Bill Simmons' Big Score: How the Sports Guy Built a New Kind of Media Empire
J Thoendell stashed this in Sports
Simmons was raised mostly in Boston, where every loss is like a death in the family, and even at 44, he watches sports with the delight of a kid — albeit a kid who's a multimedia mogul. During the NBA playoffs, which last nearly two months and end in June, he'll be a fixture on ESPN and ABC, via NBA Countdown. His 700-page Book of Basketball, despite being fatter than Eddy Curry in the off-season, debuted at Number One on The New York Times' nonfiction bestseller list. He goaded ESPN into making documentaries, which yielded 30 for 30, an excellent, Emmy-nominated series he executive-produces. His lively B.S. Report podcast, where he interviews jocks, actors, comedians college buddies, his dad, and Barack Obama, was downloaded 32 million times last year, and to keep him from bolting in 2011, ESPN gave him his own well-staffed website, Grantland. TV, books, documentaries, digital — it's the sportswriter version of the EGOT.
big fan of what he has done.
If there's a moral, it's this: Bite the hand you cannot kiss.
Deadspin is to mocking Simmons what Michael Jordan is to basketball, so I asked Tommy Craggs, the site's editor, to summarize the case against him. Craggs denounced Simmons' "chuckling, incurious, cleverest-guy-standing-around-the-Phi-Delt-keg writing voice," and dismissed him as "nothing more than a dispenser of dull, honkified conventional wisdom about sports." He also said Simmons had been smart in not hiring Bill-Jr. clones at Grantland, adding that a site full of Simmons-ish prose "would suck."
So did he hire Burnwell? I love that guy too.
I can't tell from the Rolling Stone article what Simmons did in his early years.
I like the description of his fight with Doc Rivers:
Simmons has had his fair share of feuds over the years, whether with online basketball collective Free Darko, the Boston Globe’s Charles Pierce (whom he later hired at Grantland) or former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who he accused of quitting on the team. Simmons and Rivers went at it on air and over the Internet until patching things up, giving fans the rare thrill of public figures unafraid to poke at each other in full view of the world and providing the writer with new material.
Sports Twitter is so bad:
Simmons has 2.6 million followers on Twitter. Many can't wait to tell him what an idiot he is. (The Simmons brand has a strong ripple effect: Even his wife, known as the Sports Gal, has 25,000 followers, despite not having tweeted in almost a year.) Sports Twitter is a mire of stupidity, homophobia, and violent threats. It's probably the most inane culture on Twitter; at least on Politics Twitter, you occasionally come across a fact.
Simmons uses Twitter almost exclusively to promote and link to Grantland material. He doesn't reply to people who think he's a douche, or want to punch his face. He also writes fewer sports columns than he used to, partly because TV and movies occupy more of his time. The Internet gave him a career, an audience, wealth, influence, and fourth-row seats for the Clippers. But lately, Bill Simmons is kind of over the Internet.
Technology has helped Grantland a lot:
"When we were launching, we didn't realize technology advances would help us so much." GIFs, Instapaper, wi-fi, embeddable links — all foster the ease of promoting a digital magazine. "The iPad has been a godsend — it's probably the greatest thing that's' happened to Grantland. Nobody knew the fucking iPad was coming. I didn't. We hit at the right time."
In a recent month, Grantland, according to comScore, had 4.7 million unique visitors, which represents just a sliver of ESPN's 62 million unique visitors and pales compared to Yahoo Sports' 57.9 million. (Even Deadspin, the Johnny Lawrence to Simmons’ Daniel LaRusso, had 13.8 million.) But the site's balance sheet isn't the point. ESPN likely pays him more than $5 million a year, the insider estimates — not because of Grantland, but because Simmons is a guy with big ideas, a one-man vertical-integration engine.