Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bill Simmons Alert

I took an extended break from this blog because I don't hate sports writing as much as Larry and the rest of the gang. Unfortunately for them, I still followFJM everyday and was shocked when nobody ripped this apart. I'm usually one of the biggest Simmons-lovers around, but he clearly mailed this one in more than Robin Williams did in RV (you like that Sports Guy-esque joke??)

If I guaranteed you that the 2008 Wimbledon men's final would be the best tennis match of the past 20 years, would you watch it?

Yes, because I like sports.

Once a successful mainstream sport, tennis now matters twice a year—during Wimbledon and the U.S. Open—and even then it's not like America shakes with Racket Fever or anything.

Even in Bill's glorious youth, I don't think tennis ever was actually a "mainstream" sport.

The mainstream media still cover tennis, and the ratings for majors are still okay. But when was the last time you watched a big match from start to finish? When was the last time you attended one?

Among my friends and I, none of us has watched a big NBA game from start to finish in over a year. The last time any of us attended an NBA game, was December '06. Mainstream professional basketball in this country is dead.

When did you last have an argument about something tennis-related that didn't boil down to "Who do you think is hotter?"

And this is a bad thing how? ::Grabs beer, itches crotch, high fives dude::

Unlike golf, another time-sucking sport that appeals to a specific audience, tennis lacks a Tiger to keep it relevant. When tennis develops its own version of Tiger—first PeteSampras, then Roger Federer—the guys do almost more damage than good.

Comparing anyone to Tiger is just unfair. The guy is the perfect combination of dominance and marketability. Sampras was dominating, but boring. Simmons should make a dumb joke called the Sampras zone, opposite of the Tyson zone. If an athlete reaches the point where the only thing they do is win, have curly hair, have a hot wife who boned Billy Madison, and be boring -- they've entered theSampras zone. You could almost put Federer in the same category, but he's got something else way more important working against him: he's not American. If James Blake was winning tourneys at the same rate asFederer, he'd be right on par (pun intended!!ROFL!!) with Tiger in the minds of Americans.

Bill then argues that the reason we like golf players more is because they stick around longer. This makes zero sense. Does anyone give two shits about the Senior Tour?

By contrast, a great tennis career always unfolds the same way: Guy kills himself for a few years getting to the top and staying there; guy gets bored; guy starts sleeping with actresses/models; guy drops in the rankings; guy makes a brief resurgence; guy loses hair and retires; guy disappears forever.

Oh, you mean that one guy who that happened to? The guy who was HUGELY popular because he was American and charismatic? The guy who if he was going to break every record in tennis history (like Woods will) would be more popular than Tiger and BrettFarve combined?

Another big problem: Tennis got too fast (thanks to high-tech rackets, superior conditioning and 130 mph serves), which turned it into a young person's game.

Unlike the most popular sport in the country, the NFL, which is played exclusively by middle-aged men.

Not to sound like Grumpy Old Man, but back when I fell for tennis, they played with wooden rackets—and we liked it! When John McEnroe andBj√∂rn Borg had their "Battle of 18-16" at Wimbledon, it wasn't serve-and-volley, serve-and-volley, serve-and-volley; some of the points lasted for 45 or 50 seconds, and they always seemed to end with McEnroe just missing a winner, then sagging in disbelief.

This is totally absurd. Isn't it about time we added a three-point line in basketball?? And what's with all these teams running the wishbone? When isMLB gonna finally integrate with those Negro leagues? I count 2 guys in the Top 100 who you could count as serve and volleyers.

That doesn't mean we can't move tennis into the 21st century. I see three fixes that can help the sport regain a little buzz, beyond more radical moves like no longer allowing female players to wear tennis bras,


or if you hit someone with the ball you win the point.

I hate to break it to such a tennis superfan, but if you hit the other player with the ball, you do win the point.

He then lists three ways to change the game, and finishes with this doozy.

See, tennis didn't change. We changed.

The teachers of the future will teach persuasive essay writing like this: Purpose thesis, backup thesis with points, summarize by saying the complete opposite of your thesis.

Thanks Bill. Shouldn't you be writing an article about your Dad and the Celtics?


Because I'm slow to post, Simmons made several more posts. One point just rubbed me the wrong way. About Paul Pierce:

How many guys stick with a crummy franchise for 10 solid years, then get a chance to lead that same team to a championship? Does that EVER happen in sports anymore?

Oh, I don't know ... does it? Has that happened in the last few months to any athletes? Maybe they just didn't happen to live on a coast -- but you're the Sports Guy, you would have heard about this.


Jeff said...

"See, tennis didn't change. We changed."

I didn't read the column, but from your post it would seem like this sentence almost immediately follows Simmons talking about how much the game has changed, what with the 2 shot points and super-rackets and all.

Bill Simmons contradict himself in the span of a few paragraphs....what's going on?

larry b said...

The Steelers of the late 90s/early to mid 00s certainly were better than the Celtics of the same era, but I think you can put Jerome Bettis on the Paul Pierce/Todd Helton list. Those Celtic teams had a couple of OK playoff runs before this year, and while the Steelers had more regular season success they didn't really do that well in the postseason. It's a bit of a stretch but I think it counts. After all, that was the angle that got played up before, during, and after that game.

But then again, it didn't happen in Boston, so it probably doesn't count.

Tonus said...

"How many guys stick with a crummy franchise for 10 solid years, then get a chance to lead that same team to a championship? Does that EVER happen in sports anymore?"

Well, it didn't happen to Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and I'm sure that Bill will be bitching about how cheap the Celtics latest championship feels due to this, right?


Iridescence said...

Sorry but the Rockies didn't actually win a CHAMPIONSHIP, they got their collective asses whipped pretty badly in the World Series. If you want a better comaprison to Pierce look at the 2005 White Sox (a team who was bad or mediocre for ages then actually won a championship) [Konerko or Buerhle may be a good comparison although they don't quite have Pierce's star power).

cs said...

Yeah, maybe Bill is right, there is an American bias. In those Gilette commercials, for some reason they make Federer seem gay by touching Tiger's face, and Tiger reacts like "Hey man, I'm American, we don't touch other dudes here".

Federer is to Tiger as Cuba Gooding Jr is to MJ.

And speaking of those Hanes commercials: what the fuck?

cs said...

And as for that horrible, horrible contradiction: "See, tennis didn't channge. We changed."

AWE... How cute! He ended the column so cleverly! You see, after all that bitching about tennis changing, tennis didn't change... WE DID.

Its proof to me that Bill doesn't re-read his writing. Now does an editor for that matter. There must be a computer or rorbot that edits his columns, one that looks solely for technical errors and is incapable of understanding context.

You could just see him there, sitting on his couch, Sportsgal reading US Weekly next to him, and he's starring at his computer screen. How to end this one, Billy... how to end this one? I could could call my dad and see what he thinks about tennis. I haven't done that since Game 3 of the Finals. Or... hmm... I wonder if Victory is kind of like tennis changing... but... not changing because... we changed... wait a minute here!!

Send this one to press boys, Code Green though, no editing needed!

Edward said...

If only there were some Hall-of-Famer on that 2005 Sox team. One that had spent his whole career, since 1990, on the same team, up until that point. One who used to hurt the ball in a big way...

larry b said...

CS with comment of the week re: Federer touching Tiger's face.

Iridescence/Edward- I'm going to be Frank with you. I have no idea who you're talking about. Call me a doubting Thomas if you want, but I don't think there was anyone on that Sox team who fits that description. Especially not Frank Thomas.

Frank Thomas.

Frank Thomas.

Of course, he didn't exactly "lead them" to that championship. Didn't even play in the postseason. But still- Frank Thomas.

Also, Helton got "the chance" to lead his team to a title after almost 10 years of awfulness. That's all Bill specified.

CHart said...

This might not be a popular opinion (I know Larry and I have argued about it a bunch in recent months), but I consider winning the pennant a championship of sorts. For whatever reason, winning the National League CHAMPIONSHIP series is way more significant to me than winning the AFC or the Western Conference.

Chris W said...


if you say his name three times he'll appear

i'm hotter than beetlejuice, beetlejuice, beetlejuice

CitizenX said...

Bill makes a valid point. Who among us hasn't had this conversation?:

Me: Wow, Nadal owns Federer on clay. Do you think Roger will ever really solve him, or will this go down as the one chink in his armor?

Hench-bug: I don't know, Raffy's so quick.

Me: And strong. But Federer has those forearms.

House-o: Nadal's hotter.

Me: Federer!!!!!111threeminustwo!!!

Sportstoddler: Please feed me. It's been a day and a half.

Me: Look, we can all agree that Andre is a lot hotter bald and bearded. Reminds me of the SportsGal.

Henchbroguger: Dude, she left you weeks ago.

larry b said...

X- I'm a Roddick man myself. Just look at those eyes. *Sigh*

Bengoodfella said...

That was funny CitizenX about the "hot conversation." I do love how he only talked about men's tennis and completely ignored women's tennis, then brought up the "who's hotter" conversation.

At this point, I think he has got nothing. Nothing to write about but the Celtics because Reilly has taken ESPN's hearts with his presence on the campus. He just wants to be recognized, just like a first born child, so he has begun to write about tennis, which he knows nothing about, in an attempt to get some attention.

Did anyone else notice that his plan to make matches shorter would actually make them longer? I guess they did not teach Math 101 at Holy Cross.

pnoles said...

Yay! The number of people who write here changed again!

Frank Thomas.

Martin said...

That column was just a train wreck. I think he's reached the point where his wife actually writes a more interesting column then him. At least she doesn't try to pretend she cares about sports or what the readers are interested in.

The points he completely screws the pooch is the lack of anything about the women's tennis, (which is probably more popular now then the men's game), and the fact that he knows absolutly nothing about the style of tennis being played. Serve and volley has almost completely vanished due to the power of the passing shots from baseline players. If he wasn't just tossing crap out there at this point in his career, he could have made a decent article about how tennis isn't as compelling due to improved technology that limits play styles to basicly one pseudo baseline, big serve, tactic.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, I am with you about women's tennis being more popular now. I watch all kinds of women's tennis and not because of the short skirts but the fact that it is the kind of tennis that I like to watch. I just hate how Simmons assumes no one likes to watch men's tennis at all. I know a good amount of people that love to watch aces and the baseline groundstroke then another harder groundstroke/unforced error tennis that is played.

I do miss the serve and volley tennis players that used to be on the tour. Like Becker, Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic (who had a monster serve and played net), but that is the state of tennis now and there are other things to appreciate. I personally find regular NBA season basketball almost unwatchable but because Simmons likes it, he thinks it is in great shape.

I can't even read his article gloating about the Celtic victory. He has stolen any good feelings I may have had about that.

Martin said...

And if I could go a little bit Ben here with back to back posts...

Simmons column between Games 5 and 6 was a freaking Power Point presentation of how his columns have become the same 4, just change the topic. The BIGGEST reason he gave the Celtics a chance was because of their fans. Their fans would lift them up to the Championship Heavens, where they belong. Without the Boston fans, the Celtics would never be able to win. The fans are so powerful in fact, if the entire rosters were switched, the Lakers/now Celtics, would have won. Turiaf would have turned into KG, Sasha into Ray Allen...because the power of teh Boston fans is just that strong. Soon they'll be able to cure cancer and stop hurricanes with the force of their fandom.

Godspeed Boston Fans!

Bengoodfella said...

Haha...I don't know if I want it to be known as "going a little bit Ben," but that's ok. It is ironic you were not able to do back to back posts because I gave my two cents again though.

I can not handle his columns about the Celtic fans at all. Did you know that a Boston fan is able to cheer for their team twice as loud as a normal sports fan.

David Ortiz has never hit a homerun, the ball was just so inspired by the Boston fans cheering and loyalty it flew over the fence as a tribute to them and all they do. Curt Schilling's tendon healed itself before Game 6 of the ALCS because it was so afraid of letting the fans down the next night. That's wasn't pure blood on his sock that night. It was blood mixed with tears of joy the tendon got to be on the foot of a member of a team that had such great fans. Bill Simmons personally saw the Boston fans will the football through the uprights in the Super Bowl for both of Adam V.'s kicks.

I am done now...

larry b said...

Ben, we all know that posting back-to-back comments is your "thing." Nothing wrong with that- it just is. Especially ever since Archie took his coke addiction somewhere else.

Iridescence said...

I thought of comparing Thomas to Pierce. If he hadn't spent most of 2005 injured and hadn't had only 105 at-bats that season he would be the perfect guy to blow apart Simmons' argument but the Big Hurt wasn't exactly an integral part of the White Sox 2005 championship run.

His story is more "Great player who has the piss-poor luck to seriously injured at the exact time the usually mediocre team he has spent his whole career with finally puts it all together and wins a championship".

At least he got a ring out of it....

Anonymous said...

Complaining about Simmons is pointless, because he is not a sports writer. He writes about three professional leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL) as they pertain to his three favorite Boston teams. What he has to say about other sports he rarely if ever watches is irrelevant. You'd think he'd get over his infatuation of calling Kareem a "ninny" now that he's out of college. Also, add to the list of athletes staying on crummy teams and then winning a title: Tim Salmon with the Angels in 2002. I reall it being somewhat of a big story on the FOX broadcasts.