I never thought this blog would use the "lockouts suck" tag as often as it is being used. In the past two years we have had an NBA, NFL, and NHL lockout. There has been a lot of owner-player's union disagreement over the past two years. One thing that shouldn't be disagreed upon is my opinion is that Bill Simmons is running out of things to write about. In this past week's NFL picks he criticizes Gary Bettman because it is low hanging fruit and Bill has become such a big hockey fan since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup two years ago and his magical daughter helped the Los Angeles Kings to win the Stanley Cup last year. Gary Bettman isn't exactly the best commissioner in sports, no doubt. It's just any time Bill writes about hockey I can't get his "I'm a hockey widow" column out of my mind. This is the same "hockey widow" column that apparently has been scrubbed entirely from the Internet by ESPN. I tried for five whole minutes and couldn't find it anywhere.
News broke last night that embattled NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested a two-week moratorium from lockout negotiations
with the NHLPA. The reason? Things had just become too heated. I guess
that's what happens when you cancel six weeks of games and Thanksgiving
is looming — maybe there's a little more urgency, you say some things
you regret, people take those things personally, and suddenly you're
threatening each other in monotone Canadian accents...But canceling another two weeks just so everyone can cool off? Who does this?
Perhaps two sides who can't seem to come to an agreement and don't want to cause harm to the current negotiations? Donald Fehr didn't exactly reject this idea outright, instead he took it back to his membership, so maybe this wasn't such a terrible idea.
And you wonder why hockey fans were regarding Bettman's lockout
leadership the same way you'd act if you were watching a baby play with a
Somewhere 2001 Bill Simmons is laughing at the asshole who just wrote a comedic "baby with a chainsaw" analogy. Somewhere else Adam Sander just read this analogy and just got an idea for a scene in his new movie about an immature guy who looks like Adam Sandler who is married to an attractive woman. The rest of the plot doesn't matter. Hijinks ensue.
Oh God … wait, is that on … OH GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Writing down the sound effect of someone reacting to a baby playing with a chainsaw doesn't make it any more funny. It makes it sound a little more desperate and ill-fitted to this column.
This is a guy who recently earned the following e-mail from a
Minneapolis reader named Peter Gilbertson: "How does one impeach a
sports commissioner? How can a commissioner on the verge of losing two
NHL seasons in one decade, with four work stoppages during his tenure,
continue to keep his job?
It's always fun to read when Bill uses his reader's comments on a subject as if these comments are fact instead of an opinion. For some reason, Bill believes the opinion of one of his readers actually serves as proof of something being true.
First of all, how much fun would it be to impeach Gary Bettman? Can't
you see him sweating and stammering through the hearings as various
politicians rehashed an endless list of mistakes over the years?
This sounds like it would be about as much fun as hearing about Bill's fantasy football team, which we will have honor of briefly hearing about in this column.
Gary Bettman should have lost his job years and years ago. He kept it
for the same reason David Stern plans to hang around for three decades,
Bud Selig will still be running baseball when he's 80,
Because the owners like them?
Roger Goodell will probably get a contract extension even after he handled the Saints debacle so badly that he had to bring back his old boss to fix the situation for him.
I am not entirely sure Goodell exactly brought back his old boss to fix the situation for him. It was more of a situation where the Saints requested another party hear their grievance and make a judgment. One way or another, Paul Tagliabue ended up being the arbitrator and the players union even made a motion to have Tagliabue recuse himself from the proceedings. Not that Goodell handled the bounty scandal deftly and with aplomb, of course, but even Goodell's old boss hasn't seemingly helped the situation too much.
after I joked recently for the umpteenth time about Bettman's former
boss, David Stern, planting him in the NHL to ruin hockey, a few readers
e-mailed me wondering if that could be legitimately true.
I'm a grammatical mess. You only need to read pretty much anything I write to see I am not going to be named Grammar and Sentence Structure King anytime soon. Bill has started a trend (and I blame Bill because I remember Bill first writing this way and I like to blame him for things that aren't his fault) of using the word or some derivation of the word "legitimate" as a descriptive-sort of word in a sentence. It doesn't bother me all the time, but in this sentence he could have left out "legitimately" because it is unnecessary. If it is true, then doesn't that mean it is "legitimate" as well? It feels unnecessary to me, like a baby pushing a lawnmower would be unnecessary.
The case against Bettman in one sentence: The NHL sacrificed an entire
season so they could reimagine their entire salary structure … and only
seven years later, that "reimagining" went so poorly that they might
have to sacrifice a second season because they need a mulligan.
So they really needed a mulligan? This changes my point of view tremendously.
That's all you need to know.
But is that all I need to know? I ask this because Bill now lists various other reasons why Gary Bettman sucks. While he is correct in his assessment of Bettman, clearly the reimagining of the salary structure isn't all we needed to know.
I didn't even need to bring up the league's botched television deals,
overexpansion, poorly picked markets, belated acknowledgement of the
concussion epidemic, or more incredibly, how they stupidly forgot to
limit the length of contracts.
Remember seven years ago when Bill was writing these same things during the previous lockout? Wait, you don't? That's probably because he was a hockey widow at that point since he didn't feel the Bruins were competitive enough (the Bruins went 41-19-15 in 2003-2004). Once the Bruins put together a "legitimately" good team, Bill started paying attention to hockey again.
Imagine your neighbor knocking down his house, then rebuilding it from scratch as his family lived in a hotel.
Here begins an overly-long analogy that can be summed up in 1-2 sentences. I will take a shot at doing so.
Gary Bettman should have been smart enough to figure out the NHL's problems during the previous lockout. Yet, he helps cause another lockout this season to correct what he should have corrected during the previous lockout.
Let's check on how Bill's overly-long analogy is doing,
He says, "Because I'm an idiot, that's why."
And then, there's an awkward silence before he walks away, as you don't know whether he's kidding or not.
That's Gary Bettman.
That's Bill Simmons.
Hockey depends on its attendance and the unwavering devotion of its
zealous fan base. From a television standpoint, the league will always
be handicapped by its lack of marketable stars (the biggest reason it
can't command anything close to the NBA's television deal), a glaring
problem that I noticed during my first year owning Kings season tickets,
It was a glaring problem that "The Sports Guy" didn't notice until he was 41 years old. Quick to the take, he is not.
Anyone who went to Wednesday's Heat-Clippers game was thinking I'm going to see LeBron!,
because they knew he was playing 90 percent of the game. In hockey, you
don't say "I'm going to see Ovechkin!," because he might play one-third
of the game if you're lucky (and might not make a single meaningful
So hockey has fewer fans who are bandwagon fans who only like a team because they like a certain player on that team? I think this makes me enjoy hockey even more.
It's the ultimate team sport, and really, that's the best thing about
hockey — there's a guaranteed level of entertainment night after night
after night that transcends star power.
(one paragraph later in this very column)
So how do we end up with a salary system that allows Minnesota to spend
$196 million on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise? And that's not to pick on
those guys — you could build a decent playoff team around them as long
as your goalie didn't stink.
Hockey is the ultimate team sport! All you need is two good players and an average goalie, then you have a playoff team. It's the ultimate team game where Bill believes three players are all a team needs to make the playoffs. Team. Game.
Just know that nobody is saying the words, "Suter and Parise are coming
to town tonight!" It's just not that kind of league. You go to hockey
games to see quality teams, not quality players.
So hockey fans don't say, "Crosby and Malkin are coming to town tonight!"? I feel like some hockey fans might actually say something like this and try to get tickets to the game.
Suter and Parise shouldn't make that much money because hockey
players shouldn't make that much money.
It has nothing to do with them.
If you think of the cable television model, it makes more sense —
A convoluted analogy to cable television show will help this make more sense. Not less sense, but more sense. Actually, in debating this issue I will confuse myself and probably you. I apologize in advance.
channels like AMC, FX and Showtime realized that the quality of their
shows matter a thousand times more than the "star power" of the actors
on those shows.
Or they realized they have a tighter budget than shows on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS, (and certainly have a tighter budget than a movie has) so they have to rely on lesser-named actors to carry their shows. NHL teams don't necessarily have a bigger and better league the players can go to as opposed to playing in the NHL, so this isn't a very good comparison. There is one other major reason as to why these cable channels don't use "star power" to carry their shows. Most actors/actresses with "star power" don't want to do television. Where are the "stars" on ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS? Kevin Bacon and Zooey Deschanel are on FOX. CBS replaced Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher. Is this "star power" on the major networks? I don't recall a lot of "stars" doing network television. Another issue with this analogy is actors/actresses mainly want to do movies, so that dilutes the cable television talent pool. There is no major competitor to the NHL that dilutes the talent pool. Needless to say, this doesn't fit Bill's analogy so he skips over this little fact, but if an actor/actress has "star power," they usually want to do movies where the most money and exposure is at. I do agree shows on AMC, FX and other networks realize quality of the show matters more than the names in the cast. I'm just not entirely sure I see Bill's analogy to hockey though.
Not to mention, FX has had shows with Glenn Close, Rose Byrne and Timothy Olyphant as the leads. These aren't necessarily big name actors/actresses (well, except Close), but certainly big enough for television, no matter the network the show is on. Showtime has created shows around Laura Linney, William H. Macy, Don Cheadle, Kristin Bell, Jeremy Irons, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, and David Duchovny. These actors and actresses could also carry a show on ABC, FOX, NBC, and CBS. If this cable model was a good comparison to the NHL, then guys like Sidney Crosby would be playing in a different professional hockey league from the NHL, while the NHL settles for their best players being Ryan Suter. But the best hockey players like Alex Ovechkin, Crosby, and Malkin all play in the NHL, while the best actors aren't necessarily on television, but are in the movies.
These names above aren't big names by any measure, but there are quite a few Oscar winners and big salaries thrown in there. So I'm not sure Bill's "star power" analogy makes sense because I don't think it is always a conscious decision by these cable networks to not get a big name actor/actress for a television show, any more than it was a conscious decision by big name actors/actresses to not do television shows. The NHL should be "the movies" in this example because that's where most actors want to end up doing the most work, just like the NHL is where most hockey players want to end up.
Yeah, AMC could have spent an extra $15 million per season on Keanu Reeves to play Rick in The Walking Dead, but why would they?
Again, Bill's analogy fails because he is seems to think the cable television model is by choice. I'm not sure it is. To hire Keanu Reeves for $15 million wouldn't make sense in the context of the show, while paying a hockey star $15 million might make sense in terms of marketing, ticket sales and the success of the team. "The Walking Dead" has an ensemble cast, so it wouldn't make sense to pay $15 million for one actor. It's not a decision to avoid big name actors more than it is a decision to understand the format of the show and what would work financially. If Keanu Reeves said, "I will do this show for $50,000 an episode," then perhaps AMC would consider him for the part. Would NBC hire Keanu Reeves for $15 million per season? I doubt they would.
Same for Showtime's hit Homeland, which features only one star
(Claire Danes, who certainly isn't making Parise/Suter money) surrounded
by well-casted actors, including a few good ones whom you'd recognize
from other shows (including Mandy Patinkin, a fairly famous name in his
own right) and certainly weren't expensive.
I think Damian Lewis may be slightly more expensive than Bill would think. Of course I'm a big Damian Lewis fan (I know, I am the only one) so I could be delusional. Not to mention, if Mandy Patinkin is a famous name in his own right, then doesn't that mean "Homeland" has two stars that were cast?
You might recognize that same blueprint from Breaking Bad, Dexter, Californication, Shameless, Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy and about 10 other cable shows.
I guarantee Michael C. Hall makes a lot of money as the lead on "Dexter." I also guarantee he cost a lot of money (relative to television of course) when the show started as well because he would bring a fan base from "Six Feet Under" to the show. "Game of Thrones" is another show with a huge ensemble cast. It simply doesn't make sense to hire an actor/actress making $10 million per season to do the show when there are 15-20 "stars" of that show. David Duchovny did "X-Files" for years and probably wasn't cheap when he started doing "Californication" and I am guessing William H. Macy is well-compensated for "Shameless." If Bill wanted a better comparison it would be a comparison between the NHL and an overseas hockey league that wants to lure above average NHL players to their league.
While I don't hate Bill's analogy, I think he is making a truth in cable television casting (that it is hard to get stars to do television, whether network or cable, and ensemble casts simply can't work financially with 2-3 stars in them on one television show) and trying to turn this type of casting into a conscious decision on the part of the networks. It is a conscious decision, but a decision decided by the fact "stars" of acting don't necessarily want to do television. The stars of hockey do want to play hockey in the NHL, so I think this analogy doesn't make a ton of sense. If George Clooney wanted to do a Showtime show and the money was right, he would be on a Showtime show. Of course, what do I know? I don't live in California like Bill does.
On cable television, the showrunner and the writing matter more than
anything else. In hockey, the sport and the fans matter more than
anything else. It doesn't matter who Minnesota's third-best player is any more or less than it matters who plays Mike on Homeland. Fans are coming, regardless.
It helps that Mike on "Homeland" is the 6th or 7th lead on the show behind Saul, Carrie, Brody, Brody's wife, Brody's daughter, and the CIA Director. So it wouldn't make sense to find a big name actor who will only be in 5-10 minutes of each episode. Also, the idea that "fans are coming" to NHL games regardless of star power seems pretty faulty to me. It's a huge assumption in my opinion.
Wasn't the league supposed to be regaining control of its broken salary
structure? How are we back here seven years later battling the exact
Probably. Gary Bettman does suck at times.
He's the worst commissioner in sports history, and really, it's going to
remain that way unless Roger Goodell extends the NFL's season to 20
games, adds Wednesday- and Friday-night football to the schedule, pays a
hitman to murder Jonathan Vilma, and gets outed for having a heated
affair with his biographer, Peter King … and even then, I'd probably
still give the edge to Bettman.
Shots fired! Bill should know Peter likes his men more grizzled and quarterback-y than Roger Goodell.
If you want to talk about moratoriums, Gary, here's a better idea — step
down and give us a lifetime moratorium. From you. On to the Week 12
Ziiiiiiiiiiing. It's good to see Bill cares so much about the NHL now that he is writing critical columns about the NHL commissioner.
Speaking of skunks, I have the following thoughts about the Marlins skunking the entire city of Miami …
2. Everything you ever wanted to know about professional sports
in 2012 could be summed up with the sentence, "Jose Reyes needs to pass a
physical but is currently still on vacation in Dubai."
I'm not entirely sure if I understand what this means. Jose Reyes makes a ton of money and it is MLB's offseason, so he is visiting a really nice city using all of the money he has. Does Bill think it is a bad or over-glamorous thing for Jose Reyes to be in Dubai?
4. The Red Sox definitely would have jumped on the Jose Reyes–Josh Johnson–Mark Buehrle trio if John Henry were still alive.
I would if Bill thinks this would have been a good idea or not. He doesn't say, probably so he can withhold judgment until May or June when he writes a column complaining the Red Sox should have traded for Jose Reyes or Josh Johnson...unless the Red Sox start off well, in which case he will write a column saying the "new" Red Sox are better built for the future. Either way, it's best not to get an opinion on the record in case it gets in the way of second-guessing or narrative building in the future.
Packers (-3) over LIONS
Remember when it seemed like things were falling apart for Aaron Rodgers? His offensive line couldn't block anyone. His skill position guys kept
getting hurt. His agent badly overexposed him by throwing him into too
many commercials, which had a habit of running back-to-back during the
most dire parts of every Packers game.
No, I remember when Rodgers wasn't playing very well and the media built up this narrative that Rodgers had things falling apart for him and then tried to create some sort of dissension within the Packers locker room that probably didn't exist to the extent the media insisted it did. I recall how Rodgers still has skill position guys hurt, his offensive line still isn't great, and he is still in too many commercials. The Packers are winning though, so all of that is now forgotten.
And really, Rodgers has been crushing teams ever since. At the same
time, his NFC nemesis Eli Manning contracted the E Coli Delhomme virus, Matt Ryan's Falcons lost a textbook "We would have believed in you if you won THAT game, but you didn't" game,
The Falcons are 9-1, but THAT game is the one which causes Bill not to believe in Matt Ryan. The game against the Saints, where Matt Ryan really didn't do a hell of a lot to lose the game.
In other news, here are some fun stats about Calvin Johnson's total number of touchdowns this season (two).
Calvin Johnson has the same number of TDs (two) as my West Coast fantasy team has wins (two).
Somehow, Calvin Johnson is still the best guy on my West Coast fantasy team.
This is reason no. 610 why I'm retiring from fantasy football after this season.
Fantasy sports: They are called "fantasy" because that's your state of mind if you think anyone cares to hear about your team.
Reason no. 611 was this e-mail, courtesy of Steve in Bedford,
Massachusetts: "Fantasy is kind of like cheating on your wife. You don't
get any solid action for a while (seven months of crappy SportsCenter
bits with Jon Gruden), then you get an opportunity to get some (three
hours with your friends drinking and competing about football knowledge
with the promise of real football to come) only to spend the following
17 weeks living with regret and not wanting to check your e-mail."
I really have nothing to say about this. I think this analogy speaks for itself. Complaining you don't have a good fantasy team is really complaining how bad you are at fantasy sports. In other words, don't complain to us you suck.
Here's the point: Now that Nate Silver has solved the polling process in
politics, I'd like to see him devote his attention to something much
more meaningful … football gambling. How hard could this be? Couldn't
Nate just study all the patterns from every football season and come up
with 20 steadfast rules/tips/guidelines that should never be violated?
Perhaps the problem, and the reason putting rules/tips/guidelines that should never be violated is a losing proposition, is that there aren't any patterns? I'm just guessing though.
Jaguars (+15) over TEXANS
I know the Jaguars stink, but Houston plays again on Thursday — this is
the all-time Milton Berle "Pulling Out Just Enough To Win" game if there
ever was one.
This was a good call by Bill. I like to give him credit at least once per post. This was me giving him credit.
In other news, here's an important e-mail from Phil in Irving: "I need
your help to bring this problem to more people's attention — 'I will say
this … ' is the new 'Having said that … ' Doesn't this phrase drive you
crazy? Someone smarter than me could probably figure out how certain
phrases seem to become trendy (ex: 'it is what it is' circa 2010),
John Fox has been saying "It is what it is" at every press conference since 2002, so perhaps he helped to introduce that phrase to the public as a whole. He usually said it after losses and he had a lot of losses in 2010.
but suddenly I can't enjoy TV or a podcast without talking heads
obscuring their own valid points by throwing in an unnecessary, 'I will
say this … ' You don't have to tell me you're going to say something —
just say it!
And yet you are writing to the king of the overly-long analogy to have him help solve this problem for you? Bill Simmons, the same guy who takes 100 words to say what someone else can state in one sentence, is the guy you take your "Just say it" complaint to?
Besides, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ruined "Having said that..." in one of its latest seasons. Now I can't type the phrase without laughing (or chortling as the Peter King/Gregg Easterbrook hybrid would say).
Here's the point: If Tom Brady doesn't completely, totally and
irrevocably carve up that openly lousy Colts pass defense — at home, in a
relatively important game that he's going to care about winning — it
will be one of the biggest upsets of the 2012 season. Which means Luck
(10 TDs, 9 picks) has to score 30+ points to hang around … something the
Colts have done only once all year (30 against Green Bay in Week 5).
Bill gets credit twice this week. He pretty much nailed what would happen in the New England-Indianapolis game.
RAIDERS (+4.5) over Saints
Warning! Classic trap game, correct? Instead of avoiding the Saints
here, let's get aggressive, Billy! What's the opposite of a trap game?
An escape game? Isn't this an escape game for the Raiders, too? I can
see it now: in a furious fourth-quarter comeback, Carson Palmer conjures
up his best impression of Kenny the Snake Stabler as the Raiders
'escape' with a win!!!"
But nailing his NFL predictions isn't exactly a trend with Bill, so there is this one to counteract the New England-Indianapolis prediction.
Speaking of gimmicks that I've beaten into the ground in this column,
Peter from Iowa City wonders simply, "Has the David Petraeus scandal
entered the Tyson Zone yet?"
The problem isn't Bill admitting that he beats gimmicks into the ground. The problem is that he continues to do so. Self-awareness isn't very useful if you don't use that self-awareness to adjust how you write.
A quick recap: "Tyson Zone" status officially happens as soon as you
find yourself saying the words, "I don't know what's happening next, but
I'm prepared for anything."
If you want or need a recap of the "Tyson Zone," then you should feel shame on just so many levels.
That's what happened (for me, a least) as soon as Chuck Klosterman became a bit player in a CIA sex scandal.
A new characteristic of Bill's writing is that he seems to constantly plug other Grantland columns in his column. It's like Bill's column is just another marketing branch of Grantland. There are seven links to either Grantland columns or a Grantland columnist in this article by Bill Simmons. This doesn't include the links to ESPN.com. So basically Bill is using his column as another way of marketing other Grantland columns. He's very smart in that fashion, but his intelligence in putting Grantland links into his columns doesn't make me shake my head at his shamelessness any less.
Bears (+4.5) over 49ERS
Doesn't Chicago's defense and special teams have just as good of a
chance to single-handedly win the game against Colin Kaepernick as San
Francisco's defense and special teams have to single-handedly win the
game against Jason Campbell? What am I missing?
Apparently you are missing that Greg Roman is a coaching genius and Colin Kaepernick is the next great NFL quarterback.
This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 5-9
Bill may as well flip a coin. In fact, during this year's playoffs if we do our typical playoffs picks against Bill Simmons then I may include a coin flip as one of the "competitors."