Posted: Wednesday March 22, 2006 5:40PM; Updated: Monday March 27, 2006 1:39PM
Bill Simmons of ESPN.com.
Three months ago, I was dispatched to write a story for the magazine about sports coverage on the Web. This meant spending a lot of time -- more than anyone should, really -- trolling various blogs, message boards and fan sites. The goal was a separation of church and state internally -- you may have noticed we have quite an extensive Web operation here at SI, which made this whole experience rather meta -- but it was important to look at our chief rival, ESPN.com, as the site has been a big factor in bringing sports fans to the Internet. In particular, I focused on one personality, Page 2's Bill Simmons, who has been, in many ways, the face of the fan-centric Web movement.
There is only so much that can be touched upon in a magazine story, even in a long one, so for those interested (and in the spirit of Web coverage and its limitless boundaries), we're printing a large excerpt from my conversation with Simmons here. Keep in mind that the subject matter is very specific -- Simmons' work, history and his significance in the evolution of sports coverage on the Web -- so anyone hoping to read a debate about Al Jefferson's potential will be disappointed.
It's quite long, so a basic topic map, if you'd like to skip ahead, would be, in order: 1) Simmons' background and methodology; 2) his fan base, obsessive and otherwise, including the Sonsofthesportsguy; 3) discussion of other sports sites, blogs and writers; 4) what's next for him and the intersection of fandom and sports journalism, including his quite negative feelings on Jim Rice; 5) meeting Peter King, the Sklar brothers and other et cetera.
This conversation took place earlier this winter, at Simmons' home in Los Angeles, where he works out of a converted garage in the back of his house. It is the quintessential man room: leather couch, leather recliner, mini-fridge stocked with Diet Coke and Miller Lite, treadmill, bathroom and 50-plus-inch flat screen TV. He's decorated the walls with numerous photos of Larry Bird (covering Magic, choking Erving, holding the championship trophy), a framed copy of one of his columns signed by Tom Brady and a Celtics jersey with his own name on it (signed by all the Celtics). There are also stadium shots from all the Patriots Super Bowls.
Below are excerpts from the interview, which took place at his house (where I used a tape recorder) and parked in his driveway after a Clippers-Nets game (when I took notes as Simmons supplied answers, which appear on the final page).
BS: I'm glad you're using a tape recorder. I don't want to repeat my New York Times experience [a story on Simmons ran in the Times not too long ago].
SI: What happened?
BS: There was some quote about how all sportswriters are fat. I was telling a story about the first time I went into a press room in college and it was my dream to cover an event. And all the sportswriters were all 300 pounds, and it was like the Star Wars bar, and I was like, Wow, it's been my dream to be with all these people? And somehow that morphed into "All sportswriters are fat."