Bill Simmons Annoys Me

Well, that’s about the worst I can say about him. But in Part 2 of his conversation with Will Leitch for New York Magazine, he says something that is, to put it mildly, unsupported by evidence. Get ready for some more FJM Memorial tags!

See, I feel like the NBA is doing better than baseball and the ratings would certainly back that up. The last three World Series were the lowest rated ever. Baseball’s audience gets older each year, and they aren’t replacing it with younger fans, whereas that’s the NBA’s wheelhouse right now. The NBA is grabbing those kids between YouTube, video games, sneakers, and everything else. So that’s one problem. I also think baseball has a real credibility issue with sports fans in terms of trust (because of the steroids thing, which has tainted the past two decades, basically), and the time of the games (interminable); basketball doesn’t have either of those issues (although it does have the lousy ref issue). The union runs baseball; Stern runs basketball. Big difference. And baseball has turned into a small-market/big-market sport — the NBA is protected from that happening to some degree because of its draft and salary cap.

The biggest thing in the NBA’s favor: Don’t they have ten times as many marketable players? Name five baseball players under 30 that could sell a shoe or be the focal point of a commercial. Basketball has, like, fifteen of those guys. And LeBron and Kobe are bigger than any baseball player, by far, nobody comes close. There’s no star power in baseball anymore. It’s pretty much gone. I think baseball is in more trouble than people realize. Part of the reason attendance remained relatively strong is because teams keep opening new stadiums and coming up with these “buy four tickets for the price of one and get four free hot dogs” deals. Well, what happens in 2016 after the new stadium rush has worn off? That’s what I want to see. And again, the length of the games is interminable. For us, we’re used to it. No 12-year-old kid wants to spend four hours watching a baseball game.

Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy. Why do you have to do this to me? I know you love the NBA. I know you’ve been a little colder towards Baseball since 2004.* You can make all the excuses you want. You can whine about how all the stats are too complicated and there aren’t enough big stars and the games are on too late. Guess what? You have become everything you used to hate about sports columnists. You have adopted a cranky opinion, and heavens to Murgatroyd, you’re sticking to your guns.

*It’s almost as if he decided that he’d made his millions riding the wave of Red Sox win World Series! hangers-on and decided to back out. I really thought you were a real fan, Simmons. But by giving up on the team and losing interest after 2004, you have proven to be the worst kind of Boston fan: the guy who’s only happy with losing.

Look, I am as much of a Simmons apologist as anyone. I have spent more than one night smoking pot and reading his old columns. When people make fun of his homerism, I’m there to defend him. When people accuse him of making the same jokes over and over, I stand up and argue violently on his behalf. In short, I have snacked on many a Simmons-sausage over the years. So this idiotic comment puts me in an awkward position.

It’s not his fault he hates numbers, since numbers killed and ate his first pet when he was three. And it’s not his fault this interview was posted before the World Series was a ratings smash for Fox. But this is the kind of knee-jerk, gut reaction flimflam you’d expect from a Bill Plaschke or a Tim McCarver. Just say what you feel, then invent a plausible sounding reason afterwards. Here’s Bill’s argument, broken down:

“I’m just going to assume the NBA has more marketable stars”

This is not exactly good evidence for the rise of basketball over baseball. I mean, just because you love the people in the NBA doesn’t mean everyone does. I mean, I personally can name a bunch of young baseball stars, while I cannot do the same for basketball. This is not evidence either, but I’m not claiming that something totally new is happening.

“Baseball fans are old, NBA fans are young.”

Uh, ok. That sounds like pretty complicated demographic work you’d have to do to ascertain the average age of each sport’s fans. I’d be interested to see your reasoning.

“YouTube.”

Ah, well, that’s not a reason, that’s a website. You can put dunks on YouTube, but you can also put ridiculous defensive plays and home runs and Julio Lugo grabbing his crotch on there.

Well, the only reason attendance has overperformed in this terrible economy is because of expensive new ballparks.”

OK, now you’re definitely just making shit up. I demand to see the Excel spreadsheet and regression analysis you’ve done to support this. And also, since when was the NBA known for it’s boffo attendance?

I want David Stern to hire me.

I know, Bill. You hate unions, you love David Stern. The line “ The union runs baseball; Stern runs basketball. Big difference” is meaningless. This is not self-evidently a good thing for the NBA, no matter how good David Stern’s balls taste.

Baseball has big markets and small markets and basketball doesn’t because of the celery cap and the droft!

I fucking hate this argument so much. If one could strangle concepts, I would have a piano wire around this thing’s neck right now. It’s been debunked a bazillion times, but let me let an NBA man spell it out for you: Bill Simmons’ NBA preview, 10/23: “…we know how it’s going to play out — the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, Cavs and Magic in some order, then everyone else…” He then explains why he’s still interested despite this situation. Except THIS IS THE EXACT FUCKING THING YOU JUST ACCUSED BASEBALL OF BECOMING! You only care because your team is one of the five! Do you think the 76ers fans and Hawks fan are excited by this development?

Look, I understand it’s annoying to have to continually talk about how the Yankees payroll is ridiculous and the haves and the have-nots and blabbity blah, bleepity blow. Last year, the Rays played the Phillies in the World Series. In fact,  let’s look at these lists:

  • LA, Orlando, LA, Boston, San Antonio, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, San Antonio, Detroit, LA, Detroit
  • New York, Philly, Philly, Tampa Bay, Boston, Colorado, St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Boston, St. Louis

These are the teams that have played in the Finals/World Series since 2004. So, um, which one has more parity? I would say baseball, but even if it’s not clear, it’s pretty obvious baseball is at the very least equal to basketball. And you have already written off all but 5 teams for the upcoming season. So, yeah. Get those fans involved.

See, when you actually analyze the points he’s making, they make no sense. Bill is no stranger to idiotic, gut-based arguments. But this is a new low. I expected better than this, Simmons. It’s not like I’m going to stop reading. But you’re better than this, Bill. Put at least you’re starting to get why I love soccer. So one step forward, one step back into a huge pile of dog crap covered nails.

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2 Responses to “Bill Simmons Annoys Me”

  1. hello.
    i came to your pages through the sketch comedy primer. i had not heard of the fast show and watched many of them on your recommendation.
    i’ve been vastly disappointed. they are not equal to Mr Show or Mitchell and Webb. your site did introduce me to the latter, though, and for that all can be forgiven.
    you may want to check out A Bit of Fry and Laurie, if you haven’t heard of the show. i don’t think it has been mentioned on any of your primers–so you may not be a fan or perhaps you haven’t seen any episodes. it is some great sketch comedy, getting 4 seasons at the BBC bridging the 80s and 90s. i don’t know where Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie first began acting together, but they were both in seasons of Black Adder together–easily one of the 5 funniest sit-coms written.

    anyway, please keep publishing the sketch comedy primer. it is good to find new sources of hilarity.

  2. oh, and a word about family guy and sit-coms (which is a large part of your defense of the cleaveland show)….

    first, sit coms are almost never funny. they are much too formulaic, and that makes them horrible horrible horrible. basically intolerable to watch. married with children–jesus god, i know people that really claim this was a great sit com. not to mention sit coms everyone admits to being horrible yet still had huge commercial success (home improvement). two formulaic shows.

    i mentioned Black Adder in the top five sit coms–and out of the things you listed “in every sit com,” there are none.
    it certainly has conventions of other sit coms–but they have much more versatility than “wackiness” and a tradition going back centuries. the schemer, the forger of “cunning plans.” from the odd couple to edmund black adder to homer simpson, much comedy has arisen from both successful and failed plots.

    Arrested Development has a lot of conventions too–3 wacky uncles, a kid with shallow motivations (pleasing his father) with a single father and dead mother; tobias’ wife is way hotter than him; everyone’s a schemer. However, lots of things counter these conventions. Out of the three uncles, Buster is the only one that is singularly “wacky,” Tobias and Gobe having other drives. George Michael’s pleasing his father is countered by wanting to date his cousin. Tobias’ wife is hot, but she is actually a flushed out character instead of T&A and has her own rather significant flaws to barely sort-of explain why she married Tobias. Maybe (the cousin, not the word) is not driven by a single motivation– her motivations are suited towards advancing the plot (piss off parents/kiss steve holt/keep the band together/etc). Then there is just good writing, acting and editting.

    There are lots and lots and lots of sit coms that feature no innovations, add nothing to established conventions. With the advent of animation, the sit-com could have new life. Disney made shit of varying quality for many years, but for a long time “sitcom” style shows were rare. But then Hannah Barbara came along and made the shittiest of the shit, blatantly stealing (or, as they styled it, paroding) live action sitcoms (Flintstones). Then, to my knowledge, came The Simpsons.
    I think you have been a little generous giving The Simpsons 18 seasons of staying funny. It was in the early teens when there was some sort of badger attack followed by endless non-sequiturs with the episode ending between badgers talking. This season was the beginning of a steep decline in Simpsons quality for me. The plots in The Simpsons, Homer’s schemes, secondary characters from Burns and Smithers to Krusty and Comic Book Guy, parodies from 32 Short Films on Glen Gould to Pulp Fiction (in the same fucking episode!), brilliant writing. During its peak The Simpsons remains better than any animated comedy sit com I have seen–for my money. There is much more to defend about The Simpsons than Family Guy.

    I give The Family Guy its initial few seasons. I think everything that has been made since its initial cancellation, while perhaps funny on the first viewing, is not worth subsequent viewing. And when those first seasons grew tiresome, I have not returned to them. I think I could make an argument that Beavis and Butthead is a funnier sitcom than Family Guy–a significant part of the comparison would be Beavis and Butthead talking over videos is much much funnier than some Griffin family member acting out some event from history or pop culture. The Family Guy was able to use animation very well, incorporating bits that could not be feasible in a live action animation. There’s a bit where Death tries to start his VW Bug while drunk that is absolutely hilarious. I haven’t seen this for 6 or more years, maybe 8?? Family Guy did have funny bits, but like the characters, it got old for me seasons and seasons ago.
    It is hard to have real discussion about taste and humor. Lots of people find the phrase “Giggity-giggity” to be the funniest part of the show. I’ll admit the show is more than endless catch phrases, but the characters and the bits have grew stale very quickly. My sister and I talked about this and agreed our impression of The Family Guy would have been better if it had not been picked up after being dropped those years.

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