Bill Simmons, Heel

by Bryan

Bill Simmons has always been something of a heel to non-Boston Sports fans, a category I don’t belong to. They often tire of his Boston-themed columns, and if they don’t, they often scrape away enough of the good feelings that a misplayed pop culture reference finally breaks them. It’s understandable, but it never affected me. I enjoyed reading Simmons, and even as I type this, I’m enjoying his book, the absolute litany of copy editing errors contained therein aside.

But in two short weeks, Simmons has lost at least one 10-year reader and listener in the day-to-day, at least for the day-to-day. I’m sure I’ll come back some day, and it might even feel like it’s the same as it used to be, at times. It won’t be. It never is.

As regular readers of this blog know, it all started with his intellectually dishonest column about Bill Belichick’s 4th-and-2 decision; it’s not that he hated the decision that bothered me, but that he spoke so disingenuously out of both sides of his mouth. He argued that he did not take issue with the statistics showing that it was the technically correct choice to go for it, then took issue with the numbers. He argued that numbers don’t always apply to football situations, then created his own numbers, as if from thin air, and applied them to the situation. It was an argument built like an inverted house of cards—he undermined his own argument so quickly that the rest was all smoke and mirrors to obscure the fact that there was no “there” there, so to speak.

That alone would have been one thing, but he preceded these arguments by engaging in a podcast whereupon he somehow argued simultaneously—as many do—that Belichick was both “arrogant” and “didn’t have confidence in his defense,” and, like many others, didn’t even attempt to reconcile the contradiction. He also repeated a theory, hatched earlier, that since Belichick is 57 years old, he is likely “losing it” and that this is the first sign of said senility, lack of energy, whatever. I wouldn’t have a problem with this argument individually, even if I don’t agree with it, but piled on top of everything else he’s written it infuriates me. On top of that, it violates his own anti-statistical code. He’s busy scouring the history books and saying that 55 is the last good year for a coach… well, if that’s true, shouldn’t the Pats be looking for a younger coach? If that’s what Simmons is arguing, he should just come out and say it. If he thought people were angry about 4th-and-2, I’d love to see the reaction to that one. It’s the smart thing to do!, he’d probably say, make a pre-emptive strike based on the numbers!

That would, for obvious reasons, make me laugh.

That’s all, and was, water under the bridge until I saw one of his tweets today, which called the Pats “dead.” Take a look at their schedule and tell me what you see. I see 12-4. You know what the Pats’ record was when they won their first Super Bowl? 11-5. You remember who they played? A clone of the Saints from this year, or the Pats from 2007. There are details of which I’m obviously aware that could mitigate this: the 12-4 Pats wouldn’t likely have a bye and the Saints looked fairly unstoppble the other night. But to declare the Patriots “dead” is something in the spirit of Simmons’ supposed arch-enemy, Dan Shaughnessy. Yes, the Pats don’t look like the best team now, but if 2007 taught us anything, it’s that you only have to look like the best team on the last day of the season for it to mean anything. Do I believe then can, even if I don’t believe they will? Yes.

That’s what it comes down to: hope. If you hope your team does well, and you see one of its biggest cheerleaders raining on your parade, it’s time to disengage. If Bill Simmons can’t enjoy first place, and yet another awesome season, maybe he needs to re-read some of his columns from 1999 and 2000 to show how far we’ve really come. Will it help him get back to a positive mindset? Maybe, for a little bit, but never completely. Like my love affair with his columns, that part of him is probably gone forever.