Correcting Rick Reilly, Part 1: Rick should stop trying to be funny

Regular readers might be familiar with my ongoing series, Correcting Bill Simmons. Now that I’m forcibly exposed to Rick Reilly’s back page column in ESPN The Mag, it’s time to start a new series with Reilly as the star.

This week, he wrote a somewhat touching piece about how Jay Cutler’s dealings with Type 1 diabetes has affected children all over the country. Reilly isn’t bad at the heart-warming stuff, but when he tries to be funny, he just comes off as stiff. Take this paragraph:

Shy and mop-haired, he led the league in shrugs. He looked like he had terminal influenza. The bags under his eyes had bags. And yet he’d sleep 10 hours at night and three more after practice. He lost 35 pounds in the 2007 season alone. He couldn’t concentrate. He was starting to look like the biggest bust since Lindsay Lohan. And that’s when he found out he had diabetes. Or rather, it had him.

All right, there are two problems here. The first is the statement that Cutler was a bust when he hit the league. I don’t know if Reilly is talking about Cutler’s first or second season, but he played pretty well even prior to getting diagnosed with diabetes. In 2006, he played in five games and threw for an average of 200 yards, 1.8 TD and 1.0 INT. In 2007, he played in all 16 games and finished with 3497 yards, 20 TD and 14 INT. What about these numbers says “bust”?

When I found out that a pre-diagnosed Cutler was still able to be a decent fantasy QB despite losing 35 pounds and much of his strength, I put him at the top of my sleeper QB list heading into 2008. Needless to say, that has paid off.

Then there’s the comparison to Lindsay Lohan.

He was starting to look like the biggest bust since Lindsay Lohan.

What does this mean? Is he saying that Lohan was a bust in that she was destined for big things but has since fallen from grace? Or is he saying that she has big knockers? If it’s the former, I don’t know how relevant it is to refer to actors as “busts.” They weren’t drafted in the first round and they weren’t given big contracts before playing in the big leagues. If it’s the latter – which is far less likely considering Reilly’s typically PG-rated fare – I could think of a dozen well-endowed starlets that would make for a better joke. (There’s Pamela Anderson, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayak, Jennifer Tilly, Catherine Bell, just to name a few.)

Then there’s this attempt at humor, referencing Cutler’s regular blood tests, which require him to prick his fingers over and over…

What Cutler wants to be is a normal QB, but he never will be. From now on, he’ll have more holes than a Jessica Simpson movie.

Really? More holes than a Jessica Simpson movie? Reilly can’t find another “actress” to kick around. Simpson hasn’t been in a major motion picture in two years (2006’s “Employee of the Month”), which I haven’t seen. She was in “Dukes of Hazzard” in 2005, but I don’t really remember it being filled with plot holes. (It was just a bad, bad movie.)

Maybe Reilly should take a shot at Kate Hudson, who has been in no fewer than six horrid romantic comedies in the last five years. I’m thinking of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Alex & Emma,” “Raising Helen,” “You, Me & Dupree,” “Fool’s Gold” and “My Best Friend’s Girl.” If you’re a big-wig Hollywood studio exec and you’re about to greenlight a bad rom-com, Kate Hudson should be on speed dial.

This is just a case of Rick Reilly trying to be Bill Simmons. He thinks that if he shoehorns some pop culture reference in as a joke that it will make his stuff seem fresh and funny. But it just makes him look tired.

He should stick to the sappy, sentimental stuff. The world only has one Bill Simmons, and that’s plenty.

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