Highlights from Bill Simmons’s latest mailbag

Simmons’s latest column is dedicated to the age-old question: which month is better for sports/time-wasting — April or October?

On the Russian billionaire’s purchase of the New Jersey Nets…

You know the NBA is in at least a little trouble financially when it allows a Russian billionaire to buy a team. Five or six years ago, how fast do you think David Stern squashes the idea when someone says to him, “So, I guess the best way to describe him is that he’s like a Russian Mark Cuban”? Two seconds? One second?

Which raises the question: Did Stern just open the door to all foreign billionaires, or was this a one-time thing? I’d argue that the NBA was soooooooooo desperate to fix this Nets situation and salvage the Brooklyn complex that it didn’t care where the money came from. This was a one-time exception. We need a cash buyer. Period. I think a Saudi oil sheik would have been approved as an owner. I think Tom Cruise would have been approved. I think everyone short of a Pablo Escobar-type buyer would have been approved. It’s the NBA and it’s faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan-tastic … ( … -ally in need of some cash).

On CAR Steve Smith versus NYG Steve Smith…

Right now, New York’s Steve Smith is more relevant than Carolina’s Steve Smith in every conceivable way except for one (teammate punching). He’s having a better season; he’s on a better team; and, truthfully, he might just be better. Has this situation ever happened before? Someone with the same name completely usurping that name from an established guy who plays the same position in the same sport at the same time?

Anyway, I came up with a solution: Why can’t we approach this like versions of software? Carolina Steve becomes “Steve Smith 1.0.” New York Steve becomes “Steve Smith 2.0.” Done and done.

I like it. I think I’ll start using it instead of “NYG Steve Smith.”

On Michael Jordan’s HOF induction speech…

Jordan’s original thesis was incorrect: Other than when he got cut in high school, EVERYONE believed in him. Dean Smith diagrammed the title-winning shot in 1982 for him. Bobby Knight built the 1984 Olympic team around him. Nike built an entire marketing campaign around him from day one (something it had never done before, ever). The Dream Team committee callously dropped Isiah Thomas from the team to assuage him in 1992, even though Thomas deserved to be on that team as much as anyone short of Bird and Magic. The list goes on and on and on. No athlete was coddled more than Jordan, and no athlete had a bigger disparity between “public image” and “what he was actually like.” Hell, for his entire career, Sam Smith was the only journalist with the testicular fortitude to call him out.

On why Tony Romo has bloated expectations…

Well, the name “Tony Romo” … I mean, that’s a great name. That sounds like the name of someone who is going to be such a smash hit, he’ll end up winning a couple of Super Bowls and opening a chain of BBQ restaurants. I want to root for “Tony Romo.” I want to believe that “Tony Romo” is going to come through on this game-winning drive. I want “Tony Romo” to plow through a series of hot actresses and singers. I want “Tony Romo” to stay single past retirement, develop a drinking problem and eventually hit on a sideline reporter during a live telecast before entering rehab. These are the things that “Tony Romo” should do.

This is why we projected talents for Romo that he didn’t actually have. I picked him 40th in my West Coast fantasy draft even though he didn’t have a proven No. 1 receiver. Why? Because he’s “Tony Romo”! Now, let’s say his name had been “Kyle Boller” or “Kevin O’Connell” or “Alex Smith” or “Jared Lorenzen” this whole time. Would you have believed in him? Would we have given him the same benefit of the doubt all these times when he kept gagging in big moments? I say no. We believed in Tony Romo mainly because he seemed like a good guy and he had a great name. Really, those were the only two reasons.

And, finally, on Brett Favre’s behavior during and after Monday night’s game…

And that’s the part of Monday’s game that got lost. Every Packers fan felt like how a dutiful wife would feel if she stuck with her husband through thick and thin, watched him become a success, then got dumped for a younger trophy wife who also happened to be her archnemesis. Favre failed in the same way Roger Clemens failed when he signed with the Blue Jays in 1997 — his problems with management affected his feelings toward his old franchise, and he did a piss-poor job of letting his old fan base know that he still cared about it. I have written about this before, but I turned on Clemens during his Toronto news conference when he simply refused to acknowledge Boston fans beyond a few generic words. It hurt. I took it personally and decided he was an opportunistic, disloyal, dishonest scumbag from that moment on. And as it turned out, he was.

In Favre’s case, his lack of empathy for Packers fans has been really alarming. I know he plays with his heart on his sleeve. I know he’s a “kid out there” and “having a ball out there” and all the crap. And maybe he’s not a brain surgeon, but he’s smart enough to understand what he meant to Packers fans and the state of Wisconsin, which means he had to understand how it went over after he (A) signed with an NFC North team two months ago; (B) dialed up the finger-pointing and fist-pumping during Monday’s Pack-Vikes game so egregiously that even his biggest fan fron Green Bay couldn’t defend him; and (C) gave that self-satisfied postgame interview in which he never said anything like, “I just wanted to say hi to everyone back in Wisconsin and tell them that this was as strange for me as it probably was for you, but I want you to know that it was just one game — a game that I wanted to win because I’m a competitor and I love my teammates, but still, none of this changes the fact that I love you guys and I always will.” That’s it. That’s all he had to say to Michele Tafoya after the game.

He didn’t say it.

And believe me, I’ve been there as a fan. It’s unforgivable. Especially when you’re under 30 and don’t realize that many of your “heroes” are people who don’t deserve that level of worship, or any worship, for that matter. They just play sports well. They don’t care about you. They care about themselves and that’s it. If this realization hits you at the wrong time in your life, it can be hard. (I know it was hard for me. I took the Clemens thing personally, as witnessed by the fact that I once wrote a column wondering if he was the Antichrist.) So if the Packers fans want to play along, so to speak, then they can’t cheer Favre on Nov. 1. He set the stakes. He made it clear that he’s moved on with his new team and cut all ties to the old one. That means you need to go to Lambeau and boo the living hell out of him. Make him miserable. Rattle him. Flummox him. Do everything you can to get the better of him for three hours. This man does not belong to you anymore, and maybe, he never did.

For more on how Favre has destroyed Packer fans everywhere, check out my post from last week — “How a Packer fan copes with Brett Favre.”

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