Friday, September 15, 2006

Snap judgement: Bill Simmons on the TV

It has become vogue, among's Bill Simmons's 18-35 male demographic, to say or write something along the lines of "The Sports Guy used to be great and he got me into writing/blogging/fantasy football/David Ortiz/Texas hold 'em/the OC, but now he sucks and just recycles old columns."

To drive this point home a
write your very own Sports Guy Column generator is floating around the Internet. It's kind of a reverse Mad-libs deal and, if you have about 15 minutes, it works surprisingly well.

While I agree Simmons tends to touch on the same themes and uses the same format over and over he is also burdened with having about five years of intensely scrutinized about-weekly "8000" word columns. (Another of his not-so charming attributes is he rarely gets through a longer-column without a bragging reference to its massive word count.)

Despite his volume and repetitions, I continue to read almost every word Simmons writes, still think his ability to mix sports and pop-culture is second to none and remain surprised when one of his columns doesn't make me laugh aloud a few times.

But there has been something eating me about Simmons lately: He continues to offer Bill Simmons the man, not the talented writer, as a male etiquette expert in situations like a fantasy football draft, a blackjack table, a night at the bar, a relationship etc. Yet, I don't think he has ever made the case that he is worthy of handing down these Miss Manner-like scoldings to the less-socialized.

What makes Bill Simmons unusual among "celebrity sports columnists" is he almost never appears on television. The only time I have seen him on TV was one of those VH1 I Love the (insert the decade) programs. He was just on screen for about ten seconds and I don't remember what he commented on. Either his clip was shot in a studio with different lighting than all the other commentators or the CRT radiation from the monitor he has been sitting in front for the last decade has rendered his skin translucent, because he appeared as hair floating ten inches above a headless body.

I would have thought his move from Boston to LA a few years ago and his affiliation with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel would have produced more TV appearances but, so far, none that I know of.

So it was with great anticipation I watched Bill Simmons' appearance on the Colbert Report last night. Would he be the comfortable-in-his-own-shoes man's man he suggests in print or the squeaky-voiced geek many suspect he is in person?

So excited was I for the prospect of an answer to this transcendent question I put post-it's stating "Comedy Central" and "11:30" all over my apartment to neutralize my habit of forgetting to do things I fully intend on doing.

My was I disappointed. Not in Simmons, but in the interview as a vehicle to solve the Bill Simmons' mystery. It was only couple minutes long and Colbert, as is his act, spoke over Simmons the whole time.

Simmons' hue was more normal. His voice was a little squeaky, but he did speak confidently. When he was able to complete a thought -- he offered an anecdote about Bush throwing out the first pitch in Yankee stadium after 9/11, there was the obligatory discussion of Red Sox nation, and a quick suggestion of how to improve USA Basketball -- he was mildly insightful. Yet nothing was revealed or solved.

Although I fully expect a 8000 word report next week, complete with a checklist of how to behave as a guest on a talk show.

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