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Q&A: Bill Simmons (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday March 22, 2006 5:40PM; Updated: Monday March 27, 2006 1:39PM
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SI: What's your daily routine like?

BS: I get up with the kid. I used to get up around 8:30. Now it's 7:30. In the morning, I usually go through e-mails and I have a little routine of newspapers I read, and different Web sites. I try not to go to too many Web sites. I read the papers online; I have a lot of stuff bookmarked. I try to get that done within an hour and a half. The thing I don't like most about my job right now, it's just a lot of random people e-mailing and I have to get back to them.

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SI: When do you write?

BS: I like writing at specific times, and I love writing in the late morning. But sometimes I'll look back and say, what happened to the last four hours? with so much book and e-mail stuff. I usually try to write from 9 to 12, take a break for lunch, go through a couple more e-mails, try to write again from 1 to 5. I take breaks. I Tivo different shows.

SI: When do you decide what you're going to write?

BS: I usually have no idea what I'm going to write. I might have an inkling. A lot of times I play it by ear. ESPN's been great about that. They have me on the schedule for Wednesday and Friday. Sometimes I won't know what I'm going to write for Friday until Thursday at 2 p.m. The last six, seven months, I think the column has been really strong. I'm trying to think of ways to make it better. I was so caught up in the stuff that had nothing to do with what I was supposed to be doing that I wasn't following sports hard enough, if that makes sense. Now I actually watch SportsCenter to make sure I'm not missing anything. PTI, I watch every day. I make myself watch basketball. I love watching basketball, but you still have to make yourself watch it, if you're busy.

SI: Do you watch with someone else or by yourself?

BS: That's a tough one. My friend Jimmy [Kimmel] has this whole setup. On Sunday, he's got like two different rooms, and two TVs and so much food. It's such a fun day. But at the same time, I'll end up talking about Quicksilver for 40 minutes and I'm not watching the games. I end up missing a lot. So I only go there like three, four times. I like hearing the announcers and flipping around. You can pick up a lot of stuff if you're flipping around. In Boston, what I miss is I had a great group of friends, a big peanut gallery. A lot of stuff that I come up with is stuff that will make my friends laugh.

SI: Do you talk with them often?

BS: I'm on the phone all the time. I got a second phone line just for that. Especially during games. The phone will be ringing all the time. A bunch of different people I'll talk to. I'll have stuff in my head that's not sorted out. Then I'll talk to my buddies and, as I'm arguing, the opinion will sort out in my head.

SI: What about around here?

BS: I don't care about the Clippers enough to argue about them. Most of my friends around here are from Jimmy's show and they're all really into sports. It's like a giant mafia, a giant crew, like a frat. People out here don't care about sports as much, not like in Boston.

SI: Well, besides the Lakers and Kobe, right? Didn't you just write a column on him?

BS: People were pissed off. That Kobe thing has now turned into Roe vs. Wade. There's no gray area -- either you're with Kobe or against him. I don't see how anybody can say he's not selfish. The whole team is constructed for him to be selfish. The bottom line is you're selfish. They're very protective of Kobe. I got 1,200-1,300 e-mails on that story, and a lot of them were people who have Internet muscles.

SI: Have you seen Sonsofthesportsguy, the message board devoted --

BS: Is that going to be in this column, in this story?

SI: I don't know, it may be. It's an interesting phenomenon: These people are spending their days predicting what you're going to write --

BS: I don't go there, I don't like to think about it. I've been there twice. I don't go there. It's weird.

SI: It is weird. Still, how do you make sense of it, of having a community of people dedicated to you?

BS: I can't. My whole thing is that my confidence is very low as it is, so to go to a message board and read someone complaining that I'm not writing enough, or this column sucked, it's probably going to reinforce what I already thought. I don't need to see it. No one's a worse critic of me than me. My thing with my column is that it's free and I always break a sweat with it. It's not like I'm charging people and it's not like I'm mailing stuff in. I slave over my columns. When I hand them in, it kills me, because I never feel like I'm done.

SI: But is it flattering to have obsessive fans, these ardent fans? Isn't that part of the deal of being a celebrity?

BS: I don't feel like it is. A lot of the people who post on these message boards are different. For example, a guy who starts an "I hate Mitch Albom" site. I don't think that's an accurate representation of who Mitch Albom's average reader is. It's like if you're doing a story on Jewish people and you meet a Hassidic Jew. That's not a Jewish person, that's an extreme, whatever.

If you went on Sonsof -- whatever that board is -- and said, Here are some of his fans, I don't think that's an accurate depiction. I'm not putting them down or saying they're great. I just don't think my average reader would go on a message board and post about my column. I think my average reader is at work, or is a college student. I think the people who read me are the ones who came to my book tour -- they're all normal people.

SI: Really? I'd think by definition the people who are going to take the time to go to a book tour would be characterized as ardent fans. I'm guessing they see you almost like a TV character, where they feel they know you already. Like you are Sam Malone and they feel they are your friend.

BS: Yeah, definitely, that's true. But the book tour was great. The book tour was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me. It was cool to meet normal people who just liked my column. I just really liked it. It was tough in that you have to be on for three hours. I'm not like Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party -- "Hey, hey, hey." I just thought it was a really cool thing. There was one in San Francisco with 400 people, and my friends were there, three good friends from high school who all lived there, and they all showed up. They just thought it was ridiculous. When they saw people waiting, they kind of wanted to heckle them, because they knew me.

SI: Do you consider yourself a pioneer of Web sports?

BS: I think Gammons was the first one. Gammons was like Jackie Robinson. Me? I don't know. I hate talking about myself with this stuff. I just feel like, I'm proud that a lot of the stuff I was doing early on is stuff people are doing now. Even going back to my column in '97, '98, I was doing stuff not a lot of people were doing. Only a couple of ideas were stuff I specifically came up with. My mailbag was a variation of David Letterman's viewer mail.

My whole thing with the site was that to get people to read it, it had to be different from what people got in newspapers and magazines. I felt like there was this huge void because [newspaper] people were writing a specific way, they were detached, they weren't biased. Very roll-up-your-sleeves, "I'll criticize a guy and face him the next day in the clubhouse."

But it was this little club that you couldn't get into, because of newspaper unions and whatever. So you had all these people under 35 who followed sports in a specific way and you couldn't get in there. I felt like there was nobody out there who would have made me laugh or my friends laugh.

The third column I ever wrote was a running diary of the 1997 draft. The concept was just me sitting in front of the TV with my dad, with a time stamp. And it was just different. And I think the 10th column I wrote was "top 30 sports movies ever." Now that's like a generic concept. Back in 1997, it was like I'd discovered the atom bomb. I wrote that and it got forwarded everywhere and it was a huge deal.

I had another column about Anna Kournikova, which is overdone now. But at the time there wasn't anyone writing about her. Then it was just like, how can I keep coming up with stuff that's different, that stands out? Now it's completely different. Now every idea has been done, everybody's trying to write from that angle on the Net for the most part. Now it's, are you a good writer, are you funny? It's not about the ideas anymore

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