Sunday, March 4, 2012

Things that infuriated me: Week of Feb. 26

Compared to the idiocy of the Daytona 500 and the NBA All-Star game/weekend, this was a relatively quiet week for me in terms of infuriating things. And then Bud Selig's slowly melting face had to go and ruin things.

Led off by the thing that's undoubtedly going to harm the Phillies' title hopes in some way, here are a couple things that really ground my gears this week.

1. The new MLB playoff structure.
I detailed my distaste with this system in this lengthy post, but it bears restating. As far as I can tell, there was zero fan support for these changes, they result in a dilution of the meaning of wild card competition, and most importantly they create a a near-definite probability of a deserving team being knocked out of the playoffs by virtue of losing a single arbitrary game. Major League Baseball needs a Mark Cuban. He would never have let this happen.

2. Bill Simmons. Bill Simmons is basically me, if I ever became a really famous writer: barely writes at all, and only about the stuff he's already paying attention to. Also, kind of like me on this blog. But for proof, here are the last 25 (TWENTY-FIVE!) of Bill Simmons' entries to Grantland in reverse chronological order: Podcast, podcast, podcast, story on the Celtics, podcast, podcast, mailbag, podcast, mailbag reprint(!), story on the NBA All-Star teams, podcast, podcast, podcast, story on the Super Bowl, podcast, mailbag, podcast, NBA season review part 2, podcast, NBA season review part 1, NBA season review prelude, mailbag, podcast, mailbag, podcast.

Let's use some ADVANCED STATISTICAL ANALYSIS to break down this information a little further. This record stretches back to January 12, or over the last 53 days, so Simmons is only posting at a rate of one item every other day. Fourteen of his entries, or 56 percent, have been podcasts, and his article-to-podcast ratio is just .79! Of his eleven articles, five were mailbags, which is bullshit. Of the remaining six articles, five had to do with the NBA and two with specifically Boston (one was both).

The conclusion: if you went to Grantland at any time in the past 7 1/2 weeks and wanted to read Simmons' original thoughts on a non-NBA, non-Boston team, YOU COULDN'T DO IT BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T EXIST. God damn it, Bill Simmons. Just retire. Katie Baker, you're the only blogger for me.

3. Ilya Bryzgalov. Ok, so he doesn't really deserve to be on here this week.  His post-All Star break numbers are actually pretty good (6-3-2, 2.03 GAA .920 SV%), which is baffling. I'm trying not to be infuriated about not being able to rip on him, since that's technically a good thing. But I forgot to list him last week and he's got a lot of catching up to do.

4. American sports leagues playing games in different countries. Look, I get that Japanese people are really into baseball. Scandinavians love hockey. Europeans dig basketball, and apparently the British love the NFL or something. But this is AMURRICA. Those countries have their own leagues in those sports, and  they're shittier than ours, and that's too bad. Americans don't need to be deprived of good old American sports so that other people can enjoy them. That's why there's pirated television streaming online. Baseball's opening day is supposed to be a sacred tradition, and instead the A's and Mariners will be kicking off the season alone in Japan on March 28. It makes me want to make an insensitive tsunami-related joke.

And one thing I loved!

March Madness is almost here, and I am already so excited. Isn't it amazing that the same collegiate athletic governing body that allows the BCS to run its football postseason has also managed to give us March Madness, the single most exciting tournament in America (and it's not even close, so don't try)? And this year, the first day of the second round (the most exciting round), March 17, also happens to be a Saturday and St. Patrick's day. You could legitimately make a case that it's going to be the best drinking day of the year. Is it good to peak early? With any luck, we'll be too drunk to care.


  1. To be fair, the one MLB opener is by two teams that should spend time in the cellar this year and would only grace my tv screen if it's a choice of that or the Big Bang Theory (which I only refuse to watch out of principle since Chris Wheeler won't shut-up about it.)

  2. It's funny before Grantland came out I went through Simmons archive on ESPN and the desparity was shocking. I forgot the total numbers but it was something like 92 percent of his columns were either about basketball or football, and 55% were basketball. And most of his columns were either answering mailbag questions or running dairies. Albiet funny columns, they are easy to write and do not express any depth. I also agree with you and Katie Baker really is the only good writer they have. So I guess the real question is why do I go to that site five times a day? Boredom I guess

  3. I actually used to be a big Simmons fan. Way back in his glory days on ESPN, he used to write about great theories (The Ewing Theory, Levels of Losing, etc.) that were entertaining and original. But now he's not even trying.

  4. Mike,
    Read "The Book of Basketball" by Bill Simmons. It actually shows his writing capabilities and it is very in depth and highly knowledgeable(even though he does make references to his Celtic fandom for about 20% of the book). In terms of his journalistic credibility, he's nothing more than a sports fanatic you'd meet at the bar with an above average grasp on the history of each sport. He tries too hard to be funny and it makes it hard to take what he's saying seriously a lot of the times. However, you can't blame the guy. It's what got him to where he is today, and he's found success doing it. If every writer for a sports blog went by some "blogger code" then everything would be so watered down and boring. Simmons' success is based a lot on his super fandom of Boston sports. Especially recently, being that the Patriots(2003, 2004, Red Sox(2004, 2007), Celtics(2008), and Bruins(2011) have each won championships in the past ten years. Don't you think that Angelo Citaldi would be a lot more famous around the country if all of Philadelphia's teams started winning titles? Bottom line is...there's no point in getting mad at someone for doing what they're good at. I'd rather see a signature Simmons article, than have a Michael Jordan retiring to play basketball type situation happen. Simmons is playing it safe by sticking with what he knows, and avoiding getting completely shelled by his readers for taking a risk.

  5. Jeff, I totally agree that Simmons has the capability to be a really captivating and original writer. Like I said, I used to be a big fan of his articles, particularly before he took time off to write his first book and was posting regularly on ESPN. And I have no problem with his journalistic credibility.

    But I think it's wrong to say that his popularity stems from Boston's recent sports success. It's true that Boston homerism has always been a big part of Simmons as a writer, but he used to write more original content, more frequently, and across a wider range of subjects. If you go to Simmons' archive on and filter by date, you'll see that.

    (Here's an example:

    That's a search I did where I rewound back to late 2002. Over the course of two months--about the same length as the time period I listed in the blog post above. Over those two months, Simmons wrote 15 articles, which is 4 more than he wrote in the last two months on Grantland. He did one mailbag, four NBA columns, two NFL columns, an Augusta National column, one about fantasy sports trades, one about the Unintentional Comedy Rating scale, one about sports nostalgia, and a couple of other general articles. That's a record of variety and originality.

    I don't think Angelo Cataldi would be more nationally famous if a bunch of Philadelphia teams won titles, because he's less talented as a writer (and more annoying as a personality) than Simmons is. And maybe it's wrong to blame Simmons; I can only imagine how hard it is to come up with original ideas worth several thousand words week after week for 15+ years. We saw the same thing with Rick Reilly, a formerly great sportswriter who has been mostly mailing it in since he moved to ESPN.

    But that doesn't mean that I can't lament the fact that the quality of Simmons' work has declined over the years, or that now most of what he produces are podcasts, or that he's been completely ignoring baseball and hockey for a long time (we barely even get the obligatory Red Sox columns anymore, and he hardly had anything to say about the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup). I miss the old days, that's all.

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  7. True. (I meant to say when MJ retired to baseball btw). I think that he does more podcasts because he gets more listeners for those segments then he would get in readers. Unfortunately journalism will never be like it used to be. I write for the Sixers blog on now, and a lot of the content our network of blogs do are things like live tweeting, short video conferences, and podcasts. I've never partaken in these so far, but I know that this is the direction which ESPN's Truehoop blogs are looking to go. I love writing columns, but I know that someday soon I may be forced to do things like this in order to draw more hits to our website.

    I agree that Cataldi is a horrible writer. I've read his Metro articles and they make me wanna vomit. I just think that when the going gets good for certain cities in terms of sports, that's when a lot of analysts are recognized. Take Todd Zolecki or Jayson Stark. When the Phillies started to be good again, their readership and fame started to go on the rise. Now I'm pretty sure everyone knows Jayson Stark and everyone in Philadelphia at least should know Todd Zolecki.

    I think Simmons and Reilly both have these articles in themselves still, but I think that these articles are sort of becoming less of a number one priority as they used to. Now they are getting deals to have TV programs like ESPN's homecoming. They are paid to make radio appearances. They are paid to run camps. They are paid to give talks. Bottom line is that there is less of a need for them on the writing staff, and more of a need for their entertainment value. Hell, Stephen A. Smith is a prime example of how you can literally talk your way to the top without any worth as a journalist.

    Simmons is a Celtics/Patriots guy. His dad has been a season ticket holder for the Celtics since like 1965. Sure he talks about the Red Sox and Bruins every once in a while but he knows where his heart lies. I don't think his way of delivering news is going to change for the better moving forward, and unfortunately there's really nothing to do to stop that.