I think I've cracked it - and I think it pertains to Simmons'
cult following, the staunch defensiveness, the thin skin, &
As a baseline - Bill Simmons has not done anything revolutionary
for the art of writing in and of itself.
Simmons' skills as a writer, his prose, his vocabulary - none of
it is groundbreaking, or stunning.
Simmons is a good writer - that's it, above average in that he
has a talent for identifying and describing moments with a
He doesn't paint a great narrative, he's not profound, he's
susceptible to hero worship and being swayed by meeting a
But he was an incredible opportunist - with enough talent to
capture an audience and demographic that enjoyed his homerun
If sportswriting was music - let's say hiphop for example... we
as connoisseurs expect the greats to be B.I.G., 2pac, Jay-Z, Nas,
Bill Simmons is Puff Daddy. He is Sean Combs - who struck gold
with the advent of a game-changer - the internet era and
Great writers, and fans of great writers - initially (and still)
resent him because he's treated as an all-time great without
if it was more folksy, we'd want him - the preeminent writer of
this generation - to be Bob Dylan. He's not, he's Bon Jovi.
The backlash from writers is obvious and petty - though not
necessarily unfounded. They evaluate each other on talent and
He isn't Waylon Jennings or George Strait. Simmons is Garth
Brooks. I like Mcgraw, but my purist friends from KY & TX think
he's a P****.
Bill came up in the shadow of big talents in the Northeast, I
know from experience that writers like Ryan/Lupica called him a
The chip on his shoulder is from that experience; from KNOWING
he's not the best writer in the room, and insecurities manifest
He's the biggest star, but not the biggest talent - and that gap
creates thin skin and a fragile ego...
Like taking digs at writers for criticism - or sending interns
to brooklyn to go get cheesecake #mixedupmetaphor
He latched onto a wave - the internet & burgeoning fan explosion
- and rode it to the top. he relates to the fans, and they
Time has made idealized and romanticized his run, creating this
image that he created the wave, like he created B.I.G.
Calling him "the ultimate opportunist" slights his ability to
write, to affect emotions, and create that shared feeling of
unity among fans.
Most journalists, many of the greats - Red Smith, Jim Murray,
Gammons, etc EXPLORED the distance between athletes and fans...
Simmons exploited it, reveled in it, made that gap his shared
space with fans. Where they could gripe together, celebrate
Until Simmons' explosion - writers worked to close that gap, to
make you feel like you were with the athletes, at the game...
But he writes from his couch - which as a columnist I've always
So now you have these two factions... The ones that think he
changed sportswriting - and tell opposition they're behind the
And the ones that think he's ruined it - spawning wannabes that
are worse writers, don't attend games, and write form the "i"
People look at Grantland as this trans-formative idea and
endeavor - pulling great writers, letting them merge their
experience and sports.
But ESPN already did this - the original Page2 had Ralph Wiley
and Hunter S. Thompson, better writers than most could hope to be.
People forget what Page2 originally ways. But it didn't work
because Wiley and Hunter S. weren't enough to drive page views
at the time.
Which - as a sidenote - is goddamn insane.
What you needed was somebody with enough cross-cultural clout and
pull that he'd draw readers and grant a weird validation to
Simmons is that guy, there are 5 guys on his staff I'd point to
and comfortably say "____ is a better writer" - but who cares at
The problem is that the craft has evolved a little. There are
fans that want the insider info, draft workout breakdowns,
But there are fans that just want to talk with other fans,
message boards, chats - they want other fans' perspectives and
How the fuck else could you possibly explain Bleacher Report?
So you end up with people that are mad at Puff Daddy - for the
mystique and aura that Bad Boy created for him... but he created
It's totally fair to say he's not B.I.G. He isn't. He never was.
Had Chris Wallace never been born, who knows if we'd ever hear
Had the internet not exploded and changed the way fans are able
to access... everything.... we'd never know Simmons.
And that's because Simmons wasn't able to function in the print
news era - and he's said it himself. Luckily he didn't have to.
Instead - he came up with the perfect talent and the perfect
medium. And truthfully - punishing him for that is completely
The fact is - B.I.G. WAS born, and we all had "No Way Out."
Many of us resisted Simmons initially - as a judgment on his
medium & his writing style - but resisting is one thing,
resenting is another.
That's the backlash, fans of Jim Murray or Breslin or Lupica or
(shudder) Albom want him to be those guys... he isn't.
He doesn't have a "Juicy" or a "Tangled up in Blue" or really
anything that will ever satisfy those that reject his writing
And that fact that Simmons' fans are so vocal, and so goddamn
stupid at times only enhances the animosity.
Because at the heart of it, way deep down - the purists will
always blame Simmons for Chris Wallace's death. Even if it isn't
Simmons paints himself as one of the people, but holds himself
above so much of - and so many within the profession. Dueling Id
The truth is you can't just be a regular joe that likes sports,
& amass the biggest talent corral in the modern history of the
So now he's an editor, and a manager, and picking and choosing
what/who is good and acceptable at the end of ESPN's reach.
He's not just an artist, he's got a label to run. It's the kind
of thing detractors will seize, and fans will ignore - widening
I read Simmons - I think he's entertaining, funny - and I think
he's culturally relevant. I also think he's a rambling,
I won't punish the LOX, Jada, and Kim because of the problems I
may have with some of the things Diddy has done.
I know some of the people working for the site, some of the
writers - even if they don't know me as this screen name -
I'm not longer up-n-coming. I'm old, I watched Connie Hawkins,
and Dr. J - and never thought I'd see another like Julius.
Then Bird and Magic came along, and I didn't punish them for
NOT being Dr. J, just like I didn't punish MJ, and didn't
I'm an Artis Gilmore man, and I do the Dream Shake before I
Iceman finger roll bad copy into the wastebasket.
But I can still watch LeBron and Dwight Howard without wincing.
Gamechanging talent doesn't always change the game.
The game isn't always changed by gamechanging talent. Sometimes
it's changed by talent, circumstance, vision & opportunity. Bill
I came up under legends. I'm lucky. But at the beginning of every
legend there's an originator - maybe not the best ever, but the
The first ever - maybe that's what Simmons is. He's an original
voice, great at describing the moment, funny - and launched a
I personally don't blame him for the downfall of sportwriting as
an art. I blame people that don't pursue and work to advance it.
I dunno... Was Puffy really that bad? .............was he really