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Date :   2011-06-10 16:43:38
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I think I've cracked it - and I think it pertains to Simmons' 
cult following, the staunch defensiveness, the thin skin, & 
the backlash.

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 
visceral power.

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, 
Kane, etc

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 
great talent.

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 
in pettiness.

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 
support him.

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" 
w/o crafting.

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 
this point?

The problem is that the craft has evolved a little. There are 
fans that want the insider info, draft workout breakdowns, 
2-seamer details...

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 
Bad Boy.

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 
Combs' name?

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 
and Ego.

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 
the chasm.

I read Simmons - I think he's entertaining, funny - and I think 
he's culturally relevant. I also think he's a rambling, 
thin-skinned ninny.

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 - 
they're good.

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 
punish Kobe...

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 
1st ever.

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 
that good?
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