Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Sports Guy and I talk TV, take two

I made my second guest appearance on today's installment of "The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons" podcast, in which The Sports Guy and I ran through an awful lot of mid-season TV topics, spending a while on certain shows ("Justified," "Lost") and going more rapid-fire through some of the other goodness that's airing over the next couple of months (like me, Bill is a fan of "Party Down," pictured above).

The exchange at the very end of the hour-long show could have serious ramifications on the dynamic of tomorrow's Firewall & Iceberg podcast.

(Also, if you're somehow not sick of hearing me after an hour with Simmons and the usual long talk with Fienberg, I was also a guest on this week's episode of Local TV Now. And if you missed my first "B.S. Report" stint back in October and/or the interview I did with Simmons about "30 for 30," you can find both here.)

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are insightful and brilliant. It still blows my mind that you consider Bill Simmons enough on your level to waste time with. The guy writes the world"s longest articles padded with pop culture references and adventures with his lame friends in Vegas where only 20% at best relates to sports, and even worse that 20% related to sports will be dumb and poorly thought out.

Please stop entertaining this guy as a peer or equal. I haven't even read the conversation but I already know Simmons said nothing of value in it.

Dave S said...

Wow, what's with the venom for Simmons? He's one of the best writers and podcast hosts around, with a mammoth audience.

Anyway, any Chuck love on this podcast?

Hatfield said...

Wow, that was a bit harsh. I would say that Simmons doesn't watch TV in quite the same way the people at this site do, but he's very funny and has good taste for the most part. If you want traditional, analytical and/or heartwarming sportswriting, then no, he's not for you. But he is a very talented writer, and I think it's also a testament to his good taste that he praises people like Alan and Tim Goodman to other writers on his podcast.

boobaJONES said...

I have to say that I am totally stoked about the new podcast with Simmons. You are both at the top of the pyramid of each of your areas.

I actually came to know you through the first podcast you guys did. Since then, I may have read your stuff even more than his.

Keep up the great work on the Firewall and Iceberg podcast as well. You've been a huge help to me in my writing and my upcoming initial podcast. Thanks!

chaesonian said...

Anonymous hate from the internet? No...hehe.

Alan, loving this podcast with Simmons. Wish you would have talked more about Breaking Bad, but still awesome to hear from ya.

Also, hoping an advanced review or something can be put out on Treme soon; would love to hear more of what you thought of your first impressions, and how Bunk will be on his return. :P

AM said...

Love these podcasts. That was Great. Simmons and you have good chemistry.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Chuck comes up briefly a few times, but Bill's not a viewer, so it didn't go anywhere.

And the first comment's pretty mild in terms of anonymous Simmons hate I've seen over the years.

Anonymous said...

While I don't share the same zealous hatred for Simmons as the first commenter, I will say the Sports Dude's best podcasts have been with Alan and Chuck Klosterman. I think you two bring out the best in him, while other guests tend to let him wallow in his arrogant anti-intellectualism.

Anonymous said...

Yes he has a mammoth audience. So does Dane Cook, who is to comedy what Simmons is to commentary writing. Does that mean either are good? Its possible to have a mammoth audience and still be moronic. History is littered with examples.

If he's one of the best writers to you, the problem is you don't read enough good writers. Also, this is no way a slam on Sepinwall, who remains my fav pop culture and TV writer ever. Its because I respect and love his writing so much that I don't want to see him wasting time with guys like Simmons.

jason said...

As a writer, Simmons has been stagnant over the last few years. I don't know if he's going through the motions until his contract, but other than his Ali vs. Tiger column and the piece about his dog, nothing stands out like his earlier stuff like Roger Clemens being the Anti-Christ.

His podcasts are really fun to listen to if he has a good guest like Klosterman or Sepinwall or some of the reporters on ESPN, but his podcasts with his friends are almost unbearable and bring out the things people find most annoying about him (pretty much the stuff the first poster complained about).

Anonymous said...

The Simmons argument is played out.

Some people say he's entertaining and one of the best sports writers. Other people say people who think he's a good sports writer, don't read good sports writing.

But what I never see is a solid list of the better sports writers. Who are they? Where can I read them? I love sports and most of the writers out there(aka ESPN.com) are self-indulgent dorks doing a poor take on Simmons.

So, please forgive my lack of sports writer knowledge and link away! Thanks folks!

P.S. Alan rules. I don't think we should be angry that he's doing a bunch of ADDITIONAL podcasts.

DirtyKash said...

I'm glad that Simmons has committed to watching Modern Family over the summer. You guys had a quick discussion about Parks & Rec, and it would have been awesome if he would have committed to it as well, but I guess 1 of 2 isn't bad considering he's not a sitcom guy.

Anonymous said...

Also, the reason I spread so much venom about Simmons is simple. If he was just long-winded and utterly wrongheaded and wrote with the intellectual depth of a moronic self-absorbed message board commenter, that alone wouldn't be so bad. But the fact all those things apply to him AND he's hugely popular and spawning legions of imitators is what's so bad. Its easy enough to ignore him, but now that he's so influential that tons of people imitate him, I feel like his influence is inescapable. Not only do I have to sift through a ton of sportswriters adopting his vapid, self-satisfied, long-winded style of writing, I have to read actual good writers like Sepinwall, Klosterman and Gladwell get taken in by this man as well, despite the fact he's nowhere near worthy.

It would be like reading Woody Allen, Eddie Murphy, Bob Newhart and Lenny BrUce sing the praises of Dane Cook.

Carmichael Harold said...

Anonymous 7:34,

I agree with much of what you wrote, though I also agree that he has stagnated a bit in the last couple of years (though I chalk some of that up to him writing his basketball book). I still read him regularly, but not with as much joy as I did pre-2007.

As for other good sportswriters, I think Joe Posnanski is, at the moment, the best. He mostly writes about baseball, sometimes with a Kansas City slant (he wrote for the KC Star for a long time and now for SI), but he is good on everything. His blog is here: http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/ . For an all-purpose good story, try this one: http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2009/12/25/a-christmas-story/

Hatfield said...

Look, I'm glad you feel so strongly about this, but please don't presume to know the scope of my reading tastes. I realize Simmons is polarizing, so I'll stop defending him. And anyway, we both are fans of this site, so we should probably get along.

Larry said...

You wanna know why he does a podcast with simmons? Because people like me have never heard of alan sepinwoll until he did his first podcast with him. Now I am a fan and read him all the time. Mission acomplished

Anonymous said...

Same. I didn't know about Alan until Simmons' podcast with him. Now I read Alan for all the shows I follow that he has material on. Both are great at what they do.

Alan Sepinwall said...

But the fact all those things apply to him AND he's hugely popular and spawning legions of imitators is what's so bad.

Look, I'm not going to try to convince you of Bill's worthiness as a writer (though I've read almost everything he's written for 10 years) or a thinker (though I'd say he's much smarter than you're giving him credit for) or whatever. But look at it this way: that popularity and influence that so unsettles you also works another way. Bill and I just spent an hour talking about a bunch of very good shows with fairly marginal ratings. If the Simmons fans - who download the podcast, read his columns, buy his book and also buy and watch other things he recommends (anytime he mentions a book in one of his columns, even if it's out of print, it shoots way up the Amazon rankings) - hear him singing the praises of, say, "Party Down," they might sample the show in great enough numbers to mean the difference between that show living or dying.

And that ain't too bad.

Sporcler said...

I think it was pretty good. Not every podcast involves two professionals on one topic. This was Bill Simmons as a fan interviewing a tv critic about tv, is that so problematic? I've been slowly weaning off Simmons so not very biased for him.

My observation was that Alan made an effort to "dumb down" (for lack of better expression) in some instances, eg. the guys who play Locke and Ben? At least namecheck O'Quinn, and Emerson, please.

Parenthood, I think the writing on wall, no? Craig T Nelson has been a problem for me since his rant about evil socialism while talking about living off welfare or food stamps. Good times. That's my fault though, I should ignore that stuff for actors on both sides.

Anonymous said...

How to make it in America is a dramedy, right? Entourage is a comedy that isn't funny at all.

The best opening theme is God Only Knows.

James said...

who knew olbermann read sepinwall's blog?

steven lebron said...

Awesome podcast as always from two of my favs

Dan said...

Simmons is a hack. He's become exactly what he railed against in the Boston sports media back in the Digital City days - a whiny, thin-skinned recycler of his own lame material, boasting about his word count. His attempts at branching out - writing for Kimmel, the Sports Guy cartoon, and whatever tired show he pitched to HBO that got rejected, hence the Entourage hate - have failed miserably. Twitter has really exposed him badly. His Tweets are painfully unfunny and unfortunately numerous. And his books? Mostly recycled old columns with a dearth of fact-checking. He's the embodiment of everything that's bad in sports "journalism". He's Dan Shaughnessy in search of a curse.

Anonymous said...

Firewall and Iceberg sounds to me like a discussion of Diablo or Warcraft but that's just me.

Simmons is similar to Leno in that he made himself more mainstream. Either that or he is the every guy. Some of the backlash is just because he made it. Haters be hatin', yo. Sorry, internet.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Firewall and Iceberg sounds to me like a discussion of Diablo or Warcraft but that's just me.

Could be. I like to think buddy cop show, though, ala "Hardcastle & McCormick"

WT Holck said...

The list if talented people that also think of Simmons as a talent is a long and distiguished one. The venomous attacks by his inferiors is laughable. Just a bunch of pseudo-intellectual wannabees.

Anonymous said...

Dan, no one needs a reason to hate Entourage. It's own soul-sucking, vapid, misogynistic dialogue is more than enough ammo.


If I want good TV analysis, I come here. But, that doesn't mean Tim Goodman, Maureen Ryan, or the AV Club don't provide quality insight everyday.

IMO, Simmons lacks any credible peers in mainstream sportswriting. Not everyone frequents sports blogs, and even the the two most popular (Deadspin and The Big Lead) are more well-known for publishing photos of drunk athletes and breaking stories of sexually deviant broadcasters.

If you don't like his baseball analysis, then you would be checking Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, or the Hardball Times. there are plenty of good writers on the internet, just take the time to find them. The decline of newspapers pretty much gave him an audience, and now they're too lazy to seek out the alternatives.

matt said...

Not a fan of Simmons at all, but if it expands Alan's audience, that's cool. I'll just pass.

Jon said...

I haven't posted here before, and wrote far too much on the subject. My internet died = nothing else to do before going to bed.


I find it interesting how polarizing of a figure (like Hatfield said) Simmons has become considering it is entirely to do with the fact he has become popular. I actually find the comparison to Cook very personally relevant.
When Cooks' first cd, "Harmful if Swallowed", came out, I really liked it. Granted I was 16, but I found it to be genuinely funny. However, I quickly grew tired of his shtick after listening to his subsequent CDs (his over reliance on his stage persona is what got me), which actually made me dislike his jokes I once laughed at. An over-saturation of Cook’s persona caused me to dislike all Cook.
Similarly, the facets of Simmons' writing that are pointed to as negatives (specifically his frequent use of pop culture and his fairly casual narrative voice) are what made him popular. However, the persona that is represented via Simmons’ writing/podcasting is an accurate representation of him as a person. And this is what I like about him. I enjoyed the fact that he wrote the Book of Basketball as though he was explaining all his opinions to the reader via a well-thought out conversation. That’s not to say I have finished the book, but that’s because it’s so damn long.
Because of his approach, I have never understood the amount of hate towards Simmons. I can understand both disliking his style and disagreeing with his arguments (e.g. Tiger Woods vs Ali, although I think the point he was making was less extreme than it was blown up to me), but claiming that he represents a negative movement in writing is more of a stretch. In reality, I think, as Alan points out, what he is doing is positive. He is sort of a bridge between people not looking for their own content and Alan and Klosterman (for example). And people like me enjoy his work to boot.

Anonymous said...

On the note of bill simmons's popularity... have you/anyone suggested he watch battlestar galactica? I have this admittedly irrational notion that if Bill Simmons started liking BSG/got his readers to like it, people would finally get over their prejudice against it/scifi in general. Yes, there were three people in my life that I wanted to convince to watch BSG, to get them over the whole "scifi is dumb, bsg cant be good" prejudice: my college roommate, my mother, and bill simmons. 2 down, 1 more to go!

Am a fan of both Sepinwall and Simmons, so I am looking forward to listening to this podcast! Simmons isn't perfect (some of those podcasts with his old buddies are torturous to listen to) but thats what the skip button is for. His interviews with other subjects like Gladwell and Klosterman are really good though, and if he increases audiences for good things, I am always going to be for that.

Harry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James said...

tell me how you got here so i can guess too

ps said...

You're my second favorite Simmons guest (after Klosterman). Klosterman at least questions and pushes Bill a little bit, and I think you do as well. You defend your opinions, and they aren't mostly the same as Simmons'. That's what made this podcast so interesting to listen to. Not only was it the difference between fan and critic, but also the difference between geek and sports guy. (Thanks for being a geek, Alan -- and thanks for not wholesale loving Big Bang Theory -- I hate that show, but as an academic, everyone I know loves it. It's hard being a alone :P).

James said...

also if you think simmons columns are leeeengthy, self-satisfied, smug snoozefests you'll want to avoid reading any lewis lapham. you'll also want to avoid reading your own posts. have a feeling that's not a problem though.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, things got awfully strident here in a hurry.

I'm a big boy, and I can take any criticism somebody wants to direct at me. Bill is, I'm sure, not reading, and he's read much worse than anything here.

But for the sake of the civility level around here, I'm going to ask everybody to take a chill pill and stop turning this into a referendum either on Why I Hate Bill Simmons or on Why I Hate People Who Hate Bill Simmons, okay?

There are only a handful of rules for commenting around here, and the first and foremost is: Be Nice. If you can't make your argument without sounding like a jerk, don't do it.

Okay?

This goes on much longer, and I either just start purging comments or shut the comments on this post down altogether. And I don't like doing either thing.

Hatfield said...

Geez, Harry, you'd think Simmons slashed your tires or something. Like I said to the anonymous above, please don't assume you know anything about me or anyone else just because we read and enjoy Bill Simmons. I found these two writers independently of each other, I like them and respect their writing abilities quite a bit, and on top of that, I'm fairly certain that I'm a smart guy, whatever that means. So lay off with the 'lowest common denominator' and 'not as smart' condescension; there's no place for that here.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hatfield said...

Sorry Alan, please delete my most recent one if you think it's out of line--we were typing at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to chime in before the Lost post goes up and say that I'm afraid I agree with Simmons on Lost. I think this season has been awful so far (including tonight's), and I think mostly I've been trying to stay enthused because I've put in so many hours already.

Anonymous said...

One more vote for no more Simmons. A voice made for writing and more self-importance than Tyra Banks. An obsessive knowledge of a few things, (Karate Kid, Road Rules) doesn't add much to a discussion of sports or pop culture.

mernaggie12 said...

Thanks for coming onto the BS Report Mr. Sepinwall, I never would have found you without the first podcast. Please continue to come on because I enjoy you both and think that you each add something different to the conversation.

Harry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm a longtime Simmons reader and I can definitely understand the criticisms. He recycles material, is horrible at analyzing sports, and is kind of a douche. With that said, he's generally an entertaining read.

To the people hating here, why do you hate? On a side note, I've never been a fan of Dane Cook but I don't hate him. I just don't find him funny. So I ask the same thing with Simmons? Do you hate him because he's not talented or do you hate him because you feel that you deserve his success and adulation?

Either way, get over it. If you want his riches and fame, do what he did. Work your back off and give people what they want.

Henry said...

Haha, I like your guys' discussion on Dancing With The Stars. I only watch it for Erin Andrews. Once she's eliminated, I'm taking it off my DVR set list.

Bill also makes a good point with American Idol (how it compares to the lottery and that's why it appeals to most of America) that I didn't really realize before.

Alan, are you getting advance episodes of Treme (pilot not included in the discussion)?

Oh, I'm a big fan of Simmons too so it's great when you two get together.

Henry said...

Whoops, that last anonymous comment was from me.

I may have missed it, but did you guys break down How to Make It in America?

And I hope you turned Bill on the final season of Lost.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, are you getting advance episodes of Treme (pilot not included in the discussion)?

I should be later this week, I hope. I saw the pilot back at press tour.

Henry said...

Oh, wait. Disregard that last comment. I'm all out of sorts. :)

I thought I forgot to put my name on the comment.

Henry said...

The pilot for Treme worthy? I mean, it's probably not gonna equal The Wire, but I'm thinking that Treme isn't gonna be as intense as The Wire (I'm in the middle of season three, BTW, and looking forward to summer reviews from you.... hopefully). Yes, no?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote:

I'm a longtime Simmons reader and I can definitely understand the criticisms. He recycles material, is horrible at analyzing sports, and is kind of a douche.

Followed by:
why do you hate?

Ummm....didn't you answer your own question? Two better question would be (1) if you recognize all of that about Simmons, why do you like him? And (2) what does it take for you to dislike a writer?

Anonymous said...

Henry--

Simmons really likes HTMIIA...loves the vibe, feels like the NY he knows rather than the Sex/City version. Likes Greenberg in the lead.

Alan is watching, thinks it's okay, but seems fairly skeptical. Alan also does not partcularly like Greenberg.

Come on said...

Whatever your opinion of Simmons as a writer or sports/pop observation columnist, it's hard to argue he doesn't know his basketball. Sure, he'll never be a GM but I actually do think he would be better than at least half the GMs on basketball decisions (not talking contracts, pr, or business and assuming he'd have pretty free reign).

j said...

I too first heard of you on the first BS report podcast. I have enjoyed you material since then. I also enjoyed this podcast. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Beating up NBC should be an olympic sport which NBC would then show tape-delayed on the west coast.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of Simmons, but tell me now: Are there any Wire spoilers in this podcast? I'm midway through Season 3. Simmons casually mentioned a character's death during his podcast with Klosterman recently (thanks, Sports Guy!). And I think he dropped a spoiler during the first Simmons & Sepinwall podcast, too? Fortunately I can't remember what it was.

Alan Sepinwall said...

No Wire spoilers of any kind. And the last time, I was the one who spoiled something (but gave fair warning before I did it).

Miken said...

For what it's worth (since you probably won't read this anyway Alan), I found out about Alan through his first podcast with Simmons on the BS Report. So Simmons can't be all bad.

The Sports Guy is a little hit or miss, but I always enjoy his podcasts with Klosterman or Sepinwall