I think you can make a pretty good case that Bill Simmons changed sports journalism. Sure, there have been plenty of authors out there who have written books with more journalistic cred than “Now I Can Die in Peace” but you can’t tell me there aren’t a whole legion of bloggers, journalists and assorted columnists who wouldn’t kill to have a following like ESPN’s The Sports Guy. Week after week for the past four-ish years Simmons has turned out (almost without fail) at least 2 columns per week for ESPN, as well as assorted chats and mailbags. That may be coming to a close.
About six months ago Simmons posted a note saying he was going to cut back to only one article every week so he could work on his new book, a stomach-punch moment for those of us trapped at work for 8+ hours per day with nothing better to do than pray for an unannounced Sports Guy chat. After looking at his emails to Deadspin it sounds like he may be about ready to pull the plug on Page 2; his most recent article is actually posted here, on his own blog.
Could ESPN let him walk? This isn’t some middling columnist, this is Bill Freaking Simmons. The guy who gave us Mount Rapmore. The guy who gave us The Annual NBA Trade Value column. I mean, this is the guy who gave us The Vengeance Scale, which offered such gems as:
“Onto the Vengeance Scale, from 0.0 (least vengeful) to 10.0 (most vengeful). And remember, the whole reason we’re doing this is to figure out where Angry Shaq fits in. Anyway …
0.0 — Rocky Balboa beating up Tommy Gunn.
(Note: This was disqualified because “Rocky 5″ never happened.)
0.1 — O.J. Simpson’s valiant attempt to find the “real killers.”
3.7 — Babe Ruth vowing revenge against the Red Sox (possibly apocryphal).3.8 — Piazza tipping off all of Clemens’ pitches in the 2004 All-Star game (possibly apocryphal).
3.9 — Babe Ruth’s ghost sending Pedro to the DL in 2001, just days after Pedro’s “Wake up the damn Bambino and have him face me — maybe I’ll drill him in the ass” comment (possibly apocryphal).
4.0 — Daniel LaRusso somehow toppling all of Cobra Kai in one karate tournament (possibly apocryphal).
6.9 — Mel Gibson in every “Lethal Weapon” movie … George Brett charging the umpire during the Pine Tar Game … Forrest Whitaker’s first football game after his car was trashed (from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”).
8.2 — Andy Dufresne escaping from Shawshank through a sewage pipe, setting up the Warden and Hadley on his way out, then escaping to Mexico.
(Reader Red explains: “Andy crawled to freedom through 500 yards of s— -smelling foulness I can’t even imagine. Or maybe I just don’t want to. 500 yards. That’s the length of five football fields. Just shy of half a mile . . . when I think of him heading south in his own car with the top down, it always makes me laugh. Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of s— and came out clean on the other side. Andy Dufresne, headed for the Pacific.”)”
And roughly 10,000 other columns. Yes, he writes about the NBA too much. Yes, he is an unabashed Boston homer and thinks KG should have been the MVP this year. Yes, he makes too many pop culture references to Road Rules & Real World (who watches MTV over the age of 16?) but he has been the most reliable good read out there, bar none. He has launched armies of impersonators but nobody has done what he does better.