Monday, May 11, 2015

The Arrogant Brilliance Of Bill Simmons

The man responsible for me becoming a blogger, the man who inspired me to be a journalist again was fired by ESPN late last week.
Bill Simmons, he of Boston Digital City on AOL, Page 2 on ESPN, Grantland, 30 for 30 film series and also his famous Sports Guy ramblings will no longer have his voice heard on the ESPN platforms. From what I've read, it looks like it's been a parting that was eventually going to happen. ESPN just pulled the trigger faster.
I started reading Mr. Simmons work way back in 2001. He had a very funny article about comparing a movie to a certain sports event that I don't remember, but he was just so funny. It was as if he was thinking about things that I thought about. He would make random 80's references that would make me laugh out loud. (This was before texting, LOL didn't exist yet)
He spoke of sports in the 80's as if he was a good friend sitting on my couch in Woodland and we were watching the game together.
I mean he reminisces of the NBA on CBS. He went on a long rant about the theme song. Who writes about the theme song to a sports show?
I was hooked on his stories about NFL pregame shows, baseball games from years past, his love and hate of NHL hockey. He wrote about the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time that had me checking the computer every other day to see if he added to the list.
He just had a very clever way talking about sports.
As someone said on Deadspin, he seemed like the kinda guy you could sit and have a beer with and talk sports. He seemed like one of us.
His first few years at ESPN, he was one of us. Then Hollywood came calling.
He left the east coast so he could be a writer on The Jimmy Kimmel Show.
He wrote of things that happened backstage, in writers meetings and of things that happened on air.
I loved reading about him adjusting to life in LA. You could tell by his writing he missed his friends (House, J-Bug and a few others he's written about over the years) and his father. His father seemed like a adviser/best friend to Mr. Simmons. His father seemed very influential in his life. According to his book, The Book of Basketball, Mr. Simmons sports journey started in 1974 when his father bought two season tickets to the Boston Celtics. I couldn't imagine being a five year old and going to the old Garden and watching a historic basketball team. Little did  five year old Billy Simmons know that eventually he would live a life most of us can only dream about.

He would attend historic Celtics games that would one day give him a treasure chest of future blog post about the great 80's Celtics teams. He would go on to call Larry Bird the "Basketball Jesus". It's clear in his posts Simmons worships Larry Bird. I found this interesting because as a teenager living on the west coast, I loved Magic Johnson and hated the Celtics. Simmons brought back great memories of the old Lakers/Celtics rivalry. I however agree with him in one aspect as I didn't care for Kareem Abdul Jabbar either. Just never liked how Kareem carried himself. 

Anyways, on to Holy Cross for college. He wrote amazing posts about his days in the dorms doing things most carefree college kids do. As I have written before, I didn't have the traditional college experience, so reading his articles gave me a glimps if what dorm life was like. (I had cousins tell me dorm stories, but Simmons' stories were more detailed and mentioned certain unmentionables).

Eventually he would go on to graduate and discover the power of the World Wide Web. He mentions writing for AOL Digital City Boston. I remember the Digital City format, but I can't recall reading Simmons' work as he wasn't a "name" yet. 

It was a column that bashed ESPN's ESPY's awards show that eventually got him a job with The World Wide Leader. Which when I along with the rest of the world discovered him. 

He became an internet sensation. He would go on to become a name at ESPN.com. I remember him having a small section of ESPN's Page 2. He became so widely read he got his own page......The Sports Guy. 

In time the blog led to a book about the 2004 Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. "Now I Can Die In Peace" was a very long book about his love of the Red Sox. Actually it was rehashes of blog posts with clever footnotes at the bottom of each page. His footnotes were funnier than the book itself. I read it once as it was too much to absorb.

Moving forward he took a leave of absence from his Sports a Guy page to finish his second book. The Book of Basketball. This when I noticed he started to change.

When the book came out, he did the usual book tour to hype the book. He had a stop in SanFrancisco. I remember wanting to go to the bookstore to meet him, but a scheduling conflict prevented me from doing so. I read in the newspaper that the line to meet Simmons was very long and  he didn't meet everyone as time ran out. He was no longer one of us. He was a celebrity.

He eventually cut back on his blog post. His style of writing changed. His posts weren't so funny. 

He started to be more arrogant. It felt like he had a sense of entitlement. 

Then came what some feel was his own vanity project, Grantland. It was created by ESPN for him, it wasn't his own creation. I think it's okay, it's nothing special. Ill glance at it occasionally. It's more of the same drivel from Sports Guy page.........Mail bag, Vegas trips, gambling, his friends, his wife and kids. 

A lot of his fans thought he would be great on TV. He was on the panel for NBA on ESPN but I never saw him. I heard mixed reviews. He hosts a monthly show called The Grantland Basketball Hour. It's very entertaining and I feel it should have been a weekly show. But critics called it awful.

What finally got him on the hot seat was calling NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell a liar on one of his platforms. He then challenged ESPN to suspend him. So they did for three weeks. 

Eventually ESPN just decided to fire him. 

Now the talk is where will he go? Fox, NBC, CBS? For the time being there's a rumored Non Compete Clause which prevents him from doing anything until his contract is officially up in September.

Maybe this will allow him to regroup, focus and look back on his career. See where he went wrong and out of control.

All I know is I want the old Sports Guy back. Yep, I was one of his readers. 


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