Bill, you act and talk a lot different in my head

Dear Bill Simmons:

I’m most familiar with you in print. That’s not to say I’ve never seen you on TV, but whenever I’m watching ESPN and you happen to be one of the commentators, I’m always like, that’s Bill? Because I’m just so used to seeing that photo of you after your columns on Grantland, you know, the one where you’re staring straight ahead at the camera, smiling as if you’re almost finished genuinely laughing at a really funny joke.

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Every once in a while I’ll do an image search for your face and I’ll get a few that pop up where you have a goatee. Do you have a goatee right now? I don’t even know. When I was seventeen I grew my first goatee. I was trying so desperately to be an adult, so I stopped shaving my chin and I let this growth just barely thicker than peach fuzz accumulate into something resembling a really cheap brown Brillo pad.

Every once in a while I’ll come across one of those photos from high school. It’s like as soon as I got my driver’s license, I used my newfound freedom to buy a hair-bleaching kit, I gelled my do into hair, yellow spikes, and when combined with the almost-facial hair I was talking about before, I kind of looked like a wimpier, dorkier clone of the lead singer from that nineties band Sugar Ray.

I’m so glad that cell phone cameras and Facebook weren’t around back then, because I’ll look at some of those images of what I was trying to be, the look I really struggled to embody, and I totally cringe. I mean, I’m really, truly lucky to not have an endless stream of digital photos and selfies floating around from my teenage years haunting my present. I remember looking in the mirror and being like, yes, this is awesome. But everyone else must have been like, wow, that kid really, really wants to be cool.

Then again, I’m probably putting way too much weight into imagining people spending any time at all considering my appearance. I’m barely considering anybody’s appearance but my own. Like you Bill, like I was talking about earlier, I don’t even really know what you look like. Yes, I have that stock photo of you practically committed to memory, but if I were out on the street and I saw you coming at me from a forty-five degree angle, would I make the connection? Would I be like, wow, there’s the Sports Guy?

I don’t think so. Again, I have no idea how clean shaven you might be at the moment. Also, every once in a while I’ll come across a picture of you and your hair might be a little grayer than it appears on the Grantland web site. Because when was the last time you sat for a portrait? Five years ago? I’m guessing five years ago, just based purely on the very few times I’ve seen you on TV. It’s not that I’m not a fan of your ESPN stuff, it’s just that, I don’t have cable, and so yeah, you’re mostly just this vague Internet presence in my life.

You’re kind of like God to me. Not like you’re a deity or anything. I’m not trying to come across as creepy. Unless you want me to worship you like a deity, in which case, I’ll do whatever you want. Did I mention that I’m trying to get you to hire me as a full-time writer? But about the God thing, what I mean is, I have your writings, right, and I have a vague idea of your appearance, or an idealized version of what you look like.

And everything else is just kind of me making stuff up about you. Like your voice. I know you have a real voice, because every once in a while I’ll listen to one of your podcasts. But it just doesn’t match up to the voice you have when I’m having a mock-interview with you at the Grantland office in my head. It’s not better or worse, it’s just, you know like when you read a book? Like a really old book? And you have to assign voices to certain characters? I mean, you don’t have to, but it just happens automatically. And so when I first started reading your stuff, my brain just gave you this voice, and it’s stuck. So on those rare occasions when I’m watching ESPN and some guy with a goatee that I don’t recognize starts talking in a voice that’s not familiar, I get confused, I’m like, what, does ESPN have two guys named Bill Simmons providing on-air commentary? And then I get it, it’s you, but it’s always after that uncomfortable thirty seconds or so of disassociation.

I’m not trying to say that the real you doesn’t live up to the you that I’ve constructed in my head, I’m just saying, hire me as a full-time writer, call me in to the office to spitball ideas. I’m sure that after like a week or two of working under your tutelage, I’ll let go completely of the false God I’m currently kneeling before in my imagination. And then I’ll come into your office one day and I’ll be like, Bill, who’s this clown they’ve got posted underneath your columns on Grantland? And you’ll be like, that’s me Rob, that’s my stock photo.

Because yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know if I can hold onto both the real you and this fake you. But I definitely want it to be the real you as the only Bill Simmons living in my head. Is this coming off as a little creepy? Because it’s not. I promise. Let me get to know the real you, Bill. Hire me as full-time writer at Grantland. I’ll grow a goatee.

Your biggest fan on the Internet,

Rob G.

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