Anyone who pays even passing attention to sports journalism is familiar with Bill Simmons's populist everybrah schtick. No need to dwell on how to write like an over-caffeinated 17-year-old. What's worth noting is that Simmons has always been writing that way. He's stayed true to himself. He was The Sports Guy long before ESPN mainlined him into the arm of middle America. How do we know this? Back in 1994, Simmons was eating shit sandwiches as a Boston Herald reporter fresh out of BU journalism school when he wrote this lede:
The Northeastern Conference was wilder than "Melrose Place" yesterday, as three games with playoff implications turned into nailbiters:
You see what he did there? Of course you do. Jason Schwartz over at Boston Magazine dug up that little gem and added some perspective:
But how promising a young sportswriter was Simmons? A few years ago, when I was doing research for a short story on Swampscott's Todd McShay (now an NFL draft guru for ESPN), I tripped across a high school football roundup Simmons wrote in 1994, back in his days as a lowly Herald reporter. It's vintage Simmons, which is to say, you can see why things didn't work out at the Herald. You have to pay the paper's archive fee to view it in whole, but the story began:
'The Northeastern Conference was wilder than "Melrose Place" yesterday, as three games with playoff implications turned into nailbiters:
'In the best game of the day, Swampscott's Todd McShay and Lynn English's Chris Connelly staged their own version of the arms talks as visiting Swampscott (2-0) squeezed out a 19-14 win.
After Connelly tossed a 13-yard scoring strike to Nate Brown to pull English to a 7-7 second-quarter tie, McShay (10-of-17, 173 yards) answered with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Brendan Nolan. The Big Blue's franchise tailback, Mike Madden (86 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns), then followed with a 21-yard jaunt to make the score 19-7.'
Pretty perfect, right? Funny how the same instincts that made Simmons cringe-inducing as a beat-man are what have made him "the most prominent sportswriter in America" today.
Funny, indeed. Especially for Simmons.
Bill Simmons's Humble Beginnings: Yup, This Is Our Writer [Boston Magazine]