Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bill Simmons Week: I Come Not to Bury Bill Simmons

As part of Bill Simmons Week, I decided to solicit posts on Bill Simmons from some of my favorite bloggers. Extra P. writes at the Extrapolater, CAAZone, and Storming the Floor, among other sites. His post is below, and it is fantastic. If you would also like to contribute to Bill Simmons Week, let me know via e-mail, and if it's good I'll put it up.

I come not to bury Bill Simmons, nor to praise him, but more to stand over his lifeless body with a puzzled expression on my face. To me, pissing and moaning about Simmons is pointless. He’s become the ultimate cautionary tale to those of us who might hope to derive some monetary success from blogging – he has collapsed under his own weight.
Hear me out. The reason we all feel so angry and irritated with Bill is because we loved him so much when he first rose to prominence. For one thing, did you see how I called him “Bill”? That’s because for a long time, he really seemed like one of those guys you knew personally. And if you didn’t know him, you knew a guy just like him, so he had that everyman appeal. When he told a story about being at a poker table in Vegas and seeing Michael Jordan and Charles Oakley walk in, it felt like he was thrilled, just as any one of us would be.
But somewhere in there, Bill started to get invited to actually sit at the table with his idols, and that’s when the trouble started (for us – I’m sure he’s having a wonderful time). The stories turned from “Can you believe Bill actually met Mike Tyson?” to “So here I was, sitting in the VIP section, and the President of Nike invited me to play Madden with Tiger Woods.” See what we lost there? We can no longer imagine what it would be like to be in Bill’s shoes – he’s part of the in-crowd and we’re not.
The second thing that went wrong is so ironic I can barely stand it. Bill, who snarks endlessly about the way his beloved Saturday Night Live has gone downhill, began repeating bits for cheap laughs. Live-blogs and lists and such were very entertaining when they were few and far-between, but once readers started clamoring for those bits, they started showing up so often that they became stale. The whole time Bill’s fan club was calling for him to write more often, I was shouting (to myself) that he should write less – the anticipation was sweeter than the delivery, and it gave him time to come up with something truly worth spurting out 3,234 words about.
The final thing that made Bill (and a whole raft of other people) completely unbearable was the resurgence of the Boston sports scene. It was interesting to read about a guy who was wishing and begging for his favorite teams to win just one championship between them. But since I started reading Simmons, the Patriots have won three super bowls, the formerly woebegone Red Sox have won two World Series, and the Celtics have assembled an all-star team in hopes of adding to the dynasty. Thank goodness the Bruins still suck, because if I had to read a self-congratulatory hockey column, I think I’d throw up in my own mouth. Basically, Bill Simmons has become an insufferable bass-bowl since everything started going his way.
The last piece of Bill’s that I really enjoyed was his pilgrimage to the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. That was the last time I felt that awe of athletics seep into the florid prose of Sports Guy’s World. And that’s what I miss. For a few years there, Bill represented my generation – we quoted the same movies, remembered the same sporting moments, and were willing to root for our lousy teams even if they never won a championship. Bill’s first book was the beginning of the end, because he started to take himself seriously.
I don’t think it had to be that way. I don’t think everything is ruined by success, and I don’t put much stock in the term “sellout”. But Bill Simmons has turned away from what made him unique because the greater part of society wants him to function as a pop-culture jukebox, spitting out those old familiar hits. He’s willing to do that, and it’s made him famous and presumably wealthy. And in the end, who am I to complain about that? I have simply done what others who value originality (and some form of editorial coherence) have done – I’ve stopped reading his columns. I imagine somewhere, Bill is laughing at all of us, and doesn’t really care that he’s “jumped the shark.”

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