Taking on the giant

SimmonsSo apparently Bill Simmons wants out of ESPN.

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 moneyThat’s beside the point.

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)

Rich EisenOther 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.

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10 Replies to “Taking on the giant”

  1. I had always been a Simmons fan but as I suggest in the post, Al, he got too big for his britches.

    The whole Doc Rivers banter was pretty ridiculous. As a journalist, Simmons should really know his place and he was way out of line. Same with Magic wanting to leave the set because of him.

    Show some respect and know your place in the pecking order.

    That’s apparently a 6,000 memo that Bill Simmons never got.

  2. Chris, I too agree Bill forgot his roots long ago and is living in a world now where he believes everyone else is beneath him. I enjoyed his takes early in his career and marveled at his ability to create Grantland from inside out at ESPN. But he has lost his way along the way and he currently clearly considers no one to be his equal let alone not being respectful of elders and experts alike. He best stay aligned with the Worldwide Leader lest he wind up in an alley in Boston somewhere tossing down liters of Sam Adams.

  3. This may sound strange, Chris, but I purposely avoid the “analysis” sports shows because I have no interest in what they have to say. I don’t need or want their viewpoints.

    Concurrently, I watch sporting events with the sound muted for the same reason.

    The palaver passing for reasoned critique is a joke, fashioned by media types interested solely in their own egos.

    An exaggeration? Perhaps. But I am not interested in what they have to say. At the great risk of sanctimoniously sounding above the din, that is where my comfort level lies.

    “Will somebody please turn down that damn ESPN drivel?”

  4. Props to Simmons for his rise via the regular guy route. He cashed in and will now likely cash out. The ears may have been born on family friendly, but if you insult Minny, Mickey doesn’t take it lightly.

    Like Frank Underwood, they like a rigged game. They want free reign to cast judgement and make stinging quips on homever, but if retaliation occurs…Say, in the form of maybe calling them idiots on the heels of them bitch slapping you in the NBA player rankings, articles slamming you will soon follow…It doesn’t matter how much they’ve used you to sell their product over the last two decades.

    Simmons is small potatoes to a corporate behemoth with a vindictive side. In their eyes, he’ll always be just a lowly blogger. Welcome back Billy boy.

  5. Coach…

    You and I are clearly ahead of our time. During sporting events, I’ve been turning down the volume on my TV and turning up the music for some time now.

    Although I must say, keeping the volume on the television on does allow for us to hear the stupid crap people say, which in turn gives us plenty of quality writing material.

    God bless ’em. Perhaps I should send ’em a thank you letter.

  6. Bleed…

    I think that’s something we could all get behind. Simmons starting from scratch.

    I wonder if he could take Grantland elsewhere, whether he owns it. I’m pretty sure ESPN, and Mickey, wouldn’t allow that to happen.

  7. This dude – as not only extremely wordy, but also the biggest homer in the history of blogging – had a gift to be working for them. For his ego to be moving on, it’s comedy to me. Go ahead, find your land where Boston loves you, Bill. No one else can. Overrated with a capital O.

  8. Tell us how ya’ really feel, KP.

    Some of his early stuff is entertaining and well-written.

    I don’t even mind him on TV every now and again.

    I just wish the guy would take a dose of some humble pie before I change the channel again.

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