Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bill Simmons expands the horizon of topics he talks out of his ass about

You don't need stats to know greatness. Meryl taught me that.

Next time you're hanging out with friends, ask them this: "Who is the greatest living actor?" The question will temporarily paralyze them, as if they'd been Tasered. Everyone watches movies, so the answer should be obvious, right?

Yes, the answer to a question that's entirely based on one's own personal taste should be completely self-evident. The fact that it isn't completely blows my fucking mind.

But they will hem and haw, glance at the ceiling, stutter and say things like, "Man … " and "Hmmmm." Then they will suggest Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro or Al Pacino.And they will be wrong. The answer is Meryl Streep.

Considering the question was "who is the greatest living actor" and Meryl Streep is an actress, you might both be wrong.

Only 59 years old, Streep has been in 40 movies (not including voice-overs and cameos),

Being in lots of movies, always the mark of a great thespian. Just ask this guy.

taken home Oscars for Sophie's Choice (best actress) and Kramer vs. Kramer (best supporting actress) and drawn 13 other nominations. She's been nominated for 23 Golden Globes and won six. She has two Emmys. Her résumé dwarfs that of every other living actress so dramatically, she's like a cross between Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky.

That's all good and well except a few paragraphs later Simmons says this:

Sports are objective (you win or you lose), whereas movies are almost entirely subjective. I believe Pacino's performance in The Godfather: Part II is one of the 10 greatest of my lifetime. Did he win a best actor award in 1974? Of course not. The Oscars are littered with injustices like that: De Niro's not winning for Taxi Driver, Paul Newman's not winning for The Verdict, Anthony Hopkins' winning a best actor for 16 minutes of screen time as Hannibal Lecter.

So Merryl Streep is the greatest because she's won/been nominated for a lot of awards which Simmons claims to be totally unreliable. Fantastic logic.

If the Oscars were reliable, they would help us create a formula that enabled us to rank actors of all eras. Well, what if we tried anyway? Let's make best actor/actress nods worth seven points and nominations worth three. Then let's make best supporting actor/actress nods worth three and nominations worth one. It's a highly scientific formula I just spent at least 27 seconds devising. And guess what? The Simmons Cinematic System shakes out in an overwhelmingly logical way.

Are you happy with those rankings? Me too! I'm a genius!

This is the equivalent of me saying: "Well there's no sure-fire metric for measuring the success of offensive lineman, and I know that Pro-Bowl voting is complete bullshit, but what if we decided that Pro-Bowl voting was the best way to determine the comparative worth of an offensive lineman? Wouldn't it make so much sense once you looked at the list and saw that all the lineman who you thought were good, were in fact actually good!? Man, I'm a fucking genius!"

Yeah, Pacino and De Niro should be higher, but they were robbed in '74 and '76, so their stats make sense.

So, in other words, your ranking system is as devoid of merit as the Oscars themselves.

Lemmon's [high] number surprises me a little.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Spike TV doesn't cycle Some Like It Hot or The Apartment between showings of Scarface and Heat.

But that's not the point. We've had ample time to figure this all out, and we've never bothered.

That, or it's a completely subjective argument that millions of people probably engage in every day.

We never felt the need to validate Brando's brilliance by raving that he's the most consecutively nominated leading actor (four, from 1951 to '54)

Because nothing sums up an actor's worth like consecutive nominations from a body that is widely derided as being biased and corrupt.

nor do we pimp Nicholson by pointing out that he's the only living actor with three Oscars.

I'm so tired of Nicholson not getting any respect from the media.

Those guys are legends. Their degree of greatness doesn't matter, just the greatness itself.

What the hell are you babbling about?

So what does this have to do with sports? With everyone fretting about the steroids era and how it frayed the carefully woven fabric of baseball history, ask yourself this: Does any of it matter? Bonds remains the best leftfielder I've ever seen in person. I'll never forget watching Roger Clemens in his prime. I never turned the channel when Manny was batting for the Red Sox -- never, ever, ever, not once. A-Rod fetched the highest price in each of my fantasy auctions this decade. I probably paid four grand to Fenway scalpers from 1999 to 2001 to watch Pedro pitch even though I was broke. Some of them cheated for an edge they didn't need; others stayed clean. I will remember them all.

Maybe we overthink this stuff. The truth is, either you're great or you're not.

Oh gee, thanks, Bill. I hadn't realized that I should appreciate great athletes. I also could never have figured out that the truly great players (Bonds, Clemmens, A-Rod, Manny, Pedro) are "great because they're great," and we should all ignore the albatross of terrible stats (like A-Rod's 147 career OPS+, or Pedro's 154 career ERA+) they all carry with them.


Facebones said...

You know how bad this column was? This was the only comment at the Sons of the Sports Guy forum:

"This article is so bad and so atrocious that no link shall be posted to it, nor shall any comments be allowed."

Even US Weekly wouldn't have run this crap. Is Sports Guy trying to get fired? Will the next issue be written by his 4 year old daughter? Ack.

Edward said...

This was probably the sickest I've been upon finishing a Simmons article. I suspect it's because he took a premise I agree with (Streep is indeed the finest living actor*) and then justified it with some utter bullshit.

You don't quote this, but he equates his system to baseball stats, even though it would be the equivalent of using RBI and AVG instead of more advanced metrics. Streep is probably undervalued in his system, because generally, once an actor has an Oscar or two, the Academy tends to stop voting for them past the nominating process, giving others a chance to get the award.

Borrowing from Posnanski:
"Actor" can mean both men and women. I would say that Streep is both the best actress (better than all other women) and best actor (better than all men as well) alive today.

Bengoodfella said...

I know I say this probably once a month, but this is the worst article Bill Simmons has written in a long time. I think what Jack wrote pretty much sums it up for me. This article somehow managed to combine utterly pointless with absolute complete bullshit metrics. I don't think he is trying to get fired, I think he just really stinks at writing sometimes.

Everyone look forward to his book!

Tonus said...

So... how long before stories of Streep's PED use ruin her chances at the HoF?

Conrad Appleby said...

So, one day, Bill sat down and thought to himself, "Ya know...Meryl Streep is by far the best actress, but many people won't readily identify her as such. Hmm...and having noticed that, it occurs to me that it doesn't matter that steroids helped some baseball players play better. Yep, like Meryl Streep, in baseball, greatness is greatness."


Bill Simmons approached the writing of this article the same way a third grader would: he thought of something he wanted to write about and then meandered along without any direction whatsoever, eventually making a forced and unnatural transition into the assigned topic--sports. Low and behold, the result is an insult to rational thought.

Most of Bill Simmons' articles contain assenign analogies, irritating pop culture references, and endless, self-absorbed rhetoric which are cause-enough in themselves to criticize. But I don't think until recently I've gotten the impression that Bill is just flat out stupid. That impression is rapidly taking hold.

Passive Voice said...

"Either you're great or you're not."

Whoa... everything just got, like, simplified, man. It's all so clear now.

Chris W said...

ok, snarky comments aside, I just want to know about how this new revelation affects the Hall of Pretty Good

Biggus Rickus said...

We have plans to build it in Witchita Falls, TX. Should be open in 2012. All the goods will be there, from Blauser to Blyleven. We're trying not to veer out of the "Bl's".

Djmmm said...

I thought it was bullshit before, but I've just jumped onto the Simmons is deliberately trying to get fired bandwagon. This is beyond even self-parody.

Jeff said...


Brigadier Ketchup said...

To quote Conrad:
"Bill Simmons approached the writing of this article the same way a third grader would: he thought of something he wanted to write about and then meandered along without any direction whatsoever"

I used to like Simmons' columns a few years ago, but I stopped because they were all approached the same way you just described. Guys like him and Easterbrook obviously get paid by word, but at least Easterbrook makes some valid comments now and then. Simmons is just all "look what I know! look who I've met! look at what I've seen! LOVE ME! I AM IMPORTANT!"

I heard his voice long before his podcast, and ever since I began to loathe him, whenever I've read any quotes of his or a column, I read them thinking of the nasally voice. And, yknow, it sounds perfect like that.