Bill Simmons: Valuing Trades More Than Friendships

tbb345

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I guess I disagree that the notion that Bill's popularity is tied to him being in the same tax bracket as his listeners. What originally made Simmons interesting, imo, was that he was a "real fan" and wrote passionately and openly about his favorite teams. Bill doesn't need to have a connection with blue-collar working stiffs, he needs to have a connection with the typical sports fan that has opinions colored by the interests of their favorite teams, and often times are controversial or flat out wrong. Him selling The Ringer for $200 million doesn't necessarily change that, he has been rich and famous for a long time.

This has come up before, I think like 5-6 years ago Bill mentioned that he was in a massive line at Starbucks and said he would be willing to pay a ton of money each month to allow him to cut the line at Starbucks to get his coffee immediately, and SoSH had a big litigation about what Bill actually meant by that and how this was a sign that Bill was losing his connection with the common sports fan because he could afford to Fast Pass his way through a coffee line.

Parent Corner is awesome btw and my favorite part of Guess The Lines pod.
It was more than that. It was being the “common fan” yes, but it was also being the smartest person in that category while being able to converse with the dumbest “common fan”.

He lost all of that 5-6 years ago (maybe more honestly). He’s no longer the among the smart common fans but continuously carries himself like he’s the smartest guy in the room. I mean his NFL knowledge is fucking comically low but he still constantly says he’s in “the top 5% of NFL fans on knowledge”. I’ll never forget that he didn’t know Lovie Smith got fired into the preseason and acted like it’s a common misconception and not his fucking job.

Honestly, I don’t see the appeal to him right now at all, other than people who liked him before and don’t want to adapt. He’s not knowledgeable, not funny, not quick on his feet and relies on bullying people to agree with his points. The guy went from being my hero to someone i actively avoid in about 15 years.

BTW, I also liked parent corner. Mostly because I think Cousin Sal is hilarious and I always enjoy him pretending to go along with Bill’a half assed idea
 

PC Drunken Friar

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Honestly, I don’t see the appeal to him right now at all, other than people who liked him before and don’t want to adapt. He’s not knowledgeable, not funny, not quick on his feet and relies on bullying people to agree with his points. The guy went from being my hero to someone i actively avoid in about 15 years.
How has he not adapted? He may be the most successful podcaster there is. He was your hero 15 years ago? Honestly...go back 15 years... you wouldn't trade careers with him?
 

Bongorific

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Thanks - I will concede ignorance on the science here, although I'm curious as to whether only child syndrome is more real in divorced families. (And even that article you cited says "there are indications only children are less willing to come to terms with others.") Regardless, can we agree that Simmons pretty closely fits the stereotype of an only child, whether or not that stereotype is correct? I think this ties in with Jose's hypothesis as well - if his frame of reference often goes no further than himself, perhaps that's down his childhood to a greater or lesser extent? You might remember Simmons talk about the black alter ego he had as a child, which is particular curious in light of recent events.
Can we agree not to stereotype?

I can’t really respect an article coming on the heels of Twitter trend is “BS racist and/or sexist” that concludes with a stereotype.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Thanks - I will concede ignorance on the science here, although I'm curious as to whether only child syndrome is more real in divorced families. (And even that article you cited says "there are indications only children are less willing to come to terms with others.") Regardless, can we agree that Simmons pretty closely fits the stereotype of an only child, whether or not that stereotype is correct? I think this ties in with Jose's hypothesis as well - if his frame of reference often goes no further than himself, perhaps that's down his childhood to a greater or lesser extent? You might remember Simmons talk about the black alter ego he had as a child, which is particular curious in light of recent events.
If the stereotype is not correct, what is the point of assessing whether he fits it? I think in this moment in the world you’d like to think everyone would realize that trying to defend how well someone fits a stereotype “whether or not correct” is precisely what no one should be doing.

Stick to what you actually know, and stay away from stereotypes.
 

Kenny F'ing Powers

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Wait, im confused.

Do we hate Simmons because hes a racist, because hes an only child, or because he may have told Lebron to do The Decision?

Man. What a piece of shit.
 

mauf

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I’ll preface this by saying I prefer the written word to the spoken word, and therefore don’t follow Simmons as closely as I once did. There certainly could be nuances in his evolution as a media personality that I have missed.

I don’t think Simmons has changed much over the years; in fact, one of the reasons for his success is that he has changed remarkably little even as his circumstances have changed dramatically from the BSG days. I do think society has changed during that time, though probably less than we commonly suppose. I think the biggest change is that Bill’s audience has changed; instead of being guys in their 20s dicking around on the internet while working entry-level jobs, that audience has aged into power, and its tastes are (appropriately) being viewed through a different lens.

I don't think this was posted here yet, Henry Abbott weighs in on Bill:

Joining the chorus of folks thanking you for posting this. It’s insightful. The fact that Abbott’s views are tinged by jealousy doesn’t negate those insights.

I’ll also say that nothing Abbott said was surprising to me. Don’t most people who reach the apex of the entertainment industry behave more or less the way Abbott recounts Simmons behaving?

I've been thinking about this, and I've concluded that the big issue isn't that bill is a racist or a a mysogynist, or even that he has racial or gender biases on which he fails to reflect--I actually think he's done a fair amount of reflection on those biases over the years, and while he still comes up short, he's made progress.

What I think he fails to recognize is that he has a massive Bill Simmons bias. If you listen to him interview on virtually any subject, he tries, over tortuously, to jam it into the framework of his existing perspectives and experiences. This was often entertaining when he was an every man frat boy, but as he's become not only a middle-aged man, but an extremely rich middle-aged man, it's gotten less and less funny and less and less relevant. Remarkably, he seems incapable of seeing that he has a healthy portion of the problem he often attributes, correctly, to Eddie Murphy. Bill's not out with regular folks anymore, and he doesn't seem to realize that.

The other reflection on this is that Bill is the product at the Ringer, Grantland or wherever--it's not whoever he identifies and adds to the network--if they have someplace better to go, they move along (Rembert Browne). That's normal and natural, but, given Bill's appearances on almost everything and every podcast on the Ringer, he is the brand. It's not clear to me that if he left, the Ringer would exist in a year. Bill's problem in diversifying is that most Ringer consumers are there for Bill Simmons, and Bill Simmons type takes. Yeah, individual podcasts can have a following outside of him, but he is the product--and he's a very white, middle-aged, rich product.

Edit: And I say this as someone who enjoys his podcasts and used to enjoy his writing. But I'm a white, middle-aged, lamentably not rich, man, so of course I do.
I found this insightful too.

You don’t build a $200 million media brand from scratch by being all things to all people. Bill Simmons built The Ringer to provide entertainment to people like him. Not surprisingly, its content is mostly created by people who look, think, and act like him. And as I noted above, that audience increasingly looks like the establishment, as opposed to some marginal guys in their 20s (even though we were, of course, a privileged group even back then).

There is real value in pushing people like Simmons to share their platforms with more diverse voices. In part, that’s because people like you and me need to hear those voices. It’s also because, in the long run, some of the upstarts who get a platform today (as Simmons did at ESPN 20 years ago) will go on to create platforms of their own that will not cater so narrowly to people who look, think, and act like Bill Simmons.
 
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InstaFace

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There is....a lot of axe grinding going on in there about the ESPN/Grantland divide, but from the direction of espn which I've never read before so that's interesting. it's also the perfect summation of Simmons's faults.
Yeah I enjoyed the article even if I knew I had to discount some for the jealousy. I mean, the events he recounted happened. There's no spin on a situation where you blow off a work meeting because you were at a casino and then make someone fly cross-country to meet you the next day, and then make them wait an hour or two in your office on top of that.

What's more interesting to me is trying to trace the origins and status of racism and misogyny in sports coverage in general, using Simmons as a bellwether.

For example, I knew The Book of Basketball was a big deal here among the hoopheads, of which I was not even pretending to be one at the time. So reading this article, which Abbot links to, was eye-opening for me:


I had no idea that Simmons was closer to Brett Kavanaugh than to what I'd consider a civilized view of how one ought to think and speak about the opposite sex. After going through that, the title's choice of "Staggering" is pretty apt. I've known plenty of frat boys and jocks, but very few who after reaching their mid-20s still had their thought processes driven like that. And it's hard for me to tell which is the cart vs the horse, whether sports fandom has moved past that and he's a dinosaur in that regard, or whether - like Dave Portnoy - that's one of the ways he can still seem like he's One Of Them to a group whose median is a bunch of cavemen.

SoSH's ongoing struggle in that regard seems to parallel it. We had multiple long-time popular members quit because they couldn't continue using the C-word in posts. We've had the WNBA go from butt-of-jokes to something that a number of (I believe mostly dude) posters sincerely enjoy and post about and have season tickets to. And we've had an increase, I think, of female fellow posters calling out sexism and misogyny when they see it, which says a few good things about the atmosphere even if it also says negative ones at the same time. Has the median sports fan made similar baby steps forward? Has the segment gotten more female? Or does Simmons' casual misogyny still represent the vast bulk of what powers the ESPN empire? I honestly can't tell.
 

m0ckduck

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Thanks - I will concede ignorance on the science here, although I'm curious as to whether only child syndrome is more real in divorced families. (And even that article you cited says "there are indications only children are less willing to come to terms with others.")
This is still a bad take. As an only child of divorced parents, I can tell you that divorce is the same for only children as it is for children with siblings: destabilizing, harrowing, shitty. The trope of the little prince who is doted upon by his competing divorced parents is something out of a cartoon or Roald Dahl book— it doesn't reflect reality.

EDIT: as far as the "only children are less willing to come to terms" bit, I think it's really hard to separate out the secondary effects of being an only child. There are some loving parents who decide to only have one child, but more often, having only one child is an indicator of instability in the relationship. I'd argue that whatever tendencies only children as a group display (which is not many, according to research) can more safely be attributed to them having more-troubled-than-average-parents than it can to whatever pseudo-scientific 'coddling/spoiling' effect people want to believe in.

You don’t build a $200 million media brand from scratch by being all things to all people. Bill Simmons built The Ringer to provide entertainment to people like him. Not surprisingly, its content is mostly created by people who look, think, and act like him. And as I noted above, that audience increasingly looks like the establishment, as opposed to some marginal guys in their 20s (even though we were, of course, a privileged group even back then).
I think this gets it right. The Ringer has claimed as its "corner" a certain geeky, self-aware, media-addict type, and the podcasts mostly rely on the interactions of similarly-voiced people. The problem is, this creates a coherent tone/brand but also a monogamous make-up of its staffers. Its harder to create a diverse company when your company is built on its employees having sustained, witty, engaging conversations with each other than it is to create a diverse company of lawyers or tech developers or whatever. This is not to acquit the Ringer one bit, though: the solution is to let go of the the platform's signature "tone" and allow more different sensibilities to prevail. What I think Simmons has probably been most guilty of is micro-managing the overall 'voice' of the Ringer— this is where the "open mic" attitude comes from, his idea that everyone needs to be on-point mini-Simmons clones.

The Decision thing is really startling, and perhaps the only occasion where I can think of Simmons being disingenuous and cynical in a sustained, long-term way. He made real hay out of criticizing the Decision— there was a whole parade of podcasts, as I recall, one with Dave Dameshek in particular where they really tore James to shreds over this. The notion that he'd helped promote the Decision the entire time and kept it under wraps is a pretty jarring, IMO.
 
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Marciano490

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Well, if he’s blaming the people around LeBron, at least he’s accepting some of the responsibility. Big step for him.
 

moondog80

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Oof, that is an awful take, and not just applying the 2020 lens to things, that's an awful take for 2003.
He wrote it for the world to see 17 years ago and nobody got upset until someone looking to get him in trouble went through everything he ever wrote hoping to find something. It’s not a great thing to say, but if this is the worst they could find, I don’t care.
 
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Patriot_Reign

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He wrote it for the world to see 17 years ago and nobody got upset until someone looking to get him in trouble went through everything he ever wrote hoping to find something.
who would ever be bothered to undertake this chore
2020 is the worst
 

OurF'ingCity

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What I think Simmons has probably been most guilty of is micro-managing the overall 'voice' of the Ringer— this is where the "open mic" attitude comes from, his idea that everyone needs to be on-point mini-Simmons clones.
I think this is the most accurate thing posted in this thread recently. Bill should probably step back from active content management and take on more of an "editor emeritus" role where he continues to participate in "his" podcasts and occasionally guest on others but largely steps away from making any decisions on hiring or on the overall direction of The Ringer's written or audio content. The problem is that I don't really see Bill having the self-awareness to do that, given that he quite clearly (and perhaps not entirely incorrectly) sees himself as the key to the continued success of The Ringer.

More broadly, someone some day is going to write a fascinating biography of Simmons. As even just the recent posts in this thread show, there are so many interesting themes in sports journalism of which Bill is emblematic (the rise of the Internet and the demise of traditional media, the rise and fall - or at least stagnation - of ESPN, the change in sports coverage from a heavily conservative male perspective to a much more diverse one focused much more on sports's social impact, etc.). And Bill himself, at least since the Grantland days, has always struck me as a tragic figure - he so obviously wants to continue being the "cool" guy he was (or at least thinks he was) in college and his early professional career and just can't seem to accept that he's not that anymore. Watching Bill attempt to fit in with a bunch of twenty- and thirty-somethings when they do one of their live streams or whatnot is the height of both awkwardness and pathos to me.
 

johnmd20

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I think this is the most accurate thing posted in this thread recently. Bill should probably step back from active content management and take on more of an "editor emeritus" role where he continues to participate in "his" podcasts and occasionally guest on others but largely steps away from making any decisions on hiring or on the overall direction of The Ringer's written or audio content.
That's true. The Ringer has certainly been a disaster with Simmons at the helm and has had no success. I guess that's why Spotify paid 200 million for the site and the podcasts. Because of poor managerial decisions and content decisions.

Seriously, who cares if The Ringer is a little bit homogeneous? It's certainty not overly so, of course. And it's been wildly successful. People are acting like Simmons is Travis Kalanick or, worse, Adam Neumann. That's not what is happening here. He's not serially sexually harassing his employees, he doesn't have a door lock on his desk, and he's not driving the company into the ground. People have to take a breath, I think.
 

luckiestman

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That's true. The Ringer has certainly been a disaster with Simmons at the helm and has had no success. I guess that's why Spotify paid 200 million for the site and the podcasts. Because of poor managerial decisions and content decisions.

Seriously, who cares if The Ringer is a little bit homogeneous? It's certainty not overly so, of course. And it's been wildly successful. People are acting like Simmons is Travis Kalanick or, worse, Adam Neumann. That's not what is happening here. He's not serially sexually harassing his employees, he doesn't have a door lock on his desk, and he's not driving the company into the ground. People have to take a breath, I think.
Yeah but, someone is mad on twitter ...
 

OurF'ingCity

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I don't think Spotfy just paid $250M for an editor emeritus.
If he keeps doing the podcasts he's doing now, I don't particularly see why they'd care if he's not micro-managing personnel or content decisions.

That's true. The Ringer has certainly been a disaster with Simmons at the helm and has had no success. I guess that's why Spotify paid 200 million for the site and the podcasts. Because of poor managerial decisions and content decisions.
This is a complete straw-man argument. Where did I argue The Ringer has been "a disaster" and "has had no success"? All I'm saying is Simmons doesn't really seem well-suited to address his employees' concerns about diversity and has utterly bungled the response to those concerns so far. It's not a crazy idea to suggest he take a more passive, "Chairman of the Board" type role as opposed to an active "CEO" type role - and if he's already mostly stepped away from day-to-day decisionmaking he should make that clear since even his own employees apparently don't think that's the case.
 

johnmd20

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This is a complete straw-man argument. Where did I argue The Ringer has been "a disaster" and "has had no success"? All I'm saying is Simmons doesn't really seem well-suited to address his employees' concerns about diversity and has utterly bungled the response to those concerns so far. It's not a crazy idea to suggest he take a more passive, "Chairman of the Board" type role as opposed to an active "CEO" type role - and if he's already mostly stepped away from day-to-day decisionmaking he should make that clear since even his own employees apparently don't think that's the case.
Simmons is The Ringer. Your argument is that the guy who built this company to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars is doing it wrong and his voice is not what The Ringer needs. That is a poor argument. The results speak for themselves. That doesn't mean Simmons can't try to improve. It seems like he's trying. But he's not the enemy of progress.
 

m0ckduck

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Simmons is The Ringer. Your argument is that the guy who built this company to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars is doing it wrong and his voice is not what The Ringer needs.
No, that's not the argument. The discussion is about, if you create a successful brand, and the brand is basically YOU, but now you're running a large company that's an extension of that brand, how can you run a truly diverse company and not just hire people who are mini-you's? Nobody is disputing that the Ringer is successful, nor was anybody discussing what's in the financial best interests of Bill Simmons.

That's true. The Ringer has certainly been a disaster with Simmons at the helm and has had no success. I guess that's why Spotify paid 200 million for the site and the podcasts. Because of poor managerial decisions and content decisions.
This is a case of railroading a conversation into completely black-and-white territory via strawman argument that has little to do with what was being discussed. And zero extra points for uninspired sarcasm.
 

Papelbon's Poutine

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if you create a successful brand, and the brand is basically YOU, but now you're running a large company that's an extension of that brand, how can you run a truly diverse company and not just hire people who are mini-you's?
Have to ask if this is a serious question? As in ‘I don’t think Simmons is capable enough to do this’ or ‘is it possible to do’. Those strike me as two very different arguments, one of which is quite valid; the other, not so much.
 

luckiestman

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Who at the Ringer is a mini Simmons? It’s like a bunch of people that don’t listen to these podcasts are experts.
 

Pablo's TB Lover

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Who at the Ringer is a mini Simmons? It’s like a bunch of people that don’t listen to these podcasts are experts.
First of all I think he exported the city of Philadelphia to his LA office. 1990s Bill would be punching modern Bill in the face if he knew like half the people in his employ were Sixers and Eagles fans.
 

m0ckduck

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Have to ask if this is a serious question? As in ‘I don’t think Simmons is capable enough to do this’ or ‘is it possible to do’. Those strike me as two very different arguments, one of which is quite valid; the other, not so much.
It was a rhetorical question. I was commenting on the strangeness of the Bill Simmons dilemma.

His brand has always been based on the insular quality of his writing and podcasting. When I first started reading him, I was immediately struck by the fact that he wasn't trying to be another another pseudo-objective "news reporter of sports" but rather coming from a specific, personal perspective of a sports fan and his buddies. The challenge is that, once you grow that brand, that 'group of buddies' starts to seem homogenous and exclusive, and the same insularity that got you there in the first place now generates negative headlines in the NYTimes. Spotify has made you rich because of your signature voice and brand; meanwhile, social media and now mainstream media alike are calling on you to make that signature voice more heterogeneous.

There's an interesting 'victim of your own success' aspect to this. To the extent that I was making an argument, I made it two posts earlier when I said that, if he wants to make the Ringer more diverse in a meaningful sense, it's probably a matter of not just hiring more non-white-males but also of weaning the Ringer off its dependence on the signature Simmons perspective. (Whether this is what Spotify wants, or whether Simmons is currently 'doing it wrong' from a purely financial perspective, is not the point of my post.)

Who at the Ringer is a mini Simmons? It’s like a bunch of people that don’t listen to these podcasts are experts.
Well, most of his podcast guests are like him. The Ringer Union apparently finds the workplace too homogenous. Anecdotally, most Ringer pieces I read seem to use the smart-alecky media-geek voice that Simmons popularized. Calling them mini-Simmons clones is overly-reductive, for sure— there are exceptions (e.g. Down in the Hole) and one can debate the extent to which, say, Kevin Clark is "Simmons-ish" or not. But I think it's a fair assessment on the whole, to say that the Ringer is not a particularly diverse media platform and tends to hew close to the brand of its founder.
 

JCizzle

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Well, most of his podcast guests are like him. The Ringer Union apparently finds the workplace too homogenous. Anecdotally, most Ringer pieces I read seem to use the smart-alecky media-geek voice that Simmons popularized. Calling them mini-Simmons clones is overly-reductive, for sure— there are exceptions (e.g. Down in the Hole) and one can debate the extent to which, say, Kevin Clark is "Simmons-ish" or not. But I think it's a fair assessment on the whole, to say that the Ringer is not a particularly diverse media platform and tends to hew close to the brand of its founder.
The chart creator including guys like Sal and Russillo in the graph aren't really guests. Their role is basically to cohost during designated times of the year. It’s like a graph of Toucher and Rich’s guests including Fred, Rich, and Wallach way ahead at the top mixed with Gorman, Breer, etc. Of course Simmons could have selected minorities for their roles, but they're way ahead for a reason.
 
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ifmanis5

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Kenny Smith put Bill on the spot in his latest pod about his diversity emergency. Bill admitted that he thought he was fine on that front until recently and now he knows he has to do better. Said the heat he felt on social media was a wake up call and pledged to improve going forward. Kenny was happy with his answer. Bill also said he took things for granted given the size of his platform. No specific plans or timetables were mentioned other than a vague where do you see yourself in six months.
 

bosockboy

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Not to mention that it's one of the least rewatchable movies ever. I liked the concept of the pod and many episodes were terrific but it seems like they're running out of material.
I actually like the movie, but it’s an odd choice. My favorite podcast by far. They have a ton of huge movies they haven’t touched yet. Goodfellas, Boogie Nights...they have to spread them out.
 

Marciano490

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The guy who quit SoSH because people told him he was wrong about something has thick skin?
Yes.

Almost as thick as the sarcasm in my post. Simmons is the dude he kicks the PlayStation when he’s losing.

Was SoSH better after he left? Cuz, you know, Ewing Theory...