Friday, September 26, 2014

ESPN and Bill Simmons are Working Everyone and Taking All the Monies

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

By now you've probably heard that ESPN mega-personality, Grantland editor, jumbo-column writer and podcaster Bill Simmons has been suspended by the worldwide leader for three weeks.

The suspension comes after Simmons dropped a few expletives and called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar on his most recent podcast, saying the commissioner had, in fact, seen the brutal footage of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious or, at the very least, someone in the NFL had.

The good fellas over at SB Nation have a pretty solid breakdown of the affair, and audio of what Simmons said, so go check that out here.

But, while many are praising Simmons for taking a stand against the NFL (an obviously large partner of ESPN's) and criticizing the network for suspending one of its most popular personalities simply for speaking his opinion, people are losing sight of how much of a win-win this suspension is for both ESPN and The Sports Guy.

Allow me to explain.

First of all, a three-week suspension isn't exactly going to send Simmons, one of the highest paid people in media, to the poor house. This allows Bill to be the "rebel" of the company, often stepping out from the corporate line and saying things his colleagues can't. This isn't the first time Simmons has been suspended for not walking to the corporate drum, he was also punished for criticizing ESPN First Take and one of its segments featuring Skip Bayless and Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman.

He called the segment "embarrassing," and he wasn't wrong.

Simmons emerged from that suspension more popular than ever, having taken on a show that many so-called "smart" fans deem to be sophomoric and the best example of everything currently wrong with ESPN.

It also helped ESPN because, uh, Simmons became a bigger star. As Simmons gains popularity, ESPN reaps the rewards with clicks on its website, views on its NBA shows he frequents and, oh yeah, that website Bill Simmons edits and is partially owned by ESPN,

Anybody that fancies themselves an intelligent sports fan knows that the last thing you can ever do is agree with ESPN, or any of the major sports leagues, especially the NFL. ESPN knows this, and gives you Bill Simmons, your hero fighting against them, to watch, read and listen to, all on ESPN properties. Oh yeah, and they pay him very handsomely. It's a pretty good arrangement for both of them.

I mean, we kind of already knew they were trying to do this with the re-hiring of Keith Olberman earlier this year. ESPN knows you hate it, so it's going to give you guys that tell you all about how evil and corrupt it is, but only if you tune into ESPN 2 at 10 pm.

Now, I hate to go back to Pro Wrestling, because I basically did that in my LeBron going home column, but it's hard not to see the parallels between a wrestling promotion and a modern media company.

In the pre-Twitter and 24-hour news cycle era, the games and players were the stories, but now the people reporting those stories have become stories unto themselves. That's what Simmons did on his podcast, basically daring ESPN to punish him, he was inserting himself into this larger story about domestic violence and the NFL's mismanagement of its players and misplaced priorities.

Until the end of time, Bill Simmons will now be a part of this story, and some will even view him as a martyr, all because he said the exact same thing EVERYBODY ELSE WAS SAYING!

That's his character. Simmons is the "everyfan," representing us against this cold corporation. He's become a star playing that character, and now, like wrestling promotions, ESPN is banking off turning its personalities into stars.

Think about it, isn't every popular person on ESPN essentially just playing a character? Do you think Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith wake up in the morning speaking the way they do on First Take? Colin Cowherd? Ok, maybe that's really him, but I digress.

In the wrestling business they would call a First Take argument, and Simmons' meaningless suspension, a work. It was a planned action meant to advance a storyline. In this case, that story is Simmons vs ESPN. It's basically Stone Cold vs Mr. McMahon and, just like wrestling audiences of the late-90s, we're eating it all up.

The only difference is, we don't realize we're being played this time. Every #FreeSimmons you see on Twitter increases his personal brand and makes ESPN more omnipresent.

Now, am I saying that some shadowy figure walked up behind Simmons and told him to make those comments, and that he would receive a token suspension for the greater good of the promotion? No, I'm just saying that neither ESPN or Simmons is hurting right now and, deep down, they both know this ordeal is beneficial to them. I doubt there is any actual animosity going either way or any hard feelings.

So, sorry guys, he probably isn't leaving for Fox Sports 1.

You want to talk about being able to have your cake and eat it too? Through Bill Simmons, ESPN just insulted the integrity of an organization it signed a $15.2 billion contract with in 2011, but was able to show the NFL it stands with the league by forcing him off Twitter for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, average fans praise Simmons, making him more popular than ever.

The NFL gets played and we get played. Everybody (ESPN and Bill Simmons) wins.

No comments :