When you fire up the first episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast—a free-flowing conversation once hosted by ESPN, and now the staging area of Simmons’s return to public life—this is what you hear:
BILL SIMMONS: The premiere episode of the Bill Simmons podcast is brought to you by Me Undies. Me Undies has created the world’s most comfortable underwear with a custom fabric that’s twice as soft as cotton. All orders in the U.S. and Canada ship for free. If you don’t love your first pair, they’ll offer a full refund. Please go to MeUndies dot com, backslash B S to get 20 percent off your first order. My own URL! Thank you, Me Undies. Today’s premiere episode is also brought to you by Squarespace. Did you know Squarespace is the easiest way to create a beautiful website, blog, or online store? Do you like elegant interfaces, beautiful templates, and quality, 24-7 customer support? Look no further than Squarespace! Try it at Squarespace dot com, and enter offer code BS at checkout to get 10 percent off. Squarespace. Build it beautiful. All right, welcome to the Bill Simmons podcast. Unbelievable. Cousin Sal is in the house!
This is funny! A man with an ego as healthy as Simmons’s kicking off the comeback tour by hawking Me Undies is cosmically funny, but it’s also a choice. The business of podcasting more or less demands live reads, and it isn’t too far upstream to imagine Ira Glass reading copy on You-Thong in the NPR voice one of these days, but doing it as your first syllable, without the radio broadcast imaging from the old B.S. Report, seems more like a message. (“Send help,” maybe?) It’s just your pal Bill and a microphone and a broadcasting concern that has more money than it can spend, same as ever.
The Simmons Road Show is intact, for what it’s worth. Simmo and Cousin Sal crack on about Sal’s Cowboys, the bets they made (or didn’t make) in Vegas, three Mike and the Mad Dog impressions, Christina Hendricks’s boobs, girls in college Bill wanted to hump but not engage in a relationship, stamps dot com, an adorable no-homo aside that I bet kills in the L.A. rooms, and comparing Geno Smith and Tyrod Taylor despite, uh, few outward similarities in play. We make it an entire hour and a half before the first Ewing Theory reference. (It comes up just to explain to Jack-O that Jeter doesn’t qualify, because he won rings.) You get the idea. It’s Conan bringing out the Masturbating Bear, your assurance that yep, this is still the free-flowing sports and culture discussion you’ve got from Simmons for the last decade. Today there are two premiere episodes, one with Sal continuing the schtick where everyone pretends (?) not to know how bookmaking works, that NFL lines aren’t the most efficient, unbeatable lines in the world, and that the “pro gamblers” in the ESPN circle aren’t fraudulent hucksters. The second brings on Jack-O to talk Yanks-Sawx. Both talk Ballghazi. Let’s just start there, because Bill Simmons as a Ballgahzi Truther is delightful listening:
SIMMO: [HAVING FINISHED AN ARIA ABOUT HOW TOM BRADY WAS STUDYING FOR THE BIG GAME AND HAD NO TIME TO WORRY ABOUT NINE OR TEN PERCENT PRESSURE IN SOME BALLS] There’s no way this happened. It’s idiotic.
SAL: It makes as much sense as the leader of the NFL conducting a witch hunt against the No. 1 jersey sales guy the first three weeks of 2015. What’s in it for the NFL, if I turn it around on you, to go after him like that?
SIMMO: [SEEMS TO BEGIN ARGUING THAT GOODELL IS MAKING UP FOR GETTING BOUNTYGATE, CONCUSSIONS, 18-GAME SCHEDULE, RAY RICE, AND ADRIAN PETERSON VERY WRONG, BAILS OUT, PIVOTS INTO OWNER CONSPIRACY IN RETALIATION FOR LAX SPYGATE PUNISHMENT]
It’s great. I suggest you listen. Subscribe here.
Really, let’s be straight—the insane Boston provincialism is Simmons’s purest broadcasting strength. He has over-the-top theories about why Brady wouldn’t cheat (which are hilarious!) and plays them out with enough good humor to make them palatable. He also, though, has enough coke-eyed certainty to let you know he’s serious. He believes! This makes everything much more hilarious.
Simmons remaining Simmons is no real shock, since Simmons is a very valuable brand product. The interest in these podcasts has to do with how much he talks out of school about the acrimony between him and ESPN over the last year. He doesn’t burn down the house around him, but he does get in a few shots. Like this, talking about ESPN’s coverage of Ballghazi:
SIMMO: The other thing that was amazing, just watching—granted, I’m a little biased here—
JACK-O: A little...
SIMMO: —from what my experience is at ESPN were the last two years but, the way everyone else was covering Goodell’s role in this whole story versus the way ESPN covered it, it was embarrassing, and I couldn’t believe nobody called out ESPN about it, because you had like, Dan Wetzel at Yahoo, you had Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post, you had all the people in Boston, you had different radio personalities and people really going after how the NFL is handling this, how Goodell is handling this, all this stuff, and especially in the weeks after the broken cell phone thing when it came out that they had obviously leaked stuff, that something really legitimately shady was going on, and if you went to ESPN you didn’t see anything. Charlie Pierce on Grantland was the only person who really went after him. On ESPN they didn’t really do anything until that giant Don Van Natta/Seth Wickersham Outside The Lines investigation, um, but it was just hard to come away from that and not think that ESPN was in the bag for the NFL, because they were.
JACK-O: Yeahhhh, welllll… if… you have a billion-dollar, or whatever the number is, contract with them, and four hours of pre-game shows before every game, that’s probably a big money maker for you, you’re going to toe the party line, no question about that.
SIMMO: Yeah, well…
As the self-appointed Heads of Shitting on ESPN, that “I couldn’t believe nobody called out ESPN about it” line is BULLSHIT, Bill. But also he’s not wrong on really anything in there. But also none of it was wrong before he was pushed out for coming to the Goodell conversation late-pass in hand as the only righteous man in the Kingdom:
I said on Thursday, May 7th—I gave an interview on the Dan Patrick show—and jokingly talked about how Goodell didn’t have the testicular fortitude to make a decision, that he had leaked out all of the Wells Report stuff but hadn’t decided what to do, and it was like he was gauging the public reaction. And the next day was my last day at ESPN. Um, look, those are the facts.
But enough about mimesis in upper management habits of certain entertainment conglomerates. Let’s just get to my two favorite bits.
SIMMO: Hey, we have to do the biggest question of the day. The biggest mailbag question of the day. I gotta get this recurring one right. This is one is sponsored… by E-Glue! Your typical intranet has stale content, the interface is ugly, and you can’t access it on your phone. Am I right? Thank god for E-Glue! An easy-to-use collaboration tool that isn’t just for traditional intranet stuff like HR policies and expense forms. With E-Glue you can share files, check the latest version of a presentation, coordinate team calendars, provide quick comments and status updates from your phone, [sighing] manage projects with to-dos—and tasks!—for god’s sakes, E-Glue does everything short of managing your March Madness pool. Maybe it can do that too. Sign up for E-Glue now and get a free trial at E-Glue dash software dot com slash Simmons. And here is the question: [A QUESTION SHITTING ON ESPN]
This is wonderful! It’s perfectly petty—Simmons swallowing a fistful of pride to secure capital enough to air his lingering professional grievances, on his podcast, in mailbag form.
Simmons and company never exactly reach dark or deep enough to scramble very many squadrons of ESPN PR flacks his way. The closest he drifts to a casus beli was when he and his good friend, Jack-O from Connecticut, discuss the failings of ESPN’s popular radio program, Mike and Mike, which to their minds suffers from vanilla, insular, wildly provincial humor, often with a big to-do about insubstantial ideas:
SIMMO: You know, we did that podcast on ESPN’s platform for eight years, and we always had to kind of bite our tongue with some ESPN people. And now, uh, we don’t really have to do that. I was wondering if there’s anyone out there in the ESPN universe that you’ve really been waiting to poke fun at. This is all fun. It is what it is, but is there anyone out that that, you know.
JACK-O: Well, we used to have some off-the-air jokes about Mike and Mike…
JACK-O: Just like, their generic like, laughter of the dumbest things. When they did a big thing one year because like the MVP race was between Pedrioa and Youklis?
JACK-O: And they did this thing where it was like, to the Jewish tune hava nagila or whatever, and it was about, it was about because Youklis is Jewish, but somehow it was like Pedroia and they were dancing him around on a chair like they do at an Orthodox Jewish wedding—hava nagila—and they were like doubled over in laughter?
JACK-O: And we were like but Pedrioa’s not even Jewish and they were like, they were like, Oh literally the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, like, choking with laughter?
JACK-O: I was just like, Whooa, whoa buddy.
This really does sound pretty hard to listen to.
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