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Simmons to leave ESPN; your thoughts


News broke friday that longtime ESPN writer Bill Simmons and ESPN are parting ways.

Simmons is kind of a lightening rod.  I know many people doesn’t really care for him or his stuff.  Personally, I’ve kind of drifted away from him over the past two years … not because I don’t like his stuff, but mostly because his focus area (the NBA more and more) is something I don’t really care about.  When he wrote more about baseball, about the Red Sox and Yankees during the early 2000s heyday of the rivalry, I was as big of a fan as anyone’s.  I still go to his podcast subscription first to see who’s on, and I really miss his mailbags and columns that he no longer has time to write.

Still, this news is kind of staggering.  Simmons is *the* reason huge numbers of people went to ESPN.  His columns were always the top draws on that website.  People talk about how Grantland is a “failure” … but then are nebulous with the measurements of what constitutes a “failure” on the internet.  No, Grantland doesn’t make the network millions of dollars; what website does?

I wonder what happens next.  I think it was clear that Simmons was done with the hypocrisy of ESPN management and demonstrated it pretty well with his latest suspension.  I think he was tired of being told what he could and couldn’t do on his podcasts (he’s been constantly fighting with editors over jokes and content), tired of being told who he could and couldn’t haveas guests (most famously, he was set to have President Obama on but for some reason ESPN nixed it, saying it was political … meanwhile Obama is on ESPN every year for the NCAA show; hypocritical).  Mostly I think he was tired of the double standards that ESPN has for opinion makers on its network; the same things that Simmons was suspended for have been blatantly done by other people with no repercussions.  You just can’t have double standards for personalities like that.  ESPN suspended Simmons for 3 weeks for challenging management, but when Stephen A. Smith questioned the role women have in their own attacks?  A slap on the wrist in comparison.  Skip Bayless says the same things that Simmons gets eviscorated for with zero backlash.

But where will he have the access that he had to the NBA that he had?  He *loved* the 30 for 30 stuff; that’s ESPN property.  I don’t know who “owns” Grantland but the PR implied that ESPN does by virtue of saying that “Grantland will continue publishing.”  So that creation is gone as well.  Would he just abandon all these paths he has forged and try something complete new (like when he went to Jimmy Kimmel to write for his late-night show)?

I think someone will use Simmons to really supercharge their online sports presence.  TNT holds part of the NBA contract so maybe a combo deal where does TV for TNT and then online for someplace that wants to compete against ESPN like a FoxSports.  Fox makes a ton of sense since they’ve never been afraid to push the line and have little street cred.

One thing seems for sure: Simmons is still king of the podcast realm and gets his stars to appear.  You can argue that’s because he was sponsored by ESPN, but his name leads the way now.

What do you guys think?  Do you even read his stuff?  Do you read Grantland?  Do you care?

Written by Todd Boss

May 8th, 2015 at 8:00 pm

5 Responses to 'Simmons to leave ESPN; your thoughts'

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  1. I stopped watching ESPN (other than for game broadcasts) about a decade ago after getting weary of seeing Kornheiser and Wilbon’s act descend into a loudmouthed clown show. ESPN has become to sports what MTV is to music. I prefer to get my sports information from the ‘net so I can go straight to content I care about and ignore all the idiotic fluff.

    As for Simmons himself, I have to admit that were it not for the frequent articles about his contentious relationship with ESPN that have appeared on Deadspin I would have had no idea who he is given that I have never read a single column nor ever watched any of his shows.

    Karl Kolchack

    9 May 15 at 12:06 am

  2. “. . . that he no longer has time to write.” I think you nailed it right there. Simmons stopped doing the things that made him a regular read in the first place. He rarely writes anything on Grantland. There are some terrific pieces on Grantland, but they’re often buried in a lot of dreck and Hollywood mess, and the stuff is just all over the place. I rarely make the effort anymore to dig through it. If Simmons goes somewhere where it’s just back to being Simmons (my guess would be Fox), it will be a boon to readers. But in the last few years, he’s seemed more interested in being Simmons the personality than Simmons the writer.

    This may end up being a bigger blow to the ESPN site than anything else. Their redesign is terrible, as is their prioritization of content. They aren’t the only ones with this problem, but they’ve got it particularly bad. I don’t know about others, but they’re getting my eyeballs a lot less these days.


    9 May 15 at 7:03 am

  3. Yeah, you guys captured my take as well. Loved Simmons when he was the Sports Guy – I can still smile at some of his columns when his dad was involved, like watching the NBA draft, and his mailbags – but it’s been a long time since I have gone out of my way to track him down. And ESPN is really bad these days. I never watch the TV channels and the redesign is probably the final straw for me to give up Insider. You can’t even find where Keith Law or somebody chats, you have to go to his Twitter feed. So this is no big deal for me.

    Joe Posnanski is another guy that I loved, but am fading away from him too. He has been jumping around all over the place. Has his own site and publishes there, but no editorial control so he has a massive amount of typos/grammar mistakes, which actually makes a difference to me.


    9 May 15 at 8:10 am

  4. Todd, like you, I consider Simmons an incredibly bright guy but I just don’t care enough about the NBA to follow a lot of the content.
    Disney’s always been a hard-ass organization; just ask anyone who worked for them on any level.
    It seems anyone who hasn’t been suspended from ESPN at least once is probably lacking in stones.

    Mark L

    9 May 15 at 9:41 am

  5. Its funny you mentioned Posnanski: in the wake of the Simmons thing, I started thinking about “national baseball writers” and who is worth tracking down these days … post coming next week soemtime.

    Todd Boss

    9 May 15 at 7:50 pm

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