It's called "Can Bill Simmons Win the Big One?" and it's by The Bronx Is Burning author Jonathan Mahler. Never mind that his book was made into an ESPN miniseries and that's not disclosed in the piece.
Some choice bits:
Simmons not only benefited from this new populism; he also had a hand in its creation. When he began writing for AOL, the term "blogger" didn't even exist. Since then, his self-referential, stream-of-consciousness style has left countless readers with the mistaken impression that they could do what he does. Thanks to the Internet, nothing has stopped them from trying.
Simmons is ambivalent about what he spawned. When I asked him once how sportswriting had evolved since he first started, he questioned the implication. "Is it better?" he asked. "I'm not so sure. The worst thing that's happening now is that people are writing things just to drive traffic and get attention."
There is an obvious irony to the author of a column headlined "Is Clemens the Anti-Christ?" criticizing his peers for being excessively provocative. Then again, we have reached a point at which sports Web sites are posting photographs said to show Brett Favre's penis.
As a cultural phenomenon, Simmons is a member of the new class of man-boys, defined most famously by Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips, who make movies about men who can't or won't grow up.
Simmons almost quit writing in 2000 when ESPN introduced "Page 2," a more voice-driven complement to its newsy homepage, and didn't call him. But the following year, ESPN gave him a few freelance assignments, and then offered him a full-time job. He was soon a leading attraction on Page 2, right alongside David Halberstam. The tectonic plates of sportswriting were shifting, all the more so because Simmons was much more fun to read than Halberstam, who never felt as if he belonged on your computer screen. "Halberstam is one of my heroes and one of the greatest writers ever, but he had no idea how to write on the Internet," Simmons says.
As sacrilegious as it may sound to compare Simmons with the Homer of the American sporting scene, he played a similar role for a generation of readers who grew up in the era of the empowered fan. "I printed out those 6,000-word columns and took them to the bathroom just like everybody else," says A. J. Daulerio, the 37-year-old editor in chief of Deadspin, Gawker's sports blog. "He changed the way I looked at everyone else's writing."
Simmons's life has changed substantially since he moved to Los Angeles. ESPN has made him rich, particularly for a sportswriter. "The Sports Guy mansion," as he jokingly refers to his home, is by all accounts very nearly a mansion. (For someone who spills so much of himself into his columns, Simmons is oddly protective of his personal life; he wouldn't let me see his house or meet his wife, "The Sports Gal" of his columns.) He belongs to the trendy Soho House in West Hollywood, and his circle of friends has widened to include celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers.
Simmons sounded as if he was having some regrets about Grantland. "It hasn't been as much as fun as I had thought," he told me. "I'm not sure I would do it again." Too much of his time was being spent in the office, dealing with administrative tasks, which was encroaching on his column.
Now go read the whole thing. I'm sure we'll have more to say before too long.
Can Bill Simmons Win the Big One? [NYT Mag]