Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is this the end of the Sports Dork?

ESPN's Bill Simpson has ripped his employer on the popular Deadspin site saying, among other things, is that "certain promises were not kept." Here is what Will gleaned from the Dork.

Yes, I still work for ESPN. No, I'm not writing for 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.

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 Within a few months, all of those things changed and certain promises were not kept. It's as simple as that.
As for bad moves, this ranks with Leonard Little downing shots of Patron and reaching for his car keys.

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.


Diane said...

How do you pick Christian over Edge?

Yiddish Steel said...

Dude. You could probably pick up the Dork as a contributor around here, come 2010, and justify the expense by purging Bain and MacLaine to cover salary and per diem.

Jeff V said...

Simmons has a huge readership and I'd say that the majority of that readership really isn't that psyched about ESPN anyway. With the right amount of PR from his friends in Hollywood like Kimmel, he could be really popular. Also, he left Kimmel's show not the other way around.

Those with lives said...

Bill Simmons?

DMtShooter said...

I hit this on my own site, but the World Wide Lemur has dozens of other writers clogging up the once worthwhile Page 2, and nobody reads any of them. If and when Simmy gets cut loose, neither he nor the Mouse "wins."

The future belongs to a fragmented media market and hundreds of bloggers thinking they deserve more traffic.

/ looks back and forth, whistles, goes back to updating own site

Charlton Heston said...


Seitz said...

"Petulant" and "prick" were a couple of other names associated with Boston Billy.

To be fair, that pretty much describes everyone from Boston between the ages of 18 and 41.

NFL Adam said...

Diane, Christian was the dude who left the WWF. But I always thought he was better than Edge. I was one fo the Peeps.

Jeff V., you are correct. But come on, this is the internets. People lose interest pretty quickly.

DMT, that was a pretty good point. But ESPN continues to pull in the ratings because there is no alternative.

Seitz ... that was spot on.

Sorry Chuck, I don't have much to add to you.

Cali Tejano said...

Bill Simmons left I didn't know he was still there in the first place.