Conscious Connoisseur Award (B.S. Division): Bill Simmons

Image: slate.com

Image: slate.com

 

Weekend Review Kit likes sports. For as long as we can remember sports have been part of the fabric of our families. Now that many of us at WRK have families of our own, we try to pass along the finest aspects of those traditions to our children. Being a gracious winner and picking yourself up after a loss, trying to perform to the best of your ability though you cannot control the outcome, the importance of communication and respect among any group of people: these are the lessons we hope to impart while we grill our food and sit in front of the television on Sunday afternoons. But it’s been an especially hard time to be a sports fan recently, and we can’t seem to watch a game without encountering some serious issues.

 

As parents, many of us have decided to use this as an opportunity to begin a dialogue with our kids about these problems. Just as Gregg Easterbrook, in his ESPN column, notes, sports can be a mirror for society, a place to work out our issues and try to come to some kind of community conclusion about the best way to proceed. And, for this to happen, we must tacitly agree to be honest and open with each other, to work toward a common social goal.

 

Which makes the Ray Rice case especially troubling. To hear over and over again that one of the wealthiest, most powerful and influential men in America, Roger Goodell, a person with access to the best investigators in the world and presumably any information he wanted, hadn’t seen a casino surveillance tape that was obviously viewed by someone as it happened, to us seemed ridiculous, like a complete and total lie. The worst kind of lie, the kind where a person can willingly refuse to see the truth, then claim they’ve always been candid about how clueless they were. We are all getting too smart for a plausible deniability claim.

 

So this today Weekend Review Kit is awarding our mentally-fabricated Conscious Connoisseur Award statue to Bill Simmons, for being an expert on bullshit and for calling Roger Goodell a liar. Because we agree. He’s totally lying, and we have no use for a semantic argument about what it really means to be lying or just consciously ignorant.

 

On his weekly podcast, Simmons went off, first in his statement that any claim about not knowing the content of the elevator tape was “such fucking bullshit,” then going on to further elaborate his position:

 

I don’t like liars. Really, I think – just people who, when you know they’re lying, and they’re lying anyway. Those people are the worst. We know you’re lying!

 

For this flagrant display of his first amendment rights, and possibly for daring them to do so, ESPN suspended Simmons for three weeks. ESPN’s ombudsman, who had effusively praised ESPN’s Outside the Lines report into whether the Baltimore Ravens covered up what they knew about the elevator tape (a report that heavily implied that Ravens management leaned on Goodell to come down easy on Rice), defended the network position, stating that:

 

Bill Simmons has no license to call him [a liar] without more justification than “I’m just saying.”…A case could be made that Simmons…undermined ESPN’s solid journalistic efforts on the Rice story with some Grantland grandstanding.

 

But is that accurate? What exactly does journalist mean, in 2014, on a podcast? Bill Simmons’ brand has always been that of Sports Guy: Writer With A Bias. He’s a homer. He loves the Red Sox and Celtics and Patriots above all else. But on his podcast, which is entitled The B.S. Report, he’s to be held to some kind of higher standard of integrity? What about all the times he said that Michael Jordan’s suspension from basketball and exile to baseball’s minor leagues was secret punishment for betting on himself in games? Or all the times he said Bernard Pollard was an assassin? Weekend Review Kit currently knows of no one of political or social importance murdered by Bernard Pollard. But Bill Simmons is not allowed to say Roger Goodell is a liar?

 

Weekend Review Kit applauds you, Bill Simmons, as a Conscious Connoisseur of Truth and Honesty. There is something very wrong when a frank, impassioned reaction to the issue of domestic violence is met with greater discipline than anyone in the NFL or Baltimore Ravens front office has faced so far for, we are going to say it, lying about all of this for a long time now.

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