Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bill Simmons, stop. Stop. Please. Stop.

For the love of Jebus, Bill Simmons, don't ever again write about college basketball or race. Please. Stop. Is this the legacy you want to leave your child?

I know I've written about Simmons before and nothing's changed. He couldn't care less about what I have to say. Fine. I understand I'm not on an MTV "reality" show, I don't live in Boston, I'm simply one of those pesky New Media bloggers who don't work for a legitimate news organization, and I'll disappear from the face of the earth and no one will mind. I'm fine with that.

But I'm begging you, please, listen, just this once: don't ever, ever again write about college basketball or race. Here's why:

How Bill Simmons is wrong about college basketball:


Point #1: He is not an expert, yet he writes with exasperation that college coaches and journalists can't fathom what is obvious to him. "Watched three college hoops games since my last report on Tuesday." Wow. Three games in three days? I'm not the first to make this point, but you cannot pretend expertise on college basketball if this is your access to the state of the game. (Especially when you're watching the same teams every week.) Why doesn't Rick Barnes run every play through Kevin Durant? You can't think of one good reason? How about this: Durant is a college freshman. He's playing a season that's much more physically and emotionally demanding than high school ball, and it's late in the season, with tournaments coming up. I don't pay attention college basketball and I know this.

Point #2: Simmons freely contradicts himself with no one to call him on it. Here's Simmons on February 13:

"Speaking of [Joakim] Noah, I love how his draft stock dropped because he stuck around for an extra season and everyone started picking him apart . . . . Meanwhile, he's even better than he was last season -- if you applied my Table Test to him, he's still one of those guys who brings X amount of things to the table and takes absolutely nothing off it."

And here's Simmons on March 2
:

"One more Florida note: Noah is quietly playing himself out of the top 5. Nobody is wasting a top-5 pick on a more polished version of Mikki Moore. Not this year."

Just for fun, read those again. Compare "everyone started picking him apart" to "Noah is quietly playing himself out of the top 5." What changed in a month, other than you watching more college basketball?

(Oh, and by the way, about your "Table Test": you once devoted a column to explaining a cliché, then acted as if that elaboration was a wholly new set of ideas. So it's not "your" table test.)

How Bill Simmons is wrong about race:

Here's how Simmons begins his column responding to Scoop Jackson:

"I hate writing a rebuttal to another writer's column. I hate it. These days on the Internet, people spend far too much time writing about other writers instead of just writing about sports. Pretty soon, there will be Web sites devoted to writers writing about writers who write about other writers. We're not headed in the right direction.

At the same time, I couldn't let Scoop Jackson's "Vegas wasn't that bad" column just fade away without disputing two crucial pieces of his argument . . ."

Two points here:

  1. In other words, "Please don't criticize me for what I'm about to write. Please."
  2. If Scoop Jackson's column would "just fade away" (and, honestly, it would--are there people who take Scoop Jackson seriously?), then why even write about it at all? (I have a theory on this, but it's for the next time Simmons pisses me off.)

Simmons then spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing Jackson for "Scoop's assertion that "only" 403 people were arrested during NBA All-Star Weekend, a number apparently obtained from Deputy Lt. E. Sterr Bunny of the Las Vegas Police Department. I don't think it's very smart to base the premise of a column around a leap of faith that Vegas police reported every single crime, mugging, brawl, assault, theft and indiscretion from that weekend (even the ones for which the perpetrators weren't caught)." Hey, not a bad point, except for the fact that Jackson compares the number of arrests with the number of arrests for New Year's weekend. So Simmons' logic about the number of arrests reported works for what Jackson compares it to.
(NB: Simmons isn't entirely wrong about Jackson's column; in fact, Jackson is an easy target because he's a sloppy writer and thinker.)

But that's not the disturbing thing. That's just the logic issue, not the unsettling way Simmons writes about race. Ever ready to reach into the well of cliché, Simmons writes that "he played the race card." Jesus fucking Christ on a stick, "the race card." Could we please obliterate that phrase from the language? I can't figure out why people of color in this country still see racism. Could it have something to do with the shorthand that white people use? (Fyi, I'm a white male. We can talk about this another time.)

But here's the kicker, the thing that made my anger about "the race card" stay up: "Once upon a time, the late Ralph Wiley repeatedly proved an African-American sports columnist could write intelligently about racial issues without using his skin color as a crutch." In other words, "Look, I have a black friend!"

To sum up, if you're still with me:

Bill, please, please, please stop writing about college basketball and race. Come to Funkytown; I'll buy you lunch, take you to a college game, and drive you to the economically depressed, largely African-American part of town. We'll have a blast. I can't afford your plane ticket, but I can promise you good food and bad basketball.

11 comments:

dokn4 said...

actually i am going to have to diagree on this one. I am black for the record and several black friends of mine all agree that Bill didn't make it sound like "hey I have a black friend" in any way. he was just comparing a person who DOES use his race as a crutch and DOES pull the race card a little too much to somebody who could speak much better on the subject. I'm no Simmons apologist, but he has written some good articles on race in the past (i think it was an article on the show "The Wire".
Just giving another view point on the race thing.

Anonymous said...

WRONG WRONG WRONG. Man you are a straight retard and it shows why you have less than 1 comment per article. You're a straight up idiot and don't validify any one of your poor points. Simmons writes good stuff and backs it up, Scoop writes about race and doens't speak or write grammitically correct. I'm not just talking about his ebonics or hip hop talk, i'm talking about his normal english grammatics.

JimNantz said...

You seriously need to do more research before you go shooting off on all cylinders there, little buddy. Simmons didn't play the "race card"; Scoop Jackson brought it up during the aftermath of All-Star weekend in Vegas. Simmons wrote about the crime, lawlessness, and overall crazy environment that was Las Vegas during All-Star weekend, and Scoop pretty much called the Sports Guy a racist for it because Simmons titled his column 'Hip-Hop Woodstock'. Scoop is very protective of the Hip-Hop culture and its reputation, and he felt obligated to write a column in response to the negative reports, basically saying how the Vegas weekend wasn't all that bad and how all the reports of the craziness going on were really just an overexaggeration of how white people are afraid of black people. There's more, but I don't feel like rehashing every single point from the column right now. You should check them out though, because those Page 2 columns are really great and also because you seem to be missing out on a bunch of points the writers are making in them.

And about Ralph Wiley, the Sports Guy brought him up because Wiley was a writer Scoop admired, as Scoop is trying to continue Wiley's legacy as a gifted African-American voice. Simmons brought Wiley up because the Sports Guy wrote with him on Page 2 before Wiley passed, and he knew Wiley was a class act who avoided tactics like playing the race card.

So there you go, explained [almost] crystal clear by a third party. And seriously, if you're gonna continue this blog, might I recommend you take a class or something? You seem to be in over your head here, comprehending stuff and everything. It's ok though, writing is hard. It's not for everyone.

Crazy Little Thing said...

Thanks to everybody who has come from The Big Lead, and thanks to dokn4 for a thoughtful response. I was probably going overboard a bit on the Riley thing, though I still think Simmons mentioned Riley so Jackson couldn't claim Simmons doesn't like black columnists.

But Anonymous and JimNantz: you've got me. I bow to your rhetorical and intellectual genius. Anonymous, I'm actually a gay retard, but otherwise you're on the mark. And you're right about Scoop Jackson's grammar; on an unrelated note, I should validify my points more. (Oh, by the way, there's the small matter that I wasn't defending Scoop Jackson, but I'll let that slide.)

And JimNantz (presumably not the actual Jim Nantz): I was criticizing Simmons not for "playing the race card," but for using the phrase. It's such a shallow way to respond to claims of racism, even weak claims (as Scoop Jackson's is). But since you have no problem using the phrase, please tell me: what "tactic" is "playing the race card"?

JimNantz said...

1) Thank you for recognizing my rhetorical and intellectual genius.

2) In your eyes, what's so shallow and wrong about using the phrase "playing the race card"? Do you find it too cliche? Offensive? How was Simmons wrong by using that phrase to call out Scoop Jackson?

3) As far as "tactics" with the race card thing goes, I meant something along the lines of one person using their race as a way to divert the focus away from something else. Take what happened in Vegas. There was crime, lawlessness, 403 arrests, and just a chaotic environment in general. And yet some people tried to pass off the notion that the real problem here was white people associating all this crime with hip-hop and the NBA.

The idea of irresponsibility not being associated with the 403 lawbreakers because reporters decided to put their spin on the weekend's events and tag it to the hip-hop culture seems bogus to me. No, I don't think it's right to blame a whole culture of people for the mistakes of a misguided few. But I also don't think the mistakes of those few should be defended either just because the offenders may or may not identify with hip-hop and their arrests were reported by white writers who may or may not be afraid of black people. So what tactic is playing the race card? Getting off the hot seat by wrongfully exploiting something greater people have died for.

4) I couldn't disagree more with you about why Simmons mentioned Wiley in his column. Again, I think Simmons brought up Wiley to get Scoop's attention, but not by process of elimination of black names he could use. I think the Sports Guy had a lot of respect for Ralph Wiley. By mentioning him, Simmons was letting Scoop know that carrying on Wiley's legacy is no easy task. Wiley set the bar, and Simmons was reminding Scoop he still has a ways to go toward reaching it.

Crazy Little Thing said...

JimNantz, I've responded to your "race card" question in a new post.

As for the Ralph Wiley reference, I think what makes it sound to me like Simmons pointing to his black friend is how he uses the phrase "once upon a time." Or at least that's part of it.

Dan said...

I love how you criticize Simmons for writing definitively about college basketball because he's not an expert, yet you criticize his writing and journalistic-quality (two fields you are obviously not an expert on).

Self-contradiction anyone?? You're not going to fall off the face because you don't write for ESPN, SI, et. al; you're going to fall off the face of the earth because you're a terrible writer and a mockery to sports journalism.

Crazy Little Thing said...

Dan: Actually, I criticize not his "journalistic-quality" but his logic and language use. Also, I make no claim to being a sports journalist or a journalist of any kind, fyi. And the question of my expertise is irrelevant here unless you can substantively refute my argument. Until then. . .

npagano05 said...

crazy little thing... its pretty obvious youre a fucking moron.

Crazy Little Thing said...

Yes, npagano05, it is pretty obvious. Could you explain why anyway, just for kicks? I need all the help I can get.

Anonymous said...

Hey man, just thought I'd let you know I stumbled upon this article while searching for an old sports guy column... totally agree with you that Bill loves playing the part of the expert but can rarely back it up. Can't really speak to the race part but I enjoyed reading your article nonetheless. Take care!