-morning. So what were they doing? What happened? That is a minimum of 9-10 hours that simply disappeared without a trace.
-- Eric H, Phoenix, Ariz.

Your columns are great ... but one thing, in your mailbag today you say Valerie Malone bought a 'Vette ... not true, she bought a Acura NSX with her money from Jonesy. Only one person can handle the 'Vette: Sanders. Rock and roll.
-- Peter, Salem, Mass.

I hate myself for knowing what I'm about to type, but I've got some more info for you on Valerie's finances. First, she bought an Acura NSX, not a Corvette. Second, Dylan lost $8 million, which he was splitting 50-50 with Jonesy for $4 mil each. Jonesy made a big deal about splitting things fairly with Val, which makes me think he split his half with her 50-50 since she was the one getting the money back. But even if he figured she only earned 1/3 of his $4 million, that leaves her with over a million bucks to blow on the After Dark and the Bel Age. Seems reasonable to me.
-- Kevin Quinn, Philadelphia

(Note from SG: I don't remember Dylan and Jonesy splitting the $8 million ... are we sure that happened?)

For "best slow clap," I feel somewhat betrayed by the fact that a self-confessed "Can't Buy Me Love" fan would neglect to mention Big John's inspired slow clap following Ronnie Miller's passionate lunchtime speech to Quint. I imagine I feel somewhat like Kenneth did after he caught Ronnie in the net on Halloween. I'm going to the arcade now to play a motorbike racing game.
-- Mike, Chicago

In your banter with Josh Schwartz, you claim that you want to see a TV character with a drinking problem have no repercussions. All you need to do is look to Homer Simpson! Now, I realize he isn't real, but still ... the man gets away with everything! Granted he's had a few rough mornings, but who doesn't? He gives the rest of us reason to believe that all in all, you CAN get away with drinking too much and live a fully functional life. Personally, I'm still waiting for the day I get to float around in a space shuttle munching on a bag of Lays that has popped open in no gravity.
-- Greg, Washington, D.C.

You missed a big moment in your discussion of the slow-clap. There was an entire SNL skit built on it -- it was a fake soap opera called "The Sarcastic Clapping Family of Southhampton." Here's the link to the transcript.
-- John M., St. Louis

Your recent mini-mailbag mentioned the sarcastic "I love you in ... " routine (congratulating big-time stars about earlier roles that they would rather forget). I think Tom Hanks was mentioned along with a few others. Here's a true story along the same lines: About five or six years ago, I was in Beverly Hills with a friend when we ran into Michael Richards, aka Kramer from "Seinfeld." My buddy walks right up to him and deadpans, "I really enjoyed your role in UHF." He was LIVID ... I don't think he enjoyed being praised for his uplifting portrayal of a jedi-esque janitor who becomes a children's variety show star overnight.
-- Eric, Redondo Beach, Calif.

When I was in LA, I was at a bar watching the early morning Sunday games (West Coast people drinking beers at 9 a.m. waiting for football. Really good) and Leo DiCaprio was there. We went over to him and told him he was "Phenomenal in Growing Pains." The look of death was priceless. Even better by the next line. I said to my buddy "I can't believe we're meeting Kirk Cameron!"
-- Crash, New York

The winner for the "I loved you in ... " game lies in the cast of "The Harvest". Check out who played the Lip-Synching Transvestite.
--Tim, Chicago, IL

(Other recommendations that came in for this category: Kevin Costner in "Night Shift"; Demi Moore in "Blame it on Rio"; Jennifer Connelly in "Hot Spot"; Vince Vaughn in "Rudy"; Courteney Cox in the "Dancing in the Dark" video; Chazz Palminteri AND William H. Macy in "The Last Dragon"; Nic Cage (billed as Nicolas Coppola) in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"; Laurence Fishburne in "Pee-Wee's Playhouse"; Jennifer Garner in "Dude Where's My Car?"; Jeff Bridges in "Tron"; and my personal favorite, Tim Robbins in "Top Gun.")

In your response to the guy questioning if Forrest Gump had HIV, you said that he ran for 18 months. He actually ran much longer than that -- 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. I had a pair of Nike Cortez shoes in high school, just like Forrest, and let me tell you, if he ran more than five miles in those things, he would have knee and ankle problems that would last forever. Like I do.
-- Todd L, Canton, S.D.

In the mailbag, you took a little jab at Jon Stewart, saying someone could embarass him by mentioning his role in "Half Baked," since he takes himself so seriously now. As a "Daily Show" fan, I thought I'd let you know that Stewart mentions his "Half Baked" cameo on the show quite often, as recently as last week, as an example of why he sticks to his TV anchor role rather than pursue acting. His lack of embarrassment regarding the role is probably due to his audience, characterized by Bill O'Reilly as "stoned slackers" being far more forgiving toward the cameo than the average movie goer.
-- Conor L., San Diego

In a recent mailbag column, you mentioned Jon Stewart as someone you'd like to take down a peg by mentioning "Half Baked" in the context of "Hey, I loved you in ...." because he takes himself so seriously now. I call Shenanigans on you, sir. Stewart actually makes fun of his own acting (particularly in "Half Baked") on a pretty regular basis. I say that if you really want to get him, you should mention the emotional climax of "Big Daddy" or his role as an alien teacher who goes by the name of the actor from "Terminator 2" in "The Faculty." There, I said it.
-- Dominic M., Brooklyn, N.Y.

I thought that you would be proud to know that Bess, the most commonly used Internet filtering program for high schools, including my own, has all of your cowbell ramblings under the "global block list." Congrats. You officially corrupt the minds of the youth in our nation. Keep up the good work.
-- Brad Inman, Toledo

Watching parts of the U.S. Open match between Hewitt and Federer, I realized there was something that needed your input: Should there be some kind of special achievement award presented to Mary Carillo for being the first and only female sports broadcaster to not be incredibly obnoxious and really overbearing in seemingly trying way too hard to sound like they "fit in" in the men's sports world, and even BRINGING things to the table? We could even have Jack Morris present the award to her.
-- Alexander S., Twin Cities, Minn.

How can you rattle off a list of good assistants/crappy head coaches and leave out Ray Handley? You say you didn't have room? Fine, he still deserved to make it. Ray Rhodes at least made the playoffs. I think I speak for all Giants fans when I say that our Ray was [worse] by a factor of at least 7. I mean, one of my first memories of the NFL was performing the "Ray Must Go" chant with my dad. You must have known some big Giants fans at the time, so you must be familiar with the utter disgust we all had with him as a coach. I'm not going to bring up his benching of Phil Simms in favor of Hoss and his porn 'stache. I'm not going to mention a 13-3 championship team going a combined 14-18 over the next two years. I'm going to tell you a story and then let you go. I'm sitting with my dad and my grandfather watching a game. The G-men have the ball on the 1-yard line and it is fourth down. Pro-Bowler Rodney Hampton is not in the game for some reason, leaving Ray with two running backs: 175 pound scatback Dave Meggett and 250 pound Jarrod Bunch. Ray, of course, decides on a draw play for Meggett, who proceeds to get hit behind the line of scrimmage by approximately 58 defensive linemen. So, to sum up this unnecessarily lengthy e-mail, Ray Handley is not only responsible for the collapse of the post-Parcells Giants, he also managed to get me to, in a roundabout way, defend Jarrod Bunch. The horror.
-- Nick C., Storrs, Conn.

From yesterday's mailbag: How in the world could that girl that tried to seduce three roommates be called "Secretariat"? If that's not screaming for the name "Seattle Slew," I don't know what is.
-- Matt Boutwell, Maine

While sitting in the Montreal airport after a three-day bachelor party (which after reading your recent column about New Orleans I will champion as an underrated bachelor party spot, where I believe my soul and dignity completely wasted away into a pile of dust), I spotted the following poster in full page color in the NY Times Fall Movie Preview. Read the cast list very carefully. I believe this could signal the end of life as we know it on Earth. It has to be a misprint of some sort. I'm going to buy a generator and as many canned foods as I can fit into my trunk.
-- Nick, Lansdale, Pa.

I was shocked to learn in your last mailbag that in America, "pulling the goalie" means trying for a baby. In Canada, the birthplace of the phrase, you would instead be describing a sexual encounter that involves only one person (male). If you said that to a Canadian, he'd think you were just getting "assistance" from your wife, and be really really jealous. Just so you know.
-- Steve S, Calgary, AB

As a Pats fan, is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. He had no clue while with the Pats and now he is one of the best coaches in college football. I remember going to a game when he was coaching the Pats -- they were playing a crappy team and won. Not spectacularly, but they won. After the game he came sprinting through the tunnel, pumping his fists like they beat the '85 Bears by 30. He looked like a complete moron. He probably still looks like a complete moron, but at least he wins.
-- Archie, Fall River, Mass.

In your Sept. 14th mailbag you were asked how you handle comments about your daughter from friends with sons. I have two daughters and with each employed what I call the "now and later" defense. The now part consists of telling your friend with sons that if you hear that comment ever again, you are telling his wife about X. The later part consists of having your daughter beat up and basically emasculate your friends' sons every time you get together with them. No parent will allow their sons to get physical with a little girl (this works best with wives around), but girls are always considered to be just trying to play like a boy if they get a little rough. Guaranteed that your buddy's sons won't ever want anything to do with your daughter down the line.
-- Dan, Indianapolis

Not sure if you've come across this, yet, but if you are still fast-forwarding (with TiVo) through commercials (or, like me, through the interminable amount of time it takes for Mike Martz to call in a play), let me introduce you a little friend I like to call "the thirty second skip." Armed with that and the eight-second rewind button, you can jump through any length commercial break in two seconds.
-- Mike S., St Louis

Bad news for you, pal. "24" doesn't return until January. That way they can run the whole season without the gaps that plagued "Lost." It [stinks] now, but wait until they run four episodes in two days after the Super Bowl. Best show on TV.
-- Kyle, Marion, Iowa

As an avid Sports Guy fan for many years, I cannot explain to you how excited I am that you have finally caught on to "24". I've been watching for all four seasons. Just so you know, at the beginning of the season last year, Jack and Chloe, the geeky assistant, were the only two characters that were ever on the show before. Season Four was going along just fine, but the whole time, all the longtime fans were asking "Where are the superstars?" The episode where Tony makes his return, I knew during commercial it was going to be him, as Jack said "there is only one person I can trust." You knew it was going to be Tony and you could not be happier. Kind of like late '90s WWF, when a title match was going on, everybody was getting beat up, you hadn't seen Stone Cold make an appearance, and the camera zooms away and looks at the ring with the entrance ramp above it and the glass shatters. Very similar. Go Sox!
-- Hank, Providence, R.I.

I see you're on the "24" bandwagon now and want to ask if you know of any other TV/Movie character who had a worse day than Audrey Raines in Season 4? She was kidnapped along with her father ... they tried to commit a double suicide and were saved at the last minute ... she nearly watched her father take a bullet to the head before they were both saved ... also, her brother was somewhat responsible for the kidnapping, and if that wasn't bad enough, he came out of the closet by confessing about his threesome with two terrorists that ended up starting the whole thing ... her estranged husband came back into her life only for her to suspect him of being a terrorist, see him tortured by her new boyfriend, start to fall for him again, see him survive a surgery, then watch him die in another surgery because your new boyfriend needed the doctor to save someone else's life ... five hours later, she watched her new boyfriend die. Now try to complain about your day again.
-- Micky, Brooklyn, N.Y.

I'd like to nominate Clancy Pendergast (Arizona Cardinals D-Coordinator) for first-ballot induction to the Reggie Cleveland Hall of Fame.
-- Joe Carney

I rarely ever feel this way, but as the self-proclaimed king of "Seinfeld" enthusiasts, I have to take umbridge at your recent mailbag reference to Jason Alexander as George. First, Alexander was signed up to headline the show because of his name recognition from Broadway (he won a Tony the year before getting the "Seinfeld" gig). The first few episodes, he is obviously channeling Woody Allen until he realized that his character is Larry David, and began, admittedly, parodying him for the next few years until George finally took on a character of his own. The reader e-mail pointed out that we have seen nothing of Alexander since the show, which is true for most of your audience who focuses on TV and film. Jason Alexander has done quite well for himself on Broadway, which is the only place he ever wanted to have a career. Granted, I'm not saying theatre should be on the same scale as TV or movies, I've never been to Broadway and don't plan to go anytime soon, but they do tend to have quality actors, Jason Alexander among them. Perhaps the only downside of the new "Seinfeld" on DVD collection is that we fans get indisputable proof that Jason Alexander has nothing in common with George Costanza. Jason Alexander is basically the pretentious theatre geek we all hated (or were) in high school, he just happens to be very good at it.
-- Ryan Scott

I read your buddy Gus' review on "Madden '06" and I thought it was great. But he forgot the single best addition to this year's game. Being able to flip into the end zone. It's the little things.
-- Brian M., New York

A few facts to refute a pro-WNBA e-mail trying to claim that it took decades for the NFL and MLB to establish themselves, so you should give the WNBA more than just 9 years before you write them off: Well, the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was founded in 1869. It went on a nationwide tour and became an immediate hit, resulting in the formation of a new professional league, the National Association, in 1871. That league, it is true, folded after five seasons, but (1) the causes were largely the prevalence of gambling and the depression of 1873 and (2) it was immediately replaced by the National League. The NL also had some rocky moments, but by 1880 it was firmly established and starting to thrive, and within two more seasons (1882) the league was successful enough to spawn a full-fledged rival.

So, maybe it did take just a little longer for baseball to settle in than the current life span of the WNBA ... but baseball had to invent professional team sports in America in the process, and do so in the face of a depression and the aftermath of Civil War, with no mass media, playing exclusively on weekday and Saturday afternoons. I'd like to see the WNBA try that.
-- The Baseball Crank, New York

Until tomorrow.

posted: Sep. 13, 2005  |  Feedback

With rookie Jon Papelbon standing on the mound during a tie Red Sox game Monday night, I called my buddy Hench just to tell him, "This is the single biggest moment of the season."

Strange prediction, since they were playing the Blue Jays, but here was my logic: Boston's bullpen, as presently constituted, cannot win three straight playoff series. It's impossible. You know how they always use the saying "lights-out" for an effective reliever? Well, Boston's bullpen has been lights-on for five months and counting.

Historically, no team in the modern baseball era has captured a World Series with a group of relievers this statistically inept. As it stands right now, the Red Sox have one decent reliever (Mike Timlin) who's not even that good ... and he's the closer. Former closer Keith Foulke pushed his body too far last October and hasn't been remotely the same since -- I wish people would remember this when they decide to rip him, but that's a whole other story. Last year's lefty stopper (Alan Embree) pitches for the Yankees, where he's helped the Red Sox more in the past month than he did in the previous four. Nobody else really matters. In October, "Brandon" (that's what announcers have been calling him) Arroyo moves to the pen as a set-up guy, giving the Sox another decent arm (although he's the ultimate hit-or-miss guy).

Here's what was missing: A young stud who could come in, throw some heat and make batters swing and miss. And the only guy who fit the bill was Papelbon. Long considered one of the organization's top prospects, he came up in July and pitched a couple of decent starts (Varitek went out of his way to rave about him), went back to the minors, returned to throw a beauty in Anaheim (6.2 shutout innings), then moved to the bullpen (where he pitched in college). And the makeup is there -- Papelbon throws between 93 and 95 with a kick (his fastball hops up), and he struck out the side against the Devil Rays two weeks ago. He also carries himself like Seagal in "Under Siege" -- quiet, confident, doesn't seem fazed by anything. So you knew we were reaching the "All right, this kid is either going to be a factor or not" point with him.

Monday night? It happened. Arroyo self-destructed in the seventh, blowing a five-run lead with help from Foulke (downright sad to watch) and Francona's goofy, Jamesian decision to bring in Timlin (who promptly gave up a game-tying bomb). After Timlin threw 24 pitches through the eighth, Francona didn't have a choice -- we had to find out about Papelbon once and for all. So the kid comes out for the ninth, throws two hitless innings, gets the obligatory go-ahead homer from Big Papi in the top of the 11th -- seriously, this is getting ridiculous, he's like the Dominican Roy Hobbs at this point -- then effortlessly retires the side in the bottom of the 11th for the win. Forty-five pitches, no hits, one baserunner, one strikeout.

And here's what we found out: In October, when everything slows down, when the tension mounts, when weaker players fold and stronger players thrive, only a handful of relievers can handle the shift in pressure. We didn't know if Papelbon was one of them; now we know that he has it in him. There's also a precedent here, because Calvin Schiraldi came out of nowhere during the '86 season and helped propel that team in the playoffs (everyone forgets this now because of what happened in October, but he was superb in the regular season before the Schiraldi Face made its debut in the Angels series). And as recently as 2002, the Angels wouldn't have won the World Series without K-Rod giving them a boost in September.

Can it happen with Papelbon? After watching Monday's game, I say yes.

And as strange as this sounds, the 2005 Red Sox can't win the World Series without him.

One more baseball note: I was reading Peter Gammons' column Monday when he casually mentioned that St. Louis' Chris Carpenter was the best starter in baseball right now. Thinking it was a typo, I checked out his stats ... I mean, he's on pace for an $11 million season right now! Who knew? Then I looked at his career stats and noticed two things. First, he's 30. Second, he's never even come close to approaching this. Other than Mike Scott's ungodly 1986 season, has there ever been another situation like this before?

So I e-mailed Holy Cross grad Dan McLaughlin, who used to write the "Baseball Crank" column for my old Web site and continues to write for Here was Dan's response (and please note that it took him over an hour, he's clearly slipping in his old age):

"Well, Scott is the obvious parallel. There's a bunch of examples of less dramatic turnarounds by guys who were inconsistent or injury-prone in their 20s (Mike McCormick, Kevin Brown, Curt Schilling, Mike Cuellar, Bob Tewksbury), were previously relievers (Wilbur Wood, Hank Aguirre), pitched OK and got huge run support (Steve Stone) or just didn't get a shot in the majors until they were past 30 (Dazzy Vance, Spud Chandler, Sal Maglie). Carpenter's just 30 and was 15-5 last year with a 121 ERA+ [3.46 actual ERA] and 7.52 K/9, so he did build up to this a bit, although I don't think anyone predicted this after he broke down (yet again) at the end of last year (me, I've been arguing for years that he should be converted to a closer due to his fragility). But there are a few other, similar examples besides Scott (I could be forgetting someone -- I didn't exactly do a systematic study -- but I don't think so):

1. If you look at the top 10 most similar pitchers to Carpenter entering 2005 on, you'd find Jason Schmidt at No. 9. Schmidt's career-bests through age 29 were 13 wins, a 3.45 ERA and 196 K, all set or matched at age 29 (his age-29 season is quite similar to Carpenter's). At 30, Schmidt went 17-5, 2.34 ERA, 208 K, pitching comparably to Carpenter, if winning a few less games and throwing a few less innings. Other than Scott, he's probably the most similar one.

2. Bucky Walters, through age 29, had career bests of 15 wins (at age 29) and a 4.17 ERA. At 30, he went 27-11 with a 2.29 ERA and won the MVP Award for the '39 Reds; other than Scott, he's probably the most similar case.

3. John Tudor's career bests were 13 wins and a 3.27 ERA, until at age 31 he posted the 1.93 ERA in 275 innings and won 21 games for the '85 Cards. Getting out of Fenway and getting Ozzie behind him had a lot to do with that.

4. Dave Stewart's career high in wins through age 29 was 10, and he'd never tossed 200 innings before. Stewart at 30 started the string of four consecutive 20-win seasons, although he didn't instantly dominate the league."

So there you go. In case you didn't realize it before, I am very, very, very, very secretly a baseball stat dork but have successfully weaned 98 percent of that habit out of my body. The other two percent is still fascinated by this stuff. Anyway, thanks to the Crank.

One note from Monday night's Eagles-Falcons game: How could it take John Madden until the final drive of the fourth quarter to wonder if that hellacious hit on Donovan McNabb in the first quarter was still affecting him? Jeez, you think so? What tipped you off, the 10-12 passes that were way off the mark, the fumble, the interception and horrendous screen pass that became a backwards lateral fumble, the fact that he didn't scramble the entire game, or the fact that he looked like he had just eaten some bad seafood for three straight hours?

Look, I think Madden is the best football announcer of all-time, and unlike some other aging announcers who mangle names and don't do their homework anymore -- yes, I'm dying to drop one person's name here, but they won't let me (although I left a clue earlier in this posting) -- Madden isn't guilty of either of those things. But how can you not comment on something that basic? And where was Michaels on this? McNabb is banged up to the point that Michaels said one of the most horrifying sentences in gambling history ("Koy Detmer is warming up for the Eagles") and comes back into the game at the last minute ... and the whole sequence is never mentioned again until the Eagles' final drive, despite mounting evidence that McNabb was off his game?

(Note: In the playoff game against the Falcons last year, McNabb scrambled 10 times for 32 yards. Last night? One scramble, no yards. Nobody mentioned this, either.)

Finally, today's sports book recommendation...

A few weeks ago, you may remember how I poked fun at the "Best American Sports Writing" series and its increasingly sappy direction. Here's what I wrote:

"It's like how the Oscars nominates the same types of dramas every year and ignores anything else that's successful. That used to be a fantastic book -- not only did I look forward to it every year, I own every version since the late-1970s -- and now reading that thing is like attending a film festival where they show a Holocaust movie, followed by a Depression movie, followed by a civil-rights movie, and so on. Many of the stories don't even have anything to do with the major sports anymore; for instance, if you're a blind, club-footed, diabetic, hemophiliac long-distance runner in Cambodia, and somebody did a piece on you in a major magazine, and you didn't end up in this book, you really need to reevaluate things. But that's a whole other story."

The next day, editor Glenn Stout was nice enough to e-mail me, and we had a lively exchange about what I wrote (to his credit, Glenn didn't take it personally). According to Glenn, he narrows the field down to 75-80 potential picks every year, then sends those pieces to the guest editor, who ends up making the final choices on what ends up in the book. Fair enough. Glenn also sent me an advance copy of the 2005 book by guest editor Mike Lupica, who chose 29 pieces in all. And you would think these pieces would offer some common reflection over the sports year as a whole, right?

Of course not. The first three choices are weighty pieces about an embattled Mexican high school track team, an embattled Compton football team and Ken Caminiti's death. So we're off to a happy start. As it turns out, probably two-thirds of the book is ultra-serious and depressing (rape, steroids, Pat Tillman, you name it), with some other bizarre choices that speak for themselves (including four fishing pieces and two about Howard Cosell). Astoundingly, nothing from or ESPN The Magazine made the book -- I'm glad future generations will think the ESPN empire took the year off from publishing a single worthwhile piece -- although Sports Illustrated was represented five times. Even more astoundingly, Chris Jones' jaw-dropping Ricky Williams profile in Esquire -- which was the most entertaining piece I read last year, hands down, with nothing else coming close -- didn't even make honorable mention. How is that possible?

(Note: You would think somebody had to have written a worthy piece at some point during the Red Sox-Yankees series, which finished with one of the most memorable four-day stretches in the history of sports, right? Nothing made the cut. For instance, I made honorable mention for my piece about Game 5 of the ALCS, which was nice of them ... but if that piece was the best thing anyone wrote about the ALCS, it should have made the book. If somebody else topped it, he should have made the book. Seriously, how can you not have one piece about the ALCS in a book about the best sportswriting in 2004? Lupica even spends a page in his introduction remembering the Dave Roberts game, which he calls "the biggest comeback story in the history of sports" and adds, "Columnists live for a moment like that." I agree. So you're telling me that there wasn't a single writer in the country who wrote anything memorable about that game or the next three?)

Not every choice was bad, obviously -- I was happy to see Tom Verducci's excellent SI piece about Red Sox fans make the cut, as well as Jon Wertheim's well-reported feature about Roscoe Tanner's scummy life (count me among the growing number of Wertheim fans, his tennis stuff is truly superb, and I don't even like tennis), and I even enjoyed the piece about Mexican runners (if only because Gary Smith wrote it). Even David Shields' Cosell piece was excellent (and far superior to the other Cosell piece that was inexplicably chosen for the book). This stuff is subjective to a degree, so you might like some of these choices more than I did. But overall? It's the sappiest "BASW" yet. In fact, I think that's how they should promote these books: "If you thought last year's book was sappy, think again -- this is the sappiest 'BASW' book yet!"

Do I recommend it? Yes. I always recommend "BASW" for anyone who cares about sportswriting, no matter how inexplicable the choices are, and it's certainly the only book of its kind. There will always be five or six pieces worth your time. If there's a flaw in the system that Glenn currently uses, it's that he gives the guest editor waaaaaaaaaay too much power (after all, everyone likes different things) and opens the door to some obvious conflicts of interest (just about every guest editor manages to include pieces from some of their friends and/or favorite colleagues, which demeans the process). I also think they should pick the top 10 sports stories of each year and run the best column or feature about each of them, just so there's some cohesive perspective on the year that just passed.

Anyway, if you want to buy the 2005 book, go ahead. But for this week's "best sports book" recommendation, I'm selecting the 1994 edition of the "BASW," which was edited by Thomas Boswell and features a murderer's row of pieces, including five transcendent ones that rank among the most memorable of the last 25 years: Bruce Bushel's hatchet job of Lenny Dykstra playing at a baccarat table in Vegas; Gary Smith's unforgettable piece on a dying Jim Valvano; John Ed Bradley's piece on Buster Douglas' post-Tyson fall; Davis Miller's essay about meeting Muhammad Ali (which was so good, he was able to extend it into a book); and Charlie Pierce's profile of Magic Johnson, post-AIDS (my favorite Pierce piece ever, and he's written some good ones). All five of those pieces are twice as good as anything in this year's book, and they're about sports figures that people actually know. At least 8-10 other pieces are worth your time, including Susan Orlean's 25-page profile of schoolboy hotshot Felipe Lopez (much funnier to read now that we know how his career turned out). It's a true reflection of that sports year in every sense.

Sadly, there are only a few copies available online, although I'm sure every relevant used bookstore or library carries them. But the book is worth your time if you can find it.

Until tomorrow.

posted: Sep. 12, 2005  |  Feedback

Some people and companies to thank on a Monday:

• Thanks to Fox and MLB for not showing Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox game in California, courtesy of the inexplicable "Every Saturday baseball telecast with a 1 p.m. East Coast start is blacked out on the West Coast" rule. I pay something like $159 a year to allegedly get "every Red Sox game," and yet I have missed at least six or seven Saturday games this season (and counting). Really? They couldn't bump a "90210" rerun on FX and simulcast these games there so the people on the West Coast can watch them? They couldn't make them available to anyone who subscribes to the Extra Innings package? My goal of the week is to find out (a) why this rule exists, (b) if they're even aware of how many Red Sox and Yankees fans live on the West Coast and get furious every time one of these games are bumped, and (c) if they even care.

• Thanks to Curt Schilling, who pitched maybe the biggest game of the season on Saturday when the Yankees were getting ideas of a possible sweep at the Stadium. I'd say more, but they didn't show the game on TV out here. Have I mentioned that yet?

• Thanks to Dale Sveum, who is officially "The Worst Person In America At His Job" now that FEMA chief Michael Brown has been reassigned. As Ontario reader Andrew Steed wrote over the weekend, "I'm nearly beyond help now. Why does Sveum have a job? Waving in Varitek [in Friday's game] was possibly the worst decision by a paid coach that I have ever seen. That includes Bowie-Jordan. That includes trading half of the GDP for Herschel. I live in Ottawa and there are few people who understand just how calamitous this is. You did a column talking about the waiting period after a championship, but then you went on to say that they've clearly abandoned the 'let's keep everyone together premise.' How is Sveum still there? Getting Dusty Baker's kid to replace Sveum would be an upgrade comparable to the Lakers going from Kurt Rambis to Phil Jackson."

(I have nothing to add -- this was a problem last season, it's been an ongoing problem this season, and nobody seems to care. I don't get it.)

• Thanks to Andre Agassi, who had me interested in tennis for the first time in years last week under the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Memorial "If you hang around long enough, people will eventually like you when you're competing at an advanced age and seem like a relative underdog" Corollary. Hard to believe this was the same contrived guy with ridiculous hair that everyone despised in the early '90s. Seems like just yesterday.

• Thanks to Steffi Graf for 20 years of "Wait, is she cute or not cute?" battles. I bet I have had that conversation 50 times in my life with somebody. And yes, I think she's cute. Great pegs on her.

• Thanks to USA, CBS and DirecTV for cutting away from the Agassi-Blake match in the fifth set -- moving it from USA to CBS -- so anyone who lives on the West Coast didn't see how the last 32 minutes of the match finished (because we're three hours behind here, so they were showing CBS's and USA's prime-time lineups). That was fantastic. I TiVo'ed the match because I was writing my NFL column at the time, then went to watch it on Friday morning and nearly ended up killing everyone in a three-mile radius. And I don't even like tennis anymore.

• Thanks in advance to everyone who's sending me an "It's your own damned fault, you never should have moved to the West Coast, you idiot!" e-mail.

• Thanks to three readers who pointed out that the Cooper Manning joke in Friday's column could be perceived to be in bad taste. I was going for the easy "brother who wasn't as good as the other brothers" joke and totally forgot that he battled spinal stenosis in the early 90s (prematurely ending his playing career). My apologies if anyone took it the wrong way.

• Thanks to my local cable providers, who decided to run a five-minute Emergency Test broadcasting message -- you know, when the screen turns black and they run an annoying noise that makes dogs crazy -- during the final telecast of A&E's "24" marathon last week. The Sports Gal and I plowed through the first 23 episodes, we're immersed in the season finale, and at the 15-minute mark, right when they're about to hunt down the last missile, BOOM! This is a test of the emergency broadcasting system. By the time they returned to the show, the missile was being blown up. Fantastic.

That reminds me, I thought Season Four was the best season yet. Ten belated comments …

1. Did you ever think, at any point in his career, that you would be saying the words, "All right, it's not even an argument any more -- Kiefer Sutherland is the best law enforcement character of all time." I know he's not an actual cop, but he's taking down bad guys every episode, so I think it's fair to compare him to Sonny Crockett, Starsky and Hutch, Andy Sipowicz, Vic from "The Shield," the guy from CSI and everyone else. And he's the best. If you needed to take down a group of bad guys, and you could pick one TV character from any show, who wouldn't take Jack Bauer?

2. William Devane hasn't been that good since he was chanting "Let Them Play" at the Astrodome.

3. Couldn't stand the actress who played Devane's daughter and Jack's girlfriend -- she wasn't a good actress, she wasn't that cute and her character stunk. Other than that, I thought she was great.

4. A new addition to the That Guy Hall of Fame: That Guy from the Sopranos who also played Edgar in "24." What a resume -- he's becoming this generation's Robert Costanzo. And speaking of That Guys, how 'bout Trey from "The OC" pulling double-duty as Devane's gay son in "24"?

5. How could CTU end up with so many moles? How is this possible? You'd figure like one mole every 10 years would be a big deal -- this place has them every six months.

6. Have no idea if this is true or not, but I'm guessing that they started Season 4 with a bunch of new characters, only everyone missed the old ones, so they figured out convoluted ways to bring back Tony Almeida, Michele Dessler and President Palmer just to appease the diehards. Which is fine with me -- I like all three of them. I'd even throw Tony Almeida in to the TV Sidekick Pantheon along with Ricardo Tubbs, Bosley, Huggy Bear, the Skipper, Boner Stabone, Screech Powers, Paulie Walnuts, Steve Sanders, Johnny Drama and everyone else.

And by the way, Dennis Haysbert should be the president in real life. I'm not even kidding. I would vote for either him or Jeff Bridges, and if they were on the same ticket, all the better. After watching the country survive (barely) despite the Martz-like performances of our last three presidents, it's clear that the position is overrated -- so why can't we just hire guys who seem like they would be good presidents? At least their speeches and public appearances would be good, right?

7. Speaking of presidents, bookies in Vegas have just removed the odds of my dropping a "President Logan Face" joke in an upcoming column.

8. I loved the ending of the last show, as Jack was walking aimlessly down the street with the knapsack over his shoulder … but why couldn't they have gone with the piano music from the endings of "The Incredible Hulk?" Remember when Dr. David Banner would be walking down the street in a torn pair of jeans, and they would play that sad, "Too bad, his new life didn't work out again because the Hulk came out" music as the closing credits rolled? That used to destroy me as a little kid; I couldn't handle it. Jack needed that music to push the final scene over the top.

9. Idea for the next "24" season: Jack has 24 hours to prevent a season-long strike for the 2006 NFL season. They need to mix things up.

10. Did you ever watch too many "24" episodes in too short of a span, to the point that it starts affecting your innate reactions to people in your everyday life? For instance, there's an Arab (really nice guy) who runs the newstand near my house, and I was walking there last week and thinking about something else when I saw him on his cell phone, so my brain was still in "24" mode, and I thought for like 0.2 seconds, "Oh my God, he's calling Marwan, HE KNOWS WHERE THE NUCLEAR FOOTBALL IS!" Then I realized it was real life and the moment passed. All right, I think I shared too much here.

• Just so you know, I'm saving all my NFL thoughts for Friday's column this season. But after watching what happened Sunday, it's clear that (a) the NFC South is the best division in football, and (b) Tampa Bay is better than anyone thought except for the guys at Football Outsiders (although even they admitted that they couldn't figure out why their stat engine liked Tampa so much and that the same thing happened last year when they stunk). Well, somebody has to stink in that division, right? Watch out for a potential Falcons stinkbomb tonight -- they could be the team.

• For everyone who keeps e-mailing me about my "complaints" that the Pats didn't have good enough Super Bowl odds -- for much of July and August, they were at 8-1 and Indy was at 6-1. Right now, on every gambling-related Web site I can find, the Pats are 6-1 and Indy is 4-1. My argument was and is that Indy shouldn't have better odds to win the Super Bowl than New England until (a) the Belichick-and-Brady combination loses a playoff game, or (b) Indy beats them in the regular season. Neither of these things has happened yet. Not sure why this is so tough to understand.

• If you haven't given to the Red Cross yet, here's the link. Make sure you click on the "Hurricane Katrina" choice so the money goes directly to the relief effort in New Orleans. And yes, it's tax deductible.

More tomorrow.

posted: Sep. 9, 2005  |  Feedback

I have few rules in life, but this is one of them: Any time one of my buddies plays a "Madden" season in franchise mode through the year 2022, and he has a wife and two kids to boot, he gets to critique the next year's game on the Sports Guy's site. So here's my buddy Gus' critique of "Madden 2006."

• Short of bringing back Pat Summerall and the ambulance driving on the field, the NFL Films Music component is the best thing they ever could have done. Nothing beats kicking field goals in training camp on the All-Madden level with Sam Spence doing his thing in the background as the clock winds down.

• Love the cutaways to the coordinators in the booth during game play, as well as how the stands clear out if you're blowing out a team on the road in the fourth quarter.

• Not since Summerall uttered the word "Ah-Waaaay-Zah-kay" have I enjoyed an announcer saying a name as much as the way Michaels says "Putzier." The word "Houshmandzadeh" is also entertaining.

• NFL Superstar mode is a nice diversion. Fun to create yourself. But as a wideout who got drafted by the Browns, it was a bit of a bummer to try and improve in practice with Trent Dilfer as my QB. Fun to get all tattooed up, call out your coach and demand trades. I ended up in Tennessee and Drew Bennett and I make for a unique receiving duo (just call us "Vanilla Thunder"). And since there is a Ramsey in the NFL now, Al Michaels actually says my last name when I make a play. Once the season starts, I play the games with the accelerated clock on, and it's a fun half hour.

• Now, for the most controversial video game development that doesn't include subliminal pornography. I like the passing cone, but at the All-Madden level it's ridiculously hard. My hands haven't flailed about that haplessly since my junior prom. On All-Pro level it's better -- I imagine teenagers can handle it, but for a 30-something, carpel tunnel-impaired person, it's really hard at All-Madden level. The cone combined with precision passing makes completing the tough pass easier if you do it right, but the penalty for doing it wrong is often a pick. I asked six people at work if they play with the cone on or off and they all said "off." I can't imagine that anyone competing in this year's Madden Challenge would say, "Hey, do you mind if we turn the cone off?" So I'm keeping it on.

• I actually like that you can overthrow guys now, makes the game seem more realistic. I also like the random spin move as the runner bounces off tackles that is in the game this year. The return of the helmet flying off is also nice.

• You can still line up to block a punt and then audible to punt return formation to give yourself a chance at the punt return.

• The Broncos' playbook is loaded with play-action passing and is pretty fun to run. One good thing is that many of their receiver routes have two guys in the same line of vision, which makes using the cone a little easier. It's also fun to do running plays out of a formation in the first half thinking that the computer will bite on the run in the third quarter when I go to the play-action from the same formation.

• Dislikes: The elimination of the pregame weather report, which I always enjoyed; the drive-summary graphic after a score almost always has the wrong total yardage (details are important, dammit); they still haven't bagged the cameos for memory space and used actual cheerleader footage at halftime; sometimes when you try to throw a low precision pass the QB fades back and the throw is inaccurate; no Jimmy Kimmel and Tim McGraw at halftime. I like it, I love it.

• My ultimate goal is to get to 2030 with this game. In last year's version I made it to 2024 and Wade Phillips retired in 2022! I can't believe he made it that long without being fired -- that had to be the upset of the century.

Final grade: B-plus.

posted: Sep. 7, 2005  |  Feedback

Couple of quick notes:

1. In Tuesday's " Cowbell" posting, I wrote a section about "Kanye West's spectacular ad-lib from Friday night's charity telethon." Just to clear that up, I used the word "spectacular" because it was such a crazy TV moment, not because I was endorsing what he had said. I thought that was clear given what followed in the section, but some readers were confused. So there you go.

(Translation: No, I do not believe that the president hates all black people. Sorry to disappoint you.)

2. Along those same lines, a few readers made a fantastic connection between the Kanye/Mike Myers TV moment and a classic SNL skit from 1994. I'm legitimately bummed that I didn't remember this myself, but I'll let reader Josh from New Hampshire explain:

"If you think Mike Myers' reaction was hilarious during the Kanye West rant during the Hurricane Katrina telecast solely based on the reaction itself, then you have NO idea how funny it is for those of us who have seen the old SNL 'Pasta maker infomercial' skit where he plays a salesman opposite host Heather Locklear. For no reason at all, during the selling of this pasta maker, she starts insulting every ethnicity she can think of. Stuff along the lines of, 'This machine is so easy, even a drunk Indian could use it.'

"The board of callers behind them would light up every time she made one of these insulting remarks, but the best part was watching Myers trying to distance himself from her, hiding behind the counter, trying to say how he didn't agree with what she was saying before she would interrupt -- the expression on his face during the whole thing was the best part. You MUST not have seen this skit because I find it impossible that you would not bring it up when mentioning the Kanye West debacle. It just adds a whole new level of hilarity to his discomfort."

3. Not only did I receive a press release for the "White Shadow: Season One" DVD -- coming out Nov. 8 -- but they were kind enough to send me the advance discs yesterday. (OK, OK, I threatened everyone's life at the PR company doing the release until they sent it to me.) The DVD includes all 15 episodes from Season One and episodes with director's commentaries (including Ken Howard and Tim Van Patten doing a commentary on the show where Salami was boxing underground). You are going to buy this DVD when it comes out if I have to hold a gun to your head -- it's the greatest sports show of all time, it has never been even approached before or since, and the shows still hold up to this day. You have to believe me. Anyway, mark that day on your calendar: Nov. 8.

4. Random Boston note: Only now is the local media starting the "Is David Ortiz the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history?" conversation? What's next -- "Is Bill Belichick the greatest Patriots coach ever?"

5. Speaking of the Pats, here's my favorite Web site of 2005, courtesy of Big Vito in Manhattan: If you're a Patriots fan who remembers the days when Pete was such a joke that I actually spent two years on my old Web site calling him "Coach Fredo," make sure you close the door into your office, turn up the volume on your computer and watch the intro. Then prepare for the coming apocalypse.

6. If you haven't given to the Red Cross yet, here's the link. Back with more tomorrow.

posted: Sep. 6, 2005  |  Feedback

Hope everyone enjoyed the three-day weekend as much as you can enjoy a weekend when there's a national catastrophe going on. If you haven't given to the Red Cross yet, here's the link. Make sure you click on the "Hurricane Katrina" choice so the money goes directly to the relief effort in New Orleans. And yes, it's tax-deductible.

Along those same lines ...

1. I thought Bill Maher's HBO show, "Real Time," on Friday night was the highlight of his career. He made all the right jokes and raised all the right questions, and the panel segment was particularly good -- it was just a superb show from start to finish. Like many others, I'm carrying a significant amount of anger about how the government (both federal and local) handled this entire thing last week, and the Maher show tapped into all of it. I remember watching "Cinderella Man" this summer, seeing the Depression scenes and thinking, "Wow, I can't believe that happened in America!" Never thought I would be saying that about something that happened here in the 21st century.

2. They didn't show Kanye West's spectacular ad-lib from Friday night's charity telethon on the West Coast, but we did find it on the Web (The Intern has the link) and Mike Myers' stunned reaction immediately joined the Pantheon of Faces -- along with the Tom Cruise "I'm trying to cry" Face in "Top Gun," the Derek Lowe Face, the Stan Humphries "I've just been concussed again" Face and everything else. I kept expecting him to turn into Wayne from Wayne's World and say, "No ... way!" Just an unbelievable TV moment. Frankly, it could alter Myers' career -- will you ever be able to look at him without thinking of him glancing at Kanye West in sheer disbelief?

• As you may have guessed, I received a good chunk of WNBA-related e-mails last week, although I was surprised that nine out of 10 e-mailers liked the column and agreed with it. Thought the number would be closer to 70/30 or 60/40. One e-mail stood out though, from a reader named Andrea in New York City:

"As a woman who is also a big sports fan, I was slightly shocked but mostly impressed with your WNBA article. I think it is sad to say that someone who speaks their mind is brave, but that's the only word I can come up with right now. In this overly PC world we live in, it's nice to read an article where someone speaks from their heart, giving facts to back up their claim, and isn't afraid that they might be offending a few people. That's the great thing about this country -- we don't all have to agree, but we do have to respect each others views. You may receive a lot of nasty letters from certain fans, parents and sports writers alike, but YOUR fans respect you because you talk like we talk. It's great that women who are talented basketball players can fulfill their dreams of becoming professionals in the U.S., but it doesn't mean the entire U.S. has to watch it. As a woman, the fact that I feel this way doesn't mean I'm betraying my sisters, and men who feel this way are not being sexist -- we're just being honest. Thank you for your honesty."

Here's what scared me about that e-mail: Our society has become so politically correct and so uptight that, after I chose to write a thought-out, factually driven, cheapshot-free opinion column about a sports-related subject (and you have to admit, I avoided every possible easy joke in that column) somebody actually felt the need to congratulate me for having the "courage" to speak my mind. Does that creep anyone else out? Is that really where we are as a country? Whatever happened to freedom of speech, or every American having the constitutional right to express his opinion in a nonconfrontational way? Have those rights been thrown out the window and nobody told me?

Anyway, here are two pages worth of WNBA-related e-mails -- they're pretty entertaining and I appreciate everyone taking the time to write in, whether you agreed with the column or not. I did my best to include all kinds of e-mails that reflected the various perspectives on both sides:

1. E-mails supporting the column
2. E-mails disappointed by the column

• Finally, I don't have my weekly recommendation for a sports book because I didn't have time to reread any of the classics this weekend -- I spent way too much time watching the New Orleans coverage, and then A&E started its "24: Season 4" marathon on Sunday morning and I was done for the weekend (the Sports Gal and I have plowed through the first 16 hours already). But since they stuck the banner for my upcoming book on the "Sports Guy's World" page today (coming out on Oct. 1), I thought I would provide a brief explanation of "Now I Can Die In Peace" without spoiling the book if you actually want to read it.

In February, I went through every Red Sox-related column I ever wrote -- dating back to 1997 on my old "Boston Sports Guy" site -- picked out 50 or 60 that stood out, then tried to figure out the best way to patch together a collection of my Red Sox columns and make the collection different enough that it would be worth it for A) longtime readers to buy the book, and B) non-Boston fans to buy the book. I also wanted to figure out a way to include as many columns as possible, which was difficult because absolutely nobody wants to read a 700-page book. And I wanted to curse, tell inappropriate stories and make fun of TV announcers when warranted -- that was an absolute necessity for me.

So I made four decisions:

1. Since I didn't want the book to be perceived as your typical "quickie about the 2004 season," I decided to gear the book around my life as a Red Sox fan, which meant I would have to write a meaty prologue about everything that happened before the Pedro Era, as well as a childhood spent growing up in New England and getting slowly sucked into rooting for a tortured team. Then I split the book into four sections from 1998 to 2005 and wrote new material leading off each section, with the actual columns providing the heart of the book. I like collections (if they're done correctly) for two reasons. First, if you don't like a certain column, you can skip to the next one. Second, each column is a snapshot of how many people felt at the time, which gave certain columns a different feel reading them after the fact (especially the Nomar and Pedro stuff).

2. Since I needed to hone down those 50-60 columns down as much as possible so they complemented one another, I decided to treat them like first drafts in a journal, almost like nobody had ever read them before. And honestly? Those columns were like first drafts. My biggest flaw as a writer is how I procrastinate until the last possible minute before writing anything, so most times, I'm handing in stuff that could have and should have been better. So I looked at this book as a chance to tackle some of those columns again and make them better -- not by changing what I wrote, but simply by trimming the fat in each column (especially in some of the older columns, when I really didn't know what I was doing as a writer) and tinkering with the structure of some of them. (This is all explained in the book.) If the original columns were like a movie, then this book is like a director's cut of that same movie.

3. I absolutely hate when writers release a collection of columns and pretty much say, "Here they are!" Drives me crazy. So I wanted to do something different that would make the book stand out. Ultimately, I decided to write footnotes for each column -- almost like a director's commentary on a DVD. Some of the footnotes make fun of what I wrote, others expand on what I wrote, others have goofy stories and comparisons, ramblings, statistical evidence and everything else you can imagine.

As it turned out, I had so much fun writing the footnotes that I got a little carried away -- suddenly there were like 800 footnotes for the 50 columns and the footnote gimmick was threatening to overpower the book. I narrowed them down to about 500 for the final edition, which we're running on the sides of every page instead of the bottom (so they're easier to read). We'll see if it works.

4. The ultimate goal: Fifty cohesive Red Sox columns that complemented one another, didn't waste a word and remained coherent enough that anyone could enjoy them. And I think I did that. Again, we'll see.

Just so you know, I thought long and hard about whether a Red Sox book should be my first book, ultimately deciding that it doesn't matter what you write about, as long as it's entertaining. For instance, one of my favorite books (as I mentioned a few weeks ago) is "Wait Till Next Year," which concentrates on one year in New York sports (1988). Well, I hate New York sports -- I could care less about any of their teams from that year. But the book was entertaining and well-written, and it holds up to this day, whether you like New York teams or not.

So I rolled the dice and wrote my Red Sox book, and hopefully, you'll read it and feel like you didn't waste your time. Just so you know, I spent an impossible amount of time working on this thing -- every word has been examined, considered and reconsidered about 10 times over -- and it's the absolute best I can do. That's all I can promise you.

Here's the link again: "Now I Can Die In Peace."

Back on Thursday and Friday with new columns.

September 2005