Each week, Dan Rubenstein, Ty Hildenbrandt and Jacob Osterhout will jump on e-mail and riff about various subjects in the news offered up by SI.com's Jimmy Traina.
Traina: Let's get right to it. Which sport has the best/most watchable All-Star Game?
Osterhout: Wow, start us out on the toughest question of them all. It certainly isn't the Pro Bowl, due to the fact that it occurs after the season is over. So we're left with the MLB and NBA All-Star Games, and I guess I'm going to have to say that the MLB All-Star Game is more intriguing than the NBA's. It actually carries a little meaning with the winning league getting home-field advantage in the World Series. Also, there are no other sporting events this time of year, so sports fans pretty much have to watch baseball's All-Star Game. But I will say that the Slam Dunk Contest is much more exciting than the Home Run Derby, except when Josh Hamilton is at the plate.
Rubenstein: Baseball. The rules are the same and it's impossible to play at half-speed in baseball. While the NBA All-Star Game is fun, it's rarely (if ever) cutthroat basketball. With baseball, there's always been something fun about breaking midway through the season for a game that sees aces come in for middle relief and guys with 24 home runs pinch-hit. It's fantasy baseball come to life. I haven't watched a Pro Bowl since I probably played in one after a Tecmo Super Bowl season. Other than uptight coaches in cheesy Hawaiian shirts and the always riveting finals of Punt, Pass and Kick, there's no appeal.
Hildenbrandt: With a gun to my head, I guess the MLB game is the most watchable since it "counts" in some regard. But in the interest of full disclosure, I will probably watch something else and tune in later for the highlights. I feel that way about most All-Star Games -- they're just not that exciting to me. I'd rather watch Passenger 57 on AMC or see which Nic Cage movie is playing on TBS.
Rubenstein: You clearly forgot about the excitement that is the NBA Skills Challenge. OK, I have no idea what the NBA Skills Challenge is. Every year, I accidentally flip to it and then go right back to a Seinfeld rerun.
Hildenbrandt: Would anyone be opposed to one league restructuring it's All-Star Game to be a series of skills challenges instead of a real game? So instead of the Pro Bowl, the NFL could just switch over to the format used for the Quarterback Challenge. I'm on board with watching Joe Flacco throw through hoops. That'd be much more watchable.
Rubenstein: Here's my idea to make the MLB All-Star Game more exciting: a basketball game. Let's have the All-Stars play a game of pickup hoops. Tim Lincecum playing as a scrappy point guard, Prince Fielder posting up against Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis sending a message to everyone that comes down the lane -- the possibilities are endless. Plus, you get goofy, overly competitive closers calling fouls and trash-talking too much. You know you'd watch that before you watched Jonathan Silverman or Jules Asner hack and miss at a softball again.
Osterhout: That celebrity softball game the other night was the worst TV I've watched since the Entourage season premiere, which almost made me cry it was so bad. A basketball game with baseball players would have been much better, but I can just see someone like Morneau rolling an ankle and the Twins having to sacrifice the rest of the season. And something certainly needs to be done with the NFL Pro Bowl. I like the skills challenge idea so long as we can add in a few off-beat activities. Maybe hula-hooping? Maybe a pie-eating contest? Maybe arts and crafts?
Hildenbrandt: The basketball idea is genius. So many potential storylines with Dustin Pedroia trying to drive the lane against monsters like Ryan Howard.
Rubenstein: Pedroia would definitely be the guy who talks a little too much and fouls a little too hard. Nobody wants to guard Jonathan Broxton because he's a sweat machine, while the D always plays too far off TimWakefield and MarkBuehrle, even though they somehow keep steadily hitting from long distance. And after a couple of missed shots late in the game have him down, Mariano Rivera bounces back to hit two clutch free throws to ice the game.
Hildenbrandt: Pedroia and Brandon Inge would definitely be the token "chuckers" who lack any inside presence. They could also include an event for the small army of children who were on the field during the Home Run Derby. Between the kids snagging flies and the ones hawking balls from the catcher, it was like Chuck E. Cheese out there. Something to keep them entertained would be optimal.
Traina: OK, that is way too much All-Star talk for my liking. Next topic. Still no word from LeBron and/or Nike on the confiscated tape. How do you guys see this thing playing out?
Osterhout: This is going to end up like the Paris Hilton sex tape, except better quality. Someone at Nike is going to lend it to his step-brother, who will let it leak to the media and all of a sudden Vivid will be peddling it for $19.99 with bonus footage of LeBron getting his nails done.
Hildenbrandt: I see some grainy, Zapruder film emerging on YouTube in the near future. And then LeBron will petition YouTube to remove it, but not before some teenager rips the video and uploads it to 67 different servers. I can't wait. This has more potential than the (alleged) Leighton Meester sex tape. Sort of. Is it disturbing that we both referenced sex tapes, Jacob? No, not at all.
Rubenstein: Nothing ever comes out. There may be an employee who goes rogue and tries to get a bootleg out at some point, but he or she will mysteriously disappear on the Nike campus, only to be found wandering the streets 35 years later with no memory of anything. I think this is vaguely similar to a recent movie with Jamie Foxx that I didn't see. It's basically the only analogy I can come up with without making any number of lewd sex-tape jokes I'd like to make.
Hildenbrandt: Why is this such a big deal? I don't get it. Who cares if he got dunked on? Will he earn less money? Will kids stop buying shoes? Take me down that slippery slope ...
Rubenstein: By the way, I'd bet anything that Nike spins this into a commercial. Not necessarily by using the footage, but by somehow alluding to it and then having LeBron (or one of his characters) do something to keep the story going. I'm almost convinced Nike is keeping the story going over the summer just so the word "LeBron" is uttered every few minutes. I think we can all agree that we're excited to see what page Jordan Crawford ends up on in the 2019 "Where Are They Now?" issue of Sports Illustrated.
Osterhout: This is a big deal not because LeBron was dunked on, but because the corporate powers that be confiscated the tape, thereby making Crawford the "persecuted dunker." If they had just let the tape go public initially, it would have made the news for an afternoon and then faded. After all, LeBron, like any other NBA player, has been dunked on before. As it is, we're still talking about the tape. The whole incident makes LeBron look petulant and Nike look way too overprotective. And no, Ty, I don't think it's weird that we both referenced sex tapes. This is the equivalent of an illicit sex tape for NBA fans.
Rubenstein: I'm trying to figure out what the equivalent would be in baseball or football. Would it be the same if somebody said he had video of Peyton Manning throwing like a girl and Sony/Sprint/MasterCard/DirecTV/Gatorade teamed up to quash any rumored tape? Albert Pujols being struck out by a 10-year-old? Nick Saban and Alabama getting throttled by a Mountain West school in a BCS bowl? Oh, wait ... Anyway, I'm waiting for the tape to be leaked of Wade Boggs drinking only 30-40 beers at a time, instead of the rumored 60-70. His brand will take a major hit.
Osterhout: I think the equivalent would be David Ortiz striking out 78 times in the first half of the season. Oh, wait, that already happened and MLB didn't confiscate the tapes. I don't know why but I'm starting to think that LeBron can't handle losing too well.
Traina: Speaking of brands that have taken a hit, let's talk David Beckham. His teammate Landon Donovan roasted him pretty good in an upcoming book by SI's Grant Wahl, and now they have to play together. That seems like a very awkward situation, no?
Rubenstein: There are two ways Beckham can take it: It either lights a fire under him and leads to the team coming together and plowing through the league, or it just creates a rift and Beckham jogs out the rest of his contract as long as Donovan is on the team. As far as I can tell, Donovan probably wants to win in America much more than Beckham does, but sure doesn't mind doing what needs to be done to get a book some attention. If it hasn't happened yet, the first time that they cross paths should have the Italian circus music soundtrack that accompanies every scene of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Osterhout: Donovan calling out Beckham's effort in MLS is a little like Michael Jordan's teammates saying that he didn't play hard enough when he was in the minors. Of course, it is a great way for MLS to grab some publicity, and for soccer in America, any publicity is good publicity.
Hildenbrandt: Awkward? Yes. But brilliant? Absolutely! Is there a better way to drum up nationalistic pride for American soccer than by calling out a popular, image-conscious Englishman? We don't need no stinkin' Beckham! For years, U.S. Soccer has been fighting the uphill battle of proving it belongs on the world stage. Perhaps the better approach is to forge a completely adversarial relationship with the outside world and form an "us versus them" mentality here in the States. That's the only thing that'll get average, run-of-the-mill sports fans to take an interest in soccer. And to that point, I think Donovan sees a boost in his brand here at home. If anything, this may make it acceptable for people to come out of the woodwork now and start to admit that they didn't really like Bend It Like Beckham in the first place.
Rubenstein: I hereby apologize for starting the use of the word "brand" today. I agree with you, Ty, that the only way MLS really takes off is if it does it as a collective league, not as a place for one aging European star.
Hildenbrandt: In 2009, soccer is one of the only sports in which we can truly claim to still be an "underdog." So let's play off that and act like Lane Kiffin. Make hollow claims. Make bold statements for no reason. Throw everyone under the bus and make soccer seem as patriotic as joining the army. I'm fine with all this. This plan is bulletproof.
Osterhout: Getting back to USA Soccer ... the fact that our captain is picking fights in the media with a player who has accomplished much more than he ever will does not bode well for our national team. It's like a little brother lobbing mindless insults at his sibling. And this is our captain!
Rubenstein: If MLS took off because of an older English guy, it still wouldn't be long-lasting or legitimate. Sort of like when a sitcom looks to boost ratings by trotting out big-name guest stars. Sure, it's intriguing, but you're just hurting yourself in the long run. Donovan scored a goal in the Confed Cup while Beckham scored an Armani billboard.
Traina: Last topic: Tony Romo broke up with Jessica Simpson the day before her b-day. Is this a sign that Romo is going to focus 100 percent on football or is he just getting ready to date another celebrity?
Rubenstein: He'll date another celebrity, but not until the season is over for the Cowboys (early January). If you've ever been to the nicer areas of Dallas, you know that, for the time being, Romo will be just fine with somebody under the radar. The fun thing is that the Cowboys will be significantly better this year and everyone will attribute it to Simpson being out of the picture. There's a 137 percent chance that Simpson, in an effort to make Romo jealous, will start dating a lower-tier QB, but it'll only backfire a la Sean Avery. You've been targeted, Shaun Hill!
Hildenbrandt: It's a sign that the people of Dallas need to scramble and get a new list of excuses lined up for when the Cowboys experience another round of "epic fail" in the postseason. Time is of the essence! I can just see Cowboys message boards lighting up with possible contingency plans: "Can we still blame T.O. somehow?"... "What about Pacman, is he still in the area?"... "Where's Dave Campo these days?" To me, this is a franchise that is suddenly without a designated scapegoat. And that's sad. I agree with Dan. Romo will land on his feet here, seeing as how you can throw a stone and hit a hot blonde in Texas. I'm much more interested in how Simpson reacts to this news. What's she been doing with herself other than dating Romo? Take a significant other out of the equation and there's a void that simply cannot be filled. Should be fun.
Osterhout: This does not mean that Romo will be concentrating on football. It's the exact opposite. It means that Romo will be concentrating on dating more women. But I agree with Dan, not celebrities. I think once you've dated a celebrity for a while, it's got to be nice to get back to your regular, everyday women. As seen last Friday night, the night after he broke up with Simpson, Romo is going to hit the town hard. It's probably been months since he's been able to hang out with his boys, guilt-free. Trust me, the last thing he is thinking about right now is football. Actually, I take that back. The last thing he is thinking about right now is Jessica Simpson, then football.
Dan Rubenstein hosts and produces the SI Tour Guy video series for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at email@example.com. Ty Hildenbrandt writes for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. Jacob E. Osterhout is a features reporter for the New York Daily News and a former writer for Sports Illustrated On Campus. His work can also be found at the College Sports Examiner.
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