Monday, October 2, 2006

The Bill Simmons Rant - Mature, Thoughtful Version

It occurred to me that perhaps a profanity-laden screed against Bill Simmons, while thoroughly gratifying in many ways, might not be the greatest way to get what I feel is a legitimate argument across. So I thought I'd pen a mildly grown-up version of my point. This is not a retraction. The original post is still up in all its glory for anyone to see. This is just another version of it.

The reason that whole diatribe came about is because, right now, there are a lot of really cool things going on with these here interwebs. And it's making sports fun all over again for a lot of people, including me. Back in the early 90's, during the Olbermann/Patrick era, watching SportsCenter was, as you know, pretty awesome. Aaron Sorkin called it the best-written show on TV, and you'd be hard pressed to disagree. Extended highlights (with full box scores! Imagine that!) were delivered with subtle(!) humor and pop culture references. SportsCenter didn't just highlight sports. It actually made sports better. It made me want to watch more sports than I already did, for better or worse.

But you know how this story ends. Disney picked up ESPN, and suddenly SportsCenter was turned into a 60-minute pile of cross-promoting, self-involved drivel. It wasn't a show anymore. It was a brand platform. Plus, it had Stuart Scott. And this sort of corporate, synergistic groupthink blob soon took over everything ESPN-related, including the website, and even ABC.

Now ESPN treats sports strictly as its main promotional vehicle, with everything said or typed carefully controlled by corporate eyes. And other networks and publishing arms (FOX, Time Warner, Viacom) have all followed suit. Programming like pre-game and highlight shows are now unwatchable (Hooray, planned spontaneity!). A lot of the writing has become unreadable. Somehow, some way, they had managed to make sports worse. Even incidental.

Bill Simmons' writing is (or was) an oasis in the middle of all this. In many ways, he carried on the tradition of those early 90's SportsCenter shows, where the passion and enthusiasm for sports and pop culture were contagious. Simmons can sometimes make me care about the NBA, and I make it a strict rule not to care about the NBA. But even Simmons is controlled, which he has readily acknowledged (I recall jokes about editors ready to electrocute him?). And, because Simmons' passions as a fan are somewhat limited in scope (the NBA, The Red Sox, the NBA, the NFL, the NBA), sports fans with interests outside of that can get frustrated. A lot of times I thought to myself, why isn't there more writing like this? And why is Simmons the only place to turn?

He isn't. Once I found Deadspin, everything changed. It was like walking around with new prescription glasses on. Suddenly, a door had opened, and everywhere I turned I found places like MJD, and Basketball Jones, and other sites that had sprung up seemingly overnight, awash in new ideas and the kind of crass, juvenile humor I will never tire of. It's like walking into the world's greatest sports bar, and everyone there has a seat open for you at their table. And they all know Simpsons quotes! And they can swear! Tremendous!

I used to think blogs were for droning diarists and annoying political commentators. I don't anymore. There are some genuinely talented people getting together, sharing ideas and inspiring one another on these sites. In turn, it's causing more and more people to come out of the woodwork and try it themselves.

These are regular people, sitting in front of a computer 8 hours a day because work forces them to, who just want to join the fun. Are some of these sites awful? Yeah, of course. Are some of them mean-spirited? Oh, yes (though I'd argue that nothing brings fans together like a group chug from the Haterade cooler). But some of them have that passion and honesty and spirit that you can't find anymore on the mainstream sites. These are places where a writer is free to say, "Good Lord, Joe Theismann is an idiot." And there's something very liberating to that.

This has been the most fun year I've ever had as a sports fan. And my teams didn't even win anything (they never do). It's like someone walked up and handed sports back to me. It got me so excited, I teamed up with Matt and the rest of the gang to create this site. Forget about whether this site is any good. I'll let readers be the very swift judge of that. The point is that it's making me a more passionate, more enthusiastic fan of sports and the greater sports world every day. I watched hockey this year. Hockey! I haven't done that since 1994, which not coincidentally is back when Olbermann and Patrick ruled the sporting earth. Against all odds, these crazy blog folk have made sports better again. I'm still sort of giddy over it.

I think, however, that I'm in the minority. There are plenty of people who haven't discovered this whole glorious mess of a blogosphere yet, either because it looks like information overload to them, or because they've been warned that it's the domain of creepy, voyeuristic sports perverts. If they were to ever find it, I bet many of them would be like me, wondering how they ever did without it. I bet they'd be pretty jazzed about the whole thing, and willing to participate.

Bill Simmons, you are the most popular, and therefore powerful, sportswriter in America today. Perhaps ever. You wield massive influence on sports fans with every column you write. And so, when you rip on The Big Lead and other unnamed sports blogs as places reserved strictly for slovenly, message-board-posting, oddball hacks with nothing better to do except complain, you end up tarring all of them with the same brush. It does a disservice to Will Leitch, Jamie Mottram, MJD, and countless others who are doing incredible work (and doing a lot of it).

But, more importantly, it's discouraging your readers from going and checking it all out for themselves. Yeah, they can find this stuff on their own. But imagine if you were to open the door for them, as opposed to actively pushing them away from it. I bet a lot of your readers would like what they find. I bet a lot of them, like me, would wake up from their ESPN-induced sports comas, and start loving sports more than they ever thought they would. And I bet you, in time, might come to agree with them. But right now, you're just casually dismissing all of it.

So you see, that's why I called you a fucktard.


PUNTE said...

It does a disservice to Will Leitch, Jamie Mottram, MJD, and countless others who are doing incredible work (and doing a lot of it).

It also makes you look like a jealous little bitch. Just sayin'.


Gentlewhoadie Apt One said...

MMP, I'm justsayin.

But forreal, I'm with you on this 110%. ESPN is completely unwatchable, I know. The era of naive exploration into the land of TV media is undeniably over and it will never come back. It's up to us.

P.S. Backing down on Bill Simmons is not cool. If you think he's a tool (as you damn well know I do), say it. I'm not into extolling people just because they are OK in a relative sense. Conflating Simmons and ESPN doesn't really make a lot of sense. So just because ESPN went down the tubes and Simmons didn't get completely sucked down with them, it doesn't make him any better, it just means ESPN sucked real hard and made him look better because they, you know, are stooges.

PUNTE said...

GentleWhoadie9000, I'm just sayin'.

I don't think Drew's backpedalling so much as refining his ARGUMENT. Simmons is in total blogger denial, and he just called out for it. His being a tool is really beside the point.

PUNTE said...

* he just got called out for it.

Pacifist Viking said...

I spent a lot of time reading various sportswriters, thinking, "What do these guys know? They're sharing opinions without validating them with evidence--any fan can do that. Why can't I do that?" There were a few exceptions (Dr. Z backs up his commentary with heavy analysis), but mostly, sportswriters seemed to be guys with opinions no more original, interesting, or insightful than many of the fans I emailed daily.

Then I too found blogs, and found that fans WERE getting a chance to share opinions at least as valid and interesting as paid sportswriters. And I found out it wasn't that hard to turn all those long emails into a blog that could be used to share opinions with a (slightly) wider audience.

So my experience is similar to yours, and I think you're right on with this post.

EPS said...

Simmons can not champion the blogosphere he will lose his audience. I remember reading one of his columns almost about ten months ago and mentioned Deadspin; that was the day I stopped reading the Daily Quickie.

Not to get all nerd on everyone, but we have now been taken out of the matrix and are able to see the world of sports through our eyes, not the eyes of the WWL et al.

Awful Announcing- said...

I don't think Drew's backpedalling so much as refining his ARGUMENT.

I dunno about that. It comes off as somewhat of a retraction. The main thing that people like about this site is the hard, honest truth. Who cares what Bill Simmons, ESPN, or Malcolm Gladwell thinks.

The blogging points are dead on though. I think it's only a matter of time before the public realizes the "no spin" aspect that they provide.

the blogmaster said...

I can't help but think some of this decline in interest in the Sports Guy has to do with me and everyone else getting older. I think if I was 5 years younger and in high school and discovered Bill Simmons I would love his stuff. You get older, your tastes change, you discover new and better writers and suddenly the things you read before do not measure up.

Mr Furious said...

espknows is right. For one thing, it wouldn't surprise me if Simmons isn't allowed to plug other sites, but even if he could, and did, it would be a mistake for him to do so. Right now I only have interest in one out of four of his columns, and he posts too infrequently. So that means, every couple weeks there is something worth reading on Page2, and half of those are a mailbag. Well, any given thread at Deadspin (or MJD or here) is equal to or greater than to a Simmons mailbag—same sense of humor with bonus R-rated (or worse) language.

If fans of the old Simmons can get that vibe elsewhere (and they can), Simmons would be a fool to point it out to them.

I've read Simmons since back in the day when I would have to stay late at work to use an editor's computer to read his AOL column. He paid his dues and I will never begrudge him his success. For six-figures, I'd sell the hell out too. As would any of us. Lot's of the simmons-bashing comes off as exactly what it is—jealousy.

Let Simmons collect his check, enjoy the odd column from him and get your thrice-daily fix from sites like Deadspin and quit bitching, goddammit.

PUNTE said...

Mr Furious, it doesn't piss you off AT ALL that Simmons could be a guy that could lead a sort of blogosphere revolution of sorts?

If more people knew about blogs, participated in them, and actively expressed their opinions through them, don't you think that the networks would be less likely to subject to this horseshit schtick whenever we need a score?

And fucking spare us--nobody here is jealous of Simmons. If you watched his Colbert appearance and thought to yourself, "Man, I wish I could be that impish and introverted," you need to take a walk and figure some shit out.

Yeah, he's getting paid, essentially to pump out one good piece every six weeks. And, yeah, as someone that pretends to be a writer, that looks attractive. But if he can't write what he wants, how is he any different than us white-collar slaves in the cubicles? Who would envy that?

We bitch because we care. If that upsets you, I cordially invite you to shovel some cock in your mouth; you're doing quite a bit of bitching yourself.

Oh, thanks for reading.


Christmas Ape said...

That's a right triangle, you idiot.

And thanks, Drew, you just made Simmons lose another critical hand of poker. We're never going to hear the end of this.

Dirtylaundry said...

You couldn't have wrapped this up any better. Sites like this are why I started blogging, and you're right, it's a sports revolution we haven't felt since Charlie Steiner and Keith Olbermann made Sportscenter the best garage band around at the time. It's finally fun again. Thank you Deadspin, thank you Kiss Me Suzy Kolber.

Captain Caveman said...

Yeah, you really fuckin nailed it, Jack Murdock. You may now return to work at the think tank.

Dweeze said...

I was going to say that I didn't see this as an apology or a retraction or anything else along those lines, that I saw it as recognizing that the previous argument could be dismissed as "just one of those blog things" and that by restating it in this fashion, it made it harder to dismiss. But then Battlin' Jack Murdock (there's a reference for my fellow comic geeks) came along and shot that argument down.

Beazer said...

BDD, I've sent the link to your original piece about Simmons to every 20-something, testosterone-filled person I know (all of whom seem to worship Simmons)...hopefully this will make them see the light.

I appreciate why you wrote this one, and don't think it comes across at all as a retraction of the first.

I haven't read ONE Simmons 'column' since the Sox won the WS, and I'm a Sox fan (and you couldn't PAY me to read his book).

Deadspin, this place and the like prove that Simmons is replaceable. And that, I'm sure, scares the shit out of him.

PWILL said...

That was an amazing write up, great work.

swing4 said...


frank said...

i wrote this almost a year ago, and i stand by it even more today:

delete it if you want, but i thought you'd like to know that a lot of us feel the same way about simmons. i'm proud to be the No. 1 spot in "Bill Simmons sucks" google searches.

nice work you do here. keep it up

The Dude said...

Good Lord, Joe Theismann is an idiot. Fuck. Shit. Piss.

JMW said...

Well said. A useful revision (not retraction). See, this isn't about you being lazy, this is about Simmons being a crazy nut.

MoonshineMike said...

Mature? Thoughtful? Kissing Suzy Kolber?

Which of these don't match the others?

Jamie Mottram said...

Excellent post. The only thing I disagree with is having me lumped in with the likes of Will Leitch and MJD, who are tremendous. I'm flattered nonetheless.

And, for what it's worth, my daily sports surfing has come to this: sifting through RSS feeds from Deadspin, FanHouse, True Hoop, Baseball Musings, Off Wing, KSK, The Basketball Jones, Every Day Should Be Saturday, The Big Lead and so on. The only time I read anything on or the like is when one of said blogs has picked their stuff up for whatever reason.

I can't wait until other fans arrive at this point. It's much more fun, rewarding and relatable. And thanks to Bill Simmons for, as Off Wing puts it, being the spiritual blogfather to us all.

Mr. Poon said...

Good post.

It would also be helpful if Bill admitted that he really doesn't know much about baseball and rips any points of substance from SoSH. Honesty is always the best policy.

Scrappled said...

Well, ESPN has an interest in denigrating bloggers just as much as CNN, ABC News, Fox News, and all of those outlets have an interest in denigrating bloggers as delusional, uncredible loons on solitary islands. There's only so much legitimacy to go around in their eyes, I suppose.

As for Simmons, why bother hating him? Writing is a thankless job by its very nature, and he's worked very hard to build a following, rise through the ranks of relevancy, and even managed to publish a book. Given that the guy is likely pulled in a bunch of different directions now, it's understandable if his columns slip a little. The guy made me laugh way too many times for me to turn on him now.

The problem is that has done nothing to help Page 2. It's just withered away, and I don't say that to put down any specific writers currently working there. I just know that I used to spend a good chunk of my workday reading it, and now I'm usually off to a different site within 10 seconds. So when Simmons concentrates on the stupid Red Sox or the awful NBA 80% of the time, it's annoying since there's little else worth reading on Page 2. Or Page 1, but that's a different story.

That's why the blogs are so important, and why it's important that the major blogs like Deadspin, EDSBS, and others help promote the little blogs. Hell, I get a whopping 100 visitors a day and I try to promote other blogs. It's not Bill Simmons' job to promote blogs. It's our job. All of us.

micah said...

it doesn't piss you off AT ALL that Simmons could be a guy that could lead a sort of blogosphere revolution of sorts?

i've never understood this logic. if someone has the power to do something, and they don't, you're going to get pissed at that? how much of your day do you spend pissed off? yikes.

at any rate, why do you/we/the unwashed masses need a revolution? you're publishing. for free. people read it. they like it. word spreads. isn't that revolutionary enough? what more do you want? (not a rhetorical question, by the way)

mattdana said...

"These are places where a writer is free to say, 'Good Lord, Joe Theismann is an idiot.' And there's something very liberating to that."

What the fuck are you talking about? Simmons rips on Theismann more than anyone. And you're WAY overreacting to Simmons' badmouthing of blogs, and in so doing, you're letting us all in on just how much sand is in that vagina of yours.

Dweeze said...

I never understood the complaint that Simmons only writes about Boston teams or the NBA. It's true, but so what?

Because Simmons was hired to be a general sports columnist.

Why isn't anyone railing at Tim Kurkjin for ONLY writing about baseball?

Because Kurkjian was hired to be a baseball only columnist.

This has been today's edition of simple answers to easy questions.

Otto Man said...

it's a sports revolution we haven't felt since Charlie Steiner and Keith Olbermann made Sportscenter the best garage band around at the time

I just felt an immense wave of shame that I haven't thought about Charlie Steiner in several years. (It's the same feeling you get when you realize you've forgotten to pick your son up at soccer practice, leaving nothing but a rain-soaked skeleton.)

At least Olbermann is out there doing God's work. What happened to Steiner? Did he fulfill his lifelong dream of eating the world's biggest hoagie and retire?

Scrappled said...

// if someone has the power to do something, and they don't, you're going to get pissed at that? //

I don't understand that sentiment either. A year or two ago, I heard some Around The Horn style retards complaining that Tiger Woods isn't doing enough for race relations. Yeah, well he's a fucking golfer, that's why. People would be up in arms if he did speak out about such issues, because he's just a fucking golfer.

That's why sports journalism is such a joke these days -- the constant devil's advocation from all angles, at increasing frequency and volume, no matter how hard it is to grasp at the straw. It's enough to make a man actually read a book or something.

Scrappled said...

Steiner's working for one of the NYC baseball teams. I know he was with the Yankees for a few years, but he may be with the Mets now. I'm not entirely sure. But the way he laughed through Carl Lewis' national anthem will always stick with me as one of my favorite televised moments ever.

Awful Announcing- said...

That's why sports journalism is such a joke these days -- the constant devil's advocation from all angles, at increasing frequency and volume, no matter how hard it is to grasp at the straw. It's enough to make a man actually read a book or something.

I agree with that wholeheartedly, but would add that the main reason that it's a joke is because they make everything about them and not the game. That's what originally made Simmons great...he was a fan and commented on players and teams. Now he's no different than Jay Mariotti.

And when that happens you need to be told that you are being an ass.

cameltrader said...

Maybe I'm not reading critically enough or I missed a Simmons post, but when did Simmons rail on bloggers. From what I've read, he seems to only dislike sites that only bitch about stuff. For all I know, he actually reads sites like Deadspin and KSK.

Unknown said...

Well-written and nicely done, regardless of which side of the fence you're on.

On a broader note, there's really no winning, no matter who you are. There are those who will dislike Simmons' because he is not the same writer he was when he started his column. If he was still mining the same schtick all the time, people would be bitching because he doesn't change.

If he tries to break out into new territory, he's screwed too because he loses his longtime readers who wonder why he has to write about those other things in his life, like being a parent and husband and son, and can't just go back to writing about sports.

Of course, writers change because they change as people. We all want our favorite writers, regardless of the medium, to give us want we want, but we also should trust in them enough when they want to try and stretch themselves. I still think one of Simmons' best columns was one he wrote about his Dad for Father's Day. But I wouldn't want to read that every week.

Nick Hornby can't just keep re-writing "About a Boy" the rest of his life. You've got to give your writers some room to breathe. Seems to me that Simmons is trying to straddle that fence, writing about his family a little, but also still doing the Vegas trips and guy stuff he made his mark with. And in trying to playing to all sides, he taking hits from them.

And I'm sure there are some people muttering about this post, because all they wanted from KSK was some bukkake jokes and maybe a clip or two of a guy getting kicked in the balls. And then there will be people who will expect more of this type of writing, now that it's been done (and well-done).

Damn. Where's my bourbon?

Kid Cleveland said...

I agree with you for the most part. ESPN sucks.

What is funny to me about all this is Simmons is no different than anybody else in his style. He just happens to be on the ESPN payroll, and drinking Starbucks in LA like a pussy and he seems to have forgotten all of this.

Go Browns!

Paul Rinkes said...

i cannot say that olbermann is doing "god's work" ... his show can be entertaining, but he's gone a bit off the deep end politically ... i do not think it's his strong suit, and it's not because i don't agree with him. i miss his sports analysis, and the "big show" on espn radio with dan patrick can be fun to listen to.

but he's a sports guy and really should have stayed that way.

Kid Cleveland said...

by the way, I agree with Ryan above. Simmons did acknowedge being a Deadspin reader in that SI article a few months back.

my above rant is just in agreement with ESPN making change for the worse over the years. Simmons was much better before ESPN made him pull in the reigns (New Orleans Super Bowl era)

PUNTE said...

TuckPendelton is becoming one of my favorite commenters. And I JUST NOW got the Innerspace reference.

To answer the earlier question, all I want is for bloggers to be thought of in a more legitimate light. We are not wannabe writer hacks sitting on our sofas in our underwear (well, except for maybe Matt now). It's pretty gaddamned annoying when intelligent people's opinions are discounted only because some cocksuck network personality decrees that it should be so.

What more do I want? Just more. Isn't that enough?

Ben said...

Hmm, so Simmons made some comments in a massive online chat session that you've interpreted to be anti-blog, and suddenly, he's "tarring" the entire "blogosphere" such that people who have yet to discover the "blogosphere" (all three of them) will be turned off from exploring said "blogosphere?"

Since swearing is one of the perogatives here in the "blogosphere," allow me: Give me a fucking break. Anyone who was reading Simmons' absurdly long chat session -- as with anyone who reads KSK -- was already tuned in to the "blogosphere." A couple of joke comments by Simmons isn't going to affect it in the slightest. More importantly, this is supposed to be a humor site, not a "bitch about ESPN because we liked it more the 1990s" site. Although, if you can bitch in a funny way, that'd be ok -- you know, like BBD did the first time around, before he replaced it with this whining drivel.

micah said...


To answer the earlier question, all I want is for bloggers to be thought of in a more legitimate light. We are not wannabe writer hacks sitting on our sofas in our underwear (well, except for maybe Matt now). It's pretty gaddamned annoying when intelligent people's opinions are discounted only because some cocksuck network personality decrees that it should be so.

of course, bloggers certainly deserve this. guess i thought the reputable ones got it a couple years ago. it seems that not too many traditional media outlets refrain from using a blog as a source or quoting its commentary these days. and the ones that claim this stuff isn't worthwhile and so on, well, who gives a damn what they think? i've never gone out of my way to seek the approval of those unwilling to accept the future.

now, KSK is filling a certain niche (sometimes with lube, sometimes without). you guys are never going to be taken the same way as senor will's fiesta, but, hell, you know that - you don't want the same things he does. and you've all shown that you can write without dick jokes in stuff you've penned over there. you're enjoying what you're doing and even though i tend to be a troll there and here, you have brought occasional joy to this old, well, something stereotype.

feep said...

To sum this up: Simmons thinks he has the meast. The blogs feel like they've been rumphed by Simmons' meast.

Hopefully that may clear this up and put the topic in a language many KSK readers can understand.

My take is slightly different on this though. I think that Simmons had the meast and has rumphed himself. I think there may be some respect still for Mr. Simmons, but it is dwindling. So, by making a post such as this, it is being said that Simmons needs to keep up, do better, and prove he deserves his previously earned meast.

Good lord, what did I just write? TuckPendleton, I may need some of that bourbon (and I don't even drink).

PUNTE said...

No wonder Simmons can't put out a column anymore. How can he even sit at his laptop, what with all of your noses up his ass.

feep said...

Mr. Sawyer said...
you don't think it's a coincidence that this "column" has received many more comments than some of the other postings on this site, do you

On the upside, this didn't turn into a completely unrelated conversation about burritos. I've heard that can happen sometimes.

Unknown said...

Steiner is with the Dodgers now..

Very thought-provoking post, well written and most of the comments are good too. I am on KSK right?

Big Daddy Drew said...

I have to disagree with Punter here. I don't want to be taken legitimately. If anything, the illegitimcay of this thing is what makes it fun. I'd have be a little silly to write a site that dedicates itself to dick jokes and then deamnd to be taken seriously.

As for being jealous of Simmons, the guy gets paid a lot of money to do something he loves to death. I'd be a fool not to be envious.

Also, the SI piece on sports blogs that ran a while back did the same thing the Hruby piece did, trying to convince readers that they should never stray from their trusty mainstream journos.

I have no interest in getting plugs or links or any of that stuff. Feel free not to believe that, but I really just like doing this for shits and giggles.

For example, Caveman told me the other day someone got to our site by Googling the word "airpussy". No amount of money or fame beats that.

Big Daddy Drew said...

Sawyer, I was actually talking about the SI cover story from a while back. His interview comments are valid.

D said...

Ok, now is that your final version of the Simmons' rant or do you want one more crack at it?

Now grow a pair and write something interesting for a change.

ShipIT said...

Nice adjustment from the first post. Shared many of the same sentiments. Would have liked to have seen more backing on the assault of Simmons (there's plenty of material for it).