This is an odd one. On Friday, Bill Simmons released another episode of his podcast, The Bill Simmons Podcast. (He must have hired the same consultant as Dave Matthews.)
It starts around the 54:00 mark, as Simmons nears the end of a segment featuring Ringer deputy editor Mallory Rubin. As they discuss this year’s college football playoff, and the Alabama Crimson Tide in particular, Simmons decides to take an alternate approach to what he apparently sees as the traditional media’s slavishly effusive praise of Bama coach Nick Saban.
The entire show is available here, but the relevant discussion starts around the 53:00 mark, when they begin discussing Alabama. And then at the 54:00 mark, the rant begins:
Here it is transcribed, if you don’t feel like listening:
He’s a coward. He left the NFL. He’s a coward. You want to compete against the best. The best coaches aren’t in college football, they’re in professional football. He had a chance to go head-to-head against Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all-time. He didn’t get the quarterback he wanted in Miami, and like a coward he went back to college, where he stays and just beats up on all these inferior college coaches. Congratulations. He’s the guy who plays Madden on rookie level winning the Super Bowl and going “Oh I won the Super Bowl again in Madden!”
(Mallory Rubin mentions that he’s paid quite handsomely and probably has a lot more fun winning in college.)
Come to the NFL, let’s see what kind of coach he is. When he plays golf, does he play from the pink tees? Nick Saban, come to the NFL, let’s see how good you are I’m really curious. (Simmons assumes some awful, unlistenably whiny voice) ‘Oh I didn’t get Drew Brees in Miami, I’m going back to college. I’m just gonna cherry pick all the best players in the country because I’m the head coach at Alabama.’
So, yeah. A few things to go over there.
First of all, the only way you could even come close to spinning this positively is by taking it as wholly tongue-in-cheek. Indeed, that’s the tactic chosen by Simmons himself:
This is hilarious – we were having fun with this the whole time. We did it @MalloryRubin we created fake news! https://t.co/S4dXC4IMim
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 7, 2017
Because, sure, right in the middle of actual analysis is the perfect time to jump into some poorly-executed satire, or whatever it was Simmons was going for there. Apparently he’s LARPing as an Auburn fan, now?
War eagle. @MalloryRubin pic.twitter.com/4FUclI3ufh
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 7, 2017
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There’s the problem with his argument, though. It’s the problem with the argument of pretty much everyone who says a bunch of dumb stuff and then goes “Haha, you’re just too stupid to get the joke.”
It’s not funny. It’s objectively not funny. And even if you play by whatever twisted logic Simmons is angling for here, and treat it as a satirical point, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not some kind of trenchant observation to hit Saban for how things went with the Dolphins. (Which happened ten years ago, making it a pretty fresh reference by Bill’s standards.) And if you want to give Simmons credit for being unafraid to take a controversial stance (he’s a maverick!), he undercuts whatever coherence his argument has by immediately trying to couch it as humor.
And at face value, the idea that college coaches are inherently inferior is a tenuous argument at best. Jim Harbaugh exists, after all. (As does Jim Tomsula.) It’s a tired argument to make. Which is why Simmons immediately backed away from the idea that he was making it, as even he has to know how ridiculous it sounds to call someone a coward for something like this.
Which brings us to the final (and most unfortunate) part of the quote we need to address:
When he plays golf, does he play from the pink tees?
Welp. Simmons has had well-documented issues with casual sexism in the past, as well as a pretty obvious blind spot when it comes to his own issues in this area. It’s hard to look at that “joke” and interpret it in any other fashion, “satire” or not. Even semantically, the front tees at most golf courses are red, not pink. Simmons pretty clearly means “the women’s tees”, and using that as equivocal to cowardice. Hilarious!
And that last part alone is worth criticizing. Even if everything truly was some misguided attempt at humor, that part there remains inappropriate.
To summarize: if it was comedy, it wasn’t funny. If it was legitimate analysis, it was wrong. If it was supposed to be a mixture of both, it failed miserably, while also crossing a line of good taste.
2016 was a rough year for Simmons professionally, and 2017 seemingly hasn’t gotten off to a great start for him, either.
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