A year or so ago, when Now I Can Die in Peace first came out and Bill Simmons was darting around the country on his book tour, Gelf got in touch with ESPN to ask if we could review the book and set up an interview with the Sports Guy. To our delight, a copy of the book promptly arrived in the mail and a rep from ESPN.com emailed us to tell us an interview could easily be arranged.
"What's the antonym of confidence? Diffidence?"
After a little back and forth with the rep about how to reach Simmons, it was decided that the best way to interview him would be to send him questions over email, as he "has plenty of time on the plane to get these done." After a few days, we got a note saying that Simmons received the questions, but wouldn't be available to answer them until the next month. That was the last we heard from Simmons or ESPN, despite Gelf's multiple follow-up emails and phone calls.
Maybe it was because some of the questions rubbed Simmons the wrong way. Here are a couple:
"You write that sports columnists have a shelf life of 8-10 years before they start to lose it. Do you worry about losing it? Do you ever feel like you’re trying to write like Bill Simmons, rather than just writing about what’s actually on your mind?"
"When you had your intern competition, did you get the impression that people were trying to write as you do, instead of coming up with their own voices? And if so, do you find that flattering or scary?"
Or maybe it's just that Simmons is a busy guy. He has to continuously mix sports knowledge and pop-culture references into a stew composed of obvious jokes, faux-regular-guy phraseology, and rhetorical questions. Lots and lots of rhetorical questions. So many, in fact, that Gelf realized that Simmons was indeed willing to do an interview with us, so long as he was the one doing the asking. So, while we wait for Simmons to respond to our questions, here's how we'd respond to a few of his.
Bill Simmons: Then, during Sunday's game, [Yankees Manager Joe Torre] made the ultimate panic move of bringing in Friday's starter (Andy Pettitte) to get three outs. Maybe you'd see that move in October, but April?
Gelf Magazine: You see it in April, too, sometimes. The appearance you're referring toin relief against the Red Sox on April 22was actually Pettitte's second relief appearance of the season. His first came in the sixth inning of the Yankees' fifth game, against the Baltimore Orioles. He had started a game three days earlier.
BS: Along those same lines, who are the loose cannons on this particular Yankees team?
BS: But what if [the Yankees are] eight games back at the break? What then?
GM: There are a number of possible outcomes. Some fans may remember the 1978 season, when the Yanks were 11.5 back at the break before Bucky Dent earned his middle name. OrSteinbrenner forbidthe Yankees could miss the postseason. Of course, there's also a little thing called the wild card. (Although now we're talking 12.5 games back…)
BS: Where's Oliver Stone?
GM: We can't quite be sure, but his film production company is based in Santa Monica, California, so maybe somewhere around there.
BS: How many big guys shoot 39 percent from 3-point territory and put up an 18-9 every night?
GM: None, apparently. A search through forwards and centers on databaseBasketball.com reveals no players with such career averages. Dirk Nowitzki comes close, with career averages of 22.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and a 38% percentage on 3s. Even the guy you're talking about, Mehmet Okur, averaged 18 points and seven rebounds this season, while shooting 38 percent from 3-point territory (his exact average was 38.4 percent; for some reason you rounded up). Last year, he averaged 18-9 but only shot 34 percent from 3-point range; his career averages are 13 points, seven rebounds, and 36 percent, respectively.
BS: How the hell do you hit this guy [Daisuke Matsuzaka]?
GM: According to SI's Tom Verducci, Matsuzaka throws "a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a cut fastball, a shuuto (hard sinker with left to right cut), a curveball, a slider, a splitter and a changeup." That's gotta be pretty hard to hit, and we certainly couldn't do it (then again, we're pretty sure we couldn't hit Jose Lima). However, Toronto's Alex Rios is 3-for-6 with a walk against Dice-K, so perhaps Simmons could ask him. (Overall, major leagues are hitting a respectable .263 against the Red Sox rookie.) Or, if you want a larger sample size (and we hope you do), Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima hit .271 with 5 home runs in 188 at-bats against "The Monster" in Japan. He might really know something.
BS: What's the antonym of confidence? Diffidence?
GM: Yep (though there are others, such as insecurity).
BS: Did we ever figure out how Dick Vitale can endorse Pizza Hut and DiGiorno's at the same time? Isn't that like doing ads for Pepsi and Diet Coke?
GM: It's more like doing ads for Kinko's and Lexmark. In any case, according to ESPN spokesperson Michael Hume, Vitale never endorsed Pizza Hut. Maybe you're thinking of Papa John's, which featured Vitale in ads before he started his exclusive deal with DiGiorno's. It's sort of like what Kobe Bryant did when he endorsed for Adidas before he signed with Nike.
BS: All I know is this: Saturday's games (Florida-UCLA and OSU-Georgetown) are appointment viewing for anyone who ever gave a crap about basketball. When's the last time you could say something like that about the Final Four?
GM: We suppose that really depends on your definition of "appointment viewing for anyone who ever gave a crap about basketball." If you like highly-ranked teams, the 2005 national championship game featured two No. 1 seeds (North Carolina beat Illinois). If you prefer Cinderella stories, 11th-seeded George Mason made it to the Final Four in 2006. If you don't care for college basketball, well, you're probably not going to watch the Final Four.
BS: Can I run a seven-receiver offense next year? Is that legal?
GM: No. The NFL's rules mandate that 11 players take the field on offense, seven of whom must line up directly in front of the line of scrimmage. The five in the middle aren't ever eligible receivers. But the other six players could be. Generally speaking, player usage is the domain of coaches, which makes sense; receivers and running backs alike are allowed to catch passes, for example.
BS: My favorite part of this story: My buddy Mikey spent $12 on Igawa in our AL-only league. How do you say "sunk cost" in Japanese?
GM: I believe it's Maibotsu Hiyou.
BS: When was the last time boxing captured the attention of casual sports fans?
GM: It depends on your perspective, but Gelf's best guess is June 28, 1997, when Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear and officially entered this thing we like to call the "Tyson Zone."
Aaron Zamost contributed to this article.