’s upgraded app lets consumers scan for supper help

April 30, 2012

Sometimes even the most creative chef needs a little inspiration when it comes to what to whip up with the ingredients in her pantry., a social site that offers recipes, enables cooks to share ideas and doles out kitchen tips, has updated its apps for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and for smartphones using Google Inc.’s Android operating system with a feature that can help.  

The feature, available in’s free Dinner Spinner app as well as its $2.99 Dinner Spinner Pro, enables cooks to scan bar codes on grocery items with a smartphone to find recipes that call for those items, add items to shopping lists or save items in a scan history, creating a “virtual pantry” to keep track of food and ingredients at home.

Consumers can scan a grocery item’s bar code to search for recipes with related ingredients, create and manage shopping lists by scanning ingredients they are low on to add them to a list, and to avoid purchasing something they don’t need by scanning the ingredients they have in their pantries.

Consumers can also save money by scanning sale items and then searching for recipes in Allrecipes’ database that contain those ingredients.  For example, if Chihuahua cheese is on sale, the app user can search through a database of recipes with that ingredient. For brave chefs, the app also features a slot-machine-style search feature that will choose a recipe for a consumer based on ingredients she enters.

“With more than 11 million global downloads of Allrecipes’ Dinner Spinner, developing innovative new features that meet our community’s needs and complement our apps is a top priority for Allrecipes,” says Lisa Sharples, president of 

More consumers are realizing the value of putting their smartphones to work while in a store. 58% of smartphone owners use a phone while in bricks-and-mortar stores to shop, according to the comScore MobiLens report. Additionally, one in five use their smartphones to scan bar codes, comScore says.

Bar code scanning in particular seems to be on the rise. Scanbuy, a QR code purveyor and Quick Response marketing campaign manager, registered 31 million scans of 1-D and 2-D bar codes worldwide in 2011 through its ScanLife app. That’s up 297% from 7.8 million in 2010. There were 11 million scans in the fourth quarter of 2011, up 175% from 4 million in Q4 2010. There were more bar code scans through ScanLife in Q4 2011 than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined, Scanbuy says.

The Universal Product Code, or UPC, is a one-dimensional bar code found on virtually all consumer goods, including grocery items. Scanning a conventional bar code can lead consumers to product information hosted on the mobile web by a scanning company, a comparison shopping engine, a retailer or other companies.

A QR code is a form of two-dimensional bar code not yet common on consumer goods, but gaining popularity as a marketing tool. It typically appears as a black-and-white square with a pattern of tiny black-and-white squares within; sometimes a company may include its logo within the square. A consumer downloads a QR code scanner app, such as ScanLife, onto his smartphone. He opens the app, points the smartphone camera at the QR code, and the app reads the code and then connects him to mobile web-based content.

500 Online Sales: Growth: See More 1000 Online Sales: Growth: See More 400 Online Sales: Growth: See More’s upgraded app lets consumers scan for supper help

The Hays Daily News

April 30, 2012

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Third-year Otis-Bison High School boys’ basketball coach Alan Clark is already well-known for handing out poker chips to his players one day at practice late in the regular season. He asked the Cougars if they were “all in” for the rest of the year.

The motto eventually took off. The team repeated the slogan at games, community members wrote it on signs, shouted it at contests and frosted it on cookies. It eventually carried Otis-Bison to an 18-8 record and the Class 1A, Division II state championship game where the Cougars lost to Frankfort.

“I didn’t know how big it was going to be,” Clark said.

However, Otis-Bison’s run to the title consisted of much more than poker chips. It includes Jeff Langrehr, the former Great Bend coach who is now at Gardner-Edgerton, a wrinkle that Clark puts into daily practice that few coaches use, another motto Otis-Bison first started last summer, a meeting that Clark had with seniors in late season — and a feeling of dissatisfaction when the year was over.

All of it helped Otis-Bison finish in third place last season and collect second this year, the two best boys’ basketball seasons in school history. On the boys’ side, only Class 6A juggernaut Wichita Heights has finished in the top-three in the state the last two seasons. For the turnaround, Clark earned Hays Daily News Boys’ Coach of the Year honors on the 34th annual all-area team.

“He cares about the players so much,” senior guard Trevor Keller said. “He gets on you. Obviously we respect him a lot for that. We all understand that he cares about you more than anything.”

Clark originally went to college because he wanted to teach and coach. He was a biology major in college and had to tutor some students in a sophomore biology class.

“Found out how bad some kids didn’t want to be there,” Clark said. “They could care less about biology. It really kind of soured me on teaching. I just wanted to coach, but I didn’t want to be teaching in the classroom where half the kids didn’t want to be there anyway.”

Clark started a business in Lyons and officiated games for many years. He was the Great Bend Middle School boys’ basketball coach for five years under Langrehr, who led the high school Panthers to two state titles. Langrehr wanted Clark to help with the varsity, but Clark wished to be free on Tuesdays and Fridays to watch his sons play for Lyons.

When the Otis-Bison position came open three years ago, Clark’s youngest son had just graduated. Otis-Bison principal Mark Goodheart talked with Langrehr and asked if he knew of any strong candidates. Clark’s name came up and he took the position, the first varsity job of his career.

His first season, Otis-Bison advanced to the sub-state semifinals before it won the first two state games in boys’ basketball school annals last winter. This season, the Cougars again peaked in March, a difficult task for any coach. Clark partially credited the late-season improvement to not conditioning after practice, a move he said he’ll “probably be criticized” for. Virtually every team runs sprints at the end of practice, but Clark will only run the Cougars for discipline. Clark never liked extra running as a player and believes if players go hard for a full practice, extra running is unnecessary.

“Why waste the time running up and down the court without the basketball,” he said. “If I am going to have them running up and down the court, I am going to have them passing the basketball, I am going to have them dribbling the basketball.”

When Otis-Bison started summer basketball last year, the Cougars returned many of the pieces from the 2011 third-place team. Every huddle and practice, Keller led them in a cheer: “1-2-3, state champs.”

“That was the goal,” Clark said. “That was the only goal.”

Otis-Bison started 8-2, but wasn’t playing well. The Cougars didn’t have a player who averaged more than 12 points a game, and had trouble meshing early after Mike Hlavaty and Dominic Trapp, the 2011 leaders, had graduated.

“With Mike and Dominic leaving from last year, I think we all wanted to step up and help the team, but I think that kind of hurt us because we weren’t playing as a team,” Keller said. “We were more trying to do it ourselves.”

Otis-Bison slipped to 10-5 and had just lost 40-36 to Claflin-Central Plains on Jan. 31. Clark met with the four seniors, Keller, Patrick Piper, Brandon Pechanec and Zach Stejskal. Clark wasn’t upset, but was disappointed. At school the following day, the seniors talked again.

“We all decided that we were trying to do too much by ourselves,” Keller said. “Just work together better.”

As well, Clark presented the poker chips in practice, a tactic he learned from a story about the New York Giants. The Giants struggled in midseason, but a motivational speaker handed out poker chips to each player. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. After he handed out the chips, Otis-Bison played better down the stretch. The Cougars still lost a couple games to Class 2A Ness City, a state qualifier, and Class 1A, Division I St. John, two Central Prairie League schools that weren’t in the same classification.

“Playing that schedule really prepares you for the postseason,” Clark said.

At state, Otis-Bison defeated Tribune-Greeley County and Hope before it lost in double overtime to Frankfort in the final. Even though Otis-Bison wasn’t favored to reach the final, the loss was difficult for Clark, who believed he let the players down.

“In my opinion, I didn’t do a good enough job of finding a way to stop (Jacob) Broxterman,” Clark said, referring to one of Frankfort’s two 6-foot-4 stars. “If anybody wants to look at what cost us the game, they don’t have to look any further than the head coach, because the head coach could not find a way to get him stopped in time.”

The Hays Daily News

ModNation Racers Road Trip: “Pick Up And Play” Redefined

April 30, 2012

ModNation Monday Art

(He says with a smile…) As the self-appointed spokesperson for men everywhere I can personally attest to the widely unspoken truth than men indeed do some of their best work in their secondary “office.” In fact, had I been given permission to test there, I guarantee I would have scored 175-250 points higher on my S.A.T.’s leading to my unfulfilled dream of attending an “accredited” college. Since that dream has long passed me by, I am left with the dilemma: such a throne of inspiration and enlightenment now left to its utilitarian purpose, what to do? Left to task, those minutes can seem like an eternity. Put to proper use they can be redeemed into many leg-numbingly wonderful times!

The “Pick Up and Play” Gamers Oath: On a bus, on a train. On a boat, on a plane.On a ladder, or a stool. In a garden, by the pool.Standing up, lying prone, or sitting quietly, on a throne.

Okay, all kidding aside, ModNation Racers: Road Trip is a great “pick up and play” game for your new PS Vita. Whether you have a quick few minutes (one race) or the next millennium off from work or school (500,000+ user created tracks) we’ve got you covered.

So put down that newspaper, take a break from doing your taxes or homework and treat yourself to a little gem we call ModNation Racers: Road Trip. You’ll be glad you did!

“Road Trip” Community Hot Lap Challenge


Each week we will host a Community Hot Lap Challenge to see who can post the best time on selected tracks. The top three times will be mentioned here in this ModNation Monday blog for the world to see.

Think you’re the best racer in Road Trip? Two words: bring it!

Check here next week for the results and the next track in the series. If you have a track that you would like to nominate as “The Hot Lap Challenge Track of the Week” please let us know HERE

“Road Trip-ers” – Enjoy Double XP Week! That’s right Mods and Modettes — it’s Double XP time! All systems (Vita, PS3, PSP) will receive Double XP from Monday, April 2nd – Monday, April 9th! Go ahead, knock yourselves out! (Mama said). ModNation Racers: Road Trip “Track of the Week” TheGiantCamelChronicals5 by BorisTheBear7


ModNation Racers For PS3

Top Tracks: Best of its2l84that toptracks

All-Time 10 Best User-Created Tracks? In just a few short weeks The ModNation Racers franchise celebrates its two year anniversary! Help us by nominating what you think are the 10 best user made tracks in the game.Your nominations can be posted HERE.

Hot Lap Track of the Week: Roulette Raceway Casino by IndustrialSavior


Monday: Zenkane City by City_Zen_Kane Tuesday: Antarctica by Xv_AmBiTionZ_vX Wednesday: Urban Dash by mini_schnauzer67 Thursday: Garbage Dump Athletic by statickey_660 Friday: Pueblo Modina by City_Zen_Kane Saturday: Roulette Raceway Casino by IndustrialSavior Sunday: WAVE RACER by SpeedDemon

Have a great week everyone,Mark

PS3: ModNationSDVita: ModNationSDVita

ModNation Racers Road Trip: “Pick Up And Play” Redefined

High-Risk and High-Reward 2012 NFL Draft Picks

April 30, 2012

When NFL general mangers, presidents and coaches assemble in their respective war rooms, it’s as if they’re bellying up to the blackjack table at a casino, risking money and future success on draftees. 

That goes for any player being drafted, but some players are even riskier and can cost franchises dearly. On the other hand, if a team is willing to go “all in” on a risky athlete, it could earn them the jackpot. 

That’s the subject of this week’s Rush Segment from NFLDraft365, as Matt Miller, Dylan MacNamara, Evan Adrian and Ryan O’Leary discuss the merits of drafting some of the riskier picks in the year’s draft crop. 

See what they have to say about the likes of Janoris Jenkins, Dontari Poe, Quinton Coples and Alshon Jeffery.

NFLDraft365 is a production of Bleacher Report Videos. The show highlights all of the players, news, happenings and opinions surrounding the NFL draft and is covered year-round for NFL fans who are serious about their teams.

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High-Risk and High-Reward 2012 NFL Draft Picks

NASA Hosts Teleconference on Status of New Mars Program Plans

April 30, 2012

PRESS RELEASE Date Released: Thursday, April 12, 2012 Source: NASA HQ NASA Hosts Teleconference on Status of New Mars Program Plans

image WASHINGTON — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 13, to provide an update about the framework and schedule of the newly formed Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG). The MPPG was established to construct a coordinated strategy and continue America’s leadership role in the exploration of Mars within available future budgets. Participants are: — John Grunsfeld, associate administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington — Doug McCuistion, director, Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington — Orlando Figueroa, MPPG team lead Media representatives can request dial-in information by sending their name, affiliation and phone number to by 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 13. Audio of the event will be streamed live at: For more information about NASA’s Mars Program, visit:

News from Moon Today

NASA Hosts Teleconference on Status of New Mars Program Plans

Where 3 Casino Stocks Bounced

April 30, 2012

I’m a 1972 graduate of the University of North Carolina, where I paid for half my college costs by working nights as a DJ at WCHL/Chapel Hill. Management was shocked to be hearing “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones on their once-staid radio station. But they liked the subsequent ratings. My major was Philosophy – I read Aristotle, Hume & Kant. With a fresh, new Bachelor of Arts degree in hand, I took off for radio gigs in Charlotte, Denver and points west. In 1980, I switched gears, trained as a broker at Dean Witter in New York City and became fascinated, intrigued and stimulated by…well…money. In 1987, I was offered a spot on the morning show at KLUC-FM/Las Vegas and spent the next 5 years playing basic strategy and counting cards at Sin City’s finest blackjack tables, occasionally taking short breaks to show up at my actual “job.” I entered the on-line stock trading competition known as Marketocracy in 2001. At the end of 5 years, I had placed in the top 10 out of 70,000 participants. My market work is profiled in The Warren Buffetts Next Door by Forbes Investments Editor Matt Schifrin. My contact is

Where 3 Casino Stocks Bounced

National Association of Broadcasters draws stars, politicos, tech experts

April 29, 2012

Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau

Teri Hatcher speaks at the opening of the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas on Monday, April 16, 2012.

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 10:32 a.m.

It’s one of the largest conventions on our annual calendar, as 100,000 experts, celebrities and exhibitors from multimedia converge on Las Vegas today for the National Association of Broadcasters. It’s the ultimate marketplace for digital media content and entertainment delivered to new screens in new ways.

From actress Betty White to Flamingo headliner Donny Osmond, it’s a star-studded affair — but also serious business, with 60 global delegations from as far afield as Vietnam, Ghana and Poland attending. For the first time, delegates from Pakistan and Nepal will be at NAB. In all, 151 countries are represented with more than 1,500 exhibitors, 400 of which are from international corporations.

In addition to the sprawling convention floor, there are international pavilions to promote Britain, Korea, France, Belgium, Bavaria and the U.S. There are so many overseas visitors flying here this week that the International Trade Center will provide multilingual staffs specializing in at least seven languages.

Betty is a seven-time Emmy Award winner with a 60-year plus career and an author of seven books. The 90-year-old beloved from “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” will be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame on Tuesday. “She has remarkable energy still and an incredible ability to connect with viewers. Her contributions to television and entertainment are extraordinary,” said NAB President Gordon Smith.

Also being inducted here will be Hollywood actor, director, writer and producer Garry Marshall. That takes place at today’s Television Luncheon. It’s the first time two individuals are being inducted for TV contributions into the Hall of Fame. Garry created “Mork & Mindy,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Happy Days,” directed “Pretty Woman” and “Runaway Bride” and starred on “Murphy Brown.” Play-by-play announcer Bob Uecker also will be inducted.

Donny will deliver a keynote speech at NAB’s Radio Luncheon. The former teen idol and “Dancing With the Stars” champion won’t be there as a singer, dancer and musician, but more wearing his business hat in his partnership with McVay Syndication, which distributes his radio shows.

One session certain to attraction attention will be “The Sounds of Hunger Games.” Gary Ross, the blockbuster’s director, will be joined by his sound supervisor Lon Bender and his sound designer Bill Dean to discuss how the vision of the film was accomplished with sounds. (It was reported last week that Ross will not return for the sequel.) Oscar-winning “Titanic” and “Avatar” director James Cameron will discuss 3D advances in filmmaking in his session.

There will be stars promoting their programs and producers pitching their next hoped-for shows in between the latest technology for broadcasting content. NAB has always been a peek into the future, and this year will be no different; this year’s theme is “Making Sense of the Great Content Shift.” Although the emphasis remains on content more than its delivery, it is a study of how the telecommunications industry will change in the future.

When there’s a massive industry with huge financial earnings, government regulators will be keeping watch to see what new rules they can institute. Accordingly, the FCC with its Chairman Julius Genachowski and commissioners Robert McDowell and Mignon Clayton are here for a session on regulatory matters. After the recent GSA financial fiasco discovered at the M Resort here, don’t expect them to be partying beyond the official per-diem ceiling.

NAB’s first meetings were held Sunday, and the convention-floor trade show opens today. NAB, which fills our nightclubs and restaurants, continues through Thursday. It should add more than $120 million to our economy — and that official figure doesn’t including betting on craps, blackjack and roulette.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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National Association of Broadcasters draws stars, politicos, tech experts

From rock stage to slots, audio producer aims to improve the sounds of the casino

April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012 | 2 a.m.

Willie Wilcox played drums behind some of the hottest musicians of the 1970s, including Todd Rundgren and Meatloaf. He has even drummed alongside Ringo Starr.

But after switching gears to mix chart-topping dance hits and soundtracks for MTV and Nickelodeon television shows, Wilcox landed in Las Vegas three years ago to begin yet another new gig — engineering musical licks for slot machines.

“I try to take the same methods of writing hit songs and apply them here,” Wilcox said inside a recording studio at Bally Technologies, where he serves as senior audio director. “Of course, if I had the secret of writing a hit song, I wouldn’t be here. But most people will agree that they all have the same characteristics of a melody, a rhythm and a lyric that sticks in your mind.”

And sometimes, Wilcox introduces music to slot machines that already has topped the charts.

One of Wilcox’s greatest hits on the slot circuit is a Michael Jackson game that debuted last fall. It’s the first surround sound slot, where the music of the King of Pop literally engulfs the player, coming from both the machine and speakers inside an electronic chair that pulsates with every bonus. Jackson’s famous yelps and hoots pulsate throughout the game, which launches video segments from “Beat It” or “Smooth Criminal” when players win.

To create the surround sound experience, Wilcox had to get every track of the original recordings from Sony and the Jackson estate and remix them. Astute listeners will hear Jackson’s voice coming from in front of them, while the crisp sounds of the instruments pump from the sides and behind them.

“The challenge was to take this iconic music and have people experience it like they never have before,” Wilcox said. “You’ve heard ‘Beat It’ before, but you’ve never heard it like this.”

Wilcox also worked to preserve Jackson’s music for his fans, who he was aware might look skeptically on the favorite music of their childhood being used for a casino game.

“His music is sacred to all of his fans,” Wilcox said. “The question was, how do I take Michael’s music and put it where it was never intended to be — in a video game — without it sounding chopped up or disrespectful? That was the No. 1 goal.”

Wilcox knows about the artists’ side of pop music. On Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” album, he contributed to one of the top-selling pop albums of all time. He spent much of the 1970s and ’80s playing for Rundgren’s Utopia, which was also the backing band for Hall and Oates’ 1974 LP “War Babies.”

While playing with Rundgren until the early 1990s, Wilcox devised some of the most creative drum sets in rock ‘n’ roll, including one built to resemble a motorcycle chassis. He was a staff writer for Geffen and Warner Brothers records and produced Stacey Q’s 1986 dance hit “We Connect.”

But bringing Michael Jackson to the casino floor presented special concerns.

Yes, slot machines signal wins with bells, a sound that didn’t necessarily lend itself to Jackson’s music. But as a percussionist, Wilcox also knew that ringing also was a rhythm, made as effective with the chink of cymbals as clanging.

“I wanted people to feel the bells, not hear them,” Wilcox said. “I wanted them to recognize that something had happened in the game while not distracting from Michael’s music.”

It’s all a part of the new soundtrack of casinos.

Wilcox used the guitar riffs of fellow Las Vegas musician Paul Crook to design rock sounds for Bally’s Money Vault game. He brought a contemporary vibe to the game Code Red by using Auto-Tune, a pitch-correcting program, and tricks from his electronic dance background to create a sample of music for a game feature known as Touch and Slide — a video wheel that players simulate spinning by touching the screen.

The snippet became one of his biggest hits around the Bally offices.

“Some of the people are using it as their ring tone,” he said.

From rock stage to slots, audio producer aims to improve the sounds of the casino

Welcome Back to the Mailbag

April 29, 2012

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaFrom Fenway’s birthday to NBA MVP to a Price Is Right merger with the NHL, it’s actual letters from actual readersBy Bill Simmons on April 20, 2012


When I heard about the “Fenway 100″ anniversary celebration before Friday’s Red Sox–Yankees game, my guard went flying up at the speed of a vintage Pedro fastball. See, we went from having neglectful owners (the 1970s) to incompetent owners (the 1980s and 1990s) to opportunistic owners who transformed the franchise (in a good way — we won two titles) while scraping every possible penny of profit out of their investment, to the point that Yaz was probably afraid to come to Fenway today because he didn’t want to be murdered, chopped up and turned into commemorative Yaz-flavored kielbasa pieces for $499.95 per bite. The thought of a “Fenway 100″ celebration made me nervous.

And then the players came pouring out on the field, one after the other, and … well …

What can you say? What can you say when every checkpoint from your entire life happens to be huddled as one big mass of Red Sox jerseys in the only hometown park you ever had? There were Fisk, Rice, Pedro, Big Mo, Nomar, Remy, Rico … it was like a 35-man tie for “Guy I Was Most Excited to See Again.” Even better, they invited everybody, so for every childhood hero, there was also a Mike Stenhouse, a Shag Crawford, even a Steve Lomasney. I ended up getting greedy and being bummed out that El Guapo and Freddie Lynn didn’t show up. Talking about it with my father later, he mentioned the moment when Fisk, Yaz and Rice helped out with the first pitch — how he couldn’t help but notice that Freddie Lynn was missing, how there was something fitting about Lynn not being there for that moment, either.

“He never should have left Fenway,” my dad said for the 10,257th time. “Perfect park for him. He would have made the Hall of Fame if he stayed.”

We have been having the same conversation about Freddie Lynn since I was 13. He should have stayed. These are the things you think about when your entire life is flashing before your eyes. Football is more popular, basketball is more marketable, hockey is more exciting, soccer means more throughout the world. But baseball has a way of making you think about everything that ever happened to you, every conversation you ever had, every place you ever lived, everything. I saw Millar and thought of standing in the tunnel at Fenway in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, when he was drawing that walk against Rivera. I saw Yaz and thought about him popping that ball up against Gossage, seeing it coming down, praying for a miracle that wouldn’t come. I saw Pedro and thought of those precious nights at Fenway when he’d give up his first hit and the crowd would collectively sigh, as in, “Damn, I’m not seeing a no-hitter tonight.” I saw Mo and thought about that hideous strike season, a year after I had moved back to Boston, when Big Mo was the only Red Sox player worth seeing. I saw Nomar and thought about how, once upon a time, it was Nomar, then A-Rod, then Jeter (in that order). I saw Remy and Rice and thought about the time Remy blew out his knee and Rice had to carry him back to the dugout, and I saw Evans and thought about the time he got beaned in the Seattle game and my dad and I thought he was dead. I saw Fisk and thought about that first White Sox game when he came back and rammed it right between our eyes.

I didn’t see Freddie Lynn, and that mattered, too. So did the fact that I didn’t even realize Clemens was missing until about 20 minutes after the ceremony. All of this mattered. All of it. The Red Sox have been screwing just about everything up lately, but today wasn’t one of those times. Let’s hope that ceremony doesn’t end up being the highlight of the 2012 season.

Q: I’m turning 30 and the only thing I want for my birthday is a new mailbag. The only thing. I even told my fiance not to worry about giving me a gift. I hope you can come through for me, for all of us.— Jana Fischer, Boise, ID

SG: I don’t know, Jana. Lots of people turn 30. I need a little more prodding.

Q: When a soon to be Holy Cross freshman is getting action in a 1966 Driver’s Ed class on episode of TV’s best show (Mad Men), I think that means it is time for a mailbag. Given that it is Holy Cross, it wasn’t co-ed yet and that it was before the “free love” era, what are the odds that was the best that guy was going to do until he got back home next summer?— John, Dunwoody, GA

SG: The odds are lower than you think. My dad went to Holy Cross in the late-’60s — every Friday, he would flee campus to visit any other local school that had coeds, becoming so infamous for that ploy that his friends gave him the nickname “Suitcase.” Ironically, it became harder for male Holy Cross students to hook up AFTER the school started admitting girls. Either way, I’m not sure Hanson the Horny Future HC Student deserves credit for spawning a mailbag.

Q: It’s 4/20 on Friday. You almost always write Fridays and you have owed us a mailbag for weeks. Also half your audience will get high before they read that mailbag anyway. Do I have to spell this out for you Simmons? 4/20 MAILBAG!— MG, NY NY

SG: OK, now we’re talking. I’m almost convinced. I’m on the brink.

Q: Sports guy. Deployed in Kuwait right now. Entering the 2-3 month point when you realize your life is depressing. How do you feel about a mailbag? I’m begging.— Andrew Gerry, Udairi, Kuwait

SG: Now that’s a good reason for a mailbag! Stay safe out there, Andrew. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: Now that Dwight is out for the season, how likely is it that The Ewing Theory will soon become The Howard Theory?— Kyle, Toronto, Ontario

SG: It’s a perfect storm: You have the possibly overhyped superstar who never won anything; everyone writing off his team for the playoffs; a group of players who probably weren’t crazy about becoming part of Howard’s soap opera these past few months; a first-round matchup against a totally unproven Pacers team; and a coach who’d love nothing more than to shove it to the guy who wanted him out all season.1 The Ewing Theory Committee is on high alert. Couldn’t you see Orlando making, like, 20 of 35 3s in Game 1 or Game 2, then doing the same thing in Game 3, followed by Indiana getting tight and everyone saying, “Wait a second, Orlando can’t actually win this series without Dwight, right????” More important …

Q: With Howard out for the Olympics, Stiemsma has to take his spot right?— @bobfuton (via Twitter)

SG: Look, Greg Stiemsma already went from never averaging 12 minutes a game for a Big Ten school to averaging 20 minutes a game as a valuable backup big man for an NBA title contender. You’re really telling me that “Greg Stiemsma, Gold Medalist, USA” is far-fetched at this point?

Anyway, I’m glad Mr. Futon brought this up because I spent the morning freaking out about our gold-medal chances. Here are the nine definites for Team USA …

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony (played his way back onto the team these past three weeks) and Tyson Chandler (the team’s new defensive anchor with Howard out).

I also think Russell Westbrook is sneaking in as the team’s luxury uber-athletic combo guard/defensive stopper whenever Coach K wants to turn up the jets with the press. That makes 10. If you notice, we’re more than a little small, which means we have to cross off the token extra shooter (Steph Curry, Eric Gordon, etc.) and token luxury perimeter defender (Andre Iguodala) so we can add a taller forward and one more center/defensive anchor.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently: Our 2012 gold medal is riding on that one 40-minute game against Spain. They’re throwing both Gasols AND Serge Ibaka at us.2 They’re going to pound us down low and relentlessly bang the offensive boards. It’s just a fact. We can respond by being cute and saying, “We’re going small and beating them with LeBron/Durant/Carmelo playing the four,” but if the Gasols get in a groove (and we’ve seen them do it in these international games), we’re going to need size beyond Chandler and Love (and protection in case either of them gets into foul trouble). The candidates …

Blake Griffin: Rebounds, garbage-time dunks and marketing. That’s what you’re getting. Can’t imagine him playing a lick against Spain when he’s a mediocre low-post defender and can’t make 15-footers on the other end. With Howard onboard, you could have snuck Blake onto the team as the 12th guy. No more. If they pick Blake, they’re picking an All-Star team … something they swore they wouldn’t do. I’m crossing him off.

Chris Bosh: A better fit internationally because he can make 17-footers. On the other hand, I don’t trust Bosh as the third-best guy on an NBA contender … I’m going to trust him in the Spain game trying to defend the Gasols? Thanks but no thanks. Let’s leave Bosh’s Pit in Miami, please.

LaMarcus Aldridge: Just had hip surgery and was never exactly a defensive stopper. Cross him off.

Andrew Bynum: Most talented big man on the board … but man, given all the maturity issues/health problems he’d had over the past few years, can you really see Coach K rolling the dice with him? Why does this make me so nervous? Read this article. And this one. And this one. You really want to trust Bynum against Spain? He has two months to change our minds.

Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan: Both passed the “No way I’m putting those extra miles on my legs during the summer when I’m supposed to be resting for next season and I’m old, anyway” checkpoint about four years ago. Hold this thought, though.

Stiemsma: Why are you laughing? Do you realize that the Stiemer is leading all American big guys in blocks-per-48 minutes? Plus, wouldn’t you want to own a Stiemsma Olympic jersey?

In all seriousness, here’s what we should actually do. First, we send Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Coach K and Durant to KG’s Malibu house right after the Finals. They deliver the following message:

We only need you for TWO games. You’re going to be using the summer to stay in shape, anyway — what better way to stay in shape than a few weeks of July practices against the best players in the world in Vegas? From there, we’ll go to London and stick you in a fire extinguisher case for the preliminaries — “ONLY BREAK IF YOU REALLY NEED KG.” You can cheer on the guys, F-bomb our opponents from the bench, scream encouragement like a lunatic and do KG things. Then, we’ll bring you out for the medal games against France and Spain. You can finally get revenge on Pau Gasol for the 2010 Finals when you were playing on one leg. You can win a gold medal and add to your legacy. And by the way? WE NEED YOU. Win this with us.

No way Garnett turns them down. He’s too competitive and too good of a teammate. So there’s your 11th. As for our 12th guy, it’s such a glaringly obvious answer that, when I give you his name, you will shake your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that???” I present to you the one and only logical choice for that 12th spot, something that we need to get done as soon as possible so I don’t have to spend my summer worrying about us blowing the Spain game …

(Hold on, I’m letting it sink in for you.)

… that’s right, we’re bringing in the Unibrow!

It’s the no-brainer of no-brainers! Anthony Davis just won an NCAA title. He protects the rim like nobody we’ve seen since a young Dikembe Mutombo. He’s the ultimate teammate, someone who can affect basketball games without taking a single shot. Unlike Bynum, we won’t have to worry about him screwing up team chemistry. He’ll be the ultimate happy-to-be-there young guy. He’ll even happily settle into that always-enjoyable role as the whipping boy rookie who has to carry everyone else’s bags and stuff. And by the way? We might actually need him! What am I missing? GIVE US THE ‘BROW! USA! USA! USA! USA!

The team one last time: Paul, Rose, Westbrook, Wade, Kobe (guards); LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, Love (forwards); Chandler, Garnett, The ‘Brow (centers). Do you feel better? I feel better. Let’s move on.

Q: How long do you think it will take for Bill O’Brien to get the “old person smell” out of his office?— Mike P, Philly

SG: (Afraid to say anything.)

Q: Is it me or is Kill Frank Gore’s Head going to be the most popular team name in fantasy next year?— Butter, West Palm Beach

SG: Absolutely. I’m also excited for the obligatory terrible metal rock song with the chorus, “KILL THE HEAD (AND THE BODY WILL DIE)!!! KILL THE HEAD (AND THE BODY WILL DIE)!!!” That reminds me, where was the WWE during this Gregg Williams saga? How did they not create a wrestling manager/Williams parody who keeps “crossing the line,” offers bounties for his wrestlers to injure other wrestlers, stirs up an ongoing moral dilemma and comes out to the entrance song, “Kill the Head (and the Body Will Die)”? How long do we have to wait?

Q: A few years back you wrote how Jennifer Love Hewitt was poison to the ears of women. Just the sound of her name would cause any women within earshot to perk up and say “her neck is too tall,” “her boobs are too big,” “her body is too disproportionate … ” Well, I have found that Khloe Kardashian elicits the exact opposite reaction. She’s the anti-JLov. Every time I mention something along the lines of Khloe being the ugly Kardashian, every nearby woman comes to her defense. They always say “what?!?! She is sooo pretty!!” or “I weigh more than she does!” This is almost never true.— Ken S., Brighton, MA

SG: I asked my wife about this. We had this exchange.

Her: “I hate all the Kardashians and I hate their show. But Khloe’s the most tolerable of the three.”

Me: “Why do you think women like her?

Her: “She’s funny and she’s honest — she tells it like it is. (Thinking.) You know, I actually like Khloe, I just hate her sisters.”

Me: “Do you feel bad for Khloe that she’s considered to be the fat sister?”

Her: “She’s not that fat!”

(And there you go. Meanwhile … )

Q: How is Grantland not reviewing Jennifer Love Hewitt’s new show The Client List? It is female porn. There are so many guys with six pack abs that all need Jennifer to “massage” them in all the right places. Insecure men leaving their women. Overdone Texas stereotypes. Please get someone on this show asap.— Jeffrey, Austin

SG: Done and done. We’re launching a weekly “Hate Watching: The Client List” recap post next week on our Hollywood Prospectus blog. By the way, just when you think J-Love had run out of ways to get women to abhor her, she launched a Lifetime show in which she gives out happy endings and potentially ruins marriages during the same month she posted a Twitter picture of herself without makeup (looking great, of course). That’s almost like declaring war on housewives everywhere, right?

Q: When the 8-seeded Kings took a 3-0 lead on the Canucks, I was reminded of how little advantage Vancouver received for their amazing regular season. Here’s a dramatic and controversial plan that could keep ESPN’s talking heads busy for weeks. I call it “Game 8.” It’s simple and beautiful. The 1 and 2 seeds only need to win 4 out of 7 as usual, but the low seeds need to win 5 games total. How do we do this? They could win 5-0, 5-1 or 5-2 in a normal 7-game series. But, if the low seed is leading 4 games to 3? The sportstalkopalyse: Game 8. At the high seed’s home arena. Winner take all. As you say: Who says no?— Brent T., Los Gatos, CA

SG: Let’s be honest: The only hockey-related ideas that “could keep ESPN’s talking heads busy for weeks” would be Tebow, Peyton or LeBron signing with an NHL team. Anyway, I like the spirit of your idea but don’t agree with the execution — the no. 1 seed shouldn’t have to play an extra playoff game. I’d rather see the NBA, NHL and MLB adopt the following idea: give no. 1 seeds an extra home game in Round 1. In baseball, change Round 1 to a 2-1-2 format; in basketball and hockey, change it to a 2-2-3 format. While we’re fixing things …

Q: I’m listening to Jalen and Jacoby’s latest podcast and they’re discussing flopping and possible deterrents. How about the NBA creates the proposed Flop Committee? If you accrue flops during the season, you start the next game with an automatic foul. And that keeps going every two flops after the first six.— Sam, New Orleans

SG: I’d go even further — once you get to 10 flops for the season, after every ensuing flop, you start the next game with TWO automatic fouls. Can I be the chair of the Flop Committee? I want to be able to put this on my résumé and everything. Hold on, we’re not done fixing things.

Q: Hey Sports Czar — what’s your fix for NFL kickoffs? You can’t run for Sports Czar if you are sitting this one out.— Jeremy, Omaha

SG: We can’t get rid of kickoffs entirely, right? For such a violent sport, we can’t suddenly start picking which violent parts make more sense than others. At the same time, this seems like a good chance to tweak the sport so there’s more incentive to go for touchdowns instead of field goals. Why? Because fans perk up when they hear the words “fourth down and they’re going for it!” and lose interest when they hear the words “and here comes [fill in any kicker] to try a field goal.” So, what if we tweaked the rules …

• No more kickoffs to start the first and third quarters. Instead, each team gets the ball on the 25-yard line and we go from there.

• After any successful field goal, you kick off from your own 25-yard line.

• After any touchdown, you kick off from your own 40-yard line.

The end result (hopefully): fewer field goals, more touchbacks, more “fourth down and they’re going for it!” situations, and (most important) more decisions that will get screwed up by mentally overwhelmed coaches and eventually turn into comedic fodder!

Let’s apply the revamped rules to a game situation. It’s Sunday night and San Diego is playing Philly. The Eagles are trailing by four points with seven minutes to play. They’re on San Diego’s 22-yard line. It’s fourth-and-four. If they make the field goal, they’re still trailing by one, and they have to kick off from their own 25 (conceivably, giving San Diego excellent field position to finish off the game). But if they get the first down? Better chance of scoring the go-ahead touchdown coupled with an overwhelming chance of a touchback kickoff (and San Diego starting their next drive from their own 20).

So what would Andy Reid do? (Thinking.) Well, he’d waste a timeout to think about it — and if he could waste a timeout by challenging the previous play, then spend a second timeout to think about fourth down, even better. Then he’d probably decide on kicking a field goal because that would be the dumbest move. Then we could poke fun at him the next day for the entire sequence. See what I mean? We need more decisions in football; there’s just no downside. We win anytime Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Mike Smith or whoever has to make a decision with multiple variables in the spur of the moment.

Q: Where does Lane punching Pete rank in all time Mad Men moments?— Gavin, Verona, PA

SG: SPOILER ALERT! Stuck my answer in the footnotes.3

Q: Starting in June 2010 Minnesota sports teams have suffered the following injuries: Justin Morneau suffers a concussion. (misses the rest of the year and is not the same player through all of 2011); Joe Mauer gets “bilateral leg weakness” and has a terrible 2011; Adrian Peterson shreds his knee at the end of the 2011 season; Ricky Rubio tears his ACL in 2011-2012 season. Has any other sports city suffered catastrophic injuries to that many stars in less than 2 years, and when is Kevin Love going to need microfracture surgery?— Paul Z, St Paul

SG: And to think, Paul sent that e-mail before Love suffered a concussion and the “Vikings might leave Minnesota” story broke. Is there a way to blame all of this on Brett Favre? Isn’t he Patient Zero for the Minnesota sports collapse?

Q: Any chance we can get Bobby V. to make some pro-Castro comments sometime soon?— @sethrobbins77 (via twitter)

SG: Good one. You got me thinking about Boston’s equivalent sore spot to pro-Castro comments in Miami — what’s the one thing Bobby V could say that would potentially get him driven out of town?

It could go one of two routes. Either he’d have to make the following 10 points in the SAME interview …

“I’ve managed in New York and I’ve managed in Boston … New York just has better and more sophisticated fans. It’s a fact.”

“I have to admit, it’s weird to be managing in Boston given that I believe Magic was better than Bird, Gretzky was better than Orr, Kiss was better than Aerosmith, DiMaggio was better than Williams, and Manhattan clam chowder was better than that creamy white sludge they serve here. I even think Fire Island is better than Provincetown. Again, it’s just weird that I ended up here.”

“I’ve been a fan of Eli Manning’s game for a long time — those boys will go down as one of the best teams ever in any sport.”

“What’s up with the goofy accents here? These people sound like reeee-tahds. [Long laugh.]“

“I can’t believe how much they worship the Kennedys around here. Don’t they realize that JFK was the most overrated American president ever? Oh, and nice job pretending that Chappaquiddick never happened, EVERYBODY.”

“I can’t believe how much Dennis & Callahan’s political views echo my own.”

“Irish people are fat, freckled, drunken morons. And always have been, by the way.”

“Kevin Youkilis isn’t as physically and emotionally into the game.”

“I agree with Luke Scott — Fenway is a dump and they should have torn it down 20 years ago.”

“Sam Adams tastes like elephant piss and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee tastes like elephant shit. Sometimes I like to drink them both at once just to see how fast I can throw up.”

He’d have to answer a question about Boston’s busing riots in 1974 by saying something like, “I know that stuff happened almost 40 years ago, but I don’t care — I’ll always believe Boston is a racist city and you’ll never be able to tell me differently.” Every city has one sore spot. For Miami, it’s Castro. For Boston, it’s the racism thing.

(Wow, this turned somber fast. I think we need a little Mike Tyson.)

Q: After Mike Tyson revealed on ESPN that he got a prison official pregnant WHILE IN PRISON, can we officially stop taking challengers to the Tyson Zone throne? Charlie Sheen ain’t got nothing on Iron Mike.— Mike Bell, Riverside, CA

SG: And you didn’t even mention Tyson’s recent (and disturbing) “I beat up seven hookers while zonked out on cocaine” revelation. Look, I have a lot of regrets about getting carried away during Sheen’s media frenzy and assuming that a few crazy Chaz Sheen weeks could trump 25 crazy years of Tyson. If Kevin Durant averaged 37 points a game in the playoffs and won the NBA title, I wouldn’t suddenly declare him the best NBA player ever. I have a lot of regrets. Sorry, Mike Tyson. Please accept my apologies.

Q: Billy, how come you didn’t do a post Super Bowl mailbag when you’re supposed to do a post Super Bowl mailbag? My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and do a mailbag at the same time!— Gisele, Boston

SG: Gisele just reminded me of something: If there was ever a week for Tom Brady to give an interview and say, “You know, I’m 35 years old, I’m at the tail end of my prime, I don’t know how many years I have left here … man, I wish we’d stop rolling over these no. 1 picks to next year’s draft and just bring in a couple of blue-chippers once and for all,” isn’t this the week? Speaking of aging superstars facing the tail end of their primes …

Q: What are the odds that Kobe isn’t really hurt, just sitting out the last few games because he doesn’t want to lose the scoring title?— Crooney, Miami

SG: Are you crazy? Don’t you realize that every time Kobe misses a game, he thinks to himself, I just lost 29 more career points? I wouldn’t be surprised if his office at home has a wall covered with some sort of Beautiful Mind–type scribbling that calculates in great detail every single scoring checkpoint he needs to hit from now until 2018 to catch Kareem. Kobe cares about two things and two things only: winning a sixth ring (to tie MJ) and breaking that scoring record (which would make him immortal, and he knows it). Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Q: I already saw it as I commuted into the office at 8:00 am … I could sense it as I popped up out of the State Street stop … the abnormal warmth, the pep in the step of the women who passed by, the smiles … today is the day! it’s “Halter Top Day!!! Expected high of 87 on Marathon Monday … a bevy of beautiful women roaming the city in sun dresses or booty shorts and yes halter tops! Will there be sunbathing in Columbus park and the Common? Oh yes, because in this year of 2012 remember April 16th as Halter Top Day in Boston!— Brandon, Boston

SG: The greatest Boston day (Patriots’ Day) merged with the second-greatest Boston day (Halter Top Day)???? And the Red Sox lost??? How could the Red Sox lose on Halter Top Patriots’ Day???? We’re headed for 72-90, I’m convinced.

Q: It was just reported that David Lee is out for the season with “groin pain caused by a hip ailment.” I couldn’t stop laughing after reading your article 24 hours earlier where you predicted a bogus injury would remove David Lee. I’m starting to think we should feature you on CSI: Miami sometime to find a serial killer or something.— Chris, Toronto

SG: Just one measly CSI: Miami episode? You don’t think it could be its own CBS drama? What if I played a sports columnist who uses his telepathic powers to protect the NBA’s credibility in The Tankologist? Who’s playing me? Get Matthew Perry on the phone!

Q: With no clear MVP, doesn’t Steve Nash have to be at least considered if the Suns make the playoffs? If he’s not on that team, they’re probably competing with Charlotte for the ‘Brow. How many of his teammates would start for any of the other 7 west playoff teams. One?— Steven, San Jose

SG: When I posted my MVP column 17 days ago, I had LeBron and Durant ranked 1-2, then Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Kobe and Dwight Howard, in that order. Since then, Love dropped out of the top six (because of his concussion), so did Howard (for a variety of reasons), and so did Kobe (missed too many games). What’s the top five right now?

1. LeBron James: Leads Miami in points (27.1), rebounds (7.9) and assists (6.3); finished with a 30+ PER for the third time (it’s only happened 16 times, and only seven players have done it; first-team All-Defense; best player on one of the league’s three best teams. Slightly better than the dreaded “somebody had to win it” MVP season — I think he’s earned a five-pound trophy (and not the Wimbledon platter).

2. Chris Paul: Quality numbers (19.4 PPG, 9.0 APG, 2.5 SPG, 48/37/86 shooting splits, third in PER) coupled with ludicrously good crunch-time numbers (only Chris ranks top-five for points-per-48 minutes AND top 10 for assists-per-48 minutes, backing up the whole “Chris does everything for them in crunch time” notion), and that’s before you throw in the “helped keep the Clips together in mid-March when they were quitting on Vinny Del Negro” and “Oh, in case you forgot, the Clips have always been the league’s laughingstock” parts.4 Chris Paul single-handedly gave the Clippers credibility. Read that sentence again.

3. Kevin Durant: Had a two-week window in which he could have hijacked LeBron’s MVP and couldn’t pull it off. Here’s why I ranked Paul ahead of Durant: If you replaced Paul with, say, Jrue Holiday, they finish 19-47. But if you replaced Durant with, say, Thaddeus Young? Don’t the Zombies still finish .500 or better?

Anyway, there’s a dropoff after those first three guys … which leads us to Mr. Nash. If Phoenix sneaks into the playoffs in THAT conference with THAT team (basically, a 38-year-old point guard setting up a slew of role players, none of whom had ever been regular starters before except for Grant Hill, who, by the way, is 39 years old) after THAT start (they were 12-19 at one point), it could have only happened because of teamwork/chemistry/efficiency, and if that’s the case, then gee, I wonder who made that possible?5

Q: Looking back to Boston’s offseason what did you say when you acquired Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros? For me it was “Wow, I guess they didn’t know how much he sucks.” And you know what … you didn’t. Go ‘Stros, and yes, I know we blow enormous elephant sized shlongs.—James B., Houston

SG: That’s right, it’s a new low for the 2012 Red Sox season — the time we were trash-talked by a Houston Astros fan.

Q: Last week I was talking to a co-worker and said, “what if there was a Hunger Games between Ravens fans, Eagles fans and Raiders fans? Put them all together in an arena and fight to the death. Who would win?” My co-worker, a Ravens fan, immediately said, “I would totally sign up for that.” What fans would make up the most epic Hunger Games, and what would your criteria be? And who would be your winner? My criteria was a rabid fan base, and a fan base that would immediately respond: “Where do I sign up?” P.S. I don’t know what’s worse: that I thought about making the Hunger Games real, or that I thought about not writing this to you because I was afraid these fans bases might actually do it.— Amanda S., Los Angeles

SG: What a great question. The only thing we know for sure about the Fan Hunger Games: Cleveland fans would definitely make it to the Final Four before getting killed in the most agonizing way possible. For the other favorites, I’m leaning toward cold-weather fan bases like Boston (a history of dropping the gloves dating back to the 1770s), New Jersey (no need to explain), New York (biggest base to pick from), and Detroit/Baltimore (blue-collar). You also can’t underestimate some of the hockey-crazed Canadian cities if only because the NHL playoffs prove every spring that Canadians are supernaturally tough and can keep chugging along even when they’re semi-concussed or bleeding from three different places.

Still, I think Philly fans would have to be ranked as the favorites for two reasons. First, if you asked 100 random people the question, “What fan base is the most likely fan base to start a real-life Fan Hunger Games?,” Philly fans would run away with the vote. They just would. That has to mean something. And second, Philly fans are the only fans who would take it personally if they weren’t the favorites for the Fan Hunger Games. Boston fans would quietly smolder about being overlooked, then bide their time, relish being under the radar and get their revenge when the Games started. But Philly fans? They’d feel like it was a total slap in the face if they weren’t favored.

So who’d actually win? Here’s the wild-card component: Boston fans and New York fans would deliberately seek each other out and fight to the death. There would be no winners. Same for Philly fans and New Jersey fans. All four fan bases would be wiped out in the first 25 minutes. That leaves a Final Four of Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland and (in a huge upset) … Portland! Have you ever seen the Trail Blazers message boards? Those frustrated fans are more than ready to take out 35 years of Walton/Bowie/Jordan/Oden/Durant/Roy bitterness in the form of controlled bloodshed. I have them shocking Baltimore in the semis before falling to Detroit in the Finals. But hey, if you disagree and want to cast your own vote, click on Grantland’s Facebook page and weigh in.

Q: I have been a Cowboys fan my whole life. After my graduation from Baylor in ’09, I have also watched RG3 become the most important Baylor athlete of all time. He brought a Heisman to Waco, but more importantly brought credibility to a program that has lacked it for so long. Simply put, RG3 has become my favorite athlete. I am about to watch my favorite sports figure get drafted by the team I “sports hate” the most. I want Griffin to retire with multiple Super Bowl victories but don’t want the Redskins to have any. What do I do?— Matt, San Antonio

SG: Always side with the team over the player. You’ll watch Griffin for the next 15 years; you’ll watch the Cowboys for the next 60. There are only four ways a favorite player can trump a favorite team: If you’re related to the player; if you’re dating the player; if you’re close friends with the player; or if the player just knocked you up and agreed to pay for alimony. That’s it.

Q: After Nashville’s Weber received a $2,500 fine for slamming Zetterberg’s face into the glass but Chicago’s Shaw got a three game suspension for a collision in which he was obviously not trying to injure Phoenix’s Smith, I’m starting to think the NHL has a giant wheel that they spin whenever they need to dole out playoff punishment. Sometimes it will land on an much to heavy suspension and other times you’ll get out of jail free. What other explanation can there be?— Peter, Chicago

SG: Even if Peter was kidding, he inadvertently stumbled onto a killer idea. Since there’s no rhyme or reason to these suspensions, anyway, why not build a giant punishment roulette wheel and have Brendan Shanahan spin it to decide every suspension? The wheel could look like the Price Is Right‘s “Showcase” wheel and have 10 different penalty spots repeated two times each — $2,500 fine, $5,000 fine, $10,000 fine, $25,000 fine, $50,000 fine, one-game suspension, two-game suspension, three-game suspension, four-game suspension and a series suspension — along with two “get out of jail free”–type spots (which would save the player from any penalty) and one “banned from the playoffs” spot (so you’d have a 1-in-23 chance of getting bounced). Three things I like about this idea …

1. Wouldn’t we see fewer cheap shots because everyone would be afraid of taking their chances with the punishment wheel? Cross-check someone in the face and you might miss a couple of games. But with those 1-in-23 “banned from the playoffs” odds looming? Maybe you’d think twice.

2. You know how awkward between-period interviews are? Can you imagine how awkward the before-during-after sequence of Shanahan spinning the punishment wheel live on the NHL Network or WET6 would be? I would watch this EVERY time.

3. Isn’t this admittedly absurd idea no less absurd than the haphazard way in which they doled out punishment during these playoffs? Really, you get $2,500 for slamming someone’s head against the glass like Triple H slamming Undertaker’s head against the side of a steel cage, but three games for semi-accidentally running into a goalie?

Q: After the Bobby Petrino scandal, I realize we have been missing a big part of why a coach decides to stay or leave one program for another — I think we should call the formula “The Tang Factor,” based on the hotness of the coeds at the school combined with how much the coach will make there. What do you think?— Darrin, Palm Springs, FL

SG: I think you just stumbled across the best advanced metric since OPS. I didn’t have enough time to rank all 300 colleges — suffice it to say that the NESCAC is the Bizarro SEC.

Q: So, Bailey and Ellsbury are hurt, Melancon and Albers are getting lit up, Salty and Youk are hitting under .100, and Valentine is already losing control of the clubhouse. In April. On Patriot Day. After the 100th anniversary weekend. I’m tired of losing. Have another kid. Please.— William G., Santa Fe, NM

SG: Believe me, I’ve been thinking about it. For those who might not remember, my wife was pregnant with our first child in October ’04 and our second child in October ’07. We stopped after two kids for three reasons.

• My wife hates being pregnant. Something about crazy hormones, gaining weight, being uncomfortable and feeling lousy for nine months, then trying to pass another human being out of a hole that’s a fraction of the size of that human being. I don’t really get it. Feels like she’s totally overreacting here.

• We have (hmmmm … what’s a nice way to put this … ) energetic kids. Our kids can swim in a pool for five straight hours, towel off, then ask, “What are we doing now? We’re bored.” So we feel like we have three kids, anyway — each one counts for one and a half.

• Everyone we know with three or more kids responds to the question “What’s it like?” one of four ways: Either they’re totally honest (and tell you, “I’d never, ever, in a million years, do this again”); they start laughing the same way Mike Tyson’s manager would laugh if you asked him, “What’s Mike like?,” then come up with some fake story about how it’s not that bad even though you know they’re lying and they’re clearly hoping someone else is stupid enough to have three kids so at least they’re not alone in their personal hell; they make the “It’s like going from man-to-man to playing zone” joke, which is a nice way of saying, “We’re just trying to get through the next 10 years without a catastrophe or someone losing an appendage”; or, they’re Irish-Catholic, which means they’re confused by the question because it’s like asking, “What’s it like to breathe?”

Anyway, I love the Red Sox. Really, I do. But enough to create a third miracle fetus and switch to zone D? No. Can’t do it. Sorry, William G — we’ll always have the 2004 and 2007 World Series videos.

Q: Zombies may or may not poop. But one thing I’m certain of is that vampires don’t have sex. That is, at the very least, vampires from Twilight shouldn’t be able to. I say this because it explicitly says in the book that vampires don’t have blood (uhhh, I overheard a group of teenage girls talking about this). No blood, no erection. No erection, no sex. And yet, Robert Pattinson both has sex with, and impregnates Kristen Stewart in the fourth installment of the series. Indeed, Robert may be the first man in history to reproduce without ever having had an erection. I am a male in college, and yes, I realize that it is pathetic that I have spent enough time thinking about twilight to be bothered by this.— Stevie, Eugene, OR

SG: Oh, boy. I guess we’re in range.

Q: This may surprise you, but many of us count on the “Yup, these are my readers” portion of your mailbag. Now, I realize that, being the artist that you are, you feel compelled to experiment with your format, but I still must protest your latest venture. It was acceptable, and even funny, when you started teasing us with “in range” and “almost there”. At least we knew that “Yup” was coming. Now, you’ve not only taken to putting “Yup” in the middle of mailbags, you actually left them out completely or used different wording. I find this all very confusing. How are we supposed to know when the column ends ?!? Please, quit f-ing around and just put “Yup” at the end, the way it was always meant to be.— John Nolife, Ft. Lauderdale

Q: My buddy and I are currently playing a game called “I’m 22, unemployed, and living at home.” He sent me this text: “Highlight of my day: the girl with the big plugs from my local pizza place recognized me.” My response crushed his: “I’m emotionally invested in the red-blue bachelor baseball game. Jennifer the ginger struck out swinging to lose the game, typical. The next scene, model Courtney says “there’s no crying in baseball, rub some dirt in it,” and i had a hard time concealing my partial erection from my mom. Also, I have yet to take off my house shoes all day. I’m 22, unemployed, and living at home.” Our next endeavor is to try to buy jet skis and recreate the last scene of the first season of Kenny Powers, and send the pictures to our dads. We wanna start a new game called “disappointed looks of our fathers.” Can’t we start a club where all recently graduated males in a town can get together wearing their slippers and robes and share their experiences? We can’t be the only ones right? It’ll be like a loser AA.— James G, Santa Cruz

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

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Bill Simmons

Welcome Back to the Mailbag European Poker Tour Berlin Day 2: In the Money; Anton Wigg Takes the Lead

April 29, 2012

Day 2 at the 2012 European Poker Tour Berlin Main Event wrapped up on Wednesday after six levels of play. To begin the day, 329 hopefuls returned to action. At the conclusion, that number was whittled down to 102 and they are all in the money.

Former EPT champion Anton Wigg, who won EPT Copenhagen in Season 6, maneuvered himself around all of the obstacles he ran into on Wednesday and bagged up 695,000 in chips. That’s good enough to claim the pole position and he’ll be the man to catch on Day 3. Wigg played a few big hands during the day, including clashes against Calvin Anderson and Davidi Kitai.

The hand against Anderson came first and resulted in Anderson’s elimination. He five-bet shoved with after Wigg had four-bet. Wigg wasn’t messing around, though, and quickly made the call with . The kings held up and Wigg collected the pot.

Then, in the last level of the day, Stephane Albertini opened the action with a raise to 8,500 from middle position before Wigg three-bet to 18,500. The blinds were 2,000/4,000/500 and Kitai was in the small blind. After action folded to him, Kitati four-bet to 45,000. The big blind and Albertini got out of the way, but Wigg put in the chips to make the call.

The dealer ran out the flop and Kitai was first up. Both players had plenty of chips to play with and Kitai fired a bet of 55,000. Wigg didn’t flinch. He studied intently, then motioned towards his chips with his right hand. As his left hand gripped firmly to his cards, Wigg counted out more than just 55,000. He slid the batch into the middle for a raise to 118,000. Kitai began to tank while the cameras shot the action. After a couple of minutes, Kitai turned over and tossed it into the middle. Wigg showed just the with a wry smile across his face and the dealer pushed him the pot. That pot sent him over the 600,000-chip mark.

What’s more is that Wigg has already won an event here in Berlin. Tuesday night, he took down the €2,000 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo Bounty for €37,250.

Wigg wasn’t the only player to have a great day on Day 2. Right out of the gate, EPT Snowfest Season 7 champion Vladimir Geshkenbein stormed to the top of the leaderboard. He made quads, he smashed trips with a straight, and also had his kings hold up in a big three-way all-in pot against and pocket jacks. All of his run-good combined with some very solid play meant he was just about as unstoppable as one could be in a poker tournament. After entering the day with 201,600 in chips, Geshkenbein finished on 670,500, which is good enough for second place overall.

And then there were the Team PokerStars Pro members. Out of that bunch, Vanessa Selbst had the best day in her quest for poker’s Triple Crown achievement and wrapped up the day with 374,500 in chips. She’ll be on a short list heading into Day 3 as Martin Staszko, Angel Guillen, Alex Kravchenko, Barry Greenstein, Viktor Blom, Juan Manuel Pastor, George Danzer, Theo Jorgensen, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier and Pierre Neuville were all eliminated on the day. The other two Team Pros still alive are Jan Heitmann (129,000) and Ana Marquez (99,000).

Another notable player still in contention is EPT Berlin Season 6 champion Kevin MacPhee. He finished Day 2 with 390,500 and that’s more than the 258,000 he finished up with after Day 2 in 2010 when he went on to win the event for €1,000,000.

With all 102 remaining players in the money, that means there must have been a bubble at some point in the day. Finishing in 113th place was EPT London Season 7 champion David Vamplew.

After Heinz Kamutzki raised preflop, Vamplew three-bet shoved for 61,500 and his tournament life. Action got back to Kamutzki and he made the call holding . Vamplew was in front with , but not for long. The fell on the flop and Kamutzki took the lead. The on the turn was no help for Vamplew and neither was the on the river.

Despite Vamplew’s demise the UK & Ireland still have some players to rail in this tournament thanks to Marc Wright (585,500), Jason Tompkins (207,800), JP Kelly (152,000) and Paul Vas Nunes (97,500).

Top 10 EPT Berlin Day 2 Chip Counts

PlacePlayerChips 1Anton Wigg 695,000 2Vladimir Geshkenbein670,500 3Mario Puccini604,000 4Marc Wright585,000 5Andreas Vlachos531,500 6Cesar Garcia Domínguez526,500 7Bahadir Kilickeser500,000 8Zachary Korik450,000 9Soren Vohrs429,500 10Gereon Sowa421,500

Play will resume on Thursday at 1200 CET (0300 PDT) and the plan is to play down to the final three tables. The PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be on hand for all of the action and we hope you’re there to join us! We’ll see you then.

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*Photo courtesy of Neil Stoddart.

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