Ever since Deadspin unleashed holy hell on a Simmons article about a year ago, the Sports Guy’s pieces have been without comment. Since then, only Rick Reilly has been added to the commentless ranks, while all other works on ESPN.com can be picked apart and debated. CBS Sports reporter, Cameron Martin, decided to ask ESPN why this is so, and ESPN Spokesman Paul Melvin had this to say….
Me: “Paul, I had a question about ESPN columnists that I was going to address in my CBS column on Monday: Why can’t readers comment on Rick Reilly and Bill Simmons columns? And why is it only them? Is it to protect the idea that these two columnists are universally loved? Jemele Hill and DJ Gallo and Scoop Jackson and Gene W get hammered by some readers. Why isn’t that same courtesy extended to Bill and Rick? Seems disingenuous. Thanks, Cameron Martin.”
ESPN: “Cameron, Bill and Rick’s accessibility to fans has always been part of their style, and they both have developed long-standing practices of engaging their fans. Bill has a history of using his interaction with his readers as part of his voice and has, through the years, developed a regular, robust ‘mailbag’ style column that is a favorite of readers. Rick’s connection to the personal stories of people in all walks of life has helped give him his signature voice. With respect to those traditions, we’ve chosen to continue to present their interaction with readers through those avenues.”
(As non-answers go, that’s pretty good. Unfortunately I wasn’t looking for a non-answer.)
Me: “Paul, thanks for the reply. Quick follow-up: In this new era of change, transparency and accountability, isn’t it a bit antiquated and un-American to try to control feedback from the public? What if President Obama wanted to comment directly on one of Rick Reilly’s stories? Shouldn’t he be able to announce to the world, ‘Rick, you’re an inspiration to millions everywhere’?”
ESPN: “Hi Cameron. Appreciate the follow up, but I think our earlier comment is all we’re going to have to offer here. Paul Melvin.”
Okay, well that was a pretty obscure response, wasn’t it? To be fair, Simmons and Reilly get about ten times the criticism that other writers get, and I don’t fault ESPN for not wanting to sift through, and delete, over 1,000 comments or so. It’s still interesting that with the thick skin that both Reilly and Simmons probably have at this point, that they wouldn’t just go ahead and unleash the hounds on their articles.
Oh and if you’re a dog owner, and want to have a good cry, read Simmons latest article on the passing of his Golden Retriever.