Friday, October 28, 2011

9 comments Bill Simmons Decides Since This NBA Lockout is Really About Him Anyway, He May As Well Go Ahead and Fix it

Bill Simmons has had enough of this NBA lockout. It has gone on way too long in his opinion. So he has decided since every little thing in the world revolves around him and he can fix pretty much anything, he'll just go ahead and fix the lockout. It can't be that hard, can it? After all, everyone involved with the process is an idiot and Bill is a genius. Before he fixes the NBA lockout, Bill wants us to know he has bought L.A. Kings season tickets...or his Grantland credit card has bought them. Same thing, I guess.

I think Bill wants us to believe he may never watch the NBA again or that in some way the NHL will take the place of the NBA. I don't believe this of course because writers don't often give up cold turkey the topic they are the absolute best at discussing. Let's be honest. We don't want Bill Simmons columns about baseball, college basketball or hockey on an in-depth level. The Boston Sports Guy is much better at talking NBA basketball than all other sports combined. So we'd prefer he stick to the NBA and he would prefer talking about the NBA. So this column about the NHL hockey tickets really will be irrelevant once the NBA comes back.

During the NBA's latest "crucial" labor meeting in New York City yesterday, I was attending the home opener for the Los Angeles Kings 3,000 miles away. How were these two events related?

These two events aren't related at all. Now, in Bill Simmons' world they are related because everything revolves around him. So the labor meeting had increased meaning because Bill was attending a hockey game at that time. In essence, I think Bill believes his action of buying hockey tickets was a direct blow to the NBA's pride.

They are now in direct competition for my Amex card.

As we will learn later, Bill plans on sending Grantland employees to the game. The odds of Bill using his personal credit card and not writing this off as a business expense is approximately -45.4%. So there really isn't a direct competition for Bill's personal Amex card, but it sounds really dramatic to write that.

The Kings have either seven, eight or nine months to win me over.

Well in that case I would expect the Kings to have at least 2-3 "Bill Simmons bobblehead nights" during the season and direct their entire marketing budget towards keeping him as a fan. He's very important you know. He knows Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla and several other D-list Hollywood stars. If you would like an entire list of the celebrities Bill knows, he will be glad to provide that to you.

I realized something during last night's Kings-Blues game: I have never not enjoyed myself at an NHL game. I mean, what's not to love?

To summarize:

The Boston Bruins aren't very good. This means Bill Simmons is a hockey widow.

The Boston are very good and win the Stanley Cup. Bill has never not enjoyed himself at a hockey game, those hockey games he attends when he isn't too busy not paying attention to the sport.

It's a sport with the best in-game format (long period, long break, long period, long break, long period, go home), best regular-season in-game wrinkle (the shootout),

I'm not a big hockey fan, but the shootout is an abomination. I would submit most true hockey fans feel this way. I don't like the shootout, so it is the worst in-game wrinkle next to the singing of any Neil Diamond songs by a crowd of people.

and highest percentage of "true fans in attendance" of the four major sports (indisputable).

Quite disputable actually. I would argue the NFL has this title, but then again if I argued this it would mean Bill Simmons has drawn me into another argument based on an unprovable theory. I would like to add, the percentage of "true fans in attendance" at a hockey game is declining now that Bill Simmons has season tickets.

I bought tickets because I like hockey, but also, because I want to learn more about the sport. I want to hang out with some Kings and see if the "hockey players are the best dudes in professional sports" theory is actually true.

And to think there are people who think I am wrong when I say Bill Simmons is infatuated with being famous and has no interest in writing if it doesn't help him meet famous people. Bill Simmons is basically saying here,

"L.A. Kings marketing department. I am Bill Simmons, owner/proprietor of and have Kings season tickets. Please allow me to meet some of your hockey players so I can write about them and get to know them on a personal level. Then one day I will see one of them at a restaurant and talk to them in public which will make me feel like I am important."

Really, this is Bill Simmons essentially dropping a hint that he wants to go meet some hockey players. Bill is essentially asking without asking for this to happen.

I want to send Grantland staffers to games and make them write about what they witnessed.

Hence, the cost for these tickets aren't on Bill's personal Amex card since he is using it for a business expense. The upside of Bill sending Grantland staffers to games is there may actually be a few columns about sports in general, rather than what sports mean in the context of something else.

For example, there is an article on Grantland right now titled, "Tim Tebow, Converter of the Passes" which is subtitled, "What can a sloppily thrown 15-yard out pattern tell us about God and country?"

On Grantland's front page right now (Tuesday evening) there is also a review of the Lou Reed/Metallica album, an article that is essentially a preview of the "30 for 30" shown on Tuesday night, two B.S. Reports, the Bad Quarterback League results, and a recap of "The Walking Dead." I can't ever accuse Grantland of not having variety I guess.

(Hence, our "Behind the Pipes" series; our seats are only a couple of rows behind one of the nets.)

Bill's seats are located a couple of rows behind one of the nets. Hint, hint for anyone who wants to go to a hockey game and make Bill feel important by going up and speaking to him while everyone around him notices he is someone famous. Who am I kidding? Bill has incredible disdain for his readers and only sees them as verification he is truly as creative and interesting as he imagines himself to be.

Another reason he reveals the location of the seats is just in case anyone wants to snap a picture of Bill at the game and post it on a widely read site. I think Bill's dream is to be accosted at least once by TMZ.

We even picked the perfect Kings season — it's their best chance to win the Stanley Cup since Wayne Gretzky's heyday.

This was not a coincidence Bill mentioned the Kings may be good this year. Bill takes any opportunity he can to jump on the bandwagon of something successful.

The NBA owners and players made countless mistakes during these past few months, but over everything else, one stands out: They assumed fans would stick by them through thick and thin. They were wrong. Fans do what's best for themselves.

I agree with this in part. The non-diehard NBA fans will do what is best for themselves. Bill Simmons will come quickly running back to the NBA the second the lockout is over because he is very good at discussing the NBA. It's his forte, outside of discussing Boston sports, so there is no way in hell he will stop following the NBA. His knowledge of the NBA is part of what sets him apart nowadays from other pop culture-spewing sports writers. So some fans will come back to the NBA, but Bill is correct this lockout can't help but hurt league-wide attendance.

Talk to any NBA employee, player or agent off the record and they all say the same thing in one shape or another:

It's the old Peter King, "Go talk to Player/Coach/Manager X and he will tell you this is true. That's right, I forgot, you can't ask them because you don't have access to speak to these people like I do" suggestion to the reading audience. It's a gentle reminder the person writing the sentence is an insider. Another thing I dislike about this suggestion is making a statement like "Go ask Player/Coach/Manager X..." is it provides little evidentiary backing for a statement since there isn't any way for the reader to verify what is being stated.

True story: On Monday, someone from one of the two sides called me to discuss my admittedly hostile Friday column (and my opinions on the lockout in general).

No, this is a true story. Bill will show you the phone records. Someone important called him. HE KNOWS JIMMY KIMMEL TOO YOU KNOW!

A Bill Simmons column is rarely complete without a name-drop of some sort.

realized we both wanted the same thing — an entirely new NBA system — then spent the next 20 minutes wondering why this mutual epiphany hadn't happened for the two sides that caused this lockout.

"Why isn't everyone as smart as we are? Perhaps it is because instead of having two people to hash out an issue, the issue is being decided by multiple millionaires on each side who each have divergent goals they want to accomplish, which is true even among the millionaires on the same side of the issue? Nah, that can't be it. They probably just aren't as smart as we are."

If Bill can't recognize the difference in two people hashing out an issue and 30 people on each side hashing out an issue there isn't much that can be done for him. This is a great example of Bill's ego running amok. He gets a stop sign put up in his neighborhood and then wonders why Congress can't pass a balanced budget as easily as he got the stop sign put up.

"And wouldn't I have looked you in the eye and said, 'Look, you're stuck on your four things, I'm stuck on my four things, but we can both agree that we need to blow up the current system and create something more logical — at some point — that addresses every big-picture problem our league has.

There is more than just one "eye" on each side being looked into by the other side. It is Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter, and the players looking into the eyes of David Stern, Adam Silver and 30 egocentric millionaires, some of whom can't even run their teams effectively. There is a lot more going on than just one person on each side learning to agree.

You want four-year max deals, I want three-year max deals … you get that one, we'll go with four.

What if the NBA players absolutely refuse to do four-year max deals? Say it is a sticking point for them. That's where the problems come in. You can't just start handing out compromises when there are multiple parties discussing an issue and a sub-set one of the parties feels very passionate about an issue.

You want sign-and-trades, I want no sign-and-trades … I get that one, no sign-and-trades. You want a five-year, $30 million max for the midlevel exception, I want a two-year, $3 million max for the midlevel … we'll cap it at four-years, $16 million.

Has Bill Simmons never been in a meeting that involved negotiations from two sides? It isn’t this easy to just compromise. Sure, it is fine to write down how easy it is to come to an agreement, but when you place multiple people with divergent agendas in a room, it isn’t easy to just magically see eye-to-eye. Easy compromises like this are what cause both sides to go home unhappy with the agreement in place. I really struggle to believe that Bill thinks it is this easy to fix the lockout.

"Yes," the other person said. "That's how negotiations usually work."

Notice, “the other person” says that is how negotiations “work.” He/She didn’t say it was that easy to make the negotiations work, but that’s “how” they work. From this I get that Bill is right about how to negotiate, but even “the other person” know it isn’t this easy because there are more than two people negotiating. Sure, both sides have been terrible so far, but David Stern can’t just compromise on something 30% of the owners don’t want. Billy Hunter can’t compromise on something 30% of the players don’t want.

This brings up my whole other issue of who this “other person” is. I know writers have anonymous sources, but the anonymity and the out of the blue phone call to Bill Simmons about this makes me question (a) how close to the negotiations this person really is that he would be wasting some/any time talking to Bill about the negotiations (b) whether Bill is exaggerating the phone call a little bit in regard to how much the person agreed with him. I’m just saying it is convenient an anonymous person called Bill and completely supported his view on how the negotiations should work.

"So why didn't it work that way here?"

Deep breath. And then …

"Because David and Billy are running it."

I agree both sides should come to an agreement and they will eventually. The agreement will probably be something that could have been agreed upon in mid-September, but that’s just how these things work. This doesn’t mean the negotiations are just simple through the use of compromising when neither side currently wants to compromise. It’s easy to point out how simple the negotiations are when you aren’t in the room doing the negotiating.

I think the NBA should look more like Hollywood's movie structure. I think middle-class guys should make half of what they make now, and stars should make even more.

Nearly every fan thinks this same thing. This is why I mock Bill when he “jokingly” wants to be the GM of an NBA team. He doesn’t understand things aren’t this easy. Fine, middle-class guys should make half of what they make now. So what does that mean when Rashard Lewis is 25 years old and becomes a free agent? Does Bill think Rashard believes he is a middle-class guy? Does Bill think Rashard’s agent thinks he is a middle-class guy? Of course not, because both of them want to get as much money out of free agency as possible. So it is easy to say what middle-class, bench guys, and stars should make, but who determines which of these players are stars, middle-class, and bench guys? The market does. One idiot General Manager can screw this all up and then we are at the very point where Rashard Lewis is one of the highest paid players in the league and Gilbert Arenas gets paid star money to be a backup.

It is easy as a fan to just say what all middle-class guys should earn, but it doesn't resolve which players middle-class guys, stars or bench players.

I think we should contract/merge several franchises until we settle at 27 teams; I think Seattle should have a team; I think Chicago should have two teams.

Screw you Chicago. Who cares if you don’t want two teams?

I think teams should be able to pay their own stars more money than anyone else, and that it's extremely easy to build in competitive advantages so they can do that.

Agreed. This wouldn’t have fixed the LeBron James/Chris Bosh situation where they joined Wade in Miami. Assuming that is the event we are reacting to by creating this rule, of course. James and Bosh got paid less to go to Miami, so I’m not sure the amount the Raptors/Cavs could pay them really factored into their decision to leave.

We need to create a league in which Jose Juan Barea can't make more than $16 million for four years, and only because that's what a valuable third guard who doesn't sell a single ticket should make.

Agreed. Who is going to tell Jose Juan Barea he is a third guard who doesn’t sell a single ticket? Not his agent. What happens when the Hawks offer Barea four years $36 million to be their starting point guard? He’s a starter now. What should he earn? How do we go about making sure Barea only gets $16 million? Make sure all of the owners use common sense? Good luck with that.

(Also, how does Bill know Barea doesn't sell a single ticket? People don't necessarily buy tickets to sporting events merely to see one player. It definitely occurs, but sometimes fans buy tickets to a game just to see the game.)

The problem is that Bill Simmons can’t enforce his rules on everyone and expect them to obey the rules. The NBA isn’t like his loyal readers. The NBA won’t just accept whatever bullshit rules he offers up as fact and live their life according to those rules. In principle, Bill is right. In reality, Bill is wrong because saying what a third guard should earn is perfectly fine, but what player is going to say, “I’m just a third guard, so I will willingly take less money in order to accept this role imposed upon me.”

The solution is to have fiscally smart ownership and General Managers. Maybe if Bill ruled the NBA he could figure out how to make this happen and then enforce his authoritarian rule on all NBA teams.

Another interesting point of this article by Bill is his overuse of the word “we.” Grantland had a fairly bad article about how the term "we" is the most overused phrase in sports. Wouldn’t you know the day after that article is posted the Editor of Grantland uses the term “we” repeatedly when discussing the NBA even though he isn’t a part of the negotiations. I am sure the rules don’t apply to the Editor in Chief of Grantland though.

we need to convince players that it's not always a good thing to grab as much money as you can possibly get (because nothing turns off fans quite like overpaid and underachieving athletes).

Good luck with that as well. Let’s remember Bill works for ESPN/Disney. It is a company with deep enough pockets to pay him more handsomely for his talents than any other sports site. This statement is quite interesting coming from a guy who started his own website with a company that had the financial backing to support it and still employ Bill if Grantland failed. It is hard to take advice from a columnist at the largest sports site on the Internet about not chasing as much money as you can get. Bill got the best of both worlds, a ton of money to write and his own site. This is the equivalent of a player getting paid very well and still winning championships. It is hard for some players to just turn down a ton of money being offered.

I agree nothing turns off fans like overpaid and underachieving athletes. Nothing turns me off more than a guy lecturing an athlete from taking as much money as possible in free agency, when the person doing the lecturing writes for the sportswriting equivalent of the New York Yankees.

Why won't Stern say when he's leaving? What's his succession plan? Is Adam Silver taking over? And if he is, why isn't he being more empowered right now? From the players' side, who takes over when Billy Hunter retired five years ago? I mean, five years from now? Who will be shaping the league????

Hopefully Bill Simmons will be shaping the league in a few years. Especially since he has all of the answers. Many times questions like “who will shape the league in five years?” takes care of itself over time. Let’s end the lockout and then answer these questions.

You know how you create real change? You seek opinions from outside parties. You have brainstorming meetings with non-basketball thinkers who might have one or two ideas that make sense. You don't hide behind words like "globalization" and "digital" as false evidence that you're big thinkers. You don't embarrass yourself by pooh-poohing contraction and telling people, "Please, David has never lost a team on his watch" while also threatening to cancel an entire season. You don't bitch about teams needing new "state-of-the-art" arenas without spending the requisite amount of time helping franchises figure out what "state of the art" will mean in 2015.

Where's the big-picture leadership here?

I also find it interesting that Bill wants answers for what may happen five years from now and is bemoaning a lack of big-picture leadership in the NBA. Just a few years ago, Bill was advocating David Stern to be President of the United States and writing semi-fawning ESPN The Magazine pieces about him.

My point isn’t to show how Bill is a hypocrite for criticizing Stern now, because he isn’t a hypocrite, but my larger point is to show how things can change over just a few short years. NBA leadership isn’t just going to magically appear, but just a few years ago Bill thought David Stern would make a great President and now he doesn’t seem to have as great of an impression of Stern. It’s easy to write open-ended questions about the future without current answers, but it isn’t as easy to understand opinions and situations change over time and accept this in a time of unrest.

Only the NFL has the luxury of saying, "If we disappeared, our fans would freak out until we came back."

I disagree in part with this. I think the same amount of freaking out would occur in college football and to a lesser extent college basketball. It’s just the collegiate players have zero leverage so we currently don’t have to worry about a college lockout happening, so this isn’t even on many people’s radar as to how the fans would react. Think about how college sports fans would react if there were no football games during the fall and no NCAA Tournament.

Fans adapt. Habits change. People like me say, "Screw it, I'll give hockey a real chance." Suddenly, you're not looking at the same landscape anymore.

Bill Simmons main writing strength is talking about the NBA. I don’t really believe he would give up on the NBA and give hockey a real chance after the NBA comes back. There is a reason the L.A. Kings tickets are for the Grantland writers and not just Bill Simmons’ personal use. Bill has bought the tickets, but I’m sure he will be glad to attend Clippers games once the lockout is over.

Everything broke perfectly. The Lakers and Clippers disappeared. Poof! They're gone. The USC and UCLA football teams are struggling. The McCourts turned the Dodgers into Clippers 2.0. Who's left? Remember, Los Angeles has no memory; it's a place where you're only as good as your last hit, where people latch onto winners and coldly dismiss losers both in sports and show business.

I am sure Bill pictured himself in a large office with a cigar and framed pictures of his face on the cover of magazines layering the walls when making this statement.

Right now? The door has swung wide-open for the Kings. As the clock counted down their 5-0 victory last night, I looked around and noticed that, incredibly, just about every fan had stuck around for the final minute. They chanted "LET'S GO KINGS! LET'S GO KINGS!" until the final horn, then skipped out of Staples Center happily,

From the way the fans left the Staples Center skipping happily it seems every fan at the Kings’ game was a nine year old girl.

Me? I drove home thinking, Maybe I'm not gonna miss basketball as much as I thought.

Yeah, right. When the lockout is over, Bill will slowly move back to the NBA. There’s no way he willingly stops being a fan of the one sport he is very good at covering. With his pop culture schtick running cold and his fair weather coverage of the Red Sox and Patriots in full force, I can’t see how he would give up his best topic for a weekly column. Hockey will last as long as the Bruins stay in first place and the NBA is locked out. Once that’s over, it’s back to what Bill knows he does best. He shouldn’t pretend otherwise.


BR said...

Crisply done with several laughs, Ben. The Book of Hockey is just around the corner where he can spew that Bobby Orr was better than Gordie Howe.

I heard his podcast today where he seemed to think he was a peer/equal of Hunter Thompson.

R. Rayner

rich said...

The Kings have either seven, eight or nine months to win me over.

He's a Bruins "fan"... meaning he just watched his team win the Stanley Cup. If that couldn't win him over, then nothing will.

I would submit most true hockey fans feel this way.

You would be correct. The shootout is terrible. You play for 65 minutes as a team for 1 point, then play one-on-one for another point.

Two years ago, the Flyers made the playoffs on a last game shootout... which knocked the Rangers out. That's a shitty way to miss the playoffs. It'd be like watching NBA games decided by a dribble, pass, shoot competition.

Quite disputable actually.

Here's the wrinkle: hockey stadiums only seat 20,000 or so. Football stadiums seat anywhere from 3-6 times that many. So as a percentage, I think hockey wins out, but only because there's a much more limited supply of tickets.

I want to send Grantland staffers to games and make them write about what they witnessed.

Fuck off Bill. I love hockey and I think hockey games are the greatest sport to watch in person, but to ask bloggers to write self-centered 20,000 word essays about what they "witnessed"? Go fuck yourself Bill.

(Hence, our "Behind the Pipes" series; our seats are only a couple of rows behind one of the nets.)

Two rules for going to a hockey game:

1) Sitting behind a net sucks, you miss half the action.

2) Sitting on ice is great... except you can't see the plays in the corners.

Personally, if you get seats in the first couple rows in the second deck towards center ice, you'll save 20 bucks a ticket and have a better time.

We even picked the perfect Kings season — it's their best chance to win the Stanley Cup since Wayne Gretzky's heyday.

No. The Kings should make the playoffs and they have a bright future, but there odds of winning the Stanley Cup this year are pretty slim.

realized we both wanted the same thing — an entirely new NBA system — then spent the next 20 minutes wondering why this mutual epiphany hadn't happened for the two sides that caused this lockout.

Lets see here: the owners want a new system that pays the players less; the players want a system that pays them more... Ya, hard to imagine where the problem is.

You want sign-and-trades, I want no sign-and-trades … I get that one, no sign-and-trades. You want a five-year, $30 million max for the midlevel exception, I want a two-year, $3 million max for the midlevel … we'll cap it at four-years, $16 million.

This assumes that each side is willing to give up somethings in exchange for others. There are also going to be times when both sides want the same issue and the cost of "winning" that point might be too much.

On the other side, you get the infamous "16 game schedule" where someone gives up something they "wanted," just too say they gave up something important.

I think we should contract/merge several franchises until we settle at 27 teams; I think Seattle should have a team; I think Chicago should have two teams.

So the NBA has 30 teams and Bill wants to get down to 27... by adding two more?

Which 5 lose their franchises?

We need to create a league in which Jose Juan Barea can't make more than $16 million for four years

We should make a world where shitty writers can't make more than 20k a year.

People like me say, "Screw it, I'll give hockey a real chance."

Your typical Bruins fan everyone!

The McCourts turned the Dodgers into Clippers 2.0

Baseball is over by November anyway... so... I fail to see how the Dodgers sucking has any impact on the NBA lockout or the NHL.

Murray said...

Enough with the "Typical (Insert Boston team here) crap. It's not typical. Bill is just a jack ass

Bengoodfella said...

Robert, thanks. I would love to read the Book of Hockey, purely for the entertainment value of it.

He probably doesn't think he is the peer or equal of Hunter Thompson, but way, way, way better than Hunter Thompson.

Rich, from my limited experience with hockey fans I have found they hate the shootout. I don't like it either. I just think it is a bad way to decide a winner.

So maybe there is a higher percentage of real hockey fans, but probably not in number...simply b/c football stadiums are able to hold more people.

I can imagine a column how hockey is like Louis CK and I will quit reading it after one paragraph. I would imagine hockey is like football. Being in the end zone is great when the action goes on down there, but otherwise is somewhat overrated. I feel somewhat the same about basketball games.

The whole conversation w/ the person involved w/ the talks killed me. I know Bill has to understand a conversation b/w two people is completely different from dealing with 30 owners and players who aren't in a huge mood to compromise and are too busy making sure there isn't a season. I am amazed at the ego in thinking he just fixed this. Sure, the ideas are great, but neither side wants to compromise or give up on certain issues. So it makes a compromise hard. If Bill could figure it out with 10 people on each side, then maybe I would listen to him. Otherwise, he's just playing a pure fantasy league version of ending the lockout.

Charlotte. Charlotte can lose a franchise. No problem here.

The whole Barea issue is what kills me too. The market decides Barea's worth and he doesn't think he is a 3rd guard. He seems himself better than that and if a team wants to pay him better than that then he is a starter. It would be great to limit how much he can make since he probably is a 3rd guard, but good luck convincing an athlete to stay in his "place."

Murray, I know that drives you crazy. I am almost convinced Boston-area fans hate Bill more than nearly any other fan base.

Fred Trigger said...

I like how he nonchalantly talks about contracting five teams. Wouldn't it cost billions of dollars to pay off those owners losing the franchises? Not to mention the leases for the arenas.

Jeremy Conlin said...

I might quit Bill Simmons soon. He's getting to be a bit unbearable.

JimA said...

I just want him to get the fuck away from hockey. The idiot writes something about hockey and all the hockey blogs have to link him to get their own hits, then say "look at what Simmons said about hockey". If the Bruins hadn't won the Cup last Spring this douchebag would be in Vegas every weekend.

Bengoodfella said...

Fred, but THAT'S HOW YOU FIX IT! You just get everyone to compromise and then contract 5 teams. It should just be easy to do.

Jeremy, you could stick w/ him when he talks the NBA...usually. Still, I hope the hockey talk won't continue.

Jim, he has a way of doing that. Everything he touches has an imprint of his opinion. What's unfortunate is he has a bit of credibility so people will believe what he says about hockey possible. Hopefully for you the lockout will end and he can get back to the NBA.

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