Tag Archives: Grantland

I’ve got your back, Bill

Dear Bill Simmons:

I see it all the time on the Internet lately, people talking about you, about the Sports Guy, and it’s always some variation of the same argument: “Bill Simmons bit off a little more than he can chew,” like you’ve somehow overextended yourself, like you can’t handle the mounting responsibilities of a twenty-first century multimedia renaissance man. I personally don’t get where this is coming from, but you can’t deny that it’s out there, a rising tide of anti-Bill Simmons propaganda, almost like someone has it out for you.


I just wanted to say that, Bill, I’ve still got your back. I don’t think you bit off more than you can chew. If anything, you should open your mouth even bigger, find some way to unhinge your jaw, like a snake, and see if you can forgo the biting and instead start swallowing whole everything you set your mind to.

Is this because of Magic Johnson? I don’t really know the specifics, and I hate to kind of just throw in my opinion to what so far has been a dated story from October of last year really that hasn’t been anything more than a flame war on the comments sections of Deadspin. But I’m kind of getting the feeling like this is all Magic’s fault. Just think about it, Magic turned his back on ESPN. If he wants to point the finger and blame it on you, go ahead and let him, he’s the one that walked away.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that if you walk away, it doesn’t matter if you’re right or you’re wrong, you just gave up, that’s a forfeit, you lose. It’s like, look at the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. Were they necessarily in the right? Who knows? The Mensheviks left the table, and history didn’t look back. They got like a footnote in one of my history classes in college, and the rest was all Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, whatever, you get the point right? You walk away, you’re automatically the loser.

Also, and this is probably kind of a low blow here, but does anybody else remember The Magic Hour? Talk about biting off more than you can chew, Magic Johnson is the original overextender. A Magic Johnson cooking show probably would have been more successful than his failed attempt at a late-night talk show. Sure, this was way before the era when professional athletes could turn to reality TV as a viable second career, but just look at the history, if Magic hadn’t left ESPN by his own volition, it probably wouldn’t have been too much longer until his poor commentating landed him similarly off the air.

But yeah, Bill, I get it, this isn’t about Magic Johnson, it’s about you. And I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’ve got to say, where some people think you’re doing too much, I personally don’t think that you’re doing enough. Why limit yourself to columnist, podcast host, editor-in-chief, and on-air personality? There are so many more areas of popular culture that could use a side of Simmons.

Like music. Bill, you ever think about starting a band? I’d buy your album. I’d listen to it all the time. Do you sing? I’m sure you’ve got a great singing voice. I can just imagine what karaoke nights at the Grantland office must be like. Everybody hanging around waiting for Chuck Klosterman to finish butchering “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And then you take the mic, and it’s always like a total wildcard, like you pick “Heartbreaker,” by Pat Benetar, and you totally nail it.

Or a cooking show. I know I was just making fun of Magic Johson earlier, saying that even a cooking show would have been more popular than The Magic Hour, but I feel like you’d be able to make it work. It wouldn’t have to be a weekly thing, but right before big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, you could teach fans how to make great game-day snacks, like potato skins that look like little footballs, or white frosted cookies with red piping that resemble baseballs, you know, cool stuff like that.

Anyway, I’ve got your back Bill. Whatever you want to do in the future, I’m totally on board. Hopefully you’ll eventually let me write for Grantland, and my support will amount to more than me just shouting out kudos to you from my blog, but whatever, no rush. Just seriously, think about it, give me a call, I’ll be a total yes-man, like whatever you say sir, I’m behind you, one hundred percent. When everyone else on the Internet turns on you at the same time, you won’t have to defend yourself at all, because I’ll be doing all of your defending for you, getting in people’s faces, issuing nasty threats, all so you can maintain that professional distance, work on swallowing all of that work you’ve bitten off.

I believe in you Bill,

Rob G.

Hey Bill, did you ever watch Storylords?

Dear Bill Simmons:

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this before, but when I was in the second grade, our teacher, Mrs. Cosgrove, she used to show us these educational videos every now and then. I’m sure teaching a bunch of little kids has got to be a physically and emotionally draining way to spend a day, so I don’t really begrudge the fact that she’d phone it in once in a while by turning on the TV and telling us to be quiet. But while everyone else would get all excited whenever the maintenance guy would knock on the door to wheel in one of the school’s TVs, my heart would stop.


I went into school every single day with a pit in my stomach, a constant fear. Would today be the day? Because there wasn’t a schedule. It wasn’t like, “OK class, it’s 10:30 on Wednesday, so you know what that means, educational TV time.” No, it was just whenever the teacher felt like it. Sometimes we’d go months without so much as a spotting of a VHS tape. But then maybe we’d watch TV for two or three days in a row. I couldn’t rest. There was no escape from the fear. Every day had the potential to turn into a TV day without any warning.

And it wasn’t the TV that I was afraid of, it was this one particular show that we had to watch. It was called Storylords. It was about this little kid around my age and his younger sister. Each episode, they were visited by this wizard guy from another dimension. His world was overrun by this crazy warlord named Thorzul.

Thorzul as a screen presence wasn’t that scary. It was really bad, cheap acting, just some guy in a black cape. He kind of looked like my dentist. But it was his character, this dictator of that other world, he had powers. He could turn people into stone. I’m not sure that it was a central part of the plot, I’m pretty sure the show was all about teaching kids how to read, but every episode, it’s like they didn’t have anything else to fall back on, and so he’d zap someone into a statue.

And I was terrified. Like sitting there, sweating bullets, looking around at all my classmates, unable to understand how they were all just sitting there, smiling, watching TV, all while I was trying my best to keep it together, to not freak out and start screaming, terrified.

I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics of the show, but for whatever reason, that wizard that I was talking about earlier, he would always need the kids’ help. So he teleported them to his home dimension where they’d have to confront Thorzul and, well, they’d have to basically take an oral spelling and grammar quiz. “Spell this word correctly or I’ll turn you into a statue! Just like I turned these two guys into statues!”

And yeah, they always got it right, and then not only would they be spared an eternal hell, a life trapped in living stone, but the other statues would usually be restored back to life also. But man, for whatever reason, the idea of it, of being forced to ace a pop quiz, the pressure of getting it wrong, of feeling my insides harden as my skin turned grey. And what would it look like? What would be the last thing I’d see before my eyes cemented over? Would I be dead? Or just trapped forever?

I’d barely make it through each episode, just quivering in my seat, hands clenched tightly around the sides of my desk, unable to shake that feeling of having just been mentally violated. What was the point of these videos? Why was my school trying to reinforce my already pretty decent reading and writing skills by terrorizing me into never making any mistakes?

And so that’s what most of my year was like, just praying that it wouldn’t be a TV day, that I wouldn’t have to watch Storylords.

But it always happened, maybe not immediately, but eventually, there’d be a knock at the door, everyone would get all excited, the maintenance guy would drag in that set, an old fashioned box mounted on top of a rolling dolly. It all came to a head one day midyear, Mrs. Cosgrove popped in the Storylords VHS, and instead of the usual introductory exposition, this particular episode skipped straight to the terror.

The kids were sitting in school, in a classroom not that different from the one I was currently sitting in. Then, a flash of light, and there they appeared, Thorzul and his little henchman, they had somehow crossed over into our reality, taken the fight to us, a surprise offensive. He skipped the normal pleasantries and used his powers to partially turn the little boy into stone. He could look around, but he couldn’t move or talk. Then the dark lord turned to the sister, “All right! Answer my phonics questions correctly or your brother’s a statue for good!”

At this point I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down and started screaming, running out of the classroom and straight into the boys’ restroom. Crouched in the corner with my hands covering my eyes, I tried to get myself together, to stop myself from crying at least, hoping that nobody had seen where I’d run.

But of course they knew where to look. And it was a huge deal. Mrs. Cosgrove was like, “What’s wrong with you?” completely unable to make the connection between Thorzul’s wrath and my little episode. They took me to the principal’s, my mom was called in. I remember sitting there in the office while my mom and Mrs. Cosgrove watched the program that had caused my rather extreme reaction.

I felt like such a baby. And this wasn’t the first time my mom had to be called in to quell an emotional panic. A year earlier, one of my classmates brought the whole room some candy for her birthday. I was passed this little yellow box of JujyFruits. I’d never seen this candy before, and on the box was this illustration of a cartoon girl. It was a poorly drawn almost stick-like figure, pale white skin with a little squiggly line for a mouth. For whatever reason, I made eye contact with the drawing and this wretched creature pulled me into some sort of a void. I couldn’t identify the feelings at the time, but they’re the same exact responses I get now as an adult when I’m occasionally lying in bed wide-awake at four in the morning thinking about how someday I and everyone I know will …


Well, there’s no reason to get too morbid here. But it was that same feeling again this time with Thorzul, only now the fear wasn’t as abstract as it was the year before. I sat there and worried if I was going to be in trouble, if all the other kids were going to make fun of me for running out of the classroom.

But no, my mom finished up her talk with Mrs. Cosgrove, she took me home, and that was it, really. There wasn’t anything to talk about, and nobody in school mentioned it when I came back the next day. Also, we never watched Storylords ever again. So there was that, I didn’t have to sit there and worry every day, that was definitely a relief.

Anyway, the only reason I bring this up is because, well, I was just imagining what it’s going to be like when you finally give me a call and ask me to write for Grantland. I thought, what if Bill asks me one of those interview questions, like, “What’s your biggest weakness?” or “Tell me about a situation in which you overcame a great obstacle.” And I thought about this, about the second grade, about Storylords. That story would work for either of those questions. Right? Because I overcame it. Or, I caused a huge scene and got my way. That took initiative. Right? Don’t you want that in an employee?

OK, well, that’s it I guess. Give me a call.

Hope you have a great weekend,

Rob G.

Bill, does this look infected?

Dear Bill Simmons:

Hey Bill, I can’t really concentrate on my writing, not lately. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve got this clicking in my jaw. It’s like, I was chewing some gum last week, everything was fine, but then there was this one chew where my jaw just, well, something happened, I can’t really describe it. It’s almost like the jaw bones, it’s like they missed, like wherever they’re supposed to connect when they go up and down, I don’t know, maybe something slipped out. But I was chewing so fast, it’s not like it just popped out. No, it popped, but then I continued to chew. And I don’t know how you chew gum, but this was like a hard chew, all of my jaw strength clamping down on a joint that, as I far as I can guess, was now totally out the socket. And that hurt, there was like an audible chnk sound, an intense pain that shot up the side of my head.


Right after that it started swelling, and I couldn’t close my mouth all the way. That was for like two or three days, and while it’s a little better now, there’s still some stiffness, my bite hasn’t really gone back to the way it was. And the clicking, that’s what I was getting at, even when I do manage to warm up my jaw and get a good bite rhythm going, there’s that click, like I’m imagining something just a little off, each time I chew I can hear it, click, click, click.

Do you think I should go to the dentist? I’m worried that they’re going to try to sell me on some experimental procedure that hasn’t really proved its effectiveness in the general public. From everything that I’ve read online, it’s like, if you have a jaw problem, just deal with it. Modern medicine hasn’t yet come up with a consensus on how best to deal with these issues. There are so many horror stories of people enduring painful surgeries and long recoveries, only to have things wind up worse than when they started.

And yeah, one obvious solution would be to just stop chewing gum for a while, maybe give my body as good of an interrupted chunk of time as I can string together to really try to heal itself. But I love gum. Which is a dumb reason to keep chewing, I get it, but it’s just that, I’m not entirely convinced that the gum chewing was the problem. I keep having this idea that something just got slightly out of whack, like a door that’s just barely off of its hinge. And I don’t know, I have this feeling like if I could only knock it back into place.

That’s crazy though, right? Hey Bill, I hate to change topics abruptly here, but the other day I was riding my bike and, I don’t know what happened, because I ride my bike every day, it’s one of those skills that I take for granted. So you can imagine how surprised I was when my right foot slipped off of the pedal. I was wearing shorts because it had just started to get nice out, and so the inside of my ankle made contact with the chain.

At first it didn’t look like it was going to be that bad, but then these thick globs of blood started bubbling at the skin, it was like it was condensing at the surface from the inside. By the time I pedaled home, the crimson stain on my sock was pretty noticeable. While the cut itself wasn’t that big, it was definitely deeper than just your average scrape, and so I don’t know, should I go and have it checked out?

It’s not bleeding anymore, I mean, it was a few days ago, but it’s really hard to clean out. I put on this invisible skin spray, but I feel like that just added an extra layer of gunk, and so I can’t tell if this thing is healing properly, or maybe there’s just too much liquid bandage accumulating around the edges of the cut. I don’t mind winding up with a scar, I mean, I know you’re supposed to get stitches within like three or four hours. But I just can’t shake the feeling like this thing is going to get infected, I’m not going to be paying attention, or I’m going to convince myself that it’s OK when it’s not OK, and the next thing I know, well … do you know that Calvin Coolidge’s son died from a blister? Yeah, he was just playing tennis, got a blister, didn’t tell anybody about how bad it was getting, and then he was dead. Sure, that was right before antibiotics, but if I don’t go to the doctor, it’ll be like I’m living in the early 1900s, like this thing is going to get worse and worse until it’s too late.

But on the other hand, I don’t want to turn into one of those wackos who goes to the emergency room every time he needs a Band-Aid. They’ll prescribe antibiotics, eventually they’ll stop working, then one day I’ll be sixty and I’ll get pneumonia and the doctors will be like, “It’s really strange, it’s almost as if your body isn’t responding to the medicine at all. Oh well, better get your affairs in order.”

I know I’m spending way too much time in my head, and whether or not my wound is life threatening or not, the anxiety I’m feeling is very real. And the only way I know to cope with it is to keep chewing gum, which, like I said before, may or may not be making my jaw problem worse. Bill, you’re a lot older than me, do you have any advice? Would you go to doctor? Is it worth the copay? I’ll send you a picture. Does this look infected?

Thanks Bill,

Rob G.

My letter of resignation

Dear Bill Simmons:

Over the past thirteen weeks, I’ve written to you right here on my blog every Friday. Like Reed Richards desperately waving the Ultimate Nullifier in the face of Galactus in an effort to save the planet Earth, I had hoped that by repeating your name and my stated goal over and over again, this lowly Internet gnat might somehow grab the attention of the sports and pop culture Devourer of Worlds.


That’s supposed to be you, the Devourer of Worlds. It’s a Galactus reference, a classic Fantastic Four storyline from the sixties. Did you ever read comics? Just do yourself a favor and don’t watch that movie, The Rise of the Silver Surfer, because I don’t want you to get any weird ideas of what does and doesn’t work when telling a Fantastic Four story.

I’m getting off track. Bill, consider this my letter of resignation. Obviously, I had hoped to be handing you this letter, in person, some thirty years in the future. In my dreams, you’d have hired me two months ago, and it would have been the start of my illustrious career at Grantland. My rise to stardom was supposed to be so rapid that, after a short while, it would have felt like there wasn’t enough room on the web site for the both of us.

So you’d tell me to go on sabbatical for a while, not having the decency to terminate my contract and let me write elsewhere, but totally unwilling to publish any of my work. So I’d start coming up with all of these pseudonyms, submitting killer material behind your back, right to your own web site. Pretty soon you’d have a whole new team of writers, all of them me, but of course you’d be completely unaware.

And then one day we’d all go on strike. You’d reach out to all of the writers you’d have alienated in your naïve Grantland rebuild, but you know how it goes, hurt feelings, bruised egos. Nobody’s going to give you the time of day. So you’ll have to engage your striking writers, meet their one demand: bring back Rob.

You’d relent, the web site would thrive again, and after a few awkward months of us butting heads, unable to see eye to eye, arguing about even the most trivial of office nonsense, (like, for example, you’d insist on a robust dark coffee in the break room, where I’d keep making a case for a subtler, blonde roast,) we’d eventually get past our differences in an effort to make Grantland thrive.

It would be a golden age of writing about wrestling and action movies and sports, year after year of record high page views and increased advertising revenue. We’d both be rich beyond our wildest dreams. But unfortunately, all good things have to end. You’re quite a bit older than me, and so eventually you’ll be thinking about retiring, while I’ll still be in the prime of my career.

“Rob,” you’ll ask me as you start picking out a senior’s village to move to somewhere in Florida, “I want you take full control of the web site. You’ve done a great job, and hiring you turned out to be the best decision I’ve made. I’ve watched you grow as a writer, as a business man, and I’m proud to call you a partner and a friend.”

And that’s when I’d hand you my resignation letter. It would be uncharacteristically bitter, full of hatred and laced with old resentments. It’ll turn out that I never forgave you for trying to push me to the sidelines back you first hired me. This whole time, I’ve been building up the web site all while cooking the books behind your back, rotting the business from the foundation up. And now I want out, leaving you as an old man to try to clean up the festering mess of a once-great media empire.

Of course you won’t have the energy to do it, so you’ll file for bankruptcy, and you’ll have to hire a whole team of lawyers and accountants. Say goodbye to that retirement in Florida, Bill.

Anyway, that’s how I’d always imagined this going down. But you’re not even giving me the chance. It’s like that What If? comic, the one where Ben Grimm winds up chickening out of the space flight that turns Reed Richard and his friends into the Fantastic Four. I think they let Dr. Doom pilot the rocket instead. Of course this winds up destabilizing the timeline, Doom betrays everyone else, and Ben’s not the Thing, so there’s really nothing that he can do about it except for to sit there in misery, thinking about how things could have been different, if only he hadn’t left his friends behind.

OK, that one was kind of a stretch, but I’ve always had a fantasy where I got to write a resignation letter that both began and finished with relevant Fantastic Four analogies. Or metaphors. I can never remember which one is which, a metaphor or an analogy. Whatever.

It would have been an honor to work with you,

Rob G.

Why the triangle offense works in almost any … you know what? No. Bill, I’m not sorry at all.

Dear Bill Simmons:

You know what? No. I take it back, the apology. When I closed the book on you the first time, I should have kept it closed. I feel like such an idiot, crawling back to you last week, apologizing. How about this for an apology? I’m sorry that I’m not sorry anymore. Because yeah, this is it, for real Bill, we’re through.


Which is too bad for you, because I have so much more to write about. Like today, I had this whole idea about how I was going to write to you about the Knicks, about Phil Jackson, about the triangle offense. It’s not just a winning strategy for basketball. You can use the triangle offense to come out a winner in almost any day-to-day situation.

Like, say you’re at a restaurant, and you’re worried that you’re not getting enough attention from the waiter. The service is slow, his remarks to basic questions are caked with thinly concealed scorn. What do you do, complain to the manager? No, you grab two buddies and you mount a triangle offense. You order first, then the next guy, then the third, one after the other, giving the server not even a second to gain his footing.

“I’ll have a Coke.”

“Make that two Cokes.”

“Make it three.”

“You know what? I’ll actually have an iced tea.”

“Hold up, that sounds great, make mine iced tea also.”

“Same for me, three iced teas.”

Just around and around and around, it works everywhere, not just on the court, not just at restaurants. But at the mechanic. Every time you go to the shop you always wind up spending more money than you thought you’d have to. The shocks suddenly need replacing, or they want to scrub out the transmission, whatever that means. And what happens? You always wind up paying out the wazoo. Why? Because you’re but a single dot.

Bring along a friend and turn that dot into a line. And then find one more person and make three lines, and turn those three lines into a triangle. When the mechanic is looking under the hood, make sure that you’re all surrounding him from three equidistant points.

“How’s the viscosity on that oil?”

“What’s your opinion on tiptronic transmission?”

“Do you guys have any other air fresheners besides these cotton candy scented ones?”

It doesn’t matter if the questions are only loosely related to cars, just keep them coming, one after the other, and with three people, there’s just enough downtime in between to make sure you don’t stumble over your own words.

But whatever Bill, why am I even explaining this to you? You don’t care about the triangle offense. You don’t care about anything. Maybe it was a little premature of me, but back when I started writing these letters to you a few months ago, I went ahead and had bunch of business cards printed that said, “Staff writer: Grantland.” Do you know how stupid I look after I hand them out and people start asking for links to my work? “Well, you see, I’m not hired just yet …”

And yeah, I guess that’s not really your fault. Maybe I shouldn’t be projecting all of this negative energy your way, just because you haven’t somehow stumbled upon my web site. Yeah, actually, maybe I’m being too hard on you Bill. Maybe I owe you an apology …

No! Wait, that’s what I did last week. I thought you’d see it and tell me, “Rob, that was big of you, apologizing like that. We’re looking for big people like you to write for Grantland. Welcome aboard.” And it didn’t happen, and I just looked like even more of an idiot.

You know what I need? I need like two other writers, and we’ll start hitting Grantland with our own triangle offense. Is that cool Bill? Can I bring two of my friends to have jobs at Grantland with me? Because if the answer’s no, if you won’t bring all three of us on board, then you don’t get any of us. OK?

Not that I even want your stupid job anymore anyway. I can tell when I’m not wanted.

Unless you’re playing coy, in which case, I’m in.

But if you’re just ignoring me, I’m out.

Sorry I’m not sorry.

Disrespectfully yours,

Rob G.