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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: There's a message board called Sportsjournalists.com that often discusses your work. Have you been there?

BS: That's the thing you have to remember: Why are you positing on a board like that? You have an ax to grind. I've been killed on that board. I don't really go to that board.

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I remember when the Mitch Albom thing happened. Somebody said, "Have you seen the Mitch Albom thing? It's like 100 pages."

I said, "Really?" So I went to it and it was 100 pages. And like an idiot, I started going through it. And it's like the Nick Cage movie 8mm, going into the world of hard-core porn. And once you see this stuff, you can't unsee it. I'd get so bummed out. People with these long posts like, "I don't want to give my name. I'm a copy editor at whatever paper and Mitch is the antichrist." It's just so stupid and it depressed me. It's just so bad. I guess there are a lot of unhappy people out there. I hope your whole piece isn't going to be about message boards.

SI: It's not my plan, though they are an element of all this. What about Deadspin, what do you think of that?

BS: The difference is, he's a decent writer. That's why it's a good site. He's good at what he's doing. I think a lot of the people who do the sports blogs, they aren't good writers. It's really hard to be good consistently on the Internet when you're competing against all these people. You have to offer something that other people don't have. Will's site works because he's not afraid to go after people in the industry and there's salacious stuff. There wasn't a way station for all this stuff, and he filled this void.

SI: As you know, Will used to be a sportswriter, and I think that's an interesting angle to it. In most stories, the media want to paint blogs as, The great unwashed are starting all these sites. But Tyler [Blezinksi of Athleticsnation], Jon Weisman, Will, yourself, all worked for papers. It seems to me there are very few cops in Des Moines who starts successful blogs.

BS: The thing to remember is that there are so many frustrated sportswriters out there like me, from 26 to 40 years old, who thought they'd become sportswriters someday. Either they worked at newspapers for a couple years, got discouraged or never did. All these people have a blog now and they can get that creative side out and they're just going after everybody. I was in that mind-set, too. I was bitter when I started my own Web site. I knew that some people in newspapers had their jobs because of the union and that made me mad.

SI: Why do you think you drew an audience?

BS: First of all, I couldn't believe ESPN didn't hire me when they launched Page 2. When I finally started writing for them, there was such a void. I had no doubt I'd be successful. I knew I could do it; I knew how to build the audience. I'm sure Will was the same way. I just knew. Compared to what people were reading, my stuff was different enough.

SI: Have you thought of starting your own Web site, branding yourself like Howard Stern did recently?

BS: I thought about that five years ago, when I was debating my next step, and then went to ESPN. But I'm leery of making people pay for my stuff. I've gotten this far without making people pay. And think of this: I'm going to interview David Stern. Do you think he would have done it if I were on Illusions? Same with Curt Schilling.

SI: Are you happy with it?

BS: From the standpoint of ESPN, the credibility is there. I've had a good run. I've made enough money to buy a house, and I wrote a book. I do think I sacrifice a bit of an edge writing for ESPN, but it still reaches as many people as possible. And isn't that the goal of being a columnist? I reach more people than the Globe, more people than any paper except the New York Times and any magazine other than SI.

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