In which WTAWTAM goes all FJM on Bill Simmons. Just gotta vent. I think this is actually a draft or two away from being readable, but... well, appropriate, non?
Should I call you that? I guess since basketball and football are two separate sports, you can go ahead and continue to pluralize "Sports." I bring this up because for a guy who professes to be "the voice of the fan," you sure do seem to be narrowing your focus. I mean, your last baseball column was three months ago, and it was about how bored you (and therefore, by your logic, the rest of us) are with it.
And that got me thinking. How does a guy whose once wrote so much about baseball, he was able to compile them into a book called "Now I Can Die In Peace," go from there to boredom in under six years? So I went through the last three years of your archives, back to the 2007 Red Sox championship.
It didn't take me very long. Now, I didn't bother looking through every mailbag, and I didn't bother with your podcasts. I don't really care about you giggling with your buddies on the phone or letting your readers do the work so you can go to the well (again) for an easy one-liner about The Karate Kid and a "yup, these are my readers." I was looking for full columns about baseball. I wanted to see how many times you sat down and really thought about the game.
The answer is twelve (well, really, the answer is eleven, or ten and a half, or something. But we'll get to that later). Twelve times in three years.
Why is that? Yeah, I know, you're a Boston guy that moved to LA; the Pats and Celtics have both played for titles since the Red Sox last did; you've had 'The Book of Basketball' and '30 for 30' on the brain for the last however long. But I think those are just aspects of it. I think the real truth is, you cared about Boston and the storyline of the 86-year drought far more than you care about the game of baseball itself.
The proof is, of course, in your ludicrous position of taking pride in not following the National League. For a purported "voice of the fan" to blow off more than one-half of the sport is as silly as, say, a writer who revels in being all about The Most Rewatchable Movies of Pop-Culture Quotes of Blah Blah Blah refusing to watch The Big Lebowski for the express purpose of pissing people off.
But let's take a more detailed look. Let's go to the books and see what insights those twelve columns in the last three years have to tell us.
10/29/07- Sox Win Most Valuable Team Award
"But I wasn't thinking about any of this stuff Sunday night. I was thinking about a second World Series, and even better, the serenity that came with it. The 2004 run wasn't about winning as much as surviving and enduring; those final four games against the Yankees were more like life experiences, and the World Series against St. Louis wasn't about baseball as much as family and hope and belief and life and death and everything else that makes sports so unique. This time around, if you loved the Red Sox, you simply watched the games and savored the chance to follow such a likable, entertaining team."
There it is. That "feeling of serenity." As much as you bitched about Fox talking up the Curse Of The Bambino before the 2004 Sox broke the drought, I think you secretly loved it. You loved being the scrappy little underdog that was always stepped on by the mainstream media and the big meanies in pinstripes. Now that the Red Sox are just Yankees North, the passion is gone.
4/8/08- The Biggest Sports Story Of 2007 Didn't End Happily
"For all intents and purposes, Bonds' career has vanished into thin air. His home ballpark has had three different names (Pac Bell, SBC and AT&T), but it was mostly considered the House That Barry Built. This season, though, all traces of his dirigible-size head have been erased. Forget about a statue, inside or outside the stadium; there isn't a plaque, a banner or even a picture. It's like Bonds never happened. Once upon a time in San Francisco, Barry was up there with the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Dead and the Mitchell Brothers. Now, the Giants do everything short of banning their fans from wearing No. 25 jerseys."
Five months between columns. In fairness, the offseason. And then a steroids column! Great!
Had you actually been to a game in San Francisco when you wrote this? There are plaques to Barry's accomplishments all over that park, including the career home run leader board next to the out-of town scoreboard on the right-field wall. As for the missing banners and wall-sized photos... well, you can hardly blame a rebuilding franchise for not encouraging their fans to compare the competitive Bonds-era teams with the then-current product. But the Giants are one of the best franchises in sports when it comes to maintaining ties with past players, Barry included. Remember, he never officially retired; he was blackballed from the game. What if the Giants had left all those commemoratives up, only to see Bonds sign at midseason with, say, the White Sox? It'd be weird.
7/1/08- The Hugh Grant Syndrome
"So after analyzing it from every direction, my conclusion is that Hugh Grant Syndrome can never derail a real sports fan. We'll always find ways to care as much as we always did, if only because the day-to-day process of following a team is such an enormous part of our lives. Losing that passion would be like giving up morning coffee or not exercising anymore; a routine is a routine. Maybe the result won't be 100% as satisfying as the Mount Everest victory, but you can still get to 95% and maybe even 98% or 99%. I'm fine with those numbers."
Three months between columns. In fairness, the interminable NBA playoffs and a Celtics title.
This is only kinda a baseball column (it's the point-five to which I alluded earlier); you'd just experienced a string of titles from all your favorite teams. But in it, you start to address the heart of what I suspect is your real issue with baseball, then give yourself a pass. The quest, the storyline, is gone. You're getting bored and complacent. The "NINE-TEEN EIGHT-TEEN!" dragon was slain, and now you're dealing with the day-to-day-realities of Happily Ever After. You aren't slogging through dingy snow to pick up the Globe to see who the front office might sign, you aren't scrounging tips and surviving on cigarettes and ramen to afford tickets. You're a married father driving in sunny LA, the land of fans that hit the middle three innings, get seen, do some waves, play with some beach balls, and bail. You're richer than you ever expected to be. And as digitally connected as you are, you're still thousands of miles away from random high-fives on the sidewalk because of a 'B' on your cap. You aren't at 99% or 98% or 95%, but you don't want to admit it to yourself or your readers.
10/17/08- The Red Sox Make It To Midnight
"We were having the funeral for the 2008 Red Sox. Heck, I even gave one of the eulogies. Called my dad during the seventh inning for the requisite, 'Yup, we just didn't have it this year,' conversation and everything.
In fact, if Game 5 were a movie, that's what I would call it: 'They Made It To Midnight.'
Over everything else that happened Thursday night ... I will remember staring at that clock and rooting for Oct. 17. They always said Red Sox fans would care a little less after we climbed the mountain once or twice, that it wouldn't mean as much, that it couldn't possibly mean as much. That's not true. It will never be true. You either love sports or you don't."
But it is true. You said so yourself, just three months earlier. What you're really saying is, now that the Sox got the monkey off their back, your level of interest in the game is tied directly to the team's fortunes in October. When they're in, you're stressing and writing 10,000-word dissertations about Pedroia's scrappiness. When they're out of it, you're dialed out of it. LA has some pretty Fair Weather, doesn't it, Bill?
Hey, look, another three months between columns! In fairness, there was, uh, preseason football.
3/24/09- Revisiting The Manny Signing
"Editor's note: The following is adapted from the new edition of Bill Simmons's book. The following selection is from a column that was originally published on December 18, 2000."
Uh... yeah. FIVE months between columns, with the streak broken by a Hey!-Buy-my-book! reprint of a nearly decade-old article about you watching a TV show. OK.
4/7/09- A-Rod Rallies The Clubhouse In His Own Way.
"It's a common bond of sorts. Even as you believe he's tearing your group apart, he's bringing it closer and distracting anyone from turning on someone else. He's your mean decoy, your Paula Abdul, your Newman. He's your necessary evil.
So yes, the Yankees might not miss A-Rod right now. But give them a few weeks. Every group needs an outcast just like every columnist needs a go-to guy for his column. The 2009 Yankees may not appreciate Alex Rodriguez yet, but I sure do. I won't write 10 A-Rod columns, but I could, and maybe that's all that matters."
Alex Rodriguez is a self-absorbed lightning rod, huh? Insightful stuff. You won't lazily mail in ten columns about baseball, but you could, and maybe that's all that matters. (Also, steroids.)
5/7/09- Manny's Positive Test Makes The Sports Guy Confront His Worst Nightmare
"That 2004 title made life easier for everyone. We could just follow the team without all the other negative crap. Does that make sense?"
Wow, only a month between columns. And it's about another self-absorbed lightning rod using steroids! This is an interesting column. Again, you seem like you're on the edge of a cliff of interest, setting it up like steroids are driving a wedge between you and your memories, that you're shocked, SHOCKED! that the 2004 Sox weren't The Only Pure Team and "all about family and hope and belief and life and death and everything else that makes sports so unique." But your interest had already dwindled drastically because you got those notches on your belt in 2004 and 2007.
6/2/09- It's Hard To Say Goodbye To David Ortiz
"We live in a world in which all entertainment is chewed up and spat out. We milk public figures like cows, and when they're out of milk, we tip them over and move on. Quickly. It's not just that we need to see everything "jump the shark" that bothers me. It's also that so many of us are gleeful about pointing out that something or someone we once loved has outlived his usefulness. The demise of Big Papi played out in an old-school way: real devotion, and in the end, people refusing to let go."
Well, somebody's sure quick to shovel dirt on the coffin. Funny that you complain about society's gleefully pointing out the end of someone's career in a vastly premature column declaring the end of someone's career. Oh, and steroids! Ortiz' "demise" turned out to be a down year for him in 2009 followed by a return to excellence in 2010.
On the plus side, the columns are coming fast and furious... right around the time that the last of the 2004 Red Sox appeared headed out the door in one form or another. Like a resurgence of thought about an ex-girlfriend years later when you find out she's getting married.
6/18/09- The Golden Age Of Baseball
"That leaves a five-year period, 1988-1992, that now seems Jonas-level pure, after the fact. Cocaine had become passé, and the number of suspicious statistical guys -- we could create the word "'roidy" here, just for kicks -- was a handful, at best. Er, worst. They clearly didn't damage the game any more than the spitballers, scuffers and corked-bat guys of earlier eras."
Oh, good! A steroids column! You mean the period that featured Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in three of the five World Series? That's your Jonas-level purity? You sure that your declaring it the Golden Age has nothing to do with that period matching up exactly with your college years? Maybe you meant the Glory Daze (this Fall on TBS! Very Funny!) of baseball.
8/11/09- Living In The Shadow Of Steroids
"And the answer [from Ortiz] was, "I never buy or use steroids." Present tense intended to be past tense. Or maybe not.
These are the things baseball makes you consider in 2009."
Awesome! A steroids column! Man, you sure are a different voice than all the columnists that aren't The Voice Of The Fan.
Actually, these were all things baseball made us consider years earlier. Only Red Sox Nation had to wait until 2009 to be made to consider it. i wonder if that had anything to do with the employment status of George Mitchell at the time of his report.
4/2/10- Finally On Board The Sabermetrics Revolution
Answer: None of the above. The answer is me."
A solid seven-month layoff between columns. Nice. And you've come back strong with a Rick Reilly-esque column explaining all these dadgum fancy new-fangled stats! But you're going to have the biggest comeback in baseball! You're doing your '80s-movie training montage, studying Baseball Prospectus and running in the rain to the sounds of "Eye of the Tiger!" You're...
7/29/10- Is The Honeymoon Over For Baseball?
"Look, I don't want to be Grumpy Old Man. I really don't. But I probably attended 100 Fenway games just from 1998 to 2002;
Team Selig has done a terrific job of keeping fans coming to ballparks. Now it should start worrying about keeping them awake."
... you're going to write one column the entire season, a 6,000-word (also Reilly-esque) whine about how boring the Red Sox (and therefore baseball in general) are. And you worked in steroids! Finger on the pulse, baby; baseball fans in 2010 are TOTALLY still obsessed with steroids! Don't call it a comeback!
But maybe the problem isn't baseball, Bill. Maybe the problem is you. Maybe you were never really that much of a fan. In the last three years, you've written a grand total of twelve(ish) columns about baseball, only two of which aren't about the Red Sox: one about Barry Bonds and steroids in April 2008, with a few hi-LARious head-size jokes, and one in April 2009 about Alex Rodriguez being unlikeable. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of words you've dedicated to non-Patriot NFL teams, or non-Celtic basketball teams.
You might have gone national and dropped the 'Boston' from your 'Sports Guy' title, Bill, but when it comes to baseball, if the Sox aren't winning, you just don't care.
It's too bad.
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