The Bill Simmons firing

I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote yesterday that we should give Roger Goodell a break. Of course, I only meant it in one very specific context – that the Brady punishment (which was, technically, meted out by Troy Vincent) should not be compared to the initial Ray Rice suspension.

A more appropriate point of comparison, raised by some yesterday, is that the four games Brady received is the standard initial suspension for violating the league’s drug policy with respect to PEDs. Though I don’t personally share the general hysteria over PED use, it’s an apposite comparison because PEDs, of course, relate to the integrity of the on-field competition. Clearly, Brady and the Patriots paid as much for insufficient cooperation as they did for the “crime” itself (and, I am convinced, because the NFL does not believe the Colts game was the only time the Patriots had balls doctored).  In any event, it seems plausible that, upon appeal, Brady will be forced to sit for two games, not four.

The big sports media story this past week was, of course, ESPN’s decision not to renew the contract of Bill Simmons. Last year, Sports Illustrated media guru Richard Dietsch rated Simmons the most influential member of that media. In that regard, it’s been a precipitous fall from grace for the former bartender turned multi-platform superstar.

There’s been a ton of commentary on the split since Friday, so I won’t belabor that (Here’s James Andrew Miller, who co-authored the definitive history of ESPN, on how we got to this point).

Just a couple of points:

1) I have long been struck by how petty and trivial have been the various flashpoints in Simmons’ relationship with ESPN. The most consequential of those have been when Simmons has said mean things about Roger Goodell (with last Thursday’s appearance on the Dan Patrick Show apparently being the last straw). That such outbursts got Simmons suspended by the network is itself a damning indictment of ESPN. But I am not sure there was any larger principle in Simmons’ own behavior than a belief that he should be able to just say whatever he wants because he’s Bill Simmons.

Simmons has also clashed with others at the Mother Ship, including Mike and Mike, when he responded in absurdly over-the-top terms to some criticism Mike Golic directed at him for comments Simmons made about LeBron at the beginning of the current season.

Simmons has, in sum, also been at the center of media controversies that amount to very little, but for the fact that they involve Bill Simmons.

2) Deadspin dug up excerpts from the Boston Sports Guy column that first brought Simmons to the attention of the Bristol folks. In it, Simmons provided very snarky live-blogging of the 1999 ESPY awards, replete with jokes about lesbians, women who look like men and people’s weight problems.

It doesn’t cover ESPN nor their vaunted values and standards in glory that this is the piece that put Simmons on their radar.

3) As Kevin Draper rightly pointed out, Simmons is an outstanding interviewer. His podcasts feature great guests, are highly substantive and would merit their own franchise.

Simmons has also had inspired moments as a writer. His Worst GMs summit column, written in 2005, is a stroke of genius.

He’ll land on his feet.


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