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:
- In other words, "Please don't criticize me for what I'm about to write. Please."
- 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.