Remember the days when Bill Simmons was suspended from Twitter for 2 weeks for taking shots at Glen Ordway? Yeah, that was fun.
I speak nostalgically because those days are long gone, as the Sports Guy proved yesterday with his weekly podcast with Cousin Sal. Simmons went off on Roger Goodell and more specifically the media covering the commissioner’s horrible past few months. Here are some of the tidbits from the podcast:
“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar,” Simmons said Monday. “I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit. It really is — it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was.”
“I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell,” he said. “Because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast.”
Let’s be real: Bill Simmons isn’t quite throwing 98 mph on the black like he once was, and some of the reasons why are pretty understandable. First, it’s hard to keep your game up for that long, both from a motivation standpoint and because there are now sooo many sportswriters that it’s more difficult to make your own work stand out. What’s more is that Simmons is now doing more, giving him less time to actually write. He’s now covering the NBA full time during the season, still helping produce 30 for 30, and, oh yeah, running Grantland. For so many at the top of their game, part of becoming huge and growing your brand is leaving behind a little bit of what made you famous in the first place, and that’s ok.
But there are other reasons to only be in the back of the Simmons bandwagon in 2014, rather than driving it like I was about 5-7 years ago. You can bank on the Sports Guy clumsily (or casually, in Simmons’ mind) name dropping celebrities or mentioning the fact that he was at an ESPYs party despite the conversation having nothing to do with something like that. He’s defensive, as Charlie Pierce learned – although Pierce both fired back nicely and then joined Grantland relatively soon after. (Deadspin has the full details here.) And we all remember him being offended that he hadn’t spoken in awhile on set with Doug Collins and Jalen Rose. By the way, did you know that Bill Simmons is friends with Jalen Rose? I know, right??!! How cool is Bill Simmons??!!
But this recent rant made me move up a little bit on the BS Bandwagon, even if that sounds like a dumb name that he would create and then pretend that it’s good. Simmons knows what leverage is, and he used it. He’s always clashed with ESPN over what’s acceptable and the way that the Worldwide Leader covers certain subjects, and he decided that this one was just too far. Simmons decided to use his leverage to promote an idea that he views as moral and full of journalistic integrity… and I love it.
Nowadays, there’s way too much of a necessity to stay below deck with your own company’s brand, therefore forfeiting your independence and diminishing your overall credibility. Less than 2 years ago, Simmons was again suspended from Twitter (what a joke of a punishment, right?) for basically saying “If you don’t like First Take, don’t watch.” Completely pathetic. Now, Simmons is going after his own brand because they deserve it… and because he knows that he can. No one wants to be on the other side of “You should punish a wifebeater,” and Simmons knows that he can paint ESPN as the appeaser if they try to come at him and he reports what they said to him.
If someone is going to throw their weight around and use their leverage, it better be for a good cause. Hating Roger Goodell definitely qualifies, so I’m on board with Simmons 100% here.