Two universes collided on Tuesday afternoon in one of those surreal moments that are becoming increasingly rare. There’s very few possibilities and permutations left in the sports media world that make you stop what you’re doing and take notice. We throw around phrases like “must-see” or “must-listen” all the time in our hyperbolic culture, but Bill Simmons’ first interview with Mike Francesa in over a decade certainly fits the bill.
Simmons sat down with Francesa for over half an hour to discuss a wide range of topics including his departure from ESPN, his new start at HBO, and a couple of never-before-shared stories about The Pope & The Sports Guy.
AUDIO: @MikeFrancesaNY's interview with @BillSimmons: https://t.co/WIcnyD6256 (via @Poulos)
— OrdioMongo (@OrdioMongo) October 14, 2015
Here are the five biggest revelations from Simmons Meets Francesa:
1) Bill Simmons found out he was gone from ESPN on Twitter
“It was pretty abrupt. I found out on Twitter, that’s probably not how you want to find out after 14 years.”
Just how badly did Bill Simmons’ relationship with ESPN deterioriate in the last couple years working for Bristol? Simmons told Francesa he found out he would not be welcome back to ESPN on Twitter. Wow. If you’ll remember, John Skipper broke the story in the New York Times in a premeditated strike to say that ESPN was the ones deciding to end its relationship with The Sports Guy. That might have given ESPN some extra clout, but it’s an unfortunate way for any employee to be future endeavored. Simmons worked at ESPN for over a decade and couldn’t even get a courtesy call from an HR rep in a Bristol cubicle? Yikes.
2) Mike Francesa has agreed to a 30 for 30 on Mike & The Mad Dog
“I have not done anything with ESPN for years but I have agreed to a 30 for 30 Mike & The Mad Dog.”
This may be the revelation that got Mongo Nation most excited. Francesa talked about his non-cooperation with a Grantland piece on WFAN because of his feelings towards ESPN. However, due to some old friends working on the project, he’s agreed to do a 30 for 30 on the most influential sports radio show of all-time – Mike & The Mad Dog. With Francesa (and presumably Chris Russo) on board and directors named, it means the project could be close to a green light.
No matter how you feel about Francesa or Russo, there’s no denying they’re the history makers who helped sports talk radio become what it is today. And given their YUGE personalities and dramatic rise and fall, a 30 for 30 on the pair would be an epic. It’d also maybe open the door to some other sports media related documentary subjects for the series.
Francesa also opened up further about all the scuttlebutt surrounding a future reunion with Russo, but seemed to throw cold water on the idea by saying nobody in 2015 could afford the pair working together. We can still dream though, right?
3) Bill Simmons think the NFL had a hand in his three week suspension
“Francesa: Do you think the NFL had a hand in this? Simmons: I do… It’s their biggest business partner by far.”
“The story changed on their end based on who I was talking to and what day it was.”
The beginning of the end for Simmons at ESPN was his three week suspension for calling Roger Goodell a liar and challenging his bosses to do something about it on a podcast. The NFL’s secret influence and power over their rights partners is one of the biggest elephants in the room when it comes to sports media. Is it any coincidence that ESPN’s two biggest critics of Roger Goodell and the NFL – Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann – are no longer working for the company? Simmons told Francesa he’s convinced the NFL had a hand in his suspension and honestly… who could blame him for thinking that way? There’s way too much anecdotal evidence of the NFL strong-arming rights partners to think anything different.
4) Mike Francesa called Bill Simmons to inquire about being his co-host
“When Dog left you called me, we discussed whether there’s a possibility I could be the co-host, but I just signed a giant contract.”
This was the biggest WHOA moment from the entire interview. Francesa revealed that one of the two people he called about being a potential co-host after Russo’s departure to SiriusXM was in fact Simmons. Could you even imagine that? Mike & The Sports Guy? It’d be the greatest odd couple since… well… The Odd Couple. (And no, I’m not talking about the one with Matthew Perry.)
All I can think about now is Simmons trying to replicate this and cursing the sports media gods for not letting it happen.
5) Bill Simmons will launch his HBO show next spring
“I’m not a stand-up comedian, the shows they have now are pretty linear where it’s somebody comes out, they do a monologue, there’s an audience. I think our show is going to be a lot different than that.”
Simmons revealed a few more details about his HBO show, which seem to make it stand out from the Bill Mahers and John Olivers of the world. It won’t be in front of a studio audience and he’s not going to be trying to do stand-up comedy. Given Simmons’ skill set as a television personality that’s probably a good thing. From the impressions given in this interview, Simmons seems to still be working on a gameplan for what his show will be that launches next spring. While Simmons has been recruiting Grantland writers and launching his podcast, the HBO show has gone to the backburner a little bit. It’ll be interesting to see how that continues to develop and just what it looks like next spring.
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