On a B.S. Report podcast yesterday, Bill Simmons was discussing his trip to Memphis with fellow ESPN NBA pregame show host Jalen Rose for the Western Conference Finals. The Grizzlies were swept by the Spurs and the pair were discussing their brief time in the city. Rose and Simmons began discussing the city's history and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and how that event has been sewn into the city's fabric. When the conversation turned back to the Grizzlies and Simmons tried to tie the two together, that's when things got weird.
Here's the quote via Uproxx:
“I didn’t realize the effect [The MLK assassination] had on that city…I think from people we talk to and stuff we’ve read, the shooting kind of sets the tone with how the city thinks about stuff. We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind and the whole crowd got tense. They were like, ‘Oh no, something bad is going to happen.’ And it starts from that shooting.”
This is the zaniest of all zany leaps. When Tony Romo starts throwing interceptions in the 4th Quarter do Cowboys fans immediately make the leap in their minds to John F. Kennedy's assassination? Did Nationals fans bemoan the spirit of John Wilkes Booth when Washington melted down in last year's playoffs, look up to the sky, shake their heads, and say "here we go again." Cubs fans aren't fatalistic about their baseball team because they haven't won a World Series since 1908, it actually predates that to the Great Chicago Fire, naturally.
This is something that makes no sense. It's just… bizarre. It's just a strange, strange thing to say. Bill Simmons has made a living trying to tie sports to the greater culture, but this misses the mark completely and drifts into some kind of alternate universe where events in American history have a tangible effect on sports fans several decades later. What about the Memphis Tigers basketball team? I can't remember this connection being made when those free throws were missed in the National Championship Game a couple years ago.
Simmons' online presence and importance to ESPN has never been higher and his work on TV (and partnership with Rose) has helped ESPN's NBA coverage this year. He doesn't really need to make these grand societal proclamations and jam them into the sports world to increase his own self-importance. Doesn't he know that's Colin Cowherd's job?