Posts Tagged ‘Bill Simmons’

Monday Medley

What we read while getting caught watching the paint dry…

The Book of Basketball: Where Flawed but Entertaining Happens

“So that’s what this book is about: capturing the noise, sorting through all the bullshit and figuring out which players and teams and stories should live on. It’s also about the NBA, how we got here, and where we’re going. It’s way too ambitious and I probably should have stuck to an outline, but screw it—by the end of the book, it will all make sense.”

Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball is a book best read over time and on the side. Simmons, ESPN’s The Sports Guy and arguably the most famous sportswriter working today, has penned an overlong and overly ambitious paean to professional basketball in America that can, if needed, stop a bullet in its pages. It is fun to read but in smaller doses—roughly the length of a Simmons column at a time, or, as so many of his readers like to point out, one trip to the bathroom.

This is because Simmons’ style wears on you after a while, or at least it has on me after eight years of more or less devoted readership.* He’s fun and informal, and he makes a lot of clever references; this has never been in doubt. It’s just that, over the course of 700 pages, the allusions to porn, Boogie Nights, trips to Vegas, and Teen Wolf get a little tiresome. It becomes frustrating that Simmons’ only means of articulating one thing is through the prism of this other thing. In breaking down why Rick Barry was the 26th best player of all time, Simmons starts sentences with the following clauses: Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while debating the plausibility of the Shroud of Turin…

Did The Marriage Ref Single-Handedly Ruin Jerry Seinfeld’s Reputation?

The following things were written following the “sneak peek” of The Marriage Ref—the new show from Jerry Seinfeld that has been promoted like it was the boss’ son—that aired after Sunday’s Closing Ceremonies on NBC:

“And then, just as the ceremonies were reaching a brilliant crescendo of Canadian self-satire, NBC cut away… to the premiere/preview of Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref, the most God-awful mishmash of a comedy-variety show to lead into local news on NBC since immediately before the Olympics.”

“Painful, pointless, obnoxious… I would almost rather have The Jay Leno Show back.”

“I had just watched 30 minutes of the goofy Olympic Closing Ceremony which was — and I say this with all due respect to my second favorite country on earth — the sort of thing you would see if you gave a third grade teacher $30 million to put on a school play. And that 30 minutes at the Olympics was like heaven, like sheer bliss, like a show co-written by William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Mel Brooks and the author of the 23rd Psalm compared to The Marriage Ref.”

“The only good thing I could find about this was the fact that I only had to watch half an episode. When the show comes back on Thursday, it’ll be a full hour long. And that’s probably the worst thing about it.”

“Would you rather watch dolphins get slaughtered, or would you rather sit through a second episode of The Marriage Ref?”

It’s worth noting that all of these statements came from writers who have made a point of highlighting their appreciation of Jerry Seinfeld and his classic sitcom (the first quote came from James Poniewozik of Time, the second from TV critic Alan Sepinwall, the third from sportswriter Joe Posnanski’s blog, the fourth from Todd VanDerWerff at The AV Club, and the last form Bill Simmons’ Twitter). I cannot remember the last time, if ever, a show with such a prominent and well-regarded name attached to it has failed so spectacularly. Continue reading

Unabated to the QB, Championship Weekend: The Brilliance of Peyton Manning

“This is a gift I have, simple, simple! a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions. These are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion.”

—Holofernes, Love’s Labours Lost

Over the past several seasons, I have really disliked the Indianapolis Colts. This dislike has manifested itself in tangential attacks on the city of Indianapolis, the Colts’ fan base, the fact their stadium is a dome, and even their more or less beyond approach uniforms. The exact derivation of my distaste for Indianapolis was, for a time, unclear. After all, there are few teams pre-adolescent Tim latched onto as intensely as the 1995 Colts and Captain Comeback, Jim Harbaugh.* I was disproportionately disappointed when Ted Marchibroda left the Colts to coach the Ravens, and even more so when that Indy team slumped to 3-13 in 1997.

*And by “latched onto,” I mean rooted hard for in the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh.

The Colts used their No. 1 pick that year to draft Peyton Manning, and I haven’t really liked them since. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while fumbling the football…

  • One of us is from Staten Island and now lives close to the Jersey Shore. In other words, he’s just living the dream.
  • We’ve been really enjoying Charles P. Pierce’s blog at Boston.com, and this post’s title, which is almost as long as the post itself, is perfect in taking a shot at fellow Bostonian, Bill Simmons.

Unabated to the QB, Wild Card Weekend: In 1-D!

“It’s not so easy to become what one is, to rediscover one’s deepest measure.”

—Albert Camus

In his playoff preview column last week, ESPN’s Bill Simmons talked about how the rules for playoff football had changed: Running the ball and stopping the run were no longer prerequisites for playoff success. Simmons pointed out all the crazy quarterbacking statistics this year—with 11 guys throwing for over 4000 yards and all—and how last year’s Super Bowl became a back-and-forth aerial assault between Roethlisberger/Holmes and Warner/Fitzgerald. Teams that didn’t excel in, or even especially try, running the ball could still win in the playoffs.

You might remember that way back in Week 1 I mentioned the downfall of the running game in American football. In that post, I said, among other things, that there was a lack of correlation between having a star running back and having postseason success (see: Chris Johnson this year). I also asked whether a team that passes the ball 60-70% of the time be successful in the NFL.

What neither Simmons nor I could have predicted was the efficacy of a one-dimensional rushing attack. It used to be that, in order to stop an offense, you made them one-dimensional. Take away the run and make the quarterback beat you, or vice versa. But throughout this NFL season, some of the league’s best offenses were so good in one area that it didn’t matter what they did in the other. And the success of a one-dimensional offense was reiterated and furthered on Wild Card Weekend, when three of the four winners won with unbalanced offensive performances.

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Monday Medley

What we read while pondering Meyer and Manning’s respective “leaves of absence”:

  • Some argue that the premise behind this whole Aught Lang Syne feature–that the new decade begins in 2010–is misguided. They’re wrong.
  • A few Mondays ago, we linked to an interview with famed Russian translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. In case that didn’t slake your interviews of literary translators thirst, here’s The Mookse and the Gripes with Chris Andrews, who has done most of the translating of Roberto Bolano for New Directions Press (although NHP did not have the rights to The Savage Detectives or 2666, which Natasha Wimmer translated for Picador and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, respectively).

Breaking Down Breaks of the Game

Breaks of the GameThere is a quote from Bill Simmons on the cover of my copy of The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam, calling it “the perfect book about the perfect team.” Unfortunately, neither superlative is accurate.

Calling a book “perfect” is generally an overstatement, but it’s less often that an appraisal gets the subject of a book wrong. The problem is that The Breaks of the Game is a book about the 1976-1978 Portland Trail Blazers that covers the 1979-1980 Portland Trail Blazers.

The Portland Trail Blazers began the 1970s as a feeble expansion team, winning 47 total games in its first two seasons. They tried an array of players and coaches, but could never quite put it together—until, that is, a brief run at the end of the 1976-1977 season, when they won the championship, and the first 60 games of the next season, in which they went 50-10.

For that brief stretch, Bill Walton, a college star at UCLA who had struggled in his first two years in Portland, was the best rebounder and defensive center in the league; for that brief stretch, Maurice Lucas became a dominant offensive force; for that brief stretch, Lionel Hollins and Dave Twardzik were a dynamic guard combo. For that brief stretch, the team seemed perfect.

And then Bill Walton got hurt and the team pretty much fell apart. Continue reading

(Some) Things Fall Apart

Bill Simmons has offered a much more negative (and more succinct) review of Funny People on Twitter. And while I disagree with him about this particular film, he has set off an interesting debate on Twitter about the concept of movies that “fell apart.”

Now, as is inevitable in a democratic debate forum like Twitter, this has devolved into people ranting (can 140 characters be a rant?) about movies they don’t like.

The original concept, however, is intriguing. Let me outline what I think it takes for a movie to Fall Apart: 1) The movie had to be on track for greatness. The first half, or two thirds, or three-quarters of the film have to not only be good, or better than the second half, but excellent (this rules out Funny People from the get-go). A film can only “Fall Apart” if it has gotten your hopes high with a great start. 2) The final act has to not only go awry, but fail so spectacularly that it tarnishes the initial greatness. In other words, you can’t appreciate the good stuff in the movie because the ending was so bad.

Continue reading