(Courtesy Orange County Register)
Every major city has that one sports columnist who readers love to hate. In Boston it's Dan Shaughnessy, for Chicago it was Jay "The Rat" Mariotti, Denver has Woody Paige, New York's guy is Mike Lupica and for Los Angeles, T.J. Simers can fall into that category.
From 1990-2013, Simers was a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Thoughout the summer, Simers' fate with the Times had been up in the air, especially after a video with him, his daughter and former LA Laker Dwight Howard surfaced. For most of the summer, the Times paid Simers not to write.
He eventually signed with the Orange County Register where he will be one of five columnists who will be featured outside the newspaper's dreaded paywall. Some readers can argue that they would have preferred Simers to remain behind it. And based on Simers' first OC Register column, they could even further that argument.
Simers' first column in the Register is filled with one liners that barely hit their mark including jokes about his secret for being married for 41 years (separate TV's), his two daughters ("one married a slug," "The other daughter still needs a husband"), actress Salma Hayek ("It’s well known Salma Hayek and I have something going"), the aforementioned Dwight Howard video, and the Angels of Anaheim:
"Doctors thought I suffered a stroke in spring training when Mike Scioscia told me Joe Blanton would be in the Angels’ rotation. Turns out it was something called a complex migraine syndrome, or in technical medical terms: Blantonitis."
But the two paragraphs that bear a ring of truth are buried near the bottom of the column. Simers reveals that the Times ownership which was close to former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt ordered writers to lay off criticism of him, and according to Simers, recently ordered him to take it easy on Angels owner Arte Moreno.
"I worked at the Times a few days shy of 23 years – much too long as far as Frank McCourt and the editors were concerned.
"A few years back the Times directed its columnists to tone down criticism of McCourt, the publisher’s pal. They asked me to tone down criticism of Moreno recently; I guess it didn’t look good with all the advertising the Angels were doing on the Times’ website. I have no idea who influences news coverage in the rest of the paper."
Simers told The Big Lead that Times staffers have a sense that "the newspaper is dead … Just too many empty desks."
Simers writes that he's excited to work at the Register which has been bolstering its staff and made a commitment to its print edition over online coverage.
So Simers will be around for at least a few more years. We'll see how long this go-around lasts.