Yes, I still work for ESPN. No, I'm not writing for ESPN.com as much — my choice, not theirs. That's just the way it will be from now on, unfortunately. I'd have more to say, but I'd end up being profane and I don't want to offend Buzz Bissinger.As for bad moves, this ranks with Leonard Little downing shots of Patron and reaching for his car keys.
When we inquired further, Simmons went on:
I still love writing my column and only re-signed last year because I really did believe that we had hashed out all the behind the scenes (expletive) and come to some sort of agreement on creative lines, media criticism rules, the promotion of the column and everything else on ESPN.com. Within a few months, all of those things changed and certain promises were not kept. It's as simple as that.
When passing this story along to a former ESPN editor, his response was "Good riddance, primma donna. That's not the first time that an editor from ESPN has describe the Sports Dork in such terms. "Petulant" and "prick" were a couple of other names associated with Boston Billy. And after reading his temper tantrum on Deadspin, you would probably have to side with the editors.
There was a story that Page 2 had its own editor dedicated to Simpson who would get called at all hours of the night if one of the dork's columns was changed in the slightest. That was the reason his column was constantly filled with typos and misspellings. (Not unlike some other, uh, popular websites.) The editors often hung him out to dry.
This whole situation is laughable. There is no question that Simpson is still one of the most popular sports writer out there, and probably the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to volatility. You either love or hate the guy. The web's version of Howard Cosell in some respects.
But he is making a huge error in judgment with this latest move.
You can't blame the dork for allowing his success to go to his head. In the beginning. Who wouldn't have gotten a little carried away? Let's not kid ourselves. Everybody would have have hammed it up.
However, you would have figured that he would have been a little bit humbled when he flamed out on the Jimmy Kimmel show, forcing him to crawl back to ESPN. He also has spent a large number of years in California without selling that great screenplay he's dreamed of. Nor has he made a dent in Hollywood at all.
The truth is, he needs ESPN probably a lot more than ESPN needs him. In other words, he should be kissing the rear of ESPN management, not enraging them.
If the Dork is going to sit on the bench like Chad Johnson, well Rick Reilly is going to take all of his "touches" and will probably excel. ESPN could probably go to FanHouse and pluck a writer from there to carry Page 2, and Simpson would only be a footnote in the history of the Internets. Simpson was certainly in the right place at the right time. Had he come along a year or two later, he would have just been some anonymous a-hole with a blog.
So what's left for the Sports Dork? He is signed through 2010 and can't go anywhere. And when he is a free agent, he'll probably be as attractive as Barry Bonds only with more baggage. He will likely sign somewhere, but never come close to the success he had at ESPN. No matter how many promises they make. ESPN is often vilified on the Internets, but it is still the worldwide leader.
Think of this in pro wrestling terms. Christian left the WWF because he felt that he was not getting a fair enough push. And while he is a main event in TNA, he will never achieve the success he had when he was in the WWF. And that is what the dork is doing, pissing away one of the best gigs going because he's the biggest mark for his own work.
Hope his pride is worth it.