Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bill Simmons and Grantland

In the last few days, ESPN began the soft launch of Grantland.com, a "sports and culture website created by Bill Simmons," their in-house blogger/everyman writer and Boston mega-fan for the last nine years. It has a lot of problems.

The basic appearance alone can look discouraging to someone who's never read ESPN or Simmons. The banner quote is tiny, something sure to be fixed but also something that only takes 20 minutes to tweak before a soft launch and constitutes your visual branding. To those familiar with Simmons, other problems leap to the fore, such as the very idea of his tackling a culture website of any kind.

Even fans of his would concede that a Bill Simmons Culture Museum could be housed in a newlyweds' guest room, with four walls tacked with Bobby Orr, Pedro Martinez, Tom Brady and Larry Bird jerseys, with a single chair facing a TV/DVD cabinet stocked with copies of The Shawshank Redemption, The Karate Kid, sports movies, John Hughes movies, Pacino/De Niro movies and a complete set of Miami Vice and The White Shadow episodes. Die-hard fans can probably name only five non-sports books he's ever read (and three of them are by Malcolm Gladwell). On the TV front, Simmons spent a few years proudly reminding people of his refusal to watch shows like House, The Wire or Arrested Development.

Creating a culture site when you essentially have no interest in an entire medium and celebrate your willful blindness to acclaimed work from other media means it can only operate if the intent is actually to be bad at it. In one sense, Jack Kevorkian is an incredibly flawed doctor, but if you approach him from a different frame of reference, he's a specialist with an incomparable track record. Similarly, Simmons so regularly mauls subtlety and complexity with ham-fisted prose and wads multi-faceted concepts into gut-level inanity that maybe his purpose here really is to reduce culture to a kind of gray-lighted broadcast accompanied by a undifferentiated white-noise frat obscenity — like a rocky seashore whose breaking surf gives off the soothing noise of a constant fart.

Perhaps it's unfair to describe Grantland via ad hominem, but publications tend to take on the attitudes of their creators. There's no way to talk about it without talking about Bill Simmons and ESPN. The latter writes sports news for people who like TV. The former is a Boston-area writer who mainstreamed sports fan culture and pop-cultural references already extant in the discourse. To his credit, Simmons was an ideally shallow avatar on whom a major corporate site could hang everyman content, but he smartly made the most of his opportunity. That the last five years of online sports blogging has overwhelmed and superannuated Simmons and ESPN's approach may have contributed to their launching Grantland.

Because the two have produced this publication, it's guaranteed to be a mostly impotent feint at something with substance, novelty and risk-taking. It's a Disney company fronting a master craftsman of middlebrow retreads of his own middlebrow analysis to a mass middlebrow audience. To harness as many novel demographics as possible, they've decided to combine the mold of long-form "new journalism" from the 1960s and current short-form blogging to produce pieces of intermediate length and thought. (Sort of like all the ESPN articles you can currently read.) This is like how NBC combined a 1980s sitcom star in Paul Reiser and the current vibe of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm to make a 1990s-level comedy void for a major network. If your computer flickered just now, it's because that's another boundary Simmons and a Disney subsidiary is breaking at you.

For years, readers have speculated that Simmons would walk away from his ESPN contract and put his money where his mouth is and toward his own unique creation, but those people mistook the nature of the relationship between the two. ESPN and Simmons exist to make each other look edgy — ESPN by having Simmons write risky and scandalous things like "I hate [sports player]," and Simmons by having ESPN's editorial policy to blame for not writing anything more risky and scandalous than, "I hate [sports player]."

If at any moment either entity had walked away from their relationship, it would have given the lie to ESPN's claims to print things more subversive than "SportsCenter You Can Read" and Simmons' claims that he had any ideas to be held back in the first place. Thus the need to create something like Grantland, which allows ESPN to pretend it's breaking new ground by printing Gawker content from 2005, while Simmons gets to play the bad-boy who replaced his short woven corporate dog leash with the open-road freedom of one of those really long clicky-handled corporate dog leashes.

Looking at Grantland, one instantly wonders what its point is, and the site clearly doesn't have an answer. Katie Baker's profile of the Knicks is a smart and passionate journalism profile and personal history, exactly the sort of thing that can and does appear in Sports Illustrated, never seems to appear in ESPN the Magazine and could easily go anywhere on their current website. Depending on your estimation of the quality of ESPN articles, it provides the same content you can already read. Either that or it presents an alternative to ESPN content, when the far simpler solution is to fix the ESPN content, rather than branding a new adjunct site that contains writing the main site deserves to have in the first place.

Adding to the confusion is the site's overall presentation. First, there's the appearance, which uses the sobriety and elegance of a serifed font with the side columns of white space one associates with Gawker and affectedly ironical websites. Grantland had barely finished loading before I realized it should be renamed McSweeney's Interleague Tendency.*
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* — In related news, Dave Eggers will also write for the site, just in case you were worried that you didn't know what Dave Eggers was worried about Dave Eggers doing next. But the worry is probably ironic — or not: perhaps his biggest worry is the uncertainty that his worry is genuine, and not a self-reflexive worry about how one behaves... like, it's actually a primal worry whose power is being overwhelmed by the social-procedural worry we adopt as a normative function of making ourselves vulnerably accessible to others. If there's a way to highlight the preceding sentence and increase the font size on your iPad, do so, then get up to get a refill at whatever Barnes & Noble café you're in. You are now special, and other people can see that.
___________________

Second, there's the quote at the top, the famous poetry of Grantland Rice, which cheers character and performance and neatly encapsulates both the drama and archaism of sports perspectives. Over the last five years, Simmons has selectively embraced new quantitative metrics in basketball precisely because they're so ambiguous and interdependent, nicely dovetailing with his facile "secret" of the game, but he's resisted, mocked and regularly made intellectually shallow and logically indefensible arguments about statistical analysis in baseball. Any website that promises smart new sports journalism under a banner quote redolent of dog-whistle "gritty," "Eckstein-esque" and "played the game the right way" conceptions of sports is sending mixed messages. Rice is now employed as an avatar of hidebound sports-journalist conservatism, the quote and his writing the hoary old clichés marshaled by the luddites and bigots resistant to exactly the kind of dynamism Simmons ostensibly would like to proffer. Score one for pointless ambiguity.

Finally, there's the name, which honors Rice, the man who kicked off the so-called Golden Age of sportswriting and who's remembered today for the heroic portraits and demi-deifications he crafted for players like Babe Ruth and sports programs like Notre Dame. Not a single person Simmons has allegedly buttonholed for his site writes anything like Grantland Rice (few are even sports journalists), and many of his contributors would likely ridicule anyone who did. In fact, the current sports journalist most prone to balancing spectacle and poesy, to unselfconsciously championing the rigors of sport and the triumph of the human spirit, is Rick Reilly, a man Simmons has probably spent half his career obliquely verbally shitting on.

One contributor Simmons has brought on who would surely shit on Reilly while wondering if Reilly's ability to be shit on is what unexpectedly actually secretly makes him really really great is Chuck Klosterman, the ultimate avatar of nerdbag beta-male hostile self-aggrandizement clad in a soft disguise of bad hair and crew-neck sweaters. Mark Ames already destroyed Klosterman seven years ago (after a boorish and predictably Exile-esque ad hominem), but it warrants mentioning that his schtick is perfect for the level at which Bill Simmons operates. His methodology is one of torturously stupid analogies propping up a worldview that runs the gamut from socially vampiric to merely narcissistic. To quote General Ze'evi, "He is the Thomas Friedman of pop culture." When he's really throwing down science, when he announces that he's challenging the reader, Klosterman lards meaningless observations about meaningless phenomena with cute paradoxes, trying to rationalize the impossible tension between two strawmen he's invented, before arriving at a conclusion that antagonizes the web-traffic-spiking intelligentsia while validating and comforting the incurious.

His treatment of Billy Joel is a perfect example. In Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, he oversees a rhetorical tennis match between the false binary that "Billy Joel Is Terrible" and "Billy Joel Is Secretly Great" by kicking around the man's career and eventually making the same evaluations everyone else already has: Billy Joel is a pretty good piano player who writes pretty good (and some great) pop songs about being in love, and usually once an album has a lyrically superior and commercially unviable song like "Vienna." The important points here are that:
1. That last sentence isn't long enough to count as an article or book chapter, and:
2. Writing that single sentence doesn't take you through the intellectual and emotional gravity well at the center of the universe, Chuck Klosterman.
Simmons goes through this same process with almost everything, sometimes spending a whole column on a strident criticism, then another walking it back too far, then reaching a synthesis as if it occasioned some degree of struggle. It's "Baby's First Hegelian Dialectic," only the logical building blocks are huge and can't really fit in his tiny hands. (Worse, like Klosterman, his analysis of sporting events now largely constitutes analyzing how he might come to analyze the sporting events later, and how he has to think about how he will reevaluate the hypothetical in light of outcomes that haven't even happened.)

These quotidian discoveries are announced to readers, with little acknowledgement that they themselves might have already gone through them. It's like Vasco de Balboa shaking you awake to proclaim that he's discovered your toilet. After spending years arrogantly defending his unwillingness to watch even an episode of The Wire, Simmons broke down and watched it, decided it was the greatest show in history (after years of popular criticism saying as much), then wrote about that revelation numerous times and at length, over the course of years. No wonder he loves Klosterman so much. Both of them riff on the same vain logical process but from different precincts of cultural shallowness. Both seem to subscribe to the old medieval theory of sight: the world is alit for their glance being shone upon it.

This attitude is really par for the course for Simmons, who, like a lot of successful and mostly intellectually lazy people, has either mistaken luck and context for native ability or whitewashed the former to promote the latter. No one can deny his success or his canniness in adopting an everyman stance about sports while peppering his analogies and descriptions with mainstream pop-cultural references aimed at the coveted 18-35 demographic that (at the time) was steeped in late-1970s and 1980s nostalgia. The problem Simmons makes is forgetting that he was one of hundreds or even thousands who could have taken the same ball and run with it.

In the late 1990s, sports bulletin boards, budding statistics and fansites trod the same ground Simmons does now and did then, and they often did so with more substance. Unfortunately, not a lot of people running those had the privilege of interning with the Boston Herald (and, if you believe Wikipedia, contributing to the Boston Phoenix), in a city absolutely crazy for sports, with about 700 colleges within its limits. Simmons has distanced himself from the Herald over the past decade, but he seems to protest too much. Self-made men usually distance themselves first from the people who helped them enough to impeach the self-made man myth. And while Simmons has had the wit to acknowledge luck and downplay his meteoric rise, he's also omitted the tremendous advantage an AOL-backed sports blog has, in getting off the ground, when its author used to work in newsrooms with local sportswriters, who can cite it, forward it to thousands of readers, and eventually help it to tap into the hundreds of thousands of young student sports fans in the city.

You'd think for a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's (also a Grantland writer) glib and unscientific trash that Simmons might have read Outliers and felt a glimmer of recognition. In Gladwell's mind, Bill Gates became a programming titan because he got to practice writing code and lived in a neighborhood prosperous enough to provide him with the machinery to run programs. Taking advantage of AOL's internal advertising structure, being an intern at the Herald, being able to practice there and then having its networking machinery (and mavens!—think Gladwell's The Tipping Point!), as well as a local population ready to be targeted for links about local sports was nothing short of wonderfully serendipitous.

But Simmons is insecure. (He ends friendships at what seems like the mildest of criticism and scrubs references to the offending persons from his work like an overzealous Soviet records department removing all images of a heterodox party member from pictures Stalin was in.) Like many successful insecure people, he needs to replace fortune with determinism, and it's this worldview that seems to have informed his attitude toward later projects, assuming success with little ostensible thought for presentation, reaction or outcomes.

Like: phoning in columns while working for the atrocious first season of Jimmy Kimmel Live, then thinking that his everyman schtick still worked while telling tales of Hollywood nights. Or assuming that readers would like to watch a brutally amateurish cartoon series about his life, his wife and his friends, while thinking that his everyman schtick still worked despite a vanity cartoon series. Or writing about one-on-one encounters with celebrity athletes that were less hard-hitting than a punch thrown by a polio-crippled pre-teen castrato, then thinking that his everyman schtick still worked while playing Tiger Woods' golf video game against Tiger Woods, going to the club with Manny Ramirez or sitting in a luxury box at a venue to which ESPN flew him.

Bill Simmons has a perspective problem, and yet another vanity project like Grantland seems only to add to the evidence of it. A good argument against that conclusion could be made if the site had any kind of purposeful coherence. Allegedly it's a serious sports website maintained by a man whose critical rigorousness about sports can often be measured by going to the IMDB "memorable quotes" page for a movie and trying to apply it to some random category like "interceptions made by New England Patriots, 2001-2010." Allegedly it's a serious cultural website maintained by a man whose cultural mind looks like one of those spooky MRIs of "ecstasy brains," with all the black dead spots, and a bit where someone burned "SWEEP THE LEG" into it with a laser scalpel. Its celebrity contributors list reads like a Who's Who of people whose only metric for understanding the human experience is the singular preciousness of themselves or the nauseating insipidity of corporate-retreat science. Then there's the preposterousness of the name. Bill Simmons is to Grantland Rice what Tucker Max is to Hunter Thompson.

If only the writing could save it. The purpose of a soft launch is to tease the coming content with isolated releases that enable editors and designers to work out little kinks. You don't share your greatest stuff, but you don't share your worst. Inexplicably, Grantland went with the latter. (This doesn't include Baker's article, which, again, could have been published in any other sports magazine or website on the planet.) One of the articles you can currently read is Molly Lambert's "Summer of Robots and Reboots." The entire thing is so bad it's actually embarrassing rather than objectionable.

I can't find an answer for why the article is here at all. Observing that summer movies are predominantly special-effects extravaganzas (robots), shallow retreads (reboots), or, in her words, "sequels... (also threequels, fourquels, fivequels and eightquels)" is so thunderingly fucking stupid and self-evident that people who style themselves wags or smart cultural observers would probably feel pretty predictable and wearisome (like a summer blockbuster—get it?) just mentioning it in a Twitter update, even before maxing out all 140 characters. But this is the money observation of the article. This is the thing someone got paid to write, the comic conceit that says something like:
Airline food sucks.
Taco Bell makes you poop.
Beer ads have boobs.
"Those clowns in Washington did it again. Ah ha ha, what a bunch of clowns."
There isn't anything else there. There is no there there. Lambert goes through what seems like the entire summer release schedule. It reads remarkably similarly to the pages the New York Times methodically devoted to the same topic weeks ago, only this one is supposed to be funny, because this one summarizes things without insight, ironically. One person I sent this to quoted her by saying, "Terrible gender politics aside," then asked, with an apologetic preface, "is reason this article appears on a sports website aimed at guys is because [Lambert] looks like this?" He genuinely wondered whether this was a corporate-ordered cynical exploitation of women — the print equivalent of placating women's viewing demographics and stimulating men by giving attractive women the insulting job of standing on the sideline while a coach spits boilerplate on them after they ask what changes he plans to make at halftime.

There's nothing wrong with a comprehensive list or with obsessively mocking a single topic, but you should at least toss an idea into the fluff. For instance, presuming that a list of the 50 Best Albums of the Decade is wrong is sort of obvious. Deciding it's comprehensively wrong might be little funnier, just because it's so unreasonable. But while you're there, at least use it to talk about, say, the monochromatic interests of indie rock reviewers, the fey pose struck by indie review sites that want to seem committed to art but also cynically hump "list" articles for pageloads, or the inevitable absurdity of semantic choices in blurb-length reviews of something so subjective as music or summer movie trailers. Also, while you're there, try to tell some jokes.

After you understand that Lambert's purpose is to tell you about every movie released this summer, arranged by category, that's all she has to offer. (Except movies produced by Disney. As a hallmark of this bold new site, you can read an article acknowledging that it has already got on its hands and knees for corporate and winked over the shoulder at it.) She makes some recommendations of what to see, but even she admits that these recommendations are indifferent, capricious, silly and, across the board, guesswork. She makes some mistakes, but none are particularly interesting, save: "Sidenote to Kenneth Branagh: the reason ripped blond men aren't portrayed as superheroes = World War II. 'THOR'!" Sick burn, but probably better directed at someone who didn't deliver a charismatic portrayal of Reinhard Heydrich in a movie about crafting the Final Solution over finger sandwiches.

The rest is just null space where comedy or a point could be, seasoned with affected word choices to make things seem peppy or "urban" or something. Consider:
Hollywood: "We r straight killin' it on originality this summer just like every summer. See you in the champagne room!"
Sumer is icumen in.
I ain't mad at cha.
Whatever.

This accounts for 50% of the content selling the upcoming Grantland — a comic summer movie preview devoid of comedy, insight or purpose, by a "personality" with none. Future updates, from any writer, could involve an "Oscar Fashion Preview" or "Dockers' Best Slacks for Sitting During Sports." They'd be both commercially successful and able to fulfill the explicit mandate of the website with none of the spirit. After all, it's a site about pop culture. No one said anybody had to analyze it thoughtfully. Grantland can just make more pop culture at you. (Look at the murderer's row of writers capable of generating content simply by wondering aloud if any is even there.)

It's an ingenious idea until you realize that it isn't entertaining. The joke about Molly Lambert's piece and this site in general is all premise and no twist. The set-up seems to be all you need: someone has an opinion about something, and it's humorous because thinking about it is. The minimum daily requirements for humor have been provided.

Evidently, Bill Simmons thinks that we're incapable of just tuning into CBS primetime if we want to see what comedy or insight looks like when it's written by people who aren't funny or thoughtful. You could use this article to illustrate a twist on an old Arthur C. Clarke line: to people like the minds behind Grantland, any observation that provokes a reflective murmur or a joke sufficiently advanced as to generate a laugh is indistinguishable from magic.

Yep, these are your writers.



116 comments:

  1. The technology quote is Clarke, actually, but otherwise you are entirely correct: Bill Simmons IS terrible, Molly Lambert IS hot, Chuck Klosterman SHOULD shoot himself and Katie Baker is too good for this shit.

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  2. I think that should be Clarke, not Asimov.

    Otherwise, excellent piece. And that Hegel analogy absolutely IS magic, by the way.

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  3. Ha! What a dumb mistake to make. Thanks, Sweep and Biggie.

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  4. Good points on Simmons and pop culture, but I wonder if you jumped the gun on the majority of your Grantland critique. There are a total of two preview articles up so far and while questioning why ESPN chose these two articles for their initial preview is valid, using this small sample size to trash the whole premise of Grantland is premature.

    Even after this preview, I find that having any expectations for this site are hard to come by. I think this is in large part to the unknown role that Simmons himself will have in providing content.
    Will he continue his 2-4 articles a month and mainly do podcasts?

    Will he abandon writing almost entirely as he has been trending towards?

    There is talent at this new site but until we see more of what it will be like, a lot of this piece comes off as 'judging a book by its cover'.

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  5. This criticism is premature, don't you think? Seems like you're condemning the movie after watching a 30-second trailer. I agree that Simmons' ESPN stuff can be juvenile and occasionally substance-free, but you're coming from a very insecure place with the non-stop assault... You could have saved us all a lot of time if you just wrote, "I'm a lot smarter, more clever and funnier than Bill Simmons and that one preview article about Summer movies proves his website, concept and execution, are going to suck." Give it a chance, man!

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  6. Rob, I appreciate where you're coming from, and I'm happy to be really really wrong about this. I'd be much happier to have more great sportswriting around to read. It's totally in my best interest to have screwed this up. That said, I think I didn't jump the gun on everything. I think the quality of Gladwell, Eggers and Klosterman is well established, so it's a pretty safe assumption that they will continue to do what they do best. The site has a confused mandate and bad design. As for the sample, it's possible the preview articles were chosen by ESPN only, but the lack of laughs or a bigger conceit in one points to some bad editorial decisions. (Who asked for it? Who said it was okay? Were there notes? Was it actually improved from something else to become this? Did they think this represented the best the site had to offer or what it aims to do?) And, I mean, come on: if there's one thing Malcolm Gladwell's sports writing has taught us it's that it's valid to make huge assumptions based on small sample size.

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  7. Not trying to harp on a small detail, but doesn't he reference the Wire consistently? I seem to remember an Avon/Stringer comparison to Westbrook/Durant.

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  8. He gave in and watched it a couple years ago. Before that there was a mailbag or two in which he told readers that he would not watch it, except maybe, possibly, down the road, and only under his own terms, and (I think) that reminding him of it would only delay his getting to it even longer. Around the same time, he said something similar about Arrested Development and pretty much said that he would never watch House. (This was before season four, when House was still doing some pretty phenomenal episodes and before it slid into repetition, craziness and story death.) In the grand scheme of things, they're not big deals, but if you kinda stake out a section of the discourse as the "pop-culture guy" it's really a poor and possibly hubristic decision to say, "Nope. Just not going to experience this critically acclaimed stuff."

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  9. Why so much venom? And must you hide behind a pseudonym? Tends to weaken the credibility of an otherwise intelligent piece.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy9NyUKcGQw

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  10. You're criticizing the site's mandate and bad design, when the site that is currently online is just a preview site, not the official website. When it actually starts up, it may be beautifully designed, with dozens of articles. We just don't know, and your critique is a ridiculously premature look at a website preview.

    Also, you load so much analysis into what Grantland is and why Bill Simmons is doing it, when there is quite a simple answer: Simmons has developed enough of a cult of personality and following that he can now be indulgent and do whatever he wants. If you had the opportunity to create your own website with a collection of your favorite writers that analyzed your favorite topics, you would do the same.

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  11. You should have gotten in a dig about Simmons saying Coen Brothers movies are for a "certain type of person".

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  12. I like Bill Simmons, although I agree with a lot of your criticisms (the one about his Everyman schtick not jiving with his Hollywood job is particularly spot-on), but I feel it necessary to point out that Simmons has actually embraced baseball sabermetrics in the past year or so (mainly to justify the 2010 Red Sox's slightly baffling roster construction, but still), which at least separates him from the kajillion other sports writers who still feel the need to wax poetic about batting average, perhaps the most convoluted statistic this side of QB rating. It's kind of sad that a well-known sports writer begrudgingly embracing the future counts as progress, but when has that ever been new?

    All that said, a very well-written piece, even regarding the stuff I don't necessarily agree with.

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  13. Well written but who cares. It's a site about sports and pop culture. Doesn't seem worth the time it took you to write this. If you don't like Simmons, don't read him.

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  14. I love this piece.

    And yet I can't help but feel like I'm just watching a civil war between a bunch of 30something white hipster writers. "I analyze basketball better than you!" "I am a more legitimate fan of pop culture than you!"

    Ultimately, it's all sound and fury, signifying nothing. But maybe that's the real thing here: If you fall into the trap of criticizing the glossy emptiness of Simmons, et al, you end up no better than Simmons, et al.

    Shit. Now I kinda sound like Klosterman.

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  15. I don't begrudge anyone their opinion and I agree with you that these articles seem done before. However, whether he falls flat on his face or not Simmons did say that his intention for this was that sports are pop-culture yet no one seems willing to write about it as such (that said I'm not sure that he succeeding based on his preview). The idea at least is interesting, if it succeeds.
    Also, Klosterman has said before that music journalism is inherently subjective so the only interesting thing to write about in music is why someone feels the way they do about the music; otherwise all they are saying is "I like this". Viewing that I think that his writing style is appropriate for the venue. For what it's worth I didn't get the same vibe from his sports writing. His Page 2 articles about the venom directed at Bode Miller and why we don't care about steroids in football but we do in baseball were much different in my opinion than the sort of music-criticism-as-acknowledged solipsism in Fargo Rock City. I liked them, anyway, and the fact that my liking them is uninteresting is a point for his argument.

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  16. You should put like 1% of this effort into writing something about sports that you would want to read, then. Funny that i've never heard of or been linked to this site until you spent thousands of words hating on a bunch of people more talented and well known than you.

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  17. freedarko sent me.

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  18. A question for the author, and anyone else for whom the name Gladwell causes the blood to boil: what do you think of him as a storyteller? Not as an Important Thinker, or constructor of airtight arguments, just as a storyteller.

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  19. Wow. Did anyone else find this incredibly smug?

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  20. looks like someone's article got linked to a bunch of people who have never read the site before. troll away trolls...

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  21. Surprised you didn't mention the C-word -- "Craggs" -- in reference to Grantland. Seems like a lot of it (their credibility, future, etc.) hinges on whether they hire him. And if they don't, well, then.

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  22. Well, this article certainly made me insecure and terrified of my decision to write things and maybe go to a liberal arts college in New York City. Mobutu, will you follow me around and tell me when my ideas are dumb? Will you protect me from the hipsters seeking to make me edgy yet socially acceptable?

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  23. Tony said...
    Why so much venom? And must you hide behind a pseudonym? Tends to weaken the credibility of an otherwise intelligent piece.

    Short answers: (1) this is fun stuff and a hobby, and I don't need it interfering with work; (2) I've had my own share of borderline violent internet stalkers. No need to go through that again on account of some goof-off writing. Naturally, I want to disagree that it saps any credibility. Pseudonymity is a pretty proud writing tradition, and unless my job is "being a really bad sportswriter" myself or something, it really shouldn't matter who I am. If I'm a grad student or attorney or audio tech or ratings analyst, the ideas still succeed or fail on an idea-by-idea basis.

    That said, I thought the video was funny.

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  24. Anonymous said...
    You're criticizing the site's mandate and bad design, when the site that is currently online is just a preview site, not the official website.

    There's not really any incentive to radically change the site design between preview and final version because that would mean they're essentially selling new readers on a visual branding that will be totally different from the *real* visual branding. It needlessly forces them to walk uphill against expectations they created and then discarded. I don't disagree that it's going to look different, but I think it would be surprising if the changes incorporate much more than some narrow upper boxes linking back to ESPN and promoting premiere content and some flanking boxes on each side of the text, linking to archives, twitter feeds, etc. The whiteish Gawker-esque color scheme and serifs are probably going to stay, because that's ridiculously popular right now.

    Also, you load so much analysis into what Grantland is and why Bill Simmons is doing it, when there is quite a simple answer: Simmons has developed enough of a cult of personality and following that he can now be indulgent and do whatever he wants.
    If that's the case, I'm not really sure that "Grantland.com: Shit Bill Simmons Thinks Is Cool" is very good marketing strategy, and obviously the Powers That Be Agreed because they came up with some pro-forma pitch about new journalism, etc. I mean, then it would come down to either my being right about taking their pitch at face value, or your being right about the real concept of the site. In which case, the pitch is disingenuous. Neither seems like a really positive conclusion.

    If you had the opportunity to create your own website with a collection of your favorite writers that analyzed your favorite topics, you would do the same.
    Oh, I hope not.

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  25. CajoleJuice said...
    You should have gotten in a dig about Simmons saying Coen Brothers movies are for a "certain type of person".

    What? Jews? Were there air quotes? I'm assuming he meant something other than, "People who like good movies."

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  26. Tony said...
    I feel it necessary to point out that Simmons has actually embraced baseball sabermetrics in the past year or so (mainly to justify the 2010 Red Sox's slightly baffling roster construction, but still)

    I remember his cherry-picking some stats over the years but discounting their efficacy in really understanding a "team" and other arguments that seemed like riffs on "The Secret" but for baseball. Can you link me the article in question? I feel like I might have missed it.

    It's kind of sad that a well-known sports writer begrudgingly embracing the future counts as progress, but when has that ever been new?
    Well, if you're right about his come-to-Jesus moment, I can't begrudge him that. So few sportswriters are willing to concede even an inch of folk wisdom to numbers, so you really have to give him credit for changing his mind.

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  27. Alex M said...
    Yet I can't help but feel like I'm just watching a civil war between a bunch of 30something white hipster writers.... Shit. Now I kinda sound like Klosterman.

    Enjoyed this entire comment. Thanks.


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  28. Greg said...
    Another really good one. Thanks. I agree with Klosterman to a point that the feelings evoked by music are so personal and the actual terms of how we experience sound so ineffable that it's often more profound to communicate them through personal narrative. But like any other tool, you can smash and misuse solipsism until it's just a kind of indistinct buzz of personal pronouns. As much as I disagree with Klosterman on many points, I concede that he's good at making himself understood. The problem is, most of the time the title of his articles indicates that he's ostensibly supposed to be writing about something else entirely.

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  29. Anonymous said...
    You should put like 1% of this effort into writing something about sports that you would want to read, then. Funny that i've never heard of or been linked to this site until you spent thousands of words hating on a bunch of people more talented and well known than you.

    I'm just going to adopt your criteria here and assume that since I don't recognize who you are, I can write off what you have to say, too.

    Unless you're that dude from 4Chan, in which case, I apologize, dude. I know you do not forget and you do not forgive. Please take my personal apology. It comes straight from the sauce.

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  30. tmac said...
    A question for the author, and anyone else for whom the name Gladwell causes the blood to boil: what do you think of him as a storyteller? Not as an Important Thinker, or constructor of airtight arguments, just as a storyteller.

    There were a couple pieces in What the Dog Saw that I really enjoyed, but I don't remember them at the moment. I mostly see his stuff as it appears in the New Yorker. He had a recent one I really enjoyed, on alcoholism and folkways and how the context of alcohol use shapes behavior in striking ways that can be just as powerful as pure chemical factors.

    Anyhow, to answer your question specifically, I think he has a really smart ear for interesting topics and ways to address them, but he's also hamstrung by the fact that what interests him is often science that he's not academically familiar with. So you get really neat ideas with a kind of hobbyist execution. Like me talking about football defenses. In many ways, he might be an even better editor or mentor of writers, because it seems like he's teeming with concepts that someone else could run with more capably, albeit maybe not as entertainingly.

    I think the biggest problem is that a lot of what makes for good storytelling is anomalous stuff, so when he goes anomaly hunting, he sets himself up for creating inchoate or unsustainable concepts. Outliers in general (the statistical concept, not the book itself) are things that resist building general theories and resist integration, so when he tries to do that, the system is going to break down a lot.

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  31. Z. said...
    Well, this article certainly made me insecure and terrified of my decision to write things and maybe go to a liberal arts college in New York City. Mobutu, will you follow me around and tell me when my ideas are dumb?

    It depends. Are you hot?

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  32. OK, that's enough mail for now. There's work to do. Also, the unpublished hate mail variations on a theme of "tl;dr, you wish you could suck simmons cock you faggot" are getting less awesome.

    Thanks to everyone else who's enjoyed it, though. (The article, not my welcoming twink mouth.)

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  33. I feel like your critique of SImmons, Gladwell, Grantland, etc., says much more about your interpretation of what pop culture should be, rather than the content Simmons is delivering. I agree with most of your points, but isn't his immense popularity a sign that "popular" culture fans want to hear what he has to say. Same for Klosterman. And Gladwell, Blame the writers if you like, and I agree with many of your points on why they are to blame, but unfortunately, they are the people's champs, and you or I or any other well informed sports fan or pop culture observer don't get a say in determining what the people want.

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  34. I agree that Simmons' pop culture world is a 25 year window that may never change (with the exceptions of starting to love the Wire, etc). I also agree he's a rather innocuous writer: that is to say, a reader in 100 years will see Bill Simmons piece and have no idea it was the work of the most-read sportswriter at ESPN.

    Still, Simmons has cultivated a large, dedicated fanbase. Yes, he got lucky growing up in Boston with season tickets to the Celtics as the franchise came back to relevance; yes, he interned at the Boston Herald; and yes, he got in on the ground level of corporate-backed blogging. But he wasn't the only one. Hundreds of people came up with a similar schtick, possibly better writing, and even corporate (or big paper) backing. He rose above them all.

    Simmons talent isn't in flowery prose or revolutionary observations: it's being that guy so many sports fans want/pretend to be. He's the guy who has 7 TV's in his office just so he can watch every game on, and ESPN Classic to boot. He's the guy who loves Vegas, even though he usually loses. He's the guy who obsesses over the history of his team (and the entire NBA) seemingly just to have friendly conversations with friends.

    Simmons does a great job of translating his obsession to fans in a conversational manner. Is he the only person who can do that? No, many bloggers did and still do appeal to the same type of writing. But surfing team-specific blogs will show you a lot of passion, a lot of content, and (hopefully) some decent writing. But Simmons has a natural blend of anecdotes, passion and knowledge to appeal to a broader audience than most blogs. Is his work deserving of a Pulitzer? No. Is it entertaining to a huge number of readers? Yes.

    I think you're spot-on with Grantland's current lack of purpose. However, I don't think it's a fatal flaw. My guess is the content will be driven by the writers (as it should be), rather than an initial purpose. It might fail, but I'd much rather see a site letting writers dictate the content (ala the major work at Esquire and some of the work at Sports Illustrated).

    Now, for the life of me I can't figure out why you seem to like Rick Reilly (or maybe you don't). His ESPN work has been dull and usually sappy. While I loved his work at SI, I stopped reading him on ESPN after I got one too many "feel good" stories that ended up saying nothing and saying it poorly. His recent story on Chris Paul and his grandfather was terrific, but the overall product lacks.

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  35. Overall, excellent.

    I enjoy BS in his written work b/c for the most part, he makes me laugh and it doesn't take any energy to comprehend.

    I am interested to see how this unfolds though as Mr Simmons is taking some risk here and lost himself slightly.

    He seems to have taken on the insulated celebrity culture of LA. His pieces on espn.com are one of the few (maybe only) that don't allow any sort of commenting. He has shown that he doesn't take well to criticism and if he devoids GL of any interaction, he is left with a pretty empty environment. Content is no longer king.

    A collection of your favorite writers and young writers in your image is a very self-centered view to take to market. Long-form journalism (regardless of perceived quality) has not been a formula for internet success.

    He isn't doing anything revolutionary, but instead trying to cash in on what has already made him a success. For the sake of his own mistaken sense of worth - I hope he has to struggle a bit.

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  36. Excellent piece of writing here. I worry, though, about criticism that sets the phasers to 'total annihilation.' I mean, damn, is Billy Boy really that atrocious? His writing is good, light entertainment with a handful of solid insights and plenty of funny quips. It's not great, certainly not historic - more like a sports monologue set to type. "Breezy" is the one-word summary I'm looking for. His pop culture stuff is pretty limited and lowbrow, though at least earnestly lowbrow and not ironically so (like so much hipster trash on the interwebs). Yet you didn't give Simmons any points, which comes off as either envy or bad analysis. Is he as amazing at his craft as his success would lead one to believe? Well no. But he's not Keanu Reeves, either.

    That said, I don't see how Grantland succeeds. From the descriptions I've heard and read, every bit of cultural ground his army of writers are planning to cover has already been staked out, and in every conceivable mix. Unless Simmons and Gladwell are planning to write north of 50% of the site's content (at least in the early stage), Grantland isn't bringing anything to the table that I don't already get from Slate, Esquire, AV Club, and Complex Magazine. (A helpful tip: the occasional perspective from someone not white, 30ish, and middle-class would do wonders in differentiating this newbie site from the herd. Alas, that's almost certainly not gonna happen.) We should give it some time, let em roll out their big guns and then start in on the deep scrutiny. Costs me nothing to bird-dog, so I'm lookin forward to it.

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  37. haters gonna hate. Free earl!

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  38. I agree with most of what you said, but the reality is that Simmons exists because there's an audience that receives him well. A huge audience that you are indirectly tearing apart as much as you are Simmons. The only reason that I support your deconstruction and criticism is that he (tries to) publicly embarrass people, too. If he didn't criticise others then I would defend him because he's not harming anyone.

    We can bitch about the idiots in congress, but we are the idiots that put them there. Just like Simmons. More power to him. Having said that, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed your article. If Simmons wrote as well you you, we wouldn't know who he was because the majority of consumers are idiots.

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  39. An entertaining read; very thoughtful. I do think
    Simmons confuses wordiness with provocative writing, and somehow considers open-ended word counts as prime factor for his success. In truth, he needs an editor just as bad as the rest of us.

    As a side note, be careful! Your word count may be high enough to land you a guest spot on Grantland.com!

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  40. Brilliant stuff. Accurate on every level.

    I read Simmons on basketball, and that's about it, and even then he's getting thin. I now ignore the out of date pop references, and I'm not sure he knows, but the personal life he's willing to share is painfully dull considering. His insecurity is suffocating. I'd love to know his feelings over his compatriot Cowherd actually getting a sitcom commissioned.

    I was also confused and disappointed by the preview pieces. The whole thing makes no sense to me at this point. His 'murderer's row' does make me embarrassed to be a fellow Gen Xer. Here you have the largest bully pulpit in sportswriting in my generation, and this is what you thought would raise the ghosts of early 70's Esquire? These are your Mailers, Wolfes et al?

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  41. I start this comment by saying that I've always been a Simmons admirer, read his stuff, listen to some of his podcasts etc. But I've always kept the dude at arms length for 3 reasons.

    1. His obsession with the NBA is very annoying. For someone like me who's a big time college basketball, football, and NFL fan, the NBA will always be a mystery too me. I avoid every single one of his articles and podcasts about the subject. Unless I want to fall asleep quickly.

    2. The guy refuses to watch The Big Lebowski for the simple fact that people have built it up so much that he's afraid it will disappoint? Sounds like something an only child would say....oh wait.....

    3. And just like refusing to watch The Dude, he also refused to watch the Wire for so long. Then jumped on the bandwagon with such a force that he broke his ankles and wrists and could only write articles for the next few years with lots of Wire references.

    In conclusion, I'll check out his new site, keep listening to a few podcasts, and read the one article he writes a month, but in the end I'm surprised people take him seriously. I mean the guy has to answer to one of the most political and maniacal bosses in the corporate world, The Mouse. Some of the things Disney does is beyond reason or common sense. I'm still surprised 30 for 30 got off the ground. Someone was asleep at Disney to let that awesome series slip through the cracks of their corporate maze.

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  42. I'm gonna try to write back to everyone who's posted above since my last response, but I'm still kinda overwhelmed by responses and other work at the moment. Just wanted to reply to Kyle about "The Mouse." I don't know if you've ever read it, but Carl Hiaasen has a hysterically scathing summary of Disney's various crimes against taste and the environment in this book:

    Team Rodent : How Disney Devours the World

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  43. i find your post quite amusing. I can see that you are a very intelligent individual, and have the gift of beautiful that I so envy. However, your tone is very condescending, and you sneer at anything not written in an uber-intelligent style, and you will stab at what you deem as "middle-brow" with your esoteric and rather witty commentary. The implication here is that sports writing isn't about the enjoyment of the average reader but rather about the teasing profound ideas into the minds of readers through elegantly crafted pieces. I both enjoy Simmons' writing, as simplistic as it can be sometimes, and the well thought out prose of people like yourself, the writer of this piece. Not to say that Simmons' columns don't provoke thought (in fact they do, I spent a lot of time mulling over the prologue and first chapter of his basketball book), but that's beside the point. This feels like the writings of someone who frequents ostentatious 5-star restaurants, and would recoil when offered a delicious rack of baby back ribs. These are the writings of someone old and bitter, who has disdain for the common public, and who would only like to live in his little world of upper class intellectuals and look down with disdain from his self made thrown at the unsophisticated peasants. Of course, people like you never really get challenged, because the others of this intellectual breed wouldn't dare attack an "esteemed colleague"- that would be rude. And nobody who you consider to be beneath you wouldn't bother dealing with your haughty arrogance and your whiny tone. So have fun taking pot shots at your "intellectual inferiors" and keep pretending your opinion is important. But it shouldn't matter what I say, I see you have your great career to hang your hat on.

    On a side, note, you, Mr. Writer, are either Charles Pierce or a Charles Pierce imitator, judging from the writing style, how exhaustingly arrogant it was, and the vendetta against Simmons that was on display.

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  44. Fun article. I like Simmons, but he's arrogant as hell, and I like seeing him taken down a peg.

    That said, did you have to write 8000 words. You couldn't cut it down to like 2000 words.

    People who write on the internet need to remember, "Brevity is the soul of wit".

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  45. Could have used a few hundred words more on Simmons' misogyny:

    http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2010/12/17/the-book-of-basketball-and-staggering-casual-sexism

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  46. Im very amused by all the criticisms of the author's criticisms. You all do know that critical pieces on various topics exist? At least address his arguments instead of simply stating, "You're a meany and condescending, do not like."

    As for the piece itself, all of it is spot on. Your ability to express my personal feelings about Billy and his writing (only at a much higher level of wit, insight and intelligence) was thoroughly enjoyable (and intimidating. Well done).

    Is it really true that writing is just a hobby for you? I hope not...

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  47. tyler said...
    I feel like your critique of SImmons, Gladwell, Grantland, etc., says much more about your interpretation of what pop culture should be, rather than the content Simmons is delivering. I agree with most of your points, but isn't his immense popularity a sign that "popular" culture fans want to hear what he has to say. Same for Klosterman. And Gladwell

    Good question. Fair question. I think my personal question comes down to: if you have the luxury of an audience already jacked-in to what you do, then don't you have a tremendous opportunity to do something other than more of the same? Unfortunately, Simmons, Klosterman and Gladwell have a strong track record and large sample size of being the same guys in the same ways, regardless of the novelty of the topic. Maybe it's unfair to expect otherwise, but again, the site has been sold as pretty high-minded and dynamic. So it's established the criteria for expecting unique stuff. It should be fair to keep waiting on that, rubbing fingers together like Alfred Molina waiting to be thrown the idol in exchange for the whip. (I do love a pop-culture reference, too.)

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  48. Matt said...
    [Lots of good stuff, and also:] But he wasn't the only one. Hundreds of people came up with a similar schtick, possibly better writing, and even corporate (or big paper) backing. He rose above them all.

    No disagreement here, but the validation of end-result determinism bugs me, as I'm sure it bugs a lot of people. Plenty of acts/politicians/concepts rise to the top because of non-teleological circumstance, and it often doesn't reflect well on the quality of them or the process of their arrival. Anyhow, this whole comment was really thoughtful and enjoyable, and I just want to say thanks for it. But, we've got one more quote:

    Now, for the life of me I can't figure out why you seem to like Rick Reilly (or maybe you don't).
    I don't. Reilly bugs the hell out of me. I only brought him up because I think that he has much more of a stylistic direct line back to Grantland Rice than anyone else supposedly on the Grantland staff. It's not a vote on Reilly either way. I think he used to be a really dedicated writer and still can turn in one or two pieces of great prose per year (almost as if he knows he needs to create award-contending content), but his maudlin and cloying human-interest formula is very tired. He got a ton of money from ESPN, which is probably why he's still pushing himself and cranking out stuff, but he seems like a really good example of one of those guys who should just take time off until he finds an idea he's crazy about and go after it. Regardless, if you're gonna go with that name for a site, isn't Reilly the guy who'd own that name more than anyone else?

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  49. Adam said...
    I hope he has to struggle a bit.

    Agreed with a lot of your post, but I thought this last sentence was really good idea. It's always fun to see people with familiar forms get unhoused a little bit, because it makes them challenge their own regular approach and question their efficacy. I think "Simmons as Simmons" can still deliver some pretty solid content when his spirit moves him, but there's definitely an impenetrable penumbra of safety around doing so. Being out on an edge and legitimately in an awkward place could generate some pretty engrossing reevaluations of how he approaches stuff. I definitely think he's got the means to do that, if he wants to. There's be no point in criticism of him if that weren't possible.

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  50. It's funny that anybody who claims to like Simmons would comment on word count. Simmons has never met a 1,000 word essay that he could publish with less than 3,000.

    I read Simmons when he was with Digital City, and stuck with him through ESPN before I quit reading him a few years ago. Chief among my disappointments were: the fact that he has experienced no growth as a writer despite nearly 2 decades of experience, that his corporate ties neutered the only truly insightful comments he seems able to provide (namely regarding ESPN and the NBA), and his thin skinned priggishness. Simmons deserves credit for helping to bring sports blogging to the mainstream, but he helped open up avenues to many bloggers who have surpassed him in insight, wit, and originality.

    I won’t begrudge anyone their choice of what they read, but I do wonder - when there’s so much content out there that’s good, why do people continue to accept the mediocre?

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  51. docjtilla said...
    Excellent piece of writing here. I worry, though, about criticism that sets the phasers to 'total annihilation.' I mean, damn, is Billy Boy really that atrocious? His writing is good, light entertainment with a handful of solid insights and plenty of funny quips.... Yet you didn't give Simmons any points, which comes off as either envy or bad analysis. Is he as amazing at his craft as his success would lead one to believe? Well no. But he's not Keanu Reeves, either.

    Nah, and this is a fair point, too, on your part. Like I kind of got at above, none of this would make any sense or be worth talking about if we were talking about someone who, to borrow a Simmons phrase, didn't have good stuff in the wheelhouse now and again. And I think you're right in that I should have conceded some points, at least from a Classic Simmons™ standpoint. In my defense, I'll say two things.

    One, the piece itself was already getting way too parenthetical and clause-dependent, trying to account for a lot of different authors and factors, visual as well as verbal presentations, name concepts and general pitch concepts. Plus, there was the need to try to qualify stuff to ward off cheap and easy dismissals: any preemptive defense of an idea bloats it. It comes down to a matter of economic choice: do you want to write more now and avoid answering angry responses later, or do you want to keep it sleeker and only increase the potential avenues for angry response? I tried to shoot for maybe 75% of warding stuff off (and look at how much the other 25% has yielded), but that meant sacrificing some stuff.

    Two, as those 25% replies have shown, there's really no shortage of support or defense for Simmons out there. He doesn't need my heaping more laurels on the dais, especially when he can enjoy the fervent defense of lots of people who identify with him as "What I Would Be Like If I Had a Column and Lots of Money." I took it as a given that he'd be presumed a big deal and sometimes a good deal in the sportswriting marketplace. But I also probably made a mistake in not trying to sandwich in, somewhere, an acknowledgment that I was a real fan for a long time. I read his pieces whenever they came out and traded favorite lines with friends. I think he can still muster the resources to bring it if pushed, and I wouldn't have known all the things I mentioned above if I hadn't been reading, voluntarily, over the years. There's no point in making these objections about someone who's always sucked. Those people have always sucked. Who cares?

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  52. Whoops, left this out from your comment:


    (A helpful tip: the occasional perspective from someone not white, 30ish, and middle-class would do wonders in differentiating this newbie site from the herd. Alas, that's almost certainly not gonna happen.)
    Oh, good God, yes and yes.

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  53. JJH said...
    As a side note, be careful! Your word count may be high enough to land you a guest spot on Grantland.com!

    There are definitely times when the volume of words is trying and not really productive, but I always appreciated that Simmons made an effort to give someone something they could start while eating a sandwich without finishing the meal halfway through. There are thousands of blogs out there where you can click on 10 updates and finish reading them before finishing a cigarette. The "here's a link and my one-sentence riff on it" is really lazy. As much as you can bust on the dude, I respect that he's always tried to give readers an engrossing experience that they can kill some time with. Now let me relate all the items in that sandwich to The OC. What? Fuck you, it's got trenchant and total staying power. People are going to read this in two years and know what I'm talking about.

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  54. Kyle said...
    The guy refuses to watch The Big Lebowski for the simple fact that people have built it up so much that he's afraid it will disappoint? Sounds like something an only child would say....oh wait.....

    Someone mentioned this on Twitter, and it's just the most mystifying thing to me. There are dozens of events and acts in our lives that are built up to be transcendent and in a way they always disappoint to some degree. Yet we walk through them or embrace them. It's a rare person who has a completely satisfying experience the first time he or she has sex, yet we persist in trying it anyway. The miracle of parenthood is accompanied by uncontrollable shitting, pissing, vaginal tearing and pain, followed by months of sleeplessness and aggravation, all of which dispel the sublimity of saying, "I am a dad/mom." Yet we push through, because we assume that things will be different for us, that we'll get it right, that it will be Downy-soft for us and filmed in soft focus and not smelly, moist, drooled, barfed and shitted into inelegance. We are wrong. But who cares? We find means to take joy in those things. It's silly to equate a Coen Brothers movie with such profound life-changing events, but it's also silly to feel captured by commentary and appreciation of a fucking movie. It's a movie. Stepping beyond others' expectations to grasp a piece of art on your own terms is a pretty simple act that demands little courage and pays an easy dividend. Have balls. It's only your life.

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  55. Anonymous said...
    i find your post quite amusing. I can see that you are a very intelligent individual, and have the gift of beautiful that I so envy.

    Thanks!

    However, your tone is very condescending, and you sneer at anything not written in an uber-intelligent style, and you will stab at what you deem as "middle-brow" with your esoteric and rather witty commentary.
    I love lots of middlebrow stuff. It's awesome. I just think it doesn't work if you're selling it as something that's not middlebrow. For instance, my favorite local sandwich place literally sells $3 pulled-pork sandwiches. If you told me they were prime rib, then you would be a jerk, and there would be a point about disparities there. This has a bearing later, but, okay, anyway.

    The implication here is that sports writing isn't about the enjoyment of the average reader but rather about the teasing profound ideas into the minds of readers through elegantly crafted pieces.
    No, the implication here is one you're reading into the text while ignoring a critical element of it. If you're talking about the high-minded aspirations of Grantland that were proffered as its selling point and the criteria on which we should engage what is has to offer, great! If you're trying to make some point about how I'm withdrawing my meerschaum pipe and making some sputtering John Houseman noise about filthy proles, you're kind of missing the point and shifting the debate onto me. I'm not an aristocrat. I own as many as two fabulous Japanese cars, one Korean television and four Chinese brides. (All of whom I married for their ability to generate income by selling crafts on eBay.)

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  56. This feels like the writings of someone who frequents ostentatious 5-star restaurants, and would recoil when offered a delicious rack of baby back ribs.
    Here's the thing with ribs: I think sauce is a cop-out. I also thing rubs just overwhelm that shit and mute the meat. I'm a big fan of the couple-day brine and then a basic smoking, preferably oak, over about five or six hours. You get a little glaze-y character on the outside of the ribs, plus some crispness from cooking them in their own fat, but you cook out a lot of the fat and leave moist meat there. Key for me is not overwhelming them. Sauce just smothers what you've done, while rub is always the same stuff, right? Cumin, garlic, pepper, maybe some lemon, chili powder, etc. Marinade lets you play around with the underneath flavor, while still guaranteeing the smokiness on top. But whatever, I lost your point because I'm trying to reduce the puffiness on my eyes with raw medallions of chateaubriand.

    These are the writings of someone old and bitter, who has disdain for the common public, and who would only like to live in his little world of upper class intellectuals and look down with disdain from his self made thrown at the unsophisticated peasants.
    Bill Simmons is both older and much richer than I am. Also, you are an idiot.

    Of course, people like you never really get challenged, because the others of this intellectual breed wouldn't dare attack an "esteemed colleague"- that would be rude.
    You've got them pegged, whoever they are. Smart old rich people: part of a fucking gang.

    And nobody who you consider to be beneath you wouldn't bother dealing with your haughty arrogance and your whiny tone. So have fun taking pot shots at your "intellectual inferiors" and keep pretending your opinion is important. But it shouldn't matter what I say, I see you have your great career to hang your hat on.

On a side, note, you, Mr. Writer, are either Charles Pierce or a Charles Pierce imitator, judging from the writing style, how exhaustingly arrogant it was, and the vendetta against Simmons that was on display.
    Hahaha, I found out who Charles Pierce was about five months ago, I guess.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your bit about how condescending douchebags who think they're better than "their inferiors" are really bad. It got way more fun when you implied that I was unimportant, as was my career, and that I was inferior because of stuff I did, or things you think. I would just hotlink a Dictionary.com definition of "irony" here, but I assume you know what that means, since you're, like, a way better person and everything.

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  57. I think Bill Simmons is successful because he is a genius... just not the kind of genius that you would recognize - OBVIOUSLY. Ok, I don't think he is actually a genius, but he is pretty smart in his particular way. Simmons isn't someone consuming high minded literature, crafting beautiful metaphors, or constructing an elegant turn of phrase. His genius lies in putting different ideas together that nobody else would think was worth talking about. He can write a column about 90210 that is infinitely more entertaining than the actual show ever was.

    Gladwell is similar, and as a scientist I'm really baffled by the criticism that he gets his science wrong. So what! I guarantee you 98% of our current scientific understanding is wrong. So people rip him for not fully understanding and conforming to something that is probably already wrong we just don't know it yet.

    What Simmons and Gladwell both do is make you think, they put together ideas that nobody else puts together, formulate interesting connections and challenge perceptions. So what if they are wrong about particular details? It's easy to get lost in the weeds, especially in science, and it can keep you from seeing important connections.

    btw: if you removed all of the sentences that basically restate the same idea: Simmons is middlebrow and intellectually shallow, and so is his new website. I think you would end up with a much shorter, more concise piece. It certainly would sound less bitter.

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  58. Paul said...
    I think Bill Simmons is successful because he is a genius... just not the kind of genius that you would recognize - OBVIOUSLY.

    Bill Simmons is a genius, but stealthily. That's creeper genius, yo.

    Ok, I don't think he is actually a genius
    Cool. He's one of those things where a guy is something really awesome, apart from all the criteria where he literally isn't that. Like how Peyton Manning is a surgeon on the field, except for the fact that he's actually just a guy who throws a football, and if he performed a surgery it would count as an atrocity. Just making sure we're operating on this serious level.

    but he is pretty smart in his particular way.
    People say this about dogs. To drop an eighties reference, I'm pretty sure this is the rationale Roscoe P. Coltrane used to keep Flash in the backseat. I'm also pretty sure Flash snuffled out some bad guys once or twice with his bigass snout and scent-kicking ears. Being good at what you should be good at doing: that's one genius motherfucking dog.

    Simmons isn't someone consuming high minded literature, crafting beautiful metaphors, or constructing an elegant turn of phrase.
    Agreed. He's unsuited to run a website about really sociologically, politically or psychologically incisive long-form journalism, subtly-crafted points or non-clumsy profiling insight. Wait, that wasn't your point? Well, fuck.

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  59. Simmons used to be a distraction - an opportunity to read something interesting while on the crapper (circa 2000-2005) - and how he rose to such prominence and celebrity is more a testament to our culture than his actual ability. His best days/writing are behind him ... there is the all-too-common inverse relationship between the quality of his work and his mainstream appeal (I don't think he's written anything worthwhile in years). But as he has spread himself incredibly thin over the years, his popularity has skyrocketed. And unfortunately for the man, style has trumped substance. His writings have become progressively tiresome re-treads and anything "new" has this pretentious "Simmons Stamp of Approval" stench to it. I remember him spending a month or so years back writing quite a bit about "adopting" an EPL soccer team (Simmons gets soccer!). Never amounted to much of anything ... but he just wanted to show his fans how smart and cool he was.

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  60. His genius
    Oh, and there we are again.


    lies in putting different ideas together that nobody else would think was worth talking about. He can write a column about 90210 that is infinitely more entertaining than the actual show ever was.
    Do you know what the expression "damning with faint praise" means? In sudden real-life terms, it means that paying a bum to eat baked beans with a huge spoon while dancing and shitting is infinitely more entertaining than 90210 ever was. The only difference is that Bill Simmons watched, like, a fucking decade of the non-bean-shit-dancing version of 40-year-old C-listers fumbling through words. But, you know, he's a genius. He saw something there.


    Gladwell is similar, and as a scientist I'm really baffled by the criticism that he gets his science wrong. So what!
    Agreed. When it comes to science and getting it wrong: so what? It's only science, and they're only facts. Fuck 'em. Dude's probably a genius.


    I guarantee you 98% of our current scientific understanding is wrong.
    "As a scientist who doesn't give a shit if things are wrong, I can tell you emphatically: wrong is good, since wrong happens. Two wrongs probably make a right. I haven't done the numbers, since science is wrong, but that's probably a good idea. Things are wrong all the time. In fact, get more things wrong. It makes the wrong stuff more... something. I'm sorry, I trailed off. I was thinking about something that a genius said about a dating show aimed at high schoolers and how it related to tackling."


    So people rip him for not fully understanding and conforming to something that is probably already wrong we just don't know it yet.
    People rip him for not knowing what he's talking about and thinking he's right because he doesn't like and handwaves away empirical data. I'm sorry that this is also your problem.

    What Simmons and Gladwell both do is make you think, they put together ideas that nobody else puts together
    Ordinarily I'd make a joke here about how you must have spent college in a lab and never once picked up a bong and had a ridiculously obvious conversation like, "What if we picked members of [TV show] to represent parts of the periodic table of elements" or "What if we picked members of [TV show] to represent sports teams pissing us off?" But that would normally apply to someone who liked science and enjoyed it and appreciated that numbers sometimes have to be the same on opposite sides of the equals sign and who also spent time in the advanced Supercolliding Lab of Shit That Is True and You Can't Just Idly Dismiss to Make a Facile Point.


    formulate interesting connections and challenge perceptions. So what if they are wrong about particular details?
    Yeah, fuck it. Who cares if it's wrong or insignificant? You're only a scientist. Whatever.


    It's easy to get lost in the weeds, especially in science, and it can keep you from seeing important connections.
    Like how someone from Survivor is like someone from a sports team. Way to sell out your entire discipline for the big ideas.
    

btw: if you removed all of the sentences that basically restate the same idea: Simmons is middlebrow and intellectually shallow, and so is his new website. I think you would end up with a much shorter, more concise piece. It certainly would sound less bitter.
    Next time skip the bog-standard "you must be like the thing you're damning" observation and try learning the scientific method again.

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  61. you take yourself way too seriously and Simmons doesn't, as easily evidenced by him always joking about his articles being for lavatories and your handle on this blog...fyi, I coulde've easily used restrooms or shitters in my post, but in the spirit of your article went with lavatories...otherwise not a bad roast

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  62. Don't be insensitive to the interests of the site you're clicking-through and winding up on. Use your head. Understand your environment. I tell everyone to read this blog for Hitler. Jerk.

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  63. oh don't be so sensitive, Mobutu, you got me to read at least one article on here and I wouldn't read this blog with Stevie Wonder's eyes

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  64. Can you confirm the rumor that the David Foster Wallace suicide was actually a setup and that he is now cruising the interweb semi-anonymously as an African dictator, composing takedowns of hacks and psudo journalists?

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  65. I stopped reading Simmons a while back but I do find his podcasts relatively amusing.

    So without much to add I will leave you with this... try high heat (think around 285) for about 4 hours and a mix of hickory and apple. You can thank in your next tome.

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  66. Can you confirm the rumor that the David Foster Wallace suicide was actually a setup and that he is now cruising the interweb semi-anonymously as an African dictator, composing takedowns of hacks and pseudo-journalists?

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  67. This writing is so goddamn good I'm reconsidering ever writing anything again. I understand why you've chose to write under a pseudonym but the stuff I've read by you and a few other bloggers (not sure if you're familiar with Run of Play) just blows my mind. Write a book or something.

    What amazes me is that you do this for fun. The stuff you write for fun dwarfs anything I've read save for a select few pieces. I'm not trying to blow smoke up your ass or inflate your ego. You don't need it. But I felt the need to express my awe at your writing. It's just excellent.

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  68. @ docjtilla

    The problem is that Simmons doesn't have a craft. Little nodules of self-promotion embedded in the nooks and crannies of his early columns have metastasized into the thesis of his entire career, watermarked on every page he writes: BILL SIMMONS WROTE THIS.

    Weekly discussions of NFL point spreads are framed by his preemptive praise for his own prowess as a sharp. A baseball-metrics column is entitled "Finally Aboard the Sabermetrics Revolution," as if 300 words on Simmons Sr.'s skepticism of OPS+ constitutes a desperately awaited coup for FanGraphs. Today's piece on Phil Jackson is positively rhinestoned with eyeroll-inducing cliches like...

    Coaching isn't just about calling plays, riding the officials and figuring out strategies. Really, it's management more than anything else. You manage people. Jackson managed people better than anyone.

    ...while pretending that such inanities are actually Deep Truths mined from (as the piece never once fails to remind us) an interview that Simmons conducted with Phil in an El Segundo restaurant.

    This is not craft. This is the worst of blogging: an abrogation of the significance of people and places and events save their significance to the writer himself. It's why we got a whole book about the 2004 Red Sox and not a single postmortem word about the 2010 NBA Finals--as if Simmons felt he could augment the magnitude of the former and efface that of the latter through the gift or denial of a few keystrokes. His writing is nihilism and narcissism all at once: I'll tell you what's important. This is man become brand, determiner of worlds.

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  69. What I got from this article is that this website run by the man who is the face of the most obnoxious sports fans in America is just a glorified Maxim clone. Kinda makes sense when you think about it, considering that his shitty articles pander to your average sports fan's ignorance.

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  70. Thank God other people feel the same way I do about Klosterman. You'll learn more about culture from one David Foster Wallace footnote than you will from Klosterman's complete works.

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  71. WTF dude? You post and then delete my two posts?? ANd they both were openly admiring.....fucking weird man. Way to make an admirer think you're a dickhead.

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  72. From Here

    Since early morning yesterday, Blogger's suffered significant site problems, which has eliminated posts and post comments, caused account information to go missing and to change the names of post authors, often to random gibberish. It's made navigation difficult and shutdown reply functions.


    I haven't deleted anything from anybody.

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  73. Also, just as a follow-up, in addition to claiming some of your comments, 500 words (and graphics) for another piece, and a published piece, that blogger screw-up also claimed about 8-10 replies I made to your comments.

    It might be possible for me to rescue some of the "publish" pages and reprint stuff. But that's going to take a little while. I've been holding off on making any more comments here until I have a chance to try to fix some stuff. So to those who commented recently: you're not being ignored. Thanks for the comments.

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  74. so simmons best writing is behind him, i believe he has intimated as much. what would you like him to do? retire? I don't get the criticism of the unpublished website. he went out and hired a stable of writers, pretty good ones i think. the writers will be better than ESPN.com, for sure.sports/culture websites are moving in the right direction. what's the problem with that? there are millions of websites, one more has got you all fired up? at least its a genuine effort.

    one more thing, molly lambert is exceptionally good. give her a chance. i used to read her, as well as Katie Baker, (thisrecording and Deadspin) and was really excited when they were hired for this.
    all this leading up to my main question: who the hell do you read? who is good enough or smart enough? I'm genuinely interested. maybe I will find some new people to follow from you and elevate my reading material. I just hope like you, i don't start shitting on everyone else.

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  75. seems like the writer was just itching to take on simmons. a fair commentary would have actually evaluated grantland after it's debuted. this article just seems like axe-grinding.

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  76. Not to forget Simmons' VOICE: You can see the oily pimples and hornrimmed glasses in the omniscient mumble.

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  77. Well I'm glad I didn't bother going through the rigamarole of commenting since it probably just would have been lost anyway.

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  78. Grantland needed a good old-fashioned takedown, and you make a number of great points, but you often do it in a manner as pretentious as Simmons and Klosterman ever though about being (memo to commenters: using words like "superannuated" doesn't make a piece well-written). The whole thing reads like a hypocritical expression of your own jealousy as much as anything else.

    Btw, you have the statistical story backwards: Simmons embraced baseball stats (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/100402), but denies them in basketball because he can't comprehend how they fit in with Isiah Thomas's "Secret".

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  79. You write a 3,500 word diatribe about Simmons; yet your awkward writing style lost me after the first three paragraphs.

    I agree Simmons has flaws, but he is very good at what he does; his seven figure contract and legions of followers is evidence of this.

    Your column reeks of 'why him? I can write just as well', and yet, he's the one with a sizable chunk of the world's largest sports network's webpage devoted to him.

    I'm guessing you're one of those guys with 3,000 posts on sotg.com complaining about Simmons, yet you read/listen to EVERYTHING he produces just so you can bitch about how rubbish he is these days. Sounds like jealousy to me.

    Yep, this is your reader.

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  80. it's pretty pathetic that the only criticisms people have had of this article is that "you're just jealous" and "you used too many big words."

    yeah, the guy's had a blog for 3 years making zero mention of Simmons, yet he was just saving up all his pent-up jealousy and anger for one epic takedown. that's really the best you people can come up with?

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  81. Congratulations on being the first person today to make the bog-standard internet dismissal argument of "you're just jealous" coupled with the reductive and worthless sister argument that "more money/more fans = better than." These are, at their very best, speculative wishful-thinking fallacies that look past existing words and evidence to embrace whatever the speaker needs to be true in his imagination, because trifling things like "facts" sure as fuck do not.

    For instance, it works just as easily the other way, and I doubt you (or anyone else trading in this ridiculous logical trash) would particularly like it. For instance:

    Sounds like you really want Bill Simmons to notice you. You love him so much that you honestly think it's a worthwhile expense of time to fight internet battles on behalf of a millionaire famous guy utterly unaware of your existence. You're only saying these things to me so you can send a link to this comment to Bill Simmons' email so one day you can maybe, possibly be friends in real life.

    Because that's what really eats at you: my writing this piece probably got his attention. It sure got other sportswriters' attention. Famous people who sit in front of keyboards and wear khaki pants — famous people you also probably want to notice you. This piece was mentioned on the most important website in America: Twitter. I bet you're incredibly jealous of that. Look at my works, ye Anonymous, and despair.


    See? It's just that easy! And stupid.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to being jealous of Glee, the Transformers movies, Newsweek, racism, Mitch McConnell's ability to look like a turtle, the guy who writes those shitty (bestselling) Dexter novels, Joe Buck's ability to cash checks from Budweiser by pimping his own dead father, the New York Yankees (everyone's jealous of them: kiss the rings, bitches), Thomas Sowell, Jim Butcher, getting kicked in the dick, termites, Seth MacFarlane, arthritis, Kevin Smith and comments like yours — which are making me so mad because I must be jealous of them, too.

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  82. Bill Simmons looks like comedian Rev. Bob Levy in that photo, LOL

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  83. Apologies for the lateness of this post, but here is the article where Simmons finally hops on the sabermetrics train:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/100402

    Again, it's funny to read in retrospect given how the BoSox's 2010 went, but I think he deserves credit for being able to say "hey, my generation didn't get it right, there are better ways of looking at these things today", even while he pats himself on the back for it (as a commenter noted above). Given our culture's usual trend for head-up-ass nostalgia (which I freely cop to myself; bring back "The State", MTV!), that's kind of nice.

    I also notice that he avoids any of the jerkoffy "Secret" stuff you asked about, although that's probably because that's a much harder argument to make about baseball. As any number of 1970s teams have proven, it is a lot easier to hate your teammates in baseball and win anyway than in most other sports.

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  84. A quick observation: when Simmons provided the impetus for The Assassination of Rick Reilly, something virtually unthinkable 15 years ago, he mobilized the coup by casting Reilly's more emotional, nostalgic turns as disingenuous tugs at the heartstrings. The wisecracks were Real Sports Writing for Real People; anything wistful was filler at best, and pandering at worst. Watching Simmons now, as he sews altruistic appendages onto a body of work naturally inclined toward rejecting them, is equal parts sad and just plain creepy.

    In any case, thank you for your well-structured and beautifully executed critique.

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  85. If you think Bill Simmons doesn't get pop culture you're either ignorant or an idiot. The man is more popular with young men than anybody else in the world.

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  86. Yes, Brian, that's what I said. Bill Simmons is lucky to have someone able to just knife through words and cleanly stab at an idea like this as one of his readers.

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  87. Way to miss the friggen point, slowBute. He's more popular with young men than anybody else in the world. That totally means he gets pop culture. Do the friggen math. It's the same way we know Taco Bell is the greatest restaurant on the fucking planet.

    Idiot fucker bitch.

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  88. Phew, thanks for the catch, homie. I totally overlooked the young men factor. That's pretty much the length and breadth of pop culture right there. I actually just tried to drive to Sephora in my rented teal sport coupe (thanks, Avis!) while listening to Django Reinhardt on my iPod, but the 'Pod said, "File not found"; my car is gone, and the phone book says the store I was thinking about doesn't exist.

    Guess I'll just have to sit in the hotel room and play canasta with my three-year-old while we watch Foyle's War on BBC America. Unless I take him to the beach so he can paint watercolors of the shoreline. Indeed, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing me that Raffi exists.

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  89. Pretty much everyone providing the link to Simmons accepting sabermetrics seems to miss the point. The point is that after _years_ of shitting on stats, Simmons is here to tell you that It's Finally OK To Accept Stats because Simmons, arbiter of all, has decided to do so, apparently because something someone used to beat The Great Bill Simmons at fantasy sports, it must actually be worth paying attention to.

    (Aside: too many people seem to miss that the entire column emanates from an assumption that Bill is Infallible, to use his Put Important Shit In Initial Caps device. That's why every year in which he makes poor NFL picks we get an article about how "Crazy!!!" the NFL season has been this year. Because, you know, it's the NFL, not Bill. Those columns are curiously absent from his good years.)

    Anyway, back to my point: nothing changed in sabermetrics from the years Simmons spent casually disparaging stats to his acceptance. Well, no, actually, a lot changed--stats and thinking were refined--but the notion that sabermetrics had something to offer beyond facile Cheetos-in-the-basement jokes didn't. What changed was that Simmons realized how much of a schmuck he must had sounded like for years and found a gimmick to put curtains on his evolution. (I look forward to how the troubles of John Lackey force his hand into a viewing of Lebowski.)

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  90. Nice article. I would have guessed you were Rick Reilly because of your blatant hatred for Simmons but there is no way he could string together a beautifully written piece like this. Admittedly, Simmons couldn't either. However, isn't it a little hypocritical to accuse Simmons of dumbing down everything when you dismiss the work of two of America's most successful contemporary writers in a couple of paragraphs. I would go so far as to say you wadded multi-faceted concepts into gut-level inanity :).

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  91. I followed a link from a recent entry in Tom Scocca's now-defunct blog over at Slate and I'm glad I did. Your piece left me with a lot to think about. As it looks like you're still returning to make posts of your own, I thought I'd pass this on in case you hadn't seen it; it's from the NYT's profile on Simmons launching Grantland ("Can Bill Simmons Win the Big One?" by Jonathan Mahler") and it explains he didn't actually pick the name of the site but rather "higher-ups at ESPN" did:

    "Given their dynamic, it’s hard not to wonder how the relationship between Simmons and ESPN will play out at Grantland. The site will be a separate publication, with Simmons in editorial control. Ultimately, though, it’s owned by ESPN, and the parent company has already made its presence known, choosing the site’s name, which Simmons is less than enthusiastic about. He worries that it sounds pretentious, he told me, but the higher-ups at ESPN 'loved it, and they’ve been so supportive of the site. You’ve got to pick your battles.'”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/magazine/can-bill-simmons-win-the-big-one.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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  92. Why do people insist on believing that "[some self-important brainded asshole] is really popular" constitutes an unassailable argument for said braindead asshole's talent and importance?

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  93. Fantastic write-up, but Nathan Rabin is bald.

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  94. I'm going to start reading Mr. Destructo now, so there's that.

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  95. Great piece! It's more than that actually. It was both thought-provoking and funny. It's not good for my confidence to read stuff as good as this on an anonymous blog. The way you effortlessly parody and deconstruct all those writers was so spot on it made me laugh.

    I really like some of Klosterman's books although I've realized the last couple of years it's not hip to do so and his latest book wasn't very good or structured even. I think the reason I like Klosterman is that he was the first writer I came across who analyzed pop-culture in an intellectual (to me) way, using pop-cultural references I know while being funny at the same time. Also growing up listening to hair metal and still loving and being fascinated by Guns n' Roses helps in appreciating Klosterman. I'm sure there are better writers and predecessors to Klosterman that are more thought-provoking and original, but a lot of the things spoke to me in those first books of his. This is not a defence of him, just an explanation why I like his writing. As we're working with small sample-sizes here that might also be true for all of his readers. Listening to Simmons talking to Klosterman on his podcast it's also quite clear that Klosterman has a lot more interesting things to say than Simmons on sports and pop-culture. I have not read that much of Simmons so that might be faint praise.

    From reading your responses above it's like you're calling out Simmons to do something more brave and not primarily think about his career and pay-check? Maybe this is a (pragmatic) choice most of us struggle with, maybe even you who write this on the side? If you wrote a book on an even remotely interesting subject, I'd like to read it.

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  96. Why can't I find an intelligent writer that doesn't hate everything in the world including himself? I enjoy the writing on this blog, but your inability to accept flaws within others (and therefore yourself) has led to a huge profile in which you tear down people with similar writing chops that are trying to provoke advanced thought.

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  97. lmao

    Why can't I find an intelligent writer that doesn't hate everything in the world including himself?
    Perhaps there's a problem you have yet to confront and accept within yourself?

    I'm also really enjoying the characterization of sex, drugs, Cocoa Puffs, comforting "you're just so wonderful being you!" business-seminar non-science and a sports homer luxuriating in a world transformed into his personal mancave as "advanced thought.

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  98. Arrgh, forgot to close that quotation mark. Goddamn, I hate myself.

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  99. Who is Mr. Destucto and why is he so convinced that he is smart and his opinion matters? After all, nothing is so easy as tearing down the work of others in a snarky, snobby manner. Pretty weak if you ask me, which you didn't....and I'm not that smart.

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  100. What the fuck is wrong with you geeks? It's a website from ESPN about sports, for crissakes. If you like him, read him. If not, don't. Do you really think Simmons is some nefarious ne'er do well, trying to undermine the very fabric of sportswriting in America? He's writing about shit he likes about sports in what he thinks is an entertaining way. Alot of people like it. I'm one of them. Sometimes he writes something I think is stupid. Guess what, I stop reading and go back to real life. You guys are a buncha fucking losers.

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  101. Guy who thinks people who write criticisms online about writing they don't like are losers makes critical post on the internet about writing he doesn't like.

    And, after sports and the weather, we'll have our K-RON special investigator Rhona Merill define irony.

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  102. wow...... you like big words huh?

    haters gonna hate

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  103. Not only did I love the article, I loved your FJM-style takedown of stupid comments. I'd like to tell you that I'm going to be reading your blog in the future, but honestly I might be too lazy for that. Thanks though.

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  104. Ha ha. I sort of like Simmons' columns - well, they got tired like four years ago, but sometimes they still work. All the same, the second I saw Grantland I was filled with ire. You touch on many of the reasons why.

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  105. i enjoyed the post, and i suppose i'll be reading a few others in the days ahead. two quick comments:

    goodgadamighty, WHY do so many people use the word "snarky"? i've never read a word of klosterman or eggers, but if they're the ones responsible for popularizing it, i'ma hunt 'em down, ghost and the darkness-style.

    even if grantland sucks and simmons has more than a few stylistic/personality flaws, at least one of the first articles has to be about the heat losing! not all is wrong in the world.

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  106. Ok, despite my attempts to read all of your responses I'm already behind on deadlines (and feeling like basically the Yuniesky Betancourt of a&e journalism after reading your evisceration of BS and therefore probably need to work a little harder to fend off the self-loathing, ANYWAYS) and after spending an hour on your stupid blog need to get back to work, so I scrolled down about halfway through. But!
    Thanks for making me think with the takedown - my only criticism of it is, to get all coen bros meta, "no you're not wrong [Mobutu Sese Seko], you're just an asshole." Which is no criticism at all really - it's just somewhat painful to watch someone righteously murder your older brother who, despite his flaws, you totally wanted to be like. Which is to say, as someone who fell in love with sports and online writing at the same late teens time through Simmons columns, it's sad to look at myself and realize just what I've been shoveling in my mouth all this time. My only problem with your writing/some of Shoals thinkier-pieces/etc. is that they make me realize I'm just barely smart enough to want better than Disney-funded pabulum but probably too late in life to repair the damage done by fantasy novels, drugs, years of functional illiteracy (outside of assigned reading) et. al. and actually engage on a higher intellectual level. I really love Infinite Jest which probably tells you all you need to know. That said, I DID enjoy it - A+ prose, well constructed, thought it almost never meandered despite the length and clearly came from passionate belief. How the fuck do you find time to write shit like this? It boggles the mind.
    Second: Thank you for making me laugh in the comments section, for the most part.

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  107. Oh, just realized - the "it" in "That said, I DID enjoy it" refers to this blog post, not IJ, obviously.

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  108. This was an awesome read.

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  109. Great read.

    I've always felt Simmons is the Carlos Mencia of sports writing.

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  110. You've always had a reputation as a vicious, murdering bastard as your butchery of Molly Lambert proves. I have a tendency in my dotage to frequently visit the land of nod especially when slogging through megabytes of inanities; so perhaps I missed it but I find queer that not one responder defended the comely hussy.

    As for Bill, well I listened to a podcast today when he seemed to consider himself on a par with Hunter Thompson, harumpf. I guess he had it coming.
    BR

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  111. I came to sight to read about Josh Leuke, which was sad. But this article made me happy.

    Thanks.

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  112. Oh, hey, you're welcome, Anon. That Lueke stuff is such a total downer.

    Anyhow, every time I get a new notification that a post has been made on here, I just assume that I'm about to go through the same really un-fun arguments that have been hashed out again and again. I think after seven months, this topic's been given a fair shake for response, and we can just put it away.

    Thanks to everybody who had something nice to say. It was really nice to read them, especially considering the volume of comments that went rejected just because of their sheer violent abuse (plus backlink to someone's web space—for cred!).

    For the Simmons fans, I genuinely hope you enjoy Grantland and that it's introduced you to new writers you might not have heard of. Please feel free to try reading some other piece on this site. If you don't enjoy another writer entirely, there's a good chance I've made fun of something you dislike.

    Cheers.

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