Sunday, November 14, 2010

Blasphemy. Or, Bill Simmons Burnishes His Credentials as a Boxing Poser.

Bill Simmons calls for Jim Lampley's firing:
PS: Time for Gus Johnson to replace Jim Lampley on these HBO fights. Lamps steps all over his partners and doesn't shut up. Enough already.
Apologies for the rounds tweet - didn't realize the backstory. I deleted it. Also: didn't realize Gus got bad MMA reviews. Bob Papa then?
This is simply ludicrous. Last night may not have been his best broadcast, but I don't think any announcer is more beloved by his sport's fans than Lampley. The guy's more in his element than Harry Caray singing at Wrigley. And Gus Johnson? If Simmons followed boxing outside of the sport's Super Bowls, he'd know that Gus isn't just disliked for his coverage of MMA, but has been heavily criticized for years for his excessive screaming during Showtime boxing broadcasts. Since Simmons doesn't, and therefore doesn't know what he's talking about or have anything remotely insightful to add, maybe he shouldn't write about it.

Beyond this specific critique, I find Simmons' endless carping about announcers and coaches very tiring. He's always looking for a whipping boy, which can be hilarious when he finds a good one (Art Shell), but is often unfair (him beating up on Mike McCarthy this year) and is just old at this point. Much of the sniping is a function of his job, but he takes it way too far for my taste. A critic, whether writing about sports or movies or whatever, should approach the subject as an objective analyst and arrive at his criticism organically. Simmons, in contrast, often writes as if he's just looking for things to bitch about.


jd said...

In which I defend the Sports Guy, sorta.

I think one of the main reasons he has been so critical is to break through the solidarity within the cliques of coaches, executives, and broadcasters that keep people like Brad Childress, Tim McCarver, and Billy King employed. Now granted, there's hypocrisy built into it, since a big chunk of the most irritating sports media personalities - Colin Cowherd, Stu Scott, Joe Morgan, Sean Salisbury, Stephen A. Smith, etc. - receive an ESPN pass. And of course sometimes it is wrong or goes too far. But I think he's actually done overall more good than bad in calling out people who make consistently poor decisions yet seem permanently immune, most of all NBA GMs. And it's certainly preferable to the passive voice "he's on the hot seat" style that is usually used in TV analysis of coaches and executives, in which transactions or strategies "don't work as well as [coach/exec X] would have liked" rather than being the inevitable result of incompetence.

On boxing, I almost never watch anymore (last time I watched a lot Larry Merchant was still on every fight, and I was happy for Lampley to "step all over him.") Your point is mostly well taken. But I don't think Simmons would really claim to be much of a boxing expert, and it's a tweet. A column would be a problem, but a tweet, meh.

Now if I never see another 90210 or Teen Wolf reference in his columns, I can die in peace, so to speak...

pc said...

That's a fair point, and you can't knock someone for taking on sacred cows. But I think it comes across as genuine and legit in basketball (ie Dunleavy) whereas I think he looks for targets in football. You can tell by the quality of the criticism in basketball--i.e., they weren't ready for a very specific tactic, or his rotation is ridiculous. It just shows he knows why the guys sucks. Same thing with GMs. In football, when it's not clock stuff, it's just always more off the wall stuff. How many guys has he dinged for not blinking during a game, or for not being alive, to use a version of one of his biggest knocks? It's funny, but as a basis for calling for a guy's head, it's really kind of odd. He never really bases his criticism on anything technical.

And with Lampley, I'm biased because I love listening to Lampley call boxing, I think he does it lots better than anyone else, even if he is too much of a cheerleader sometimes. And it's kind of irritating to hear someone who sounds like he watches three shows a year swoop in and say, Pacquiao kicks ass, and oh yeah Lampley should be fired. If that's the sum of your opinion, stick to hoops. It's diminished because it's just a tweet, sure. I don't know, is Twitter just going to be the same as shooting bull in a sportsbar, i.e. you can get away with a lot more of the cuff silliness?

jd said...

The distinction between hoops and football is fair, for sure. Baseball is intermediate; Simmons describes reasonably specific stuff. A good way to get a sense is to listen to the podcasts. Any NBA-related talk, Simmons oozes confidence; baseball, still pretty solid. But when he started having Mike Lombardi on, the limitations of his football knowledge - and his much more passive conversational style - became a lot more clear. On the other hand, protestations of Madden fanatics aside, almost nobody really seems to really understand football, and I'll happily include myself in that category. (Although I gather that if you let the defense swarm your quarterback on every play and never lay a hand on the other team's guy, you're generally in for a long night. God I hate the Patriots.)

My opinion on tweets is totally subject to revision, but I usually think they should be accorded pretty low status, although when people use them professionally (like many ESPN beat people) it usually reflects more of a considered opinion. Simmons characteristically blurs the distinction between personal and professional, but he also loves to cite his own tweets in columns and podcasts - if we see him take the Lampley bashing further, my sympathy for your indignation will grow. (It may have happened already in the Gus Johnson podcast, but I have no intention of listening to that one.)

pc said...

Yeah I dont know why, but that Gus podcast didnt appeal to me at all, and I usually listen to the Cousin Sal podcasts. Football is definitely hard to get beyond the basic, and I think it's made worse because there is a gigantic feedback loop of superficial crap that gets tossed around by 95 percent of the media, so you can say something completely banal in every column and still be successful and seen as a sharp analyst. That's why I think you have some former players and coaches who obviously know the game but keep their observations super duper superficial. Speaking of banal football writers, do you ever read the kissing suzy kolber columns about peter king? Kinda mean-spirited, but they are hilarious.

jd said...

I actually hadn't been to the site in a long time, and only now realize that the legendary Drew Magary writes the Peter King pieces. Great, more time I'm about to start wasting on sports blogs. I'm already hopelessly addicted to Deadspin. Something's gonna have to give somewhere...sorry Macario Schettino, you're cut like Jeff Reed, who, by the way, is immortalized here:

pc said...

Oh those are some nice pics. Seems like a hell of a guy. He may be a kicker, but he doesnt want to be painted with such a broad brush.