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Creator / The Sports Guy

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"Yep, these are my readers."

William John Simmons III (born September 25, 1969) is The Sports Guy, known for his pop-culture-reference-laden columns about current events in sports. He started out writing columns as the "Boston Sports Guy" in 1997, which were successful enough to attract the attention of ESPN; they hired him to write for their "Page 2" section in 2001, where he stayed until the summer of 2011, when he moved to the website Grantland, an ESPN-owned offshoot blog staffed by a number of noted sports and pop culture writers, including several you wouldn't expect to write about sports (Dave Eggers?), of which he also served as editor-in-chief. Since 2007, he's also hosted a regular podcast called The B.S. Report.

Simmons is a native of Boston, and as such is a massive fan of Boston's sports teams (especially the Red Sox and Celtics), but moved to Los Angeles in 2002; he has since started rooting for the Clippers in basketball and (during the 2011 lockout) the Kings in hockey.

Simmons has also written two books, Now I Can Die in Peace (about the Boston Red Sox' 2004 World Series championship) and The Book of Basketball (which is a book of Simmons' opinions on basketball). He was also a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a time, served as executive producer for ESPN's 30 for 30 documentaries, and, as of 2012, serves as a panelist for NBA Countdown on ABC and ESPN.

In May of 2015, Simmons appeared on The Dan Patrick Show, a move which reportedly was the tipping point with ESPN. They announced they would not be renewing his contract after September, and Grantland was shut down a month later. He was since hired by HBO, and he is curating a new site for them, The Ringer, along with a documentary series in the style of 30 For 30 and a new talk show, Any Given Wednesday.

Tropes named by Bill Simmons:

Yup, these are his tropes:

  • Alternate History: He loves speculating about alternate sports histories. To the point where it's nearly a Once an Episode theme.
  • Artifact Title: The "30 for 30" documentary series he produced was given that title because it was originally going to have only 30 episodes, but was so critically and commercially successful that it was extended with the title "ESPN Films Presents" and then changed back to its original "30 for 30".
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Simmons is not above taking his employer to task for gaffes and errors on their part. He also mentions his criticisms of certain ESPN colleagues, but doesn't disclose who they would be for fear of reprisal:
    Chris Berman (Bristol, Conn): You're with me, Sports Guy.
    Bill Simmons: (Trying to fight off 100,000 bolts of electric current...)
    • Bill and Cousin Sal created a segment called "Parent Corner" where they tell stories from their personal lives with their kids,which quickly become one of their more popular segments. After begging for a sponsor, they got one in Carmax, then promptly began mocking them for sponsoring a segment about their terrible parenting.
  • Catchphrase: "Yup, these are my readers." at the end of his mailbag columns, always in response to a series of letters that reveals how obsessive or bizarre his fans are.
    • "I will now light myself on fire" when having to admit an unpleasant truth he doesn't like (e.g., admitting Kobe Bryant, star player for the Los Angeles Lakers and someone Simmons actively dislikes, was the 2006 NBA MVP). Exchange "light myself on fire" for any number of physically painful actions.
    • "(Nodding)", which he uses mostly in mailbags when he agrees with an e-mail but has nothing to add to it.
    • "(Searching for a comeback)", for mailbag mails that zing him really hard.
    • "(Afraid to say anything)", for e-mails which are either insanely out there or would get him fired to give his real opinion on.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: He cannot help but come off as this with crazy theories as to what is really going on behind the scenes in sports; his two most recurrent ones being that David Stern rigged the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery so that Patrick Ewing would wind up in New York, and that Michael Jordan did not decide to voluntarily retire to play baseball after the 1993 finals, but was instead secretly suspended by Stern for gambling.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: As mentioned under Biting-the-Hand Humor, Simmons does not hesitate to take shots at his ESPN colleagues and bosses, but his Goodell suspension pushed him into this, with many stories being written over the next several weeks about his issues with ESPN, and about whether or not he would be leaving the company he hated working for when his contract ran out the following year. His fans naturally backed him on twitter with a #freesimmons hashtag.
  • Creator Provincialism: A common complaint about him is "homerism", and he admits that is too favoring of Boston. To the point that here he takes a few shots at himself along with every passionate mention to the Celtics.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The "Irrational Confidence Guy" theory is that he's "the guy who isn't one of the team's best players, but he'll have stretches in which he THINKS he is." In other words, he's an otherwise average player who will catch fire in big moments and carry his team. He called Robert Horry the scariest Irrational Confidence Guy ever, because you never wanted to see him on the court with 30 seconds left in a tight playoff game.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Readers sometimes get extremely angry when he "jinxes" their team somehow. One Boston fan threatened him to kill him in his sleep, bury him in a Kobe jersey with "This is our country" on an infinite loop in his coffin, raise his daughter to play in the WNBA and his son to root for the Lakers, etc. The guy even wrote in a second time because he forgot some things!
  • Despair Event Horizon: His "Levels of Losing" column, in which he broke down how bad a loss feels to the team's fans afterwards. He added 3 levels, all in the worse half, five years later.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: His Vengeance Scale article, rated from 0.1 (OJ's attempt to find "the real killers") to 10.0 (Keyser Söze).
  • Every Episode Ending: Every mailbag ends with an odd letter to which Simmons only replies, "Yup, these are my readers." Sometimes he'll run a few runners-up immediately before and note that he's "in range."
  • Fanboy: Simmons doesn't hide his biases. The misconception that he's a journalist (he's not - he's a columnist whose job is to express his opinion, not report the news) leads many readers to be annoyed by this.
    • He often lampshades how much of a homer he is for Boston sports. He's recently taken to calling himself a "homersexual".
  • Fanon Discontinuity: In-Universe. Bill thinks this of The Next Karate Kid and Rocky V.
  • Footnote Fever: There are 50 to 100 footnotes in each chapter of The Book of Basketball.
    • And with the launch of Grantland, even his internet columns have footnotes.
    • Lampshade hung.
    • This should come as no surprise, as Bill was influenced by David Foster Wallace—who incidentally is one of the few major literary figures to do sportswriting (Wallace wrote a lot about tennis), along with Hunter S. Thompson.
  • Full-Name Basis: Bernard Karmell Pollard. Bill uses his full name because it makes him sound like an assassin.note  After Pollard injured Stevan Ridley en route to beating the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship game, Simmons devoted an entire mailbag to Boston fans ranting about him. Simmons publicly sighed with relief when Pollard signed with a team that doesn't play New England in 2013.
  • Game of Nerds: Kind of. He wrote about being introduced to new statistical analysis methods in baseball and basketball, but he doesn't fully accept the new concepts that challenge conventional wisdom. For example, he still thinks stats like RBIs and pitchers' W-L records are meaningful.
    • And back when she wrote her opinion, his wife the Sports Gal would call her husband and his buddies' fantasy league The League of Dorks for this and other reasons.
  • Guest Host: Simmons has served as a replacement for Michael Wilbon on Pardon the Interruption for a handful of episodes.
  • Hypocritical Humor: #8 on his list of sports' most tortured teams is the New York Knicks. His additional comments:
    "Slowly becoming the pre-2004 Red Sox of basketball. Right down to the 45 shameless writers who would release a quickie book if the Knicks ever turned things around and won a title. Wait, I think I just made fun of myself."
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Or rather, "Daddy needs another drink" (scroll down to 8:45 PM), in reaction to the final game of the 2011 Red Sox collapse.
  • Never Live It Down: Invoked in his columns. Apparently, he hasn't totally recovered from The Catch by David Tyree or Tom Brady's crippling knee injury in the NFL 2008 season and reminds himself of these events on occasion either by a footnote or with a passing mention.
    • He was caught in the background of a picture on rival site checking his BlackBerry while Blake Griffin lay down a thunderous dunk. He even had some And Then John Was a Zombie stress about potentially becoming the distracted Los Angeles fan he always hated in Boston.
    • He refuses to let the Oklahoma City Thunder off the hook for their disastrous James Harden trade, which he believes kept them from a potential dynasty.
    • Similarly, he referred to the Thunder as the "Zombie Sonics" for several years, reminding readers of the Bait-and-Switch the owners pulled by promising to keep the team in Seattle before buying it only to move to Oklahoma at the first allowed opportunity.
  • Non-Indicative Name: He eventually admitted that despite his naming "The Ewing Theory" for Patrick Ewing, Ewing's Knicks weren't actually an example of it.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Mailbags usually have a note stating that it consists of "actual emails from actual readers." Sometimes he'll insert one from himself anyway.
  • Quote Mine: He was quote mined to promote the film Lone Survivor, which he and Cousin Sal found absolutely hilarious.
  • Rags to Riches:
    • Started out working a menial job for the Boston Herald and doing some freelance work in the 1990s, quickly going broke and having to work as a bartender just to support himself. Just when it seemed like his master's degree in print journalism was going to go to waste, he managed to secure a part-time gig writing sports columns online for $300 a week. Barely anyone read it for the first couple years (largely due to being available only through AOL and mostly only discoverable through an email list), but the reader base grew to the point where ESPN brought him on and he got a job as a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live. His popularity skyrocketed quickly on ESPN, eventually getting his own section in page two. Spearheading the creation of the 30 for 30 documentary series, and starting his own podcast that immediately became the most popular ESPN podcast by far, Simmons was eventually named editor-in-chief of his own website (Grantland), which he ran for several years. When ESPN decided to not renew his contract and shut Grantland down, Simmons started The Ringer, which produced content very similar to Grantland, and retained much of it's popularity. In 2020, The Ringer was bought by Spotify for $200 million.
    • His career arc also bears some similarities to the Boston sports teams he supports. When he first splashed onto the national scene in the late 1990s, the Red Sox were approaching an 80-year title drought, the Patriots were a mostly hapless franchise that served as the whipping boy to two historically great teams in their two super bowl appearances, the Celtics were right in the middle of a 20 year dry period between the Bird/Mchale/Parish/Johnson era and the Garnett/Pierce/Allen/Rondo era, and the Bruins hadn't won a Stanley Cup in almost 25 years. By the time he secured the Spotify deal, the Red Sox had reeled off four world series championships in a sixteen year period, the Patriots had become arguably the most successful franchise in NFL history on the back of six super bowl wins, and the Celtics and Bruins had both won a title.
  • Rubber-Band A.I.: Simmons coined the phrase "No F***ing Way Game" to describe a common manifestation of this trope in Madden NFL.
  • Running Gag:
    • He continues to bring up Kobe's 6-for-24 shooting performance in game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals (over his Celtics), which "earned" Kobe the Finals MVP award.
    • Every week during the NFL season, he and Jimmy Kimmel Live! writer "Cousin Sal" Sal Iacono guess the initial gambling lines for the upcoming games that week. Early in the 2010 season, Simmons began to heap praise on Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Josh Freeman, claiming that he was a quarterback you could build a franchise around. Ever since Week 6 of that season, Sal has taken time during the recording of these podcasts to 'play a voicemail' left by Simmons on Sal's phone praising Josh Freeman, which is in fact Sal doing an over-the-top imitation of Simmons's voice and writing style. In 2011, these segments became more intricate, often including sound effects and involving other subjects. The Week 10 2011 edition of this 'voicemail' was so over-the-top it was even edited out of the released podcast, revealed days later on twitter to have involved 'Simmons' being raped in the YMCA sauna by Jerry Sandusky before hanging up.
      • Freeman's sophomore slump in 2011 led to his eventually being replaced as the subject of the phone calls by then Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
      • At the beginning of the 2012 season, Tebow has been replaced with Seahawks quarterback "Hustle Bustle Man Muscle" Russell Wilson.
  • Self-Deprecation: Simmons is not above putting insulting e-mails he's received in his mailbag columns, and even agreeing with some of them.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: He often mentions tortured teams and cities, given growing up in Boston meant he faced a lot of this (though it got better recently, all four majors won at least one title). Also, the pinnacle of Levels of Losing, "That Game" - which originally referred to the Red Sox suffering an unbelievable turnover at Game 6 of the 1986 World Series; then, the Minnesota Vikings suffering a similar one in 2010 made him reconsider its uniqueness, stating that Level 1 is "harrowing defeat with catchy nickname by long-time loser".
  • Shout-Out: Is a massive fan of 80's films like The Karate Kid, Teen Wolf, and the Rocky series as well as The Wire. He makes constant reference to them and even sometimes organizes his columns around scenes or quotes from them.
    • Occasionally, he also makes references to Seinfeld, another one of his favorite shows; he also has a liking for Curb Your Enthusiasm and has even likened the best seasons with pantheon episodes of the show with particularly dominant seasons by pitchers who won the MVP Award in Major League Baseball.
  • Soccer-Hating Americans: In one of the few columns favorable to the sport, Simmons said "I haven't liked soccer since the New England Tea Men were thriving back in the mid-'70s", and The World Cup is the only time he will be appreciative of association football instead of taking potshots at it.
  • Southies: His old Boston buddies come across like this sometimes.
  • The Stoic: He has complained when announcers haven't risen to the excitement of the occasion. Joe Buck's extremely understated call of the David Tyree helmet catch is one of his flogging horses.
  • Tempting Fate: He tries to invoke this deliberately with his reverse jinxes, in which he congratulates a team he's rooting against for winning a big game, hoping that fate will then rear up to crush that team. This is a double edged sword, however, as his fans have called him out for jinxing his own teams by being overconfident at their assured victory (such as happened with both of the Patriots' Super Bowl losses to the Giants).
    • Also, every time he mentions some wildly terrible transaction by a bad team: "let's hope I didn't give them ideas".
    • Invoked in his September 22, 2014 podcast where he went on a profane rant calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar regarding the Ray Rice domestic violence case, and then all but dared his bosses at ESPN to punish him for it (they suspended him for three weeks and deleted the podcast from their site).
  • Trans Nature: In both Now I Can Die in Peace and The Book of Basketball, he talks about how, as a kid, he had a racial identity crisis, where he hated that he had been born white instead of black, even forcing his teacher to call him his self-given Muslim name "Jabaal Abdul-Simmons," and colored his face in in pictures.
  • The Trope without a Title: The Oklahoma City Thunder, aka "The Team That Shall Not Be Named", as a service to the people of Seattle, who are still bitter about the Seattle Sonics being sold and moved out from under them.
    • He eventually renamed them "The Zombie Sonics". He gave up on it on October 11, 2012 on the grounds that (1) it was too much trouble to keep it up and (2) the Sonics might be resurrected.
  • What The Hell NBA?: The Sports Guy was less than thrilled at how the 2011 NBA lockout was handled. In particular, he gave shots to the owners for paying their players too much and granting massive contracts that eventually brought the NBA to its crippling problem; the agents for making the players go for more money than they could possibly handle; and finally, the players themselves for trying to be tough guys and not wanting to accept more flexible solutions while bringing less or nothing at all to the table. It got so bad that the Sports Guy himself stated that Gary Bettman, the current commissioner of the NHL, actually stood to gain A LOT from the lockout by taking lessons on how NOT TO handle said lockout while the league was starting to enjoy one of its best seasons yet. You can see all of his opinions on his archives at Grantland as well as his Twitter account. Unfortunately, Bettman didn't listen, and one year later, the NHL went through another lockout that cost the league half a season.
    • It's something of note that Simmons does not have much love for Roger Goodell either due to the two-faced nature of how he handles player safety in games and considers him worse than Bettman due to this.
      • This escalated in the fall of 2014 when Goodell mishandled the prominent domestic abuse cases of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. Bill's first mailbag after the video of Rice hitting his fiancee in an elevator came out called for the firing of Goodell, and the follow-up doubled down on the rhetoric. This would get him suspended from ESPN and Grantland for three weeks when he raged against the network for challenging his right to call Goodell a liar on his network owned podcast.
    • He could not believe it himself when he had to admit that Bud Selig was the best (or least horrible) acting commissioner in American sports. He followed this up by saying he had stopped putting faith in any commissioner doing what was best for the fans, as they were stooges whose only job is to keep the owners happy.
  • Wolverine Publicity: His "Ewing Theory" is that Wolverine Publicity as applied to sports teams sometimes holds them back, and that losing a star player who gets all the attention forces the rest of the team to step up. He claimed the best application of this was Tiki Barber, who retired abruptly and complained about his former team, only to watch them win the Super Bowl with one of the greatest upsets in history in his absence. Over Simmons' Patriots. With Simmons in the crowd. And he will now light himself on fire.

Alternative Title(s): Bill Simmons