Monday, November 24, 2008

An Open Question For Bill Simmons

The following is an email I sent Friday to Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy on ESPN's Page 2. I doubt he'll respond, but I thought I'd post it here for your benefit and pleasure.

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Hey Bill – question for you.

Recently I have finally been able to name a tension I have noticed in your writing for some time, and put briefly, it is a radical discontinuity in your evaluation of hyperactive technology.

On the one hand, the way you write makes it sound like you are never not watching trashy TV, never not on your Blackberry, never not talking on the phone, never not watching a movie, never not watching sports, never not laughing on YouTube, never not catching a cable movie halfway through. You even make endless recommendations for TV, sports, and general entertainment that reflect this condition you generalize to most Americans. And in all this you seem to give it your stamp of approval (or even if it sounds indefensible, you acknowledge that it's just the way it is).

On the other hand, you have columns like today's lamenting State of the Art Stadiums (SOTAS) with the profound voice of a concerned fan (a voice, I might add, that is the reason so many of us value your writing). You talk about the Warriors' stadium, about Lambeau, about the evils of the jumbotron era, about how nobody can watch three minutes of a live game without texting, about the stupidity of GMs and owners, about the basic common sense needed to value fans and offer them a way to be a part of the rising and falling of their beloved teams. I should also note that while you are usually both funny and serious -- that is, you provide humor alongside quality analysis -- the hyperactive technology-loving side of you usually comes out in the more throwaway/purely comedic columns, and the jumbotron-despising side of you usually comes out in the more analytical, best-sports-writing-in-America, reason-you-own-ESPN columns.

My question is this: How do you reconcile the two?

I understand the tension in the sense that all middle-class (and upward) Americans live in that same tension. At the same time, how can we hear you with integrity when you speak about the glory of Lambeau and decry the evils of SOTAS if you simultaneously can't watch a game sans texting and offer up (funny but serious) ideas for only more hyperactive entertainment junk?

While I realize you get much of the bang for your buck on humor, many of us take you seriously as a substantive voice in the world of sports, and laughing away this discontinuity would seem disingenuous, or at least irresponsible. So, I am wondering how you would respond, how you negotiate the tension?

(I hope you don't hear me being too harsh or serious in this; it just reached a head with your last column and I'm sincerely wondering. Thanks, as always, for your fantastic writing -- and I hope whatever is going on with ESPN gets resolved soon so we can get back to non-censored Sports Guy with 17 podcasts a week.)



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