Tagged: bill simmons

Yeah, It Was Definitely All Gisele’s Fault

Dissecting anything by Bill Simmons is a pointless task, in part because his writing doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. It’s not meant to stand as sturdy, meaningful prose; it’s meant to entertain the faithful who devour his word vomit and move on without giving anything a second thought.

But there are occasions when Simmons’s thought process is worthy of discussion. His post-Super Bowl column this week looking back on his beloved New England Patriots and their loss to the New York Giants offers one such moment. He seems to try his best to play fair, and whines about the game without really coming across as a whiner (this is one of those rare times he actually seems like he could be your average sports fan). But his aside about Gisele, the hugely successful and world famous supermodel who happens to be married to Tom Brady, stands out. (It’s No. 8 on his list.) Continue reading

Selections from Bill Simmons’s Latest Column, Presented Without Comment

Here are 18 excerpts from Bill Simmons’s latest column, titled “NFL Quarterback Power Rankings.”
  1. “You can’t chip receivers other than jamming them at the line.”
  2. “The biggest advantage you have in football? Throwing the ball.”
  3. “What about Rodgers? He’s one more hit away from becoming an ongoing question mark, right? You could say he’s on double-secret concussion probation right now.”
  4. “That’s a little too sloppy for the superduperstar group. We have standards for the word ‘duper.'”
  5. This never would have happened if Al Davis was still alive.”
  6. “Rivers would be 2011’s ‘What the eff is wrong with him?’ NFL star if not for Chris Johnson, who’s had at least 30 carries this season that made him look like Deena or Snooki starting to lunge at someone in a bar and immediately being tackled by three bouncers who carried her 10 feet backwards.”
  7. “What about consecutive healthy Vick weeks vs. consecutive married weeks for Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries?”
  8. “I will now strangle myself with Sarah’s pink no. 8 10 Breast Cancer Awareness Giants jersey.”
  9. “Porn name: Luke Warm.”
  10. “The ‘If’ is pulsating right now.”
  11. “My son? He’s built like a 1780s blacksmith.”
  12. “Aaron, Tom, Drew, Ben, Philip, Michael, Josh, Tony, Jay, Eli, Tim, Alex, Charlie, Andy, Mark, Ryan, Joe, Sam, Christian, Curtis, Kevin, Carson, John, Colt, Blaine, Cam … and six Matts. Sorry, that’s weird.”
  13. “I called them “Shooters” to signify that these guys are aspiring game managers … but you don’t know if they’re actually going to make it. You know, like Shooter in Hoosiers.”
  14. “One of my favorite songs of all time is “Nuthin’ But a G Thang.” Has anyone ever sat around trying to interpret what “It’s like this and like that and like this and uh” means? No! And that’s the chorus!”
  15. “You know what Sonny from A Bronx Tale would say.”
  16. “Redskins fans arguing about Beck and Grossman is like Van Halen fans arguing about Mitch Malloy and Gary Cherone.”
  17. “(Putting on my Robin Williams beard.) It’s not your fault, Bruce. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.”
  18. “My dad’s urine has more zip.”

[Grantland]

Grantland launches, is what everyone expected

It would have been downright foolish of me to judge Grantland after Bill Simmons’s new playground had been online for just one day. Sure, when your site is masterminded by Simmons, a subject of perpetual online and media fascination, and when it features a lineup of Big Name Writers, and when you promote it with a countdown clock on the homepage, you are perhaps building up outsized expectations relative to what a new outcropping of your site can legitimately provide. Still, judging it after one day would be silly. Now that it has been online for more than a day, we can render a complete judgment.

The resounding impression from the site’s first day was: That’s it? There just wasn’t a lot there on Wednesday, at least in the early going. The big stuff: Simmons had an introductory column and, later, a column about LeBron’s performance in the Finals. Chris Jones, who has apparently shifted from writing full-time for Esquire to covering the AL East for Grantland, wrote about baseball and himself. There was a dumb post about a dumb idea (a “reality TV fantasy draft,” which, honestly, this post and concept lowers this entire enterprise by at least one letter grade). Chuck Klosterman was doing his thing off the bench with the story of a basketball team that played three-on-five and won. No new podcasts. A blog that hasn’t gone up yet. No Eggers, no Gladwell, no Katie Bakes.

A day later, the site looks a little fuller, as you might expect. Klosterman wrote a great little thing about our modern interconnected, over-informed era (nothing hugely original, but still entertaining). Tom Bissell on L.A. NoireDave Eggers on Wrigley. This interesting look at Dirk in the 2011 playoffs.

The design seems to have irked a few people, but I like the relatively sparse and clean look. (Clearly [motions to the surrounding site].) There are still some kinks to be worked out. For instance, former New York Times NBA reporter Jonathan Abrams spoke to Donnie Walsh about parting ways with the Knicks; the post (a preview for the site’s sports blog) was initially found on the main Grantland page and has since disappeared, located only by Googling. It’s going to have to be easier to find everything on the site; people aren’t going to want to have to hunt down everything that’s not Simmons or Klosterman. (And, for what it’s worth, I’m very glad to see Klosterman has a new, regular place to write. He can be frustrating in long chunks — i.e. his books — but in brief bursts, he can be tons of fun.)

As for the introductory note: It reminds me why I liked Simmons in the first place. He’s simply honest about how he doesn’t know what this is beyond what it looks lik so far. He’s still self-satisfied and self-impressed (comparing your new site to a new late night comedy show is…not an apt comparison, but he clearly knows that). Yet he writes with an emotional honesty that I honestly think is his real, true self, not a character he portrays, not a persona he has adopted, because after all these years and in all of his interviews, podcasts and countless gigabytes of produced columns, he doesn’t come across as somebody capable of faking the things he says and does.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the site looks in a month, six months and a year. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens when ESPN does some accounting to figure out of all of this brand name talent is worth what is essentially a better Page 2. Like pretty much everybody else (even people who will complain about it ad nauseum), I’ll be going back frequently.

About that Bill Simmons profile in the Times Magazine

The Times Magazine spent a lot of words on Bill Simmons over the weekend, studying the man who is probably the most prominent sportswriter in the country as he readies the launch of Grantland. The new subsection of ESPN.com, which is being heavily promoted (see the image at left, taken from ESPN.com), launches on Wednesday at noon. Continue reading

Bill Simmons’s new site has a name and launch date

Bill Simmons has been staffing up his sports and pop culture site for a while now, and ESPN just made it official. The site will be named Grantland, in honor of sportswriter Grantland Rice, for some reason, and it will launch in June. The Sports Dude will be the editor-of-chief of the site, posting his columns and podcasts and working with Dan Fierman, Lane Brown, Jay Caspian King, Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klosterman, Dave Eggers (!), Katie Baker and Patrice Evans.

That staff of writers and editors would be good enough to get attention for any site. The fact that it’s Simmons’s site, under the ESPN banner, ensures it’ll get a lot of eyeballs. I’m expecting the place to be interesting and worth visiting, even if Simmons’s supposedly “vaunted” pop cultural knowledge often seems like he’s actually only seen 12 movies in his life. His shtick, as I have written before on this site, can be extremely tiring. But there was a time when his voice was fresh and his material untouchable. I’m hoping that this chance to spearhead his own thing and oversee his own playpen will inspire him to regain some of his originality and display the voice that made so many of us become addicted to his writing.

Bill Simmons interviews Tom Brady. How long before you closed the tab?

Bill Simmons has a column up about the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry. Sure, that’s not a very timely story right now considering they haven’t played a postseason game against one another for four years (and counting), and he chooses to do it while Brady is ascendant and Manning’s team looks weak, but look at this: he actually interviewed Brady for it. Journalism! Or as close to “journalism” as you can get while trying to steal a lock of another guy’s hair, anyway.

Let’s read!

Webster’s defines a rivalry as “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.”

Sigh. Close tab. That’s how you’re going to begin your big column where you interview your personal demigod? Did Rick Reilly somehow sneak Simmons’s byline atop one of his stories? Whatever, let me know if I missed any commentary about how this is a bigger rivalry than Ali/Frazier or something.

Bill Simmons will mention the Celtics 1,404 times during Friday’s Miami-Golden State game

Bill Simmons is bringing his intolerable voice to the broadcasting table during Friday’s Heat-Warriors game. Simmons, as you well know, has written a great deal of things about the Heat this season, most of which stem from A) His inherent desire to show why Boston is a better team (and why it was SO much more honorable when three superstars teamed up in Boston three years ago than when three joined together in Miami this past summer) and B) His overarching desire to posit a comprehensive Theory of Everything regarding the Heat, because he is a big basketball guy and also because he knows if he changes his tune 15 times this season (and he has), nobody will care, because everybody has.

Mostly, I am going to mute this game because I find Simmons’s voice to be downright excruciating. I tried listening to his podcasts, I really did. I tried watching when he joined up for “PTI.” Putting aside my professed exhaustion with his repetitive, wildly self-aggrandizing persona, I actually find him to be ill-suited as a broadcaster for one main reason: His voice feels like aural waterboarding. How can somebody be a broadcaster with such a horrible voice? Well, since he’s well-established as the big dog at ESPN.com, he got to do a podcast, and since he has so many devoted fans, people keep downloading it and somehow not jabbing their ears with soldering irons. It’s impressive, the way he’s circumvented a basic requirement for what he clearly wants to do (be more of an on-camera presence), but I can be impressed without subjecting my ears to the equivalent of a dozen prostate exams back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

Things We Need To Remember Next May

The Miami Heat lost their opening night game to the Boston Celtics. They looked bad. They won their second game, against the shoddy Philadelphia 76ers, and didn’t look that much better. Tonight they play the Orlando Magic, a very good team that — like the Celtics — has size, stellar defense and a few seasons under their collective belts contending with the same core. They might win it, they might not, it really doesn’t matter so much right now. What matters is perspective.

After everything last summer — “The Decision,” Wade re-signing, Bosh joining up, Mike Miller and some old dudes tagging along and countless potshots taken and verbal grenades launched hither thither and yon all over the league, the media and the sports-aware world — there are obviously heightened expectations for the Heat, both good and bad. A lot of people want them to fail, for obvious and unsurprising reasons. Their supposed villainy is something that has been given a lot of attention. Given less airtime was my worry from the moment we heard LeBron was bound for South Beach: When they start winning, a lot of people will root for them. They’ll root for them because most fans don’t grow up in sports meccas; most fans grow up in areas that have no teams, have little-to-no recognizable and entrenched sports culture or the nearby teams simply lack the financial and historical advantages given to fans who grew up in New York, Chicago, L.A., Boston and a few other spots. This is why there are so many Red Sox fans who have never set foot in Fenway and why there are a lot of guys in their 20s who root for the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers and Duke. These are people who should be punched in the throat, but that’s besides the point.

So obviously there are sky-high expectations engendered by this superstar line-up, and people wonder if they can win 70 games, if LeBron can average a triple-double, if they can win the next 10 titles, et cetera. And people have been discussing this ad nauseum since July. People are fascinated by it. That’s great, because any extra attention for the NBA is welcome for a fan of the league like myself.

It becomes problematic when people make grand, sweeping pronouncements based on 24 minutes of play. It becomes problematic when people make asinine predictions based on two games. It becomes problematic when people look at one or two of the 82 games an NBA team will play and decide, well, that’s about all she wrote.

Bill Simmons, a Boston Celtics fan first and an ESPN.com writer second, never really hides his bias. He is pretty blatant about it. It can be noxious, because when he writes about the NFL and the NBA, he tends to write with blinders on and espouse some pretty ridiculous things. He was obviously very happy his Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat, and as a result he vomited out 7,600 words about all sorts of things he had come to realize based on one, maybe two games the Heat played. This is what columnists have to do: take immediate positions based on little-to-no evidence (especially when you consider that a mere 2.4 percent of the NBA season has been played, and Simmons witnessed a mere fraction of the time spent between the Heat players, yet he feels able to immediately discern their motives, psychological underpinnings and stature within the organization).

The obvious rejoinder is to point out that three years ago, the Boston Celtics were in a similar position to the Heat. Simmons himself even said so. They had gutted their roster and rebuilt the team around three stars who had always had to carry their own teams. Simmons and others like him will tell you that it was different, that those three guys had put in their time on bad teams, that they were wired differently, that it wasn’t just about fame or money, and these statements might be true and they might be false but they are undoubtedly meaningless. When you boil it down, the points are similar enough that differentiating between the two is a matter of semantics. (For what it’s worth, Simmons is — again, like a lot of columnists who write about different topics — prone to strongly believing something one week and then forgetting he ever said it a month later.)

And for what it’s worth, his entire aside about LeBron needing to run the team and Wade needing to be the sidekick because he is a lesser player: It’s worth pointing out that between them, only one has during crunch time carried a team to victory: Wade, in the 2006 Finals (winning a ring) and in the 2008 Olympics (where he was the leading scorer throughout competition and during the clinching win over Spain). LeBron has a history of putting up big numbers and making big plays and not being able to sink the putt, so to speak. Wade, by comparison, has shown he can carry a team to some success but is better suited to put them over the top when they’re in a position to win. But we should pretend crunch time doesn’t matter and that the best players don’t carry their teams to victory when it counts, or whatever, right?

I can understand why “The Decision” swayed so many people into deciding LeBron was the villain here (and, really, screwing over Cleveland like that was pretty weak), but I still can’t understand why it’s more acceptable for teams and organizations to treat players like walking commodities and to swap them like so many assets in a corporate merger than for players to have any say in their own lives. I don’t get why it’s okay for two executives who are friends (like Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge, former teammates and the execs who made the 2007 trade sending Garnett to Boston) to swap players, but three friends who are players shouldn’t decide their own fates. I don’t know how much of it is because we’ve been conditioned to care about the nonsense that players want to Compete and Grit It Out and it’s some sort of Homeric quest that they need to do alone, to endure and prove themselves the best. I don’t know how much is because players holding out and getting traded is bad, but forgotten about, and players refusing to play is bad, but also eventually forgotten about, yet players being cut and their contracts voided is “just business.” And I don’t know how much of it is racial, in that these sorts of trades/signings/moves are generally controlled by the predominantly white coaches, executives and owners in the NBA (and, for what it’s worth, other leagues), whereas this time the same kind of move (only perhaps grander, given the talents of the three involved) was perpetrated by three young African-American multimillionaires (though they did still need a facilitator in Pat Riley and Mickey Arison).

A lot of it is because in sports, so much gets discussed and dissected off the court and field that we forget the only things that truly matter are the results of the games. Simmons can whine all he wants about some holding penalty that wasn’t called in the 2008 Super Bowl, or say his quarterback saying hi to Pat O’Brien cost them the game, but in the long run nobody will care or remember and the Giants were the champs and the Patriots weren’t. Media commentators — perhaps more than fans — like to pay attention to the off-the-field storylines and narratives. That’s because the games themselves take up a relatively minor slice of time. We have ample, seemingly endless time to banter, bicker, discuss, contemplate. Could Jordan have won eight straight? What would have happened if Elway hadn’t gone to Denver? These things are fun, but they’re empty.

The point is this: Simmons has declared the Heat villains, deemed them to be suffering a psychological and personnel quagmire and determined that they are having trouble handling these dual realities. To say that he’s stretching is to put it mildly. Yes, they’re villains. For now (and forever, in Cleveland, L.A., Boston, places where this matters; in Arkansas, in Oregon, in North Carolina, you think anybody will hold onto this hate next summer?). They aren’t playing with their full roster (Mike Miller, a key component, is out until January). They have played almost no minutes with their main stars until opening night. And to say that a team with such high expectations — from others as well as within — seemed shaky when playing together for the first time (and against an opponent with strengths mirroring the Heat’s weaknesses) and are therefore irrevocably flawed is just stupid.

So let’s remember this next spring and summer. There are a lot of people saying things like Simmons, only with fewer words and smaller platforms. We need to remember this. Assuming there are no catastrophic injuries, this team will find their groove and start winning games and play deep into the playoffs. So next May, when LeBron and Wade have finished averaging 23-24 points per game and are demolishing teams with their unstoppable offensive onslaught, or whatever the hell winds up happening, let us remember that a lot of people had a lot of opinions when the team was unimpressive in their first 96 minutes on the court together. Because these people sure won’t be saying it. Over the season, Simmons and his ilk will slowly admit a few positives about the Heat, notice some good things, hedge by saying there are some negatives and warning signs — and if the Heat truly dominate, they will write how it was what was supposed to happen, and not a surprise, and it’ll be like they never doubted it at all.

The Bill Simmons shtick

Like a lot of people, I am a longtime fan of Bill Simmons. I have also long since tired of his repetitive shtick, his occasional bouts of self-seriousness (like when he pitched himself as general manager for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and I bet without a hint of irony, no matter what he later said), the Boston stuff, his myopic pop culture knowledge and his long-entrenched habit of making sweeping generalizations while acting like they are common sense and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong and if you disagree, oh, here’s a reference to “The Karate Kid” to tide you over, now let’s move on to a discussion of gambling and porn.

But this isn’t going to be a post decrying Simmons. The Internet is full of such posts, and countless sports fans have had countless variations of the same argument. He still has talent and still has his voice, and what he did for online sportswriting cannot be overstated.

Yet it’s interesting to read this Deadspin dispatch from the New Yorker Festival, taking notes on an occasionally-tense chat between Simmons and his foreword-writing pal Malcolm Gladwell.

That tension can be best represented by one of the many “now let’s talk about movies” diversions, in which Gladwell argued that the Coen brothers were some of the few film directors to have produced more than three truly great movies. Simmons disagreed.

“That’s why I don’t read Slate.com,” he said, and a confused, troubled hush fell over the room of New Yorker subscribers. “A certain kind of person likes a Coen brothers movie.”

“The certain kind of person who likes The Big Lebowski,” Gladwell countered, “is the certain kind of person I like.”

Yes, that alone should do it for me. But I also know I shouldn’t be remotely surprised that someone like Bill Simmons is derisive about the Coen Brothers (who HAVE produced more than three truly great movies, which many directors HAVEN’T done, but that’s besides the point right now). When you’ve read as much Simmons as your average ESPN reading sports fan has, you don’t expect anything approaching depth or intelligence from his take on pop culture. (Still: Referring to “A Serious Man” as “artsy-fartsy?” Really? He’s a highly-paid writer with an oft-praised sense of pop culture. “Artsy-fartsy.”)

The dispatch also looks at the most interesting aspect of Simmons these days: He clings to his regular Joe, average sports fan persona, while cashing checks from ESPN that are believed to be well north of seven figures and speaking at events like the New Yorker Festival. He writes bestselling books about the NBA, but doesn’t mind making sweeping statements that will be disproven and that he will never mention again. He seems to want to be the guy he was when he started out, but isn’t that guy anymore. There’s a disconnect that he never mentions, but that provides an interesting undercurrent to everything he does.