Late last night, Bill Simmons uploaded his most recent podcast with Malcolm Gladwell. Like all of the work that they’ve done together in the past, it was electric. I’d say that this one was the best because of the wide range of topics that they discussed with such a deep and thoughtful perspective.
Most importantly, they discussed the fall of Grantland. Unfortunately, Simmons still wouldn’t reveal everything that was going on behind the scenes with ESPN from when he took shots at Goodell back in September 2014 to when he was told he wasn’t coming back in May. There’s still more we don’t know, but at least we know Simmons’ account of how the podcast went down. Specifically, he was about to film a 6 hour video podcast with Jalen Rose and was upset about whatever was going on behind the scenes with ESPN, so he didn’t listen to the podcast before it went up even when his employees texted him because of their concern with what he had said. It was also really interesting that Simmons said he would consistently edit out parts of his podcast. Simmons described the scenario as finding it really fun to get near the third rail of the track without touching it, except podcasting gave him the ability to edit it out when he accidentally touched the third rail.
Simmons and Gladwell also perfectly analyzed ESPN in a way that very few others could. Even to fans who haven’t worked on the inside like us, there has seemed to be something off with the way that ESPN acts, especially during the joke that was Deflategate. Gladwell put it perfectly: In an industry where controversy almost always benefits the company it affects, ESPN shies away from controversy and instead acts like a bank.
Gladwell explained how ESPN acts too much like a corporation, and while his analysis was on point, I think I’d reword his take by saying that ESPN forgets what type of corporation that it is. The Worldwide Leader does everything they can to have no bad PR rather than report sports news and get their product out there. What they don’t realize is that they cause incredibly bad PR by acting like a bank rather than a sports news network. Not allowing SImmons and others on other people’s radio shows or podcasts makes them look pretentious and flat out dumb because they’re not growing their fan base, and, for instance, cancelling Chris Mortensen on Dennis and Callahan is incredibly bad PR.
Lastly, they discussed the ridiculous Milwaukee Bucks’ stadium deal that is flat out robbery from the citizens of Wisconsin. The state cut $250 million in education spending right after giving $500 million to the Bucks stadium, which is what I call a “Legally Criminal” act. Gladwell rightfully wondered why nobody does anything about this in any way. The passive nature of citizens, even when faced with something abhorrent, is almost appalling as the act itself.
You should archive this podcast from Gladwell and Simmons and listen to it in a few years. The podcast pair demonstrated such deep insight into fundamental issues within the sports world. And this is where the two are at their best. Gladwell can teach anyone a ton about not only their own life, but life in general. And Simmons’ best work is when he provides a new take on something in sports that few others had thought about in the same way before. While Simmons has his clear faults — name dropping on end, asking “Do I get to speak now?,” and his general self-admitted love of getting close to the third rail just for the hell of it all come to mind — but Simmons has proved for the last month why we loved him in the first place. You don’t get BS from him (no pun intended to his promo code or former podcast title), and he makes you think about the teams, players, and sports that you love.