And this is interesting why?
I’m about to tell you why but first off, a little about Mr. Simmons.
Bill Simmons started out as a blogger. That’s right. A blogger.
The guy would write about, among other things, local Boston sports which is needless to say where he was born and raised. He had his own unique take on things. Okay, maybe unique is an overused term but at the time, Simmons was a thirty-something year old guy using the internet to talk to other thirty-something year old guys in a language they could easily understand: sports, movie references, quips, quirks and other light social commentary that the average male (and sometimes female) sports fan could relate to.
Within a few years, his popularity grew. His books, podcasts, occasional Pardon the Interruption appearances then ultimately his 30 for 30 creations and NBA analysis made him one of the more recognizable faces on ESPN.
It was then that Simmons got a wee too big for his britches. His run-ins with Magic Johnson, Doc Rivers and his undying and particularly tiring partiality for all things Boston have been duly noted.
Simmons was most recently suspended three weeks by the network for profanely calling Roger Goodell a liar without evidence in regards to his handling of the Ray Rice case… which is basically what everyone else was saying. We just weren’t getting paid three million dollars by Disney to say it.
Simmons spoke his mind and paid the price for it. He may or may not choose to continue his career with ESPN. He’s not hurting for cash nor will he ever be after his recent success. Whether it’s for the four-letter or elsewhere, he will continue writing for someone and his 4,000+ word posts will keep us entertained until it’s time to for us to get off the crapper.
But could Simmons, or anyone properly motivated enough ever tackle the dominance that is ESPN?
Think about it.
For all intents and purposes, the Worldwide Leader in Sports has a monopoly as our source of all sports news. Sure, there’s the Sporting News, CNNSI, FoxSports and other non-entirely sports related resources, i.e., Yahoo, Huffington Post, etc. There’s the NFL Network, NBA TV, MLB Network, the Golf Channel and the other major television networks, CBS, NBC and ABC (which is essentially ESPN). There are your local newspaper reporters and then of course, your common blogger who has to answer to no one but their own conscience and spell-checker. Many of their voices have been swallowed up by YardBarker or Bleacher Report and can hardly be considered viable sports news sources anyway.
So that unfortunately leaves us with ESPN as our go-to for most sports news and it’s been that way for quite some time. If we want to watch a highlight of what happened earlier that evening, we turn on ESPN. There is no other way.
So could someone take on the mighty giant? What would that take? And would Mickey Mouse ever allow something like that happen?
(Hang on, there’s a sharp knocking on my door)
Other than the independent blogger who receives little respect from journalists – whose oft-shoddy work ironically led to the emergence of the sports blogger – where is the modern sports fan supposed to receive unbiased reporting?
When Rich Eisen left ESPN to take his job at the NFL Network, one of his demands was that he be allowed to report the news unbiased even if it meant taking shots at the league. Ten years into its existence, I’m not exactly sure too many would consider them the 60 Minutes of sports.
So what now? Grin and bear it?
My little website has never pretended to be anything it’s not. I consider it my running diary. I write what I feel and don’t ever mistake it for any sort of investigative reporting or groundbreaking journalism.
That’s not to say another conglomerate of sports fans committed to the cause couldn’t undertake such a project, that it couldn’t work or that it wouldn’t generate a massive following.
But of course that would require the bulk of us to give a shit about fair, unbiased and critical reporting… and for us to change the damn channel.
ESPN is as self-serving and self-promoting as the sports leagues it covers. No sooner than I was writing this piece, I saw some talking head interview Brad Pitt, asking him about the special connection between Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and his star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The interview immediately led into an advertisement for Pitt’s upcoming film, Fury. It’s that sort of hard-hitting analysis we’ve come to expect from the four-letter. What the fuck does Brad Pitt know about the Detroit Lions and why am I supposed to care?
No, ESPN isn’t going anywhere nor is any attempt to threaten its dominance. The cards are stacked so heavily against David in this Goliath battle he might as well just put his slingshot down. If they ever choose to pick it back up, however, they’ll have my wholehearted support.