The Magic is gone: Bill Simmons, Mike Greenberg and the increasingly annoying media bias of ESPN

Rivers SmithOn NBA Draft night last year, Bill Simmons and former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers got into a war of words.  Their spat made for great television. 

Simmons, a former blogger turned ESPN basketball analyst – and lifelong Celtics fan (he wears it on his sleeve) – was disappointed to see his team trade away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a handful of draft picks, not to mention see the title-winning Rivers leave for ironically greener pastures.  In a live, on-air interview, ESPN’s Shelley Smith asked Rivers, who now coaches the Los Angeles Clippers, what he felt about Simmons’ accusation that Doc had “quit” on the Celtics.  Rivers replied “I would like to call him an idiot but I’m too classy for that.”

The cameras immediately panned back to Simmons and company in the studio who, somewhat stunned, responded “The truth keeps changing.  He’s giving different quotes about this.  He did know.  He didn’t know.  He kind of knew. He wanted the trade to happen.  He was coming back.  He needed a year off.  When he sticks to a story, I’ll believe the truth.”

Celebrities Attend The Lakers GameNow, allegedly, Simmons has pissed off another former point guard: Magic Johnson.  By some accounts (Deadspin), one of the greatest basketball players of all-time and a pretty darn good analyst as well, is leaving the set of NBA Countdown because of Simmons.  In his departure, the ever-diplomatic Magic had all the right things to say.  “I love ESPN.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of my schedule and other commitments, I don’t feel confident that I can continue to devote the time needed to thrive in my role.”

This off-season, Magic became part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers but one can only assume leaving his first true love was a difficult call, despite his other responsibilities.  After all, baseball season and basketball season don’t really coincide and you know Magic will be tuned into whatever happens on the hard court this year.  That’s what he does and who he is.  Simmons has denied any tension between the two but one can’t help but wonder whether he is rapidly alienating a number of key figures in the sport which he covers.

I actually like Simmons or at least I used to.  The kid (he’s 44) can definitely write, that is, as long as he keeps his pieces down to 3,000 words or less, which is a rarity these days.  He’s every blogger’s dream: boy starts sports blog before it was fashionable to do so, amasses huge following, makes it big, becomes ESPN broadcaster, hob-nobs with NBA big-wigs, all up until the part where he pisses off legends like Magic and Doc.  What’s next?  The dissing of Michael Jordan?

bill simmons moneySimmons has left the world of casual blogger and entered the world of serious journalism… as much as ESPN can be considered serious journalism.  I was always taught that when one reports the news, one must shed one’s bias and be totally impartial.  Isn’t that Journalism 101?  Far too many of the talking heads on ESPN have abandoned that rule.  If I have to hear one more segment where Simmons refers to the Celtics as “we,” or listen to someone like Mike Greenberg tell us he’s a lifelong Jets fan and is either happy or disappointed with “his” team, I may barf.  If someone’s reporting the news, why should I know or even care about their allegiances and wouldn’t that sway my opinion of the facts they’re supposed to be reporting?

It’s why I change the channel.

I run and have never claimed to be a journalist of any sort.  I write about whatever’s on my mind and have only my readers and conscience to answer to.  I’m not here to break any news or scoop any stories.  Bill Simmons used to do that.  Now that he’s employed by ESPN as a host of Countdown, he is not afforded the same freedoms of speech he once was.  It’s also safe to say that several of ESPN’s “30 for 30” episodes that Simmons has spearheaded, while well-produced, are clearly slanted.  Simmons has also apparently failed to pay the proper respect to those who deserve it by not practicing journalistic integrity.

For every basketball fan who enjoyed NBA Countdown (it was a pretty damn good show) Magic’s departure, and the subsequent departure of Michael Wilbon, is a shame for they, along with Simmons and Jalen Rose, appeared to have some sort of camaraderie.  Who knew that was because Simmons was just grating their nerves?

One can’t help but wonder the real reason Magic decided to leave the show.  We may never know the real truth.  Either way, Simmons’ bias is indisputable and wearing thin.  One of ESPN’s best television shows has suffered as a result.

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20 Replies to “The Magic is gone: Bill Simmons, Mike Greenberg and the increasingly annoying media bias of ESPN”

  1. Nice take Chris. I agree wholeheartedly about Simmons (although I’m not a huge Magic Johnson fan when it comes to his analysis). Question. Do you think adding a legit journalist like Doris Burke (She is a pro’s pro in my opinion) will save NBA Countdown or push it further behind the TNT crew that is still the gold standard of NBA pregame/postgame shows.

  2. To be perfectly honest, Frank, I think there’s still a bias against female analysts.

    Burke does a great job on play-by-play but I think old-school, dare I say chauvinistic, NBA fans want to hear their analysis from someone who played the (men’s) game and was pretty damn good at it.

    Doug Collins is apparently filling one of ESPN’s vacant seats and God knows that guy can talk. I’m thinking a mix of old school-new school would work… that is until Simmmons pisses THEM off too, he he.

    Either way, no matter what they do, they still won’t be able to touch TNT’s Inside the NBA.

    But that’s just me.

  3. Chris

    While guys like Mike Greenberg and Bill Simmons offer their opinions , and I liken them both to the politicians elected to Congress . You simply deserve what you get , because like the politicians in both chambers these guys offer nothing of importance or merit . I mean when you have ever heard comment succinctly by way of his analysis , never mind in terms of the written word ? ESPN as a broadcast outlet make Fox News and their affiliated entities seem like frigging retards in terms of media bias .

    The House that Disney built has been foisting this bull#hit on the public for close to three decades and nothing is likely to change over the next three decades.

    Just when you thought that the idiocy of College Football could not get any worse the BCS will be announcing the fact that Condoleeza Rice will be one the thirteen empaneled individuals that will be part of the process that determines the playoff format and seeding for national championship. Just what collegiate athletics really needs another incompetent politician to ##$@ things up even further with a system that will remain totally biased and lacking any independence .

    Is this really journalism or some dumb @ss (Joseph Goodeman -Miami Herald) with nothing better to do with his time ?

    Joseph Goodman: Condoleezza Rice is absolutely right for NCAA football playoff committee

    By Joseph Goodman

    College football shouldn’t stop at naming Condoleezza Rice to its new playoff committee. She should be the new president of the NCAA.

    That’s how delighted and enthusiastic any college football fan with a brain should be over the news that Rice will join what’s sure to be a collection of good ol’ boys in determining which four teams will compete in the first College Football Playoff next season. Rice represents the exact type of energy, forward thinking and independent analysis that college football needs as it transitions from the old way of determining its national champion into this new system that could succeed beautifully if done right.

    Rice will make sure that’s what happens.

    As for people without brains, like former Auburn coach Pat Dye, bless his heart, they just need to go away. Dye is upset that Rice is on the committee. Here’s what Dye, who I’m sure is more than a little bitter about not being asked to be on the committee, said about Rice this week on a radio station in Birmingham, Ala. Rice is from Birmingham, by the way, but God forbid that place celebrate her and this news.

    “All she knows about football is what somebody told her, or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television,” Dye said. “To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.”

    To review … no, wait … it’s too soon for that. Before we go any further, first take two steps backward from your newspaper or computer screen, raise your dominant hand in front of your face and then repeatedly slap your palm into your forehead while wondering how in the heck Dye successfully recruited Bo Jackson. (If you’re reading this on a handheld, improvise.)

    OK, to review, Dye apparently thinks Rice is a great listener and processes information well, but that’s bad. Thinking is bad. Also, books are apparently bad in Dye’s world, because they contain stuff like words and ideas.

    As for his “hand in the dirt” logic, does Dye mean only offensive linemen can understand football? If that’s the case, then he also probably disagrees with the selection of Archie Manning to the playoff committee.

    I’m assuming Dye means only people who have played college football should serve on the playoff committee, and if that’s the case then Dye likely also disagrees with the selection of longtime sportswriter Steve Wieberg.

    “I love Condoleezza Rice, and she’s probably a good statesman and all of that, but how in the hell does she know what it’s like out there when you can’t get your breath and it’s 110 degrees and the coach asks you to go some more?” Dye said.

    Click on link to read in full .

    The addition of Rice to this panel doesn’t add to its credibility at all , it simply makes a damn mockery of the system .

    tophatal ………………….

  4. Here’s the thing, Al.

    I don’t mind when a guy like Greenberg tells us he’s a Jets fan on his morning show, Mike and Mike.

    That’s not a news show. It’s a fluff show. That’s their venue to discuss whatever they want.

    However, when he steps foot on the set of SportsCenter, which really should be an unbiased program although it is not, I want him to shut the hell up and report the news and the news only, not his opinion of the news. The last thing I want to hear is his fawning over Mark Sanchez for the eight billionth time.

    Guys like Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, and even Magic and Jalen, are there for a reason. It’s because they played the game. They’re there for their insight. That’s why Golic is on the set with Greenberg. Those guys are paid to give their opinions.

    Somewhere, though, we have to draw the line, otherwise all we get is just a bunch of half-assed opinions and no facts.

  5. Magic Johnson has a great deal to worry about as his $215 million payroll team is being blown out of the water by the St Louis Cardinals .

    Kudos to the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson on playing through such an emotional trauma . His two year old son is in hospital having been the victim of abuse by a defendant who is said to have been dating the child’s mother . It is at times like this where sport does not matter , while the life of a child becomes all the more relevant . Peterson could have sat out the game and the team’s loss to the Panthers , but he chose to be with his teammates and dedicate the game to his son .

    tophatal ………

  6. I get that Magic has other priorities, Al, but come on, how many of those big time, Dodgers personnel decisions is he actually making?

    And how much of this whole Simmons-Magic spat should we believe to be true?

    I can only imagine how emotional that Minnesota Vikings locker room had to be after Sunday’s loss. I can’t even fathom what Adrian Peterson is going through.

  7. Chris

    Stan Kasten and Ned Colletti are making the decisions but Magic is said to have dropped close to $30 million for his buy-in, for the Dodgers . So I guess he has something of a say , in spite of it all ..

    I know what Peterson is going through and were he to act on that impulse , it would lead to his being arraigned and indicted for first degree murder .

    The likes of Bill Simmons , Skip Bayless offer up their half @ssed commentary on any sports’ related topic is like asking advice from a butcher on performing on how best perform open heart surgery . I mean it was Bayless’ who earlier this year suggested that Tebow would end up being Brady’s backup quarterback for the remainder of the 2013 season after the Patriots acquired him as a free agent . And when it comes to baseball , I have no wish to listen to bloviate a##holes such as Buster Olney , Tim Kurkjian and Harold Reynolds talk about the economics of the game and the steroid issues within baseball . The trio would make the antics of The Three Stooges seem less frigging credible , if it were not for the trio’s background in comedy .

    tophatal …………….

  8. Chris

    Before this bull#hot with Erin Andrews and stalker who took pics of her in her hotel room through a peak hole would anyone have known her from a hole in the ground ? I mean what was said to be her journalistic background ? Now she’s parlayed that infamy to line herself up with a well paying gig with Fox Sports .

    Now you Olbermann back with ESPN , and he still remains the same obnoxious ba#tard he has always been .

  9. Al…

    I haven’t watched First Take in about six months. I just can’t stand the show and listening to those guys. Rots my brain from the inside out.

    I will watch Olbermann though. Not a bad show. It’s good to see him back where he belongs.

    Giants still winless. Hard to imagine. When’s the last time they had a number one draft pick?

    And I didn’t expect much out of the Gators in Death Valley, Al, nor did I expect much out of them this season. Things won’t get any easier this weekend against Missouri.

  10. Magic Johnson a good analyst? Uh..not close. I’m still waiting for the promise he made to invest in the inner city here(LV). I guess the Dodgers have priority. Speaking of the Dodgers let’s talk about the managing genius that Joe Torre bestowed upon them.
    IMO Mattingly is still on thin ice with job security. If LaSorda was 10 years younger Mattingly would still be a bench coach somewhere. When I saw Uribe bunting and eventually hit the game winning HR versus ATL, I kinda figured he’s in sudden death. Horrible decision turned out ok this time, but long term these blatant errors show up on your bottomline. How about taking Gonzales out in the 7th inning for a pinch runner? Manager of the Year? Shoot, Hurdle’s the guy with the chump change payroll.

  11. Bias in the media?…You don’t say.
    Good backstory on Simmons. I had no idea.
    I’ve said it a million times, Magic is to this day my favorite player of all time and if given the #1 pick in history, I’d choose him to start my team. But his analyst skills are lacking and his bias was never a secret either….But I respected his opinion nonetheless.

    Simmons keeps this up and he may just end up with the most biased dude on tv….Olberman…Who, thankfully is TRYING to stick to sports these days…But I still can’t watch him because he’s such a raving douchebag.

    As far as Simmons’ running off recognizable names, ESPN will figure out soon enough that stars/celebrities bring in more viewers and ratings than a glorified fan.

  12. Chris

    If the Giants are bad , then what does that say about Eli Manning this season ? This all could end up really badly , with Coughlin losing his job because of a bunch of gutless players . Eli has been putting up the sort of stats this season that even Freeman and Tebow on an off day, might feel proud of .

    I’m assuming that Adrian Peterson does know what a condom is and what is meant to be used for ? Five kids out of wedlock, and the child in hospital passed away due to the injuries sustained from abuse . The player allegedly was only made aware that the child was his over the past ten days , and the child’s adoptive father who bears his name was originally under the impression the kid was actually his .

    Magic Johnson at the start of this season , said money would be of no object as the Dodgers sought to win a World Series . $215 million later (2013 payroll) , it now looks as if they are about to swept aside by the Cardinals in the NLCS , all so easily . An overrated Dodgers’ team that fans bought into because of a six week run during their regular season schedule . .

    Your thoughts on Condoleezza Rice being named to the panel that will decide the formatting for the BCS playoff system in College Football ? I hear Obama might consult Sarah Palin , on her thoughts as to what might be needed to turn the economy around and whether or not his current foreign policy is working ? Are the BCS committee members and conference commissioners that damn stupid or what ?

    No praise can be gained from being this bad

    tophatal ……………………

  13. Bets…

    I definitely agree with you on Hurdle for NL MOY.

    And Magic’s a decent analyst inasmuch as he saw the game like few others ever have so in that sense, I enjoy listening to what he has to say.

    Now let’s see if that translates into Jason Kidd being a good head coach.

  14. Bleed…

    I think there’s a difference between Magic and Simmons’ biases.

    Magic is and forever will be associated with the Lakers so I don’t have a problem with him pulling for them. He also gives insight into that organization that no one else can. Simmons, a Celtics fans didn’t even know the truth about what went down within the organization. That’s why Doc called him out.

    Let’s see how Collins does in the new lineup.

    More interesting is whether ESPN will report the changes and why they happened. I’m guessing not.

  15. Al…

    The Giants might get just get their first win of the season as the Vikings have announced they’re starting Josh Freeman this weekend. Yikes!

    Even if they lose to the Cards, you’d still have to consider what the Dodgers put together as a successful season, don’t you?

  16. Ronbets

    Magic dropped almost $200 million of his own money along with the Cavaliers’ Dan Gilbert into downtown Detroit. Well , it’s now a ghost town , so what else would you expect of the politicians there , as they bankrupted the city through their financial mismanagement of their monies


    . $215 million of anyone’s money should be well spent , wouldn’t you agree , if your goal is to meet an objective ? Or has the acceptance of apathy y and mediocrity now become the norm across the North American sports’ landscape ? Don’t suggest that this season has been a success for the Dodgers , it’s an insult , as the front office expected a great deal more . It is the Dodgers we’re talking about and not the Tampa Bay Rays .

    It’s not always the journey , but the first step taken on the road to that destination

    tophatal …………………..

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