Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bill Simmons: Obnoxiously Writing About a Whole New Sport

Yes, this was published weeks ago. Yes, I will still blog about it. No, World Cup fandom has done nothing to change any of the things that make Bill intolerable. OH BY THE WAY, CAN YOU BELIEVE KOBE GOT NBA FINALS MVP EVEN THOUGH HE SHOT POORLY FROM THE FIELD IN GAME SEVEN? Get ready for references from Bill about that for the next ten years. Anyways-

Am I really posting a 4,500-word soccer column on the same day all hell is breaking loose for the biggest NBA summer ever? You're damn right I am! I'm tired of wondering where LeBron, Wade, Nowitzki and everyone else will land.

And you are in no way responsible for the hype that surrounded that whole scene.

I'm even more tired of people reporting about things that might happen, could happen or seem likely to happen. Just tell me when they happen. Thanks.

So I can update my Book of Basketball (and ridiculous bullshit I pulled out of my ass) accordingly!

In the meantime, let's play 20 Questions with the 2010 World Cup.

Typical obnoxious Simmons article structure- HE will tell YOU what the twenty most important questions regarding the World Cup are.

Question No. 1: What's been the single best thing about the Cup so far?

I love the Cup because it stripped away all the things about professional sports that I've come to despise. No sideline reporters.

That's only a factor if you're watching on TV.

No JumboTron.

That's only a factor if you're at the game, and even then, is pretty easy to avoid.

No TV timeouts. No onslaught of replays after every half-decent play.

I like replays. They let you see what those world class athletes out there on the field (the SOCCER field playing with a SOCCER ball) did.

No gimmicky team names like the "Heat" or the "Thunder." (You know what the announcers call Germany? The Germans. I love this.)

Actually, they're also known as the Mannschaft. And lots of teams have nicknames- the Yanks, the Roja, the Azzurri, the Black Stars, the Elephants, etc. How do we know which ones are gimmicky, like Heat and Thunder, and which ones are not, like Red Sox and Celtics? We just ask Bill.

No announcers breathlessly overhyping everything or saying crazy things to get noticed.

Hello, pot. Meet kettle. (Replace "announcers" with "half-assed columnists" of course.)

We don't have to watch 82 mostly half-assed games to get to the playoffs.

Actually, World Cup qualifying is an incredibly complex and lengthy process. You don't have to watch it, of course, but then again you don't have to watch the NBA's regular season either.

We don't have 10 graphics on the screen at all times.

What is this referring to? Has Bill confused watching sports with playing sports video games? Because yeah- Madden has like 10 little boxes on the screen most of the time. But no live broadcast of a real life event I've ever seen does.

The World Cup just bangs it out: Two cool national anthems, two 45-minute halves, a few minutes of extra time and usually we're done. Everything flies by. Everything means something.

I'm not in this camp, of course, but there's a pretty substantial chunk of the country that considers soccer to be the slowest-moving, most boring, most useless sport of all time. And I'm not sure how "everything means something" applies to a sport where one team can hold a 65%/35% possession advantage, a 12 to 3 corner advantage, a 24 to 8 shot advantage, and still lose. (Spain's group stage loss to Switzerland.)

It's the single best sporting event we have by these four measures: efficiency, significance, historical context and truly meaningful/memorable/exciting moments.

Again, classic obnoxious Bill. Makes an unsupported point; then makes up a rubric of evaluation that shows that the point is obviously correct.

You know … as long as you like soccer.

Gotta unsarcastically credit him for throwing that in there.

Question No. 2: What's the second-best thing?

For me, it's been the schedule. See, my son (aka The CEO) wakes up every morning at 5:30 by opening his bedroom door, stomping out, slamming the door as hard as he can,

"Blah blah blah I have a family." Don't care.

Question No. 3: Why do we wait every four years to have the World Cup?

When I argued recently that the Cup should be every three years, readers flooded me with reasons it couldn't work: It's too expensive (apparently the Cup always loses money for whichever country gets it); they'd have to do too much reconfiguring for smaller tournaments already in place (note: I don't get that argument; that's like saying you can't have the Oscars interfering with the SAG Awards or something); people like having it every four years because it's more meaningful that way (by that logic, you should have sex every four years, too);

It's really not. At all. Good try though.

and most importantly, FIFA never wants to go head-to-head with the Summer Olympics.

My counter for the last argument: Why not? So … we'd have MORE sports on? Wow, that sounds terrible! I'd hate to have all those exciting things to watch.

Classic obnoxious Bill- having a World Cup and the Olympics during the same summer would be awesome for HIM- so why could it possibly be bad for anyone else? Complete failure of comprehension- TV ratings, money, attendance, location bidding issues, etc. But all Bill hears is "Wait- but haven't you considered how AWESOME it would be????" On a similar note, let's play game 7 of the World Series during halftime of the Super Bowl somehow. That'd be swell.

The best every-three-years case for both the Cup and the Olympics: When it's every four years, you might miss an athlete's apex completely. Look at Larry Bird: The Basketball Jesus peaked from November 1984 through April 1988 before his body started to break down. Had he played in the '84 Summer Olympics, he wouldn't have reached his apex yet. Had he played in the '88 Olympics, we would have caught him right after his prime.

Classic obnoxious Bill- he apparently knows the timeframe of an athlete's peak, down to the month. I'd love to find another Celtics fanboy who's 100% sure that Bird peaked from March 1984 through July 1988 and lock him in a room with Bill. Further, how fucking ridiculous is it to say "Larry Bird's peak was (allegedly) only three years and seven months long- therefore, if we continue to have the World Cup only every four years, we could miss an athlete's prime!" Good grief. Get over yourself and your anecdotal analytical abilities, Bill. You know what? Some athletes only peak for a six month stretch- we need to have two World Cups every year! AND NONE OF THEM SHOULD HAVE JUMBOTRONS!

We want the best of the best at their absolute best -- by going four years (and not three), you're taking a chance that a transcendent athlete might have the misfortune of peaking at the wrong time.

Seriously, you're a complete fucking dingbat.

Question No. 4: How many times did you regret not ditching your family, ditching the NBA Finals, ditching the Celtics and flying 20 hours to South Africa for the World Cup?

"Let me tell you about this decision I agonized over!" Don't care.

Question No. 5: Speaking of the vuvuzelas, did you really tell a friend that you have developed Stockholm Syndrome with them?

That's true. I don't mind them any longer. I like the World Cup, so the vuvuzela sound has become Pavlov's dinner bell for me. I hear them and think, "Cool, the World Cup's on!" By the way, you know something is historically annoying when you can compare it to a hostage sympathizing with his or her captors and the comparison actually works.

I unsarcastically agree. I will probably forever associate vuvuzela sounds with the 2010 World Cup. And it's not a bad thing.

Question No. 6: Was it good or bad for the World Cup that Italy and France got bounced in the group stage?

I'm going with "bad."

Shocker that the guy who doesn't pay attention to baseball unless it's Yankees-Red Sox or hockey unless it's Bruins-Canadiens would go with that answer.

I love when two old-school powerhouses battle with an underlying subplot of, "Yeah, it's just soccer right now, but back in the old days, these two countries actually tried to destroy each other." Keeping USA, Spain, Germany, England, Italy and France around as long as possible makes me think about the Boston Tea Party, the War of 1812, Neville Chamberlain, Napoleon getting overthrown, multiple wars, Thomas Jefferson throwing his genitals around France like a boomerang, Benedict Arnold switching sides, all the times France surrendered or withdrew, and basically everything good and bad that's ever happened between those six countries.

History summary fail.

Look, I loved watching France's tournament unravel, and it's always funny when countries live up to their worst possible stereotype. But losing Italy AND France? Too big a double whammy. Maybe it's not as bad as losing Federer and Roddick before the semifinals at Wimbledon, but it's not ideal.

(Let's wait a second for every NBC Sports executive to stop nodding grimly.)

This "it's about the stars, not about the competition" thing is one of the biggest problem with sports these days. Aaaaaand... I'm not going to bother writing about it right now. Maybe someday. If I ever get out of this basement.

Question No. 7: You haven't handled Boston's Game 7 loss to the Lakers very well. What was the snarkiest e-mail or text you sent to a Boston friend after hearing that Kobe was attending the USA-Ghana game?

Guess what? He gives two answers, both of which can be summarized as "BOOO IT'S NAWT FAY-UH KOBE IS NAWT A TRUE MVP!!!"

Question No. 8: After a few legitimately horrendous World Cup officiating moments, as well as FIFA's bizarre refusal to incorporate instant replay haunting the Cup multiple times, do you feel better or worse about officiating and leadership in American professional sports?

Question No. 9: But you'd still love the NBA to incorporate the yellow/red card system for flagrant fouls and technical fouls, correct?

[Legitimate and non-obnoxious responses omitted]

Question No. 10: Who does Lionel Messi look like? It's driving me crazy.

Dustin Hoffman in "All The President's Men."

There must've been a Jersey Shore, Karate Kid, or Victory (Don't know what that movie is? Join the club and don't tell Bill) reference in there somewhere.

Question No. 11: What was the funniest thing you've read about the World Cup this month?

I liked Michael Davies' take on England's demise: "Americans will never completely understand how crap it is, most of the time, to be English. We might have cute accents and be good at cocktail parties. But we are mostly losers." That slayed me.

Who the fuck still uses "slayed?" Especially in the context of "made me laugh" rather than "committed date rape?"

England's fatalistic, self-loathing, S&M-style attitude toward its national team tops Buffalo Bills fans, Minnesota Vikings fans or even Cleveland fans.

Question No. 12: Come on, it can't TOP Cleveland fans -- at least say it's dead even, right?

Good point.

Eh, as a side note, I think they're dealing with the LeBron thing about as well as can be expected. Not saying they're rational or that they all deserve a pat on the back, but... eh. Shrug.

Question No. 13: If you could change anything about soccer, what would it be?

I hate how teams milk leads in the last 15-20 minutes by faking injuries and taking forever to sub players. When that Ghana player had to be carried off on a stretcher at the tail end of the America game, then hopped off like nothing ever happened as soon as the stretcher was out of bounds, I thought that was appalling.


Actually, it made me want to go to war with Ghana. I wanted to invade them. I'm not even kidding. That's another great thing about the World Cup: Name another sport in which you genuinely want to invade other countries when you lose.

Hockey? Pretty much any team sport in the Olympics if the stakes are high? Alternate answer: thanks, Bill, for assuming everyone felt the same way about the Ghana loss as you. Personally, I thought Ghana played pretty clean. After the game I was pissed at Bob Bradley and virtually no one else.

Question No. 14: What's been the strangest thing about the 2010 World Cup?

To hear Germany described in such likable, underdoggy tones. Who would have thought these young upstarts would jell this fast? It's like the announcers were talking about the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays or something … if the Tampa Bay Rays had started two world wars and nearly brought down Europe.

And of course, if your knowledge of world sports comes from somewhere other than 80s movies, you know that the German soccer team isn't really a bunch of direct descendants of Hitler.

Question No. 15: Your friend Chuck Klosterman thinks

Question/response involves Klosterman. Don't care.

Question No. 16: Who will win the 2010 Cup?

This was written just before the quarterfinals started.

I picked Argentina, so I'm sticking with them. Second choice: Brazil. Third choice: Germany.

Lost in the quarters, lost in the quarters, lost in the semis.

I never understood why people were discounting Argentina solely because of Diego Maradona.

Pretty much no one was.

How much damage can a soccer coach really do with a stacked team that's always better than anyone it's playing? When Bob Bradley screwed up the Ghana game because of his inexplicable "Screw it, I'm not starting my best 11 guys" strategy, that's a different story: We couldn't beat Ghana unless we played well and avoided any major boners. How can you screw up a team with superstuds like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez on it?

Typical obnoxious Bill, trying to pretend like he actually knows shit about this.

Question No. 17: Hold on, you can't let Maradona go that fast. Where does he rank for Unintentional Comedy on a scale of 1 to Ron Artest?

[Legitimate and non-obnoxious response omitted] At least Bill and I agree on one thing: Artest rules.

Question No. 18: After USA's exit in the round of 16, should American soccer fans be disappointed? Proud? Ambivalent? Frustrated but appreciative?

I can't think of anyone in the sports media less qualified to answer this question.

I'd go with the latter.

[Incoherent argument, essentially stating that the US team may be hitting a ceiling for the time being because we don't have the kinds of world-class superstars other teams have, omitted]

Question No. 19: Thanks to last year's Confederations Cup and Donovan's extra-time goal last weekend, do you think soccer is finally taking off in America?

Put it this way …

When I was in the third grade (1978), people thought soccer was taking off in America.

When I was a freshman in college (1988), people thought soccer was taking off in America.

When I was a barely employed wannabe sportswriter in Boston whose life revolved around the O.J. Simpson trial and partying every night (1994), people thought soccer was taking off in America.

When I was living in Boston with my fiancée and writing for (2002), people thought soccer was taking off in America.

I am 40 years old. I live in Los Angeles. My hair is turning silvery white. I have a wife, two kids, a mortgage and that same ESPN column. Guess what? People think soccer is taking off in America. Only this time … I agree with them.


Also, I can't speak for 1978 or 1988, and I can barely speak for 1994 as I was in grade school then, but I've been a die-hard sports fan with a bunch of friends who are the same since about 1998. No one thought soccer was taking off after the U.S.'s success at the 2002 Cup. I think Freddie Adu's "arrival" on the US Soccer scene a year later generated more hype than the 2002 quarterfinal appearance.

Question No. 20: Wait a second … you agree with them? YOU AGREE WITH THEM???? You sap! They say this every four years and it never happens!!!! Klosterman is right! You are the Manchurian Soccer Candidate!

Hear me out …

Nope. It's an eight paragraph answer that's basically just about Bill and Bill's life and Bill's friends and Bill's text messages/emails and how a younger version of Bill might have reacted to Donovan's goal against Algeria. Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill. Bill is an asshole and I hate him and his writing.

Now please, everyone go leave a comment about how I'm just jealous because I wish I had his job.


Jack M said...

No onslaught of replays after every half-decent play.

No sport shows more replays of half-decent or below average plays than soccer.

Biggus Rickus said...

You're so jealous of Bill's awesomeness it's not even funny. It's just sad.

And Chuck Klosterman is no friend of mine.

As for soccer taking off, people have been writing about it on and off since the '70s. Then leagues would start up and fail and the story would vanish for a while. I don't think it will ever "take off" in the sense of the big three professional sports leagues. However, if you define "take off" down to becoming a reasonably successful niche sport, then yes, it will take (has taken?) off. And from what I understand the MLS is much worse than the English Premier League, which probably doesn't help.

Chris W said...

I can't believe you let him get away with this:

"By the way, you know something is historically annoying when you can compare it to a hostage sympathizing with his or her captors and the comparison actually works."

WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN, LARRY? But seriously, great write up.

SOB in CA said...

There was some kind of jumbotron at these matches. Maybe not one that obscures the field like the one in Dallas, but fans were pointing and waving whenever their face was up on one.

rich said...

I personally loved Bill's answer about the schedule. It was a double whammy of retarded and don't give a fuck.

On the second thought, I don't give a fuck about Bill and his family. Durrrr my kid is "the CEO" because he asks for things durrrrrr. Who knew children acted this way durrrrrrr.

On the first thought, the scheduling sucked for most of America. I know Bill has the luxury of working basically whenever he feels like it, but I unfortunately didn't feel like getting canned to watch the US soccer team.

Anonymous said...

He begins his most recent shitbag, I mean mailbag, with two fucking letters talking about Kobe's MVP!

Adam said...

The most hilarious part about his latest suckfest/gangbang/mailbag is the opening, especially because you guys always make fun of Simmons for making up reader questions.

He starts with another "anonymous random person that can never be verified totally said this to me IM NOT MAKING THIS UP" story.

If so many people think you make fake reader questions that you have to go out of your way to try to disprove it.... it means you're making them up.


Flying back to Los Angeles from New York on Wednesday afternoon, I was working on Thursday night's mega-mailbag when a nice lady sitting next to me recognized me and said hello. We made small talk for a few minutes. She asked me what I was working on.

"A mailbag," I told her. "I'm sifting through everyone's questions and trying to figure out which ones should make the cut."

"Really?" she said. "I always thought you made the questions up."

Nope. Not for 13 years. Never have had to. My readers have always delivered the goods. And that's why every mailbag has started the same way: "As always, these are actual questions from actual readers."