So we were sitting around at our weekly football gathering, when I pointed out that the second edition of the Don’t-Call-It-The-Breakup-Bowl between Carol and Mike was this week. It lead to this exchange.
CAROL: Oh, thank God. It’s the last time this season I have to put with that.
ME: Unless you meet in the playoffs.
And at that point, everybody but Mike enjoyed a good, hearty laugh.
Might be the last one we have this week…
All right, let’s get this done quickly. I gotta go vote.
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Stoner
While the league’s resident evil genius has been a little off his feed this year, Stoner proved again this week that he’s still capable of juggling a lineup better than anybody not named Joe Maddon. Whether it was standing pat on Blake Bortles and T.J. Yeldon, putting Mike Evans into the lineup or picking up Matt Bryant to replace his usual kicker, everything Stoner did seemed to work. Clearly his deal with the devil is still in place (the devil’s just been f**king with him a little this season.)
DUMBASS OWNER OF THE WEEK: T.J.
While I was the beneficiary of T.J.’s dumbassery, I can’t let him off the hook. There’s simply no excuse for not being prepared for (yet another) week loaded with byes. T.J.’s lineup included DaVante Parker, Marvin Jones, Lou Groza, Steve Bartman, The Brooklyn Brawler, a ’58 Edsel, Bob Dole and the entire first line of the 1967 California Seals. If T.J. is (somehow) still contending for a playoff spot in a month, he’s screwed on the Total Points tiebreaker.
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Latavius Murray
The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos strategy of winning through 99% defense, 1% dumb luck and 0% offense took a hit on Sunday night as Murray ran straight through them for 114 yards, 3 TDs, 4 cheerleaders banged, 12 Hell’s Angels asses kicked, 17 chairshots delivered and 1 steaming pile laid on the steps of Denver City Hall. After the game, Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was quoted as saying, “Why in the hell are you calling me at this hour? I’m still in the hospital. It’s time for my sponge bath. Get lost!”
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: Brian Baldinger
The NFL Network analyst/former Eagle/flaming moron was suspended for six months after saying the Eagles should put a bounty on Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot (not exactly a sympathetic figure to begin with, but that’s for another day.) Rather than taking his punishment like an adult, Baldinger said he was just kidding (play-acting the role of a coach was the way he put it) and that the length of the suspension was excessive. (He’s right on that last point, but you have to expect that from a league that has a sign over the door reading, “Excessive Suspensions R Us.”) Regardless of his intent, Baldinger may have wanted to avoid being so brain dead as to joke about a subject that brought a crapton of negative juju down on the league a few years back. Rule #1 of comedy: know your room.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Brian Baldinger
Lest you take my word for it, here’s what Baldinger actually said: “This is the guy that that we’ve got to hurt. This is the guy that we’ve got to take out of the game. There’s got to be 10 guys that want to hurt him every single play. In fact, we may even put a little bounty on Ezekiel Elliot.”
GOAT OF THE WEEK: Blair Walsh
The Vikes placekicker proved once again that it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. Walsh shanked a FG and an extra point, either of which would have avoided overtime (the same overtime where Detroit scored the winning TD.) I’ve said this repeatedly, but let me share my thoughts on the “You can’t blame Blair Walsh” folks. Let’s imagine you work in an office (I’ll have to imagine, because I never have.) You and your co-workers spend weeks and weeks preparing a report. Everyone works their butt off. No, everything doesn’t go Minute Rice perfect, but they’re satisfied with the finished product. All that’s left is to give the report to Scrappy, the office mail boy, for delivery to the mail room. Along the way, Scrappy gets distracted by staring at his phone, wanders away from his cart and falls down an elevator shaft. (You can decide if Scappy’s injuries are life-threatening. I can’t spoonfeed you the whole anecdote.) Would anyone say, after Scrappy’s failure to deliver cost the team weeks and weeks of work, “Oh, you can’t blame Scrappy”? No! Nobody would say that. They’d say, “That f’n’ Scrappy. What a moron!” (I don’t know if that conversation would take place at Scrappy’s funeral or not. Again…)
BIZARRO UNIVERSE AWARD: Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!
Yeah, like a lot of other people, I watched the Cubs and Indians slug it out in Game 7 of a pretty darn good World Series. If you’re going to win your first title in 108 years (or your first in almost 70) it shouldn’t be easy. (Even the rain delay at the top of the 10th felt like God going, “I’m sorry. I just, I can’t allow this to happen.”) But it did and while I’m not the Cubs fan I once was, it was still awfully nice to see. The disconcerting part came when I was cruising SI.com this morning and saw articles speculating on a Raiders-Cowboys Super Bowl and the possibility of the Minnesota Timberwolves becoming the next Golden State Warriors. I have to admit: I’m not prepared to live in a world in which the Cubs are World Series champions, teams owned by Jerry Jones and Mark Davis are in the Super Bowl and the Timberwolves are an elite NBA franchise. To say nothing of the election (and I won’t.)
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (whenever he chooses to show up, the funniest man on TV) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: Bill Simmons’ Any Given Wednesday- The End of an Error
I’ve been a fan of Bill Simmons going back to my college days when he was writing as the Sports Guy for ESPN.com’s Page 2. (Geez, I just needed to add “dial up” to that sentence to make me feel really old.) Aside from being a talented writer, Simmons’ mind seemed to be a place where sports, pop culture, social commentary and absurdism overlapped in the most entertaining of ways. You don’t have to read much of this column to realize I wanted to be Bill Simmons when I grew up. But a funny thing happened along the way…
I did. And he didn’t.
You see, Simmons cranked out three columns a week of his observations and commentaries, writing about the Pats first Super Bowl win, dipping into his reader mailbag, running Dr. Jack Ramsey breakdowns comparing shows like Seinfeld and Cheers. He was like a buddy you’d sit down with to shoot the s**t about sports and wind up chatting about all sorts of other stuff. But lurking behind that persona was a guy who clearly wanted more out of life than just hammering away at a column (albeit a column for the biggest sports website in the world.)
Simmons would leave Boston for L.A., taking a job with Jimmy Kimmel Live while still producing one column a week for ESPN. Though he left Kimmel after a year, he branched out into podcasts, joined the NBA Countdown show, spearheaded the 30 for 30 documentary series, created his own spin-off website (under the ESPN banner) called Grantland and even sat down with President Obama to discuss sports. All of this at the expense of his column, which was pretty much reduced to weekly NFL picks, a running diary of the NBA draft and the occasional mailbag. And then after a few years, we were lucky to even get the mailbag. Simmons maintained his Everyguy persona, but events always ran counter to it. It must be what it’s like to have a friend get famous and/or successful. You’re sure he’s still a great guy, but man, you have NOTHING in common anymore.
Simmons’ potential fall from grace started about two years ago when he called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” on his podcast. That landed him a two month suspension from ESPN (which takes its partnership with the NFL VERY seriously) and his relationship with the Mouse began to quickly deteriorate. By the following May, it was announced that Simmons’ contract would not be renewed. As an added kick in the nuts, ESPN terminated Grantland a few months later (though it’s held on to the lucrative 30 for 30 series.) Simmons quickly landed a new gig by signing a big money contract with HBO, funding a Grantland-like website called The Ringer and preparing to launch a new show called Any Given Wednesday. Along the way, he never missed an opportunity to take a potshot at his former employer.
I watched the first few episodes of Any Given Wednesday this past summer and there’s just no sugarcoating it: the show was light-speed awful. Simmons was stilted and robotic. His interviews were the sort of softball bro chats that his column used to lob grenades at. There was absolutely nothing funny, charming or innovative about what I saw. Even the ads leading up to it were a disappointment (a series of Simmons’ more obvious observations crescendoing with, “I think football owners should pay for their own f**king stadiums.” Whoa! Easy there, big fella. Don’t want to leave the house after a hot take like that.) HBO stayed with the show for 13 episodes before putting it out of our misery late last week. I’m sure there were a few rounds of schadenfreude being drunk at ESPN HQ in Bristol.
While you’re not going to find Simmons on a street corner with a “Will Podcast for Food” sign anytime soon, it had to be a blow to a guy whose every move to this point had worked out (even the ESPN breakup may have been more by design than Simmons lets on.) Rather than a single misstep, though, it feels to me like Any Given Wednesday is the culmination of a damn good writer losing his way. Bill Simmons has always, to me, felt like a guy who was more ambitious than the things he was good at. I’ve never enjoyed his podcasts (he’s one of maybe three people who can irritate me with the sound of their voice), his appearances on NBA Countdown were devoid of the charm his columns contained. Any Given Wednesday was the final result of his evolving (or devolving) from Bill Simmons the Writer to Bill Simmons the Media Personality.
Sad part is, we’re never going to get the old Bill Simmons back. You never return to your old hometown, no matter bad things get in the big city. He’ll continue his podcasts and find other ways to appear on TV. But we won’t get the Sports Guy back; the one who filled three columns a week with fun and b.s. observations.
So I guess that’s my job now.
Brian’s Song (Carol) 7-2
Teddy’s ACL (Robbie) 6-3
War Machine (Jack) 5-4
The Rat Pack (Me) 5-4
The Winter Soldiers (Mike) 1-8
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 6-3
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 6-3
The Flaming Envelopes (Lars) 4-5
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 3-6
Chuck (Chuck) 2-7