"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

The Book of Basketball and Staggering Casual Sexism

I meant to write a post like this a solid year ago, but I kept putting it off. It’s not directly baseball-related, and it has a decently high likelihood of inspiring an exhausting reaction. But then Bill Simmons’ “Book of Basketball” came out in paperback, and he has been on a mini-tour to promote it, and started a mini-multimedia-feud with Charles Pierce (who returned fire and then some), and Alex started pestering me to do it, and so I will.

Photo from doulikeme.wordpress.com

I’ve mostly found Bill Simmons to be an entertaining, engaging writer. His persona gets too over-the-top frat-boy for me at times (choose your own adventure with that last link), but I used to enjoy his columns even if I rolled my eyes often – anyone who spends as much time as I do on sports blogs is inured to a certain amount of that, and usually, if it doesn’t seem malicious, I brush it off easily enough. You can’t fight every battle and it’s no fun trying. Anyway, I got a kick out of Simmons’ baseball columns even though I often disagree with him there (even aside from him being a Red Sox fan) — but when it comes to basketball, he really knows his stuff. So when I visited my publisher last winter I was pleased to pick up a copy of the then-new “Book of Basketball,” and even more pleased to see that it had pushed Mitch Albom’s latest pap out of first place on the New York Times bestseller list.

The first really clear sign of trouble was this sentence and footnote (talking about going to Vegas, of course):

“I needed permission from my pregnant wife, who was perpetually ornery from (a) carrying our second child during the hot weather months in California, and (b) being knocked up because I pulled the goalie on her back in February.(1)
(1)The term “pulling the goalie” means “eschewing birth control and letting the chips fall where they may.” Usually couples discuss pulling the goalie before it happens… unless it’s Bridgette Moynahan. In my case, I made the executive decision to speed up plans for kid number two. This did not go over well. I think I’m the first person who ever had a home pregnancy test whipped at them at 95 mph. In my defense, I’m getting old and wanted to have a second kid before I wouldn’t be able to have a catch with them anymore. I have no regrets. Plus, we had a son. In the words of Joel Goodson, sometimes you gotta say, “What the fuck?” (pages 30-31)

What the fuck is right. I assume this is a joke — at least, it’s clearly supposed to be funny, but man did it fall flat with me. “Ornery” does not begin to describe my reaction if my husband, who’d very soon be my ex-husband, made an “executive decision” to stop using birth control without telling me. (Also, what the hell were they using that he could do this without her knowing? A valid question, though not one I care to dwell on).

A lot of reviewers noted “The Book of Basketball’s” sexism at the time. Writing in a discussion at New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog, here’s Tommy Craggs:

I’m glad Jonathan [Lethem] brought up the sexism, because, well, it’s pretty astounding (this from a guy writing next to the stripper pole at Deadspin HQ). Let’s just pass over the story about the “mediocre Asian with fake cans” and head straight to this little pearl, provided by Simmons’s buddy Bug: “Every time I watch Jason Kidd play, initially it’s like seeing a girl walk into a bar who’s just drop-dead gorgeous, but then when he throws up one of those bricks, it’s like the gorgeous girl taking off her jacket and you see she has tiny mosquito bites for tits.” Yeesh.

His take was followed by Ben Mathis-Lilley’s:

First, some thoughts on the book’s horrible sexism. In my notes on TBOB, I actually stopped bothering to copy down the most egregious comments and figured I’d just note when Simmons mentioned a woman for any reason other than evaluating her appeal as something to put a penis in. I’m open to correction on this, but I believe it was when he praised Meryl Streep’s acting somewhere around page 500.

The annoying thing about Simmons’s sexism in this book is that it’s not only abhorrent—we probably all look up to writers and artists and Shawn Kemps who have personal attitudes we don’t agree with—it’s intrusively abhorrent. I’m not a Puritan. I don’t mind battle-of-the-sexes banter or bachelor-party anecdotes and I’m not, presently, wearing pants. But Simmons gets into weird, pathological territory. Here’s a selection from one of his columns that the book prompted me to look up:


I flew to San Fran to hang out with my buddies Bish, Mikey and Hopper (the heart of the original Vegas crew) for a few days. The weekend started off with Mikey showing us a then-legendary porn scene–one where Rocco Siffredi randomly decided to dunk a co-star’s head into a toilet–which we analyzed like it was the Zapruder film for a good two to 10 hours. Then we flew to Vegas and gambled for three straight days, and every time someone got killed by a blackjack hand we made a variation of a joke about someone getting their head rammed in the toilet by Rocco. Vegas is the place where you beat the same joke into the ground, but this went to another level–flushing sounds, gurgling, “No, no Rocco, not again!” and everything else. It just never got old.


Jeez, man. Jeez. I didn’t realize guys like this had friends; I assumed they were all rapey basement loners. We reviewers and commenters seem to be in agreement that it’s not cool—so who’s out there egging him on? Am I misjudging the sleaziness of the American male?

Both of those writers did a good job of laying out the hostile tone that surfaces in this book dozens of times, though I should point out that both of them went on to mostly enjoy it otherwise. And I can see why – it’s easy reading, outside of this issue, and as I said the guy knows his basketball; he did a lot of research, put a lot of thought in, and his love of the game shines through. Unfortunately, so does his utter contempt for women, and I just couldn’t ignore the mounting pile of passages like this:

“There are three great what-ifs in my life that don’t involve women. The first is, “What if I had gone west or south for college?” This haunts me and will continue to haunt me until the day I die. I could have chosen a warm-weather school with hundreds of gorgeous sorority girls, and instead I went to an Irish Catholic school on a Worcester hill with bone-chilling 20-degree winds, which allowed female students to hide behind heavy coats and butt-covering sweaters so thick it became impossible to guess their weight within a 35-pound range.” (page 157)

“…Phoenix swapped Kidd to New Jersey for Stephon Marbury a few months after Kidd was charged with domestic assault. (36)
(36) Anytime “he smacked his wife, let’s get him the hell out of here” is the only reason for dealing one of the best top-ten point guards ever, I’m sorry, that’s a shitty reason. By the way, this footnote was written by Ike Turner.” (page 236)

(Yes, I know it’s a joke. I think it’s possible to pull off a funny joke about domestic violence — as George Carlin used to say, you can find some sort of humor in any topic. This is not that joke.)

“I’m springing one of my favorite theories here: the Tipping Point Friend. Every group of female college friends goes between eight and twelve girls deep. Within that group, there might be three or four little cliques and backstabbing is through the roof, but the girls get along for the most part and make a big deal about hanging out, doing dinners, having special weekends and everything else. Maybe two of them get married early, then the other ones start dropping in their mid-20s until there’s only five left – the cute blonde who can’t get a boyfriend because she’s either a drunk, an anorexic, or a drunkorexic; the cute brunette who only attracts assholes; the 185-pounder who’d be cute if she lost weight; the not-so-cute one with a great sense of humor; and the sarcastic chain-smoker with 36DDs who isn’t quite cute enough to land anyone but hooks up a lot because of the 36DDs. In this scenario, the cute brunette is the Tipping Point Friend – as long as she’s in the group, guys will approach them in bars, clubs or wherever. Once she settles down with a non-asshole, now all the pressure is on the drunkorexic and if she can’t handle it, then the girl with 36DDs has to start wearing crazy shirts and blouses to show off her guns.” (page 258)

“I wish WNBA scores would be banned from all scrolling tickers on ABC and ESPN. I’m tired of subconsciously digesting tidbits like “Phoenix 52, Sacramento 44 F” and thinking, “Wait, that was the final score?” before realizing it was WNBA. Let’s just run their scores on NBA TV with pink lettering. And only between the hours of 2:00 a.m and 7:30 a.m.” (page 262)

I could have picked out and transcribed a dozen more examples, but life is short. Taken one at a time, any of these could be shrugged off, but each one piles on the previous instances until they have so much cumulative bulk that they can’t be ignored. I read a lot of books that are written by men and for a largely male audience — in fact that describes many of my favorite books. But this book goes further: it’s not just not coming from a male perspective, it seems to have been written without the slightest hint that any woman could ever conceivably read it. I don’t know what Simmons is like personally, but with this book the Sports Guy persona that he’s constructed for himself has become downright toxic.

Simmons does have a number of female fans, and hey, to each their own. I would have liked to know what the rest of his NBA Pyramid looked like, but not enough to wade through 400 more pages of this stuff. In light of the above passages, reading Melissa Jacobs’ well done but not exactly hard-hitting interview with Bill Simmons on espnW, I found this exchange interesting:

MJ: Moving on to the great world of fantasy football and your “Fantasy Fixes” column, which outraged a lot of women. Do you still think women shouldn’t be allowed to integrate into men’s leagues?

BS: I don’t think it should be a law. I just personally like to be in a league with all guys. I like hanging out with guys in certain situations and I think we should be allowed to do that without it being sexist. Sometimes I like just hanging out with my guy friends. My wife likes hanging out with her friends.

MJ: But you’re not against other dudes, who don’t have a history of being in a league with their buddies, having integrated leagues?

BS: (laughing) You say integrated like it’s the 1960′s. Brown versus the Board of Education or something.

MJ: (laughing) I know. It’s quasi intentional.

BS: If it was one of my friends and he was in a league with girls, would we make fun of him? Yeah. Whatever. I don’t care. For me, we like to sit around and make fun of each other and, if we had a girl in our group we hung out with all the time, it would make sense. But just to bring in a random girl doesn’t make sense.

So… no close female friends, then? Shocking.

I have to say that, after all this, I’m still glad “The Book of Basketball” got Mitch Albom out of 1st on the Times list. But the enemy of my enemy is not my friend here. I wish I could have read more of “The Book of Basketball” without getting pissed off and grossed out, but there was, if you will, a Tipping Point Sexist Paragraph effect at play in this book. After a certain number of them go by, you can no longer see it as casual or unintentional or thoughtless – it’s flat-out unattractive, and I will not be approaching it in bars or clubs.

64 comments

1 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 17, 2010 12:59 pm

I haven't read the book but I can see what bugged you about it.

And I like porn as much as the next guy but I've never had hours long discussions about ill-ass shit like that with my buds. Maybe I'm a square.

LOL

2 Jon Weisman   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:08 pm

I don't read Simmons or about Simmons, so I had no idea this was such a big part of his content. It just seems abhorrent on its face - I assume the defense is "just having fun, lighten up" but I'm not buying it.

3 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:20 pm

[2] Yep.

Not all of his columns are like this (though some are) and his Red Sox book wasn't, but it really got out of hand this time around.

4 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:20 pm

Most of that I found pretty harmless. As a non basketball fan who (I'm sorry) finds women's basketball on the whole to be even more boring, I giggled at the WNBA crack. It reminded me of the old "Would you rather have your local WNBA team win the WNBA championship...or find five dollars on the street?" joke which I still use sometimes.

That being said, I thought the second Kidd joke was in real poor taste and I think the "executive decision" was pretty awful. And I don't think I could possibly sit in a room with men discussing porn for more than 15 seconds.

5 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:24 pm

[4] I don't watch the NBA either, but I've never understood why so many people seem to be offended by its very existence. I'm glad it's out there even though I've never even seen a full game.

6 Jon DeRosa   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:27 pm

Based on his pop-cultural reference points, I think we're reading a guy with a very immature outlook and a tremendous lack of perspective for anything outside his New England based sports fandom.

Maybe that's just the material he figured out would make him most successful, or maybe it's a true reflection of his soul, but either way, there's just never a moment where it matters to him whether's he's degrading women.

I think you could read a column or two and not come to that conclusiuon, but no even remotely thorough review could reveal anything else.

7 Matt Blankman   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:27 pm

You know, if the jokes were good, I'd excuse the sexist, boorish attitude to a degree. However, this is just cringe-inducing stuff. All guys have made a sexist joke or two in their day, and it's not usually indicative of some sort of latent hatred of women. In Simmons' case, I'm not so sure. Either that or he views women as merely collateral damage in his quest to seem cool to the lowest common denominator.

Good job, Emma.

8 Matt Blankman   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:30 pm

[5] Totally agree - you couldn't pay me to watch a WNBA game, but I don't understand why some people seem so angry that it exists! If people enjoy it, so what? I root for it to do well - why not? Kids seem to love it.

9 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:30 pm

[5] Sorry, that should be "I don't watch the WNBA either." I do indeed watch the NBA, and incidentally, let's go Knicks.

(My favorite Simmons columns were his awesome take-downs of Isiah Thomas, which he walks back a bit in the book, apparently because he met Thomas and appreciated that he didn't punch him out on the spot).

10 Jay Jaffe   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:33 pm

Great stuff, Emma!

At least as far as his writing persona goes, Simmons is exactly the kind of fratboyjockodouche that I absolutely loathe. To see him succeed at the level he has when so many other talented people who try to eke out a living on the strength of their writing talent without pretending their life is a perpetual bachelor party have not is an injustice.

Fuck him and the naked frat brother he rode in on.

11 RIYank   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:38 pm

[7] It's true, being funny can redeem even really invidious jokes. Although maybe not a whole slew of them all in the same ugly vein.

So, if someone wrote about how he really didn't like the NBA because of all the African Americans and rattled off a bunch of vicious stereotypes, nobody would think that was cool. Interesting, though not very surprising, how sexism is so much more 'acceptable' in American sports culture than racism.

12 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:49 pm

[7] [10] After college, I lived for two years with three good male friends... I'm not easily offended or shocked, at this point. They were gross, but to me it's all about the tone and the context. Coming from people I know aren't jerks, the nastiest sex jokes won't bother me a bit. But when you can't sense good intentions behind it, which I can't here, that's a different story. Other than a couple lines about his mom and the above about his wife, EVERY mention of a woman in this book is purely as a sex object.

13 Mattpat11   ~  Dec 17, 2010 1:55 pm

[5] I'll preface this again by saying that I'm not a basketball fan.

In college, one of the big social events was going to the basketball games. there was a club that got you preferred seats and what not, and especially for a school without a football team, it was huge business and I went all the time and actually enjoyed it quite a bit. (I find I enjoy the college game a hell of a lot more than the pro game, but couldn't even begin to explain why)

Anyway, the men's team was pretty good (they rose to sixth in the nation at one point during my freshman year) but the women's team was pretty consistently ranked amongst the best in the nation. They struggled to get fans in, though, so the club i was in had some extra benefit (I really don't remember what) if you went to X number of games. So I went to my quota, and well, it really wasn't very good. It was kind of slow and surprisingly clumsy and really mind numbingly boring on the whole. I actually asked a couple friends of mine if this was indicative of women's basketball on the whole, and they said it pretty much was.

Now, I don't think I've seen a full minute of WNBA action in my life. If I stumble on to it, I keep going. But if what I saw then is what you get now, and if its true that the NBA spends money propping it up (again, I don't know any specifics there) I can certainly understand why some big basketball fans would hate it.

Sorry if that makes no sense

14 Shaun P.   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:07 pm

I read the book all the way through back in March, and while I was shocked to read about his "executive decision", I honestly don't recall any of the other stuff. I may have skipped over it - Simmons has been making terrible, verbose comments about Vegas, how cold it is in Worcester, and the WNBA forever - and the footnotes were often easy to skip. I didn't buy the book to read that stuff, I wanted to learn more about basketball. And I did.

To see it all laid out in such stark detail, though . . . man. What in the name of the Lord was Simmons thinking?!

[0] "it’s not just not coming from a male perspective, it seems to have been written without the slightest hint that any woman could ever conceivably read it."

This is what I really don't get. The guy has a 5 or 6 year old daughter. He seems to genuinely care about his kids - or at least one gets that impression from his writing. He's written, on more than one occasion, about the influence having children has had on his writing, his life. Does he really want his daughter to read these passages some day? What does he think her reaction is going to be?

[7] "Either that or he views women as merely collateral damage in his quest to seem cool to the lowest common denominator."

You would think the "basketball fans" demographic would be significantly larger than the "immature but think they are cool dudes" demographic.

15 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:11 pm

Man -- this has been up for more than an hour and not ONE Simmons fanboy has called me an ugly humorless lesbian yet? Step up your game, internet!

(Also, god bless Banter commenters).

16 Raf   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:12 pm

[7] I think that's exactly it. I'd guess he'd be right at home on Spike TV... Or an updated version of The Man Show (but the Rogan/Stanhope version, not the Kimmel/Carolla version)

[10] I don't think it's an injustice. Can't knock the hustle, he found his niche and is exploiting it. If I were in his position, I'd do the same.

[13] It isn't interesting at all, if you think about it. The dynamics between men and women team sports are different. There are some girls that can hang with the guys, there are many that can't.

Not every girl can achieve "one of the guys" status. Some can, but many can't. Many more have no interest in being one of the guys, I gather. And that's fine; to each their own.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:13 pm

[15]

This is not Deadspin ... :-)

18 Raf   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:15 pm

[14] Yeah, that demographic would be more football fans than anything else. *ducking* :D

[15] I dunno if there are any Simmons fanboys here. I think the crowd here is a bit more enlightened than that. Now had it been the FOX or ESPN boards...

19 RIYank   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:23 pm

The WNBA talk reminds me of the Sports page of The Onion. There are tabs along the top: "Baseball", "Basketball", etc. And the last tab says, "Women's Sports/Soccer".

I guess it's more anti-soccer than misogynistic. But anyway, funny, so redeemed.

20 Jay Jaffe   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:36 pm

[16] I'm uncomfortable with the ramifications of your position. By extension, good on anybody who hustles to put out and promote even the most repugnant shit (and I'm not necessarily saying Simmons' work fits that category, but echoing what [11] says, suppose his work was racist instead of sexist), and tough shit for anyone who's selling something that doesn't instantly shoot for the lowest common denominator, or who isn't as into the self-promotional aspect as he is? I can't support that at all.

Funny that you should use the word exploit, too, particularly since exploitation seems to be a central pillar of his ethos.

21 btimmermann   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:48 pm

I really wish Amazon would stop recommending that I buy Simmons book. I would probably throw it against a wall. But then I use a Kindle most of the time and that wouldn't really accomplish much.

Simmons is no different from reading the comments at a place like BTF where anytime Jeanne Zelasko made an appearance before a game she was pilloried for her appearance. Or just for the fact that she was female. Few people would ever discuss whether or not she was any good.

I'll never have Bill Simmons money, but at least I don't have to be Bill Simmons. I think I'm coming out ahead.

22 Simone   ~  Dec 17, 2010 2:58 pm

I used to find Simmons' columns amusing with his myopic New England perspective and sexism, now I just find him annoying. He isn't a good enough writer to be that into himself and his sexism has gotten more overt. Frankly, I hope that his daughter has strong women role models in her life because with his attitude towards women, she will need them.

23 Just Fair   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:05 pm

I like reading Simmons' articles on %#pn. I think I was first drawn to him b/c of all his 80's movie references. Most of what he writes makes me laugh and I could care less that he hates the Yankees. He does have a terrible voice, though. Maybe he's a misogynist, who knows? Many pro atheletes have done far worse than pen a few stupid sentences together. I quit watching the NBA basketball since the early 90's but I am slowly tuning in again. As for the WNBA, HA. I have never watched more than 2 minutes. I much prefer watching hours of curling during the Winter Olympics. No joke.

24 rbj   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:07 pm

Well I just find basketball in general to be boring. But I don't hate its existence. I don't care for it so I just ignore it as much as possible, why spend the energy hating something, unless it's real important.

Al Qaeda, I hate.

I've only known about Simmons from his PTI appearances, he seemed harmless enough there. One or two tasteless jokes, fine. I've made my share. But a whole book of misogynist jokes? That just puts you in a bad light.

As for porn, I like it too, but heads in toilets is a real turn off. Nothing sexy about it.

25 TheDilemma   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:30 pm

Not only is the book consistently overtly sexist -- and it most assuredly is -- I've also grown weary of the disclaimer "but he sure does know his basketball." Really?

He built an entire book around the conceit that Isiah Thomas told him the secret to basketball, which is "It's not really about basketball." Are you kidding me? That's not worth publishing in a junior high essay, let along a supposedly analytical book by a major sportswriter.

26 Adam   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:32 pm

I used to read Bill Simmons regularly when I was fifteen or sixteen, when having sex was still an abstract idea. Six or seven years later I still listen to a couple of his podcasts and will breeze through an occasional column. I think fifteen year-old me was somewhat interested in his Vegas exploits with Muff, Boner or whatever. But now, reading this, I can't help but be disappointed and kind of disgusted.

Also, I'm assuming that pulling the goalie means taking off a condom? Are married men using condoms? Did he replace her birth control with placebos? That story can't be true.

And hanging out with sorority girls is overrated.

27 Raf   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:32 pm

[20] It's the way the world works. Smokey and the Bandit 2 was panned by critics, but it didn't stop Director Hal Needham from supposedly taking out an ad in Variety depicting himself sitting on a wheelbarrow full of money. Didn't stop people from going to the movies to watch it either. Brock Yates made a cottage industry from "The Cannonball Run," a movie that isn't exactly AFI "top 100" material.

I'm not saying "tough shit," I'm just saying that those who aren't into self promotion (aggrandizement?) or catering to the lowest common denominator shouldn't knock those that are. That's their angle, let them work it and "get while the getting is good." Simmons has his audience, those that you refer to in [10] have theirs. No reason to look upon either with jealousy or envy.

There are plenty of people who are better writers than Simmons, there are people who sing better than the current crop of singers, there are people who act better than the current crop of actors. Some of them will catch a break, many won't. It's the nature of the business.

28 ms october   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:37 pm

i have commented on simmons before at the banter but since this post is explicitly about him - well, i shall do it here as well.

much of his stuff is extremely sexist. i spend a good bit of my time in largely male settings and don't get offended easily by sex, body part jokes. the problem with him to me is in order to feel comfortable about his masculinity he feels the need to denigrate women and our place in the world and especially in the sports world.

he is also pretty new england style racist.

and, he doesn't actually know near as much about basketball as he says he does or people give him credit for. he certainly doesn't know about *playing* basketball at any level beyond playing pick-up with your frat brothers while hungover.

29 ms october   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:39 pm

oh, i should add i don't watch the wnba either. but why anyone is obsessed with it like simmons is beyond me.

30 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 3:43 pm

[23] Hey, I LOVE curling! I've watched many hours more of curling than of women's basketball. Again, though, for the people out there who do like the WNBA, more power to them.

[25] Interesting - he always seemed pretty good on basketball to me, I have to say. But then, while I'm an NBA fan, I know waaaaaaay less about it than I do about baseball. So I have to take more on trust when I read about it.

31 RIYank   ~  Dec 17, 2010 4:18 pm

Wow, Bob Timmerman and Jon Weisman! It's a Toaster reunion! (Not to mention Simone.)

Alex must go find other moral degenerates and get his peeps to write about them.

32 Hekili   ~  Dec 17, 2010 4:22 pm

Yeah this guy is terrible. Check out this misogyny just easily found in today's column:

Question: So my buddies and I came up with a new move we call "The Art Modell." It's where you meet a girl and go home with her that night. Then after she's fallen asleep, and under the cover of night, you move out of there as fast as you can. Use it with my compliments, OK?
-- Brian, Chicago

Answer: Or, you could pull the "Clay Bennett": Repeatedly tell her you're not going to leave, then leave while she's still awake and looking at you saying, "Where are you going?" as David Stern nods approvingly from 1,500 miles away.

Terrible, right? Except it's not. It's really about how fans are treated poorly by owners who are assholes. It does, in fact, express solidarity with the jilted woman of the example. This is not to say that Simmons does not deserve criticism for some of the things that he has written, just that sometimes these sort of short quotes don't explain the full perspective. It's called context, and this article doesn't have it.

33 The Mick536   ~  Dec 17, 2010 4:54 pm

I never pictured you as an ugly, humorless, lesbian and I never will. This post was high quality stuff. Don't watch basketball and I try not to read sports spots written by Sawx fans.

34 btimmermann   ~  Dec 17, 2010 4:58 pm

The appeal of slagging Bill Simmons is very strong.

35 Raf   ~  Dec 17, 2010 5:29 pm

[31] Seems he's quite the inviting target.

36 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 5:44 pm

[30] Yep, I got some very interesting email today. Seem to have hit a nerve...

37 Simone   ~  Dec 17, 2010 5:51 pm

[25] ms october: "he is also pretty new england style racist." I was definitely including this when I referred to, "his myopic New England perspective."

Maybe Simmons has hidden basketball knowledge, but mostly he seems to know a lot about the Boston history of the game and about people who play the game than the technical aspects of the game. However, that only means that he is like most ESPN commentators who write on sports about which they only have a superficial knowledge.

38 Ken Arneson   ~  Dec 17, 2010 6:09 pm

If it's a Toaster reunion, I guess I better show up, too. Although I don' t really have anything useful to say about Bill SImmons.

39 Hekili   ~  Dec 17, 2010 6:09 pm

"Comment awaiting moderation".

So, not dissenting views allowed on this blog then? That's mighty brave of you.

40 RIYank   ~  Dec 17, 2010 6:32 pm

That's okay, Ken, it's all been said.
But how are you liking Billy B's off-season moves? 松井!

41 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 17, 2010 6:37 pm

39) Not at all. It's a spam issue that's been infesting the site lately. Take it easy.

42 RIYank   ~  Dec 17, 2010 6:51 pm

Damn, a lot of 'waiting moderation' comments today, which has kind of fucked up the numbers of the comments, and therefore the reference thereto.

"Therefore" and "thereto" in one sentence! Where's thelarmis?

43 Bruce Markusen   ~  Dec 17, 2010 7:10 pm

Simmons is all too symptomatic of what ESPN and ESPN.com have become. There's been a general attitude of degredation toward women, going back to the days of Harold Reynolds and continuing more recently with Steve Phillips (and lots of other weirdos in between).

I remember how great ESPN was in the 1980s, with terrific broadcasters like Bob Ley (who is still there), George Grande, Tom Mees, and a young Chris Berman. Man, it was fun to watch and listen to back then.

44 AC Brown   ~  Dec 17, 2010 7:36 pm

A sportswriter making chauvinistic comments in a book! This never happens, I'm outraged! I should stew about this for a year and spend a couple of hours writing a rant about it on a baseball blog.

45 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 7:45 pm

[44] Hey, we all need to find content in the offseason.

Actually, I read a lot of sports books, but I don't think I've seen one written in the last twenty years that had this level of chauvinism, to use your word. It actually isn't that common -- and, judging by the traffic, people were interested in reading about it.

46 Emma Span   ~  Dec 17, 2010 7:53 pm

[32] You're right that these quotes are all, by necessity, taken out of context - I couldn't transcribe entire pages. But I did make an effort NOT to pick quotes that had, like the one you use here, a context that would shift their meaning (that quote is pretty inoffensive, to me, for the very reasons you gave).

If you look at The Book of Basketball, on paper or via Amazon's "Look Inside" feature (http://amzn.to/hV522q), you can go to the pages I cite and decide for yourself if I'm being unfair. Indeed, you can probably find several dozen additional similar examples; time and length concerns kept me from being comprehensive last night.

47 jake b   ~  Dec 17, 2010 9:07 pm

I think the quotes ARE taken out of context. For his "Tipping Point" theory, Simmons is just explaining why Karl Malone didn't deserve the MVP, and why the Utah Jazz weren't as good in 1997/98 as they were in the early 90's. He spends a good two pages talking about how the great Western Conference teams were falling away-players retired, teams didn't develop like they were expected. And all the while, the Jazz stayed the same. So yeah, the Jazz looked "hotter" in 98 than they did in 92, but they were the exact same team. To me, that's not bad.

His persona is that of a regular male fan. Maybe none of the readers here are like that, but I've never met anyone who wasn't thoroughly entertained and enlightened by the book. And he admits he likes porn, but he also admits that Jackie MacMullan is one of his favorite journalists.

I can see how the book would rub some people the wrong way, though.

48 polyorchnid octopunch   ~  Dec 17, 2010 9:30 pm

This is a bit OT, but I have found something interesting about the whole conversation. That would be the slagging of the WNBA. I find it interesting to compare and contrast with women's hockey up here in the great white north, where one of our preeminent women players went on to spend a few years on the pro circuit in Europe... the pro men's circuit in Europe.

To be frank, this happened for two reasons. One is that there's lots of women up here who understand hockey at a deep level just fine. The other is that the men who do hockey up here helped them out with coaching, money for the nascent league, and so on. Since then women's hockey in Canada has become self sustaining, and while the international games are a bit of a snoozefest (ISTR we pummelled Italy forty nothing or so an Olympics or two back) the games here are fast, hard-fought, and fun to watch.

If the WNBA sucks, it's almost certainly not the W that's at fault. If a woman can hold her own playing pro hockey with men in Europe, the WNBA can put on good games.

49 rockstatic   ~  Dec 17, 2010 11:01 pm

I only got about halfway through this post before giving up. Is there any point where the author explains what's so awful about Simmons' quotes? For most of these I'm curious what the awful, soul-rending sexism is. Like what's wrong with comparing a player to a gorgeous blonde who turns out to have a flat chest? Seriously, what's wrong with that? Is it sexist to suggest that readers will understand why a male author would find that enticing, and then less enticing? Are we not allowed to assume that men have sexuality anymore?

50 Ex-Phillie Kim Batiste   ~  Dec 17, 2010 11:19 pm

[47] Except the Karl Malone chapter works perfectly without the asinine "tipping point" footnote. I always use this note as exhibit A when I'm arguing about Simmons's woman problem: it may be the most unnecessary note in the book-it's a remarkably flat joke (and, possible sexism aside, I generally like his sense of humor), and it has no reason to be there except as an opportunity for Simmons to say more creepy things about women.

I really enjoy the book, and I'm willing to grant some leeway to his fratboy persona. But he's badly in need of an editor who can prune some of the gratuitous sexism (and, ideally, scale back some of the more obvious Boston homerism: Robert Parrish in the pantheon? The 86 Celts as the best team of all time? No.) He can be a great basketball writer; unfortunately, I think deep down he wants to be a comedy writer. (Isn't that why he moved to LA?)

51 Boatzilla   ~  Dec 18, 2010 5:37 am

[15] Emma, I am (I hope "we" are) behind your review 100%. I am no choir boy by any means, as Jazz can attest to, but there is a line. It's about people, taking and caring. If you care about people, you care about all people. If you take (you steal, you harm, you hurt) and if you care, you don't take. I was in a fraternity, and I am ashamed of some of my college shenanigans. I know how horrible that attitude is. Sound like Simmons never moved on. Great post. Thank you.

52 ChrisS   ~  Dec 18, 2010 8:07 am

"His persona is that of a regular male fan."

I don't buy that. Simmons is a guy who never matured past the age of 19. He managed to get to college, found a bunch of guys that liked to talk about dicking women and fart jokes. As luck would have it, he has a audience that unintentionally encourages him to not grow up (afterall, every year brings a new crop of 19 year olds that think talking about dicking women and fart jokes is the GREATEST THING EVAR!). I read a few of his columns when he first popped up on ESPN and never cared much for them. He brings the hits by "telling it like it is, and not backing down to PC pressure, etc". But he's a really hateful guy thinks that everyone's idea of a good time is denigrating a stripper. Controversy brings page views and ad- dollars, so here he is and here he continues.

53 reggiecleveland   ~  Dec 18, 2010 9:59 am

I'm with [49]. This post is a bunch of politically incorrect quotes but there's no explanation of why they foster a belief that one sex is inferior to men. Some of the descriptions of women are pretty much on the same level of calling Bobby Jenks fat and ugly - which the original author does not 24 hours before, and I'm unsure how making Rocco Siffredi jokes is altogether different than making Dirk Diggler jokes (go back a couple weeks).

I've listened to the BS Reports with Jemele Hill and Erin Andrews and I'm really unsure how you can characterize him as having an "utter contempt for women".

54 RIYank   ~  Dec 18, 2010 10:29 am

He tricked his wife into getting pregnant. That's the first example, but there's no reason to go beyond it. And if you actually think there's nothing wrong with that, then there isn't any point in discussing it further.

55 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 18, 2010 10:42 am

Great post, Emma. I've never read Simmons and don't plan on starting. He seems like a real pig.

56 ed   ~  Dec 18, 2010 10:42 am

What is a "New England style racist"?

57 Evil Empire   ~  Dec 18, 2010 10:53 am

[56] I think it refers to people from New England, who, while shuddering at the south in the 60's, were violently opposed to busing in the 70's. They're NIMBY racists.

58 Raf   ~  Dec 18, 2010 12:24 pm

[52] I don't think he's all that hateful. Immature or selfish, possibly.

59 ed   ~  Dec 18, 2010 12:40 pm

[57] I've never really seen that in Simmons' columns. He strikes me as pretty liberal and progressive, outside of his approach to sexuality. I admit, I am not an avid reader of his work, but I haven't seen any "racism" there.

60 Emma Span   ~  Dec 18, 2010 1:54 pm

For people who really do not see it: the issue is him constantly referring to women, over and over again, only in terms of whether or not they are attractive enough and if he or his friends would want to fuck them. Even at times when there's no need to bring women into the discussion at all. Even fictional women that he makes up as an example. Aside from his mom and Meryl Streep, that's it.

Whether you want to fuck them or not is not what defines women, but that's what he uses over and over again. And there's an anger, even though he's joking, towards women he doesn't want to fuck. Man, can you believe that blonde comes out looking all hot but then has the nerve to not have big boobs? Jeez, all these women wearing heavy sweaters in the winter - it's like they don't understand that I need to be able to tell at a glance how much they weigh so that I can decide if I might want to fuck them or not.

If it was just the things I quoted above, it would not be that big a deal, but the point is there are tons more of these, often brought up for no reason except that obviously he thinks his readers want tons of this. And while I should make it clear that I don't know if Simmons personally has contempt for women, this book absolutely does.

61 houlios1   ~  Dec 18, 2010 10:06 pm

Men talking and joking crudely about which physical attributes of women that they find sexy or not, is not sexism. Men talking about f****** women is not sexism. At least if the word is to have any real meaning.

It's a book about basketball and sports. It isn't a book about feminism, or gender studies. It isn't a book that "defines" womanhood. He isn't required to give a full account of his thoughts about womanhood and feminism as a pre-emptive disclaimer in the introduction of the damn book.

As someone who thinks there has been, and continues to be, a real War on Women that is thousands of years old, cheapening the struggle by calling this stuff "sexism" is shallow and counter productive.

62 Emma Span   ~  Dec 19, 2010 1:22 pm

[61] So a book that's not about gender studies can be as demeaning about women as it wants to, and it doesn't matter? Please.

There are certainly far more pressing issues and challenges facing women today than what Bill Simmons writes, but that doesn't mean this isn't worth calling attention to.

63 moismycopilot   ~  Dec 20, 2010 2:22 pm

[60, 62] Thank you so much for writing this. While it may be "small stuff," a part of me believes that the pervasiveness of this kind of thinking can only make the more pressing issues facing women harder to overcome. This stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum. If enough people are convinced that a woman's value is based on her sex appeal, not her intelligence, accomplishments or humanity, then why bother addressing equal pay for equal work (and other issues that are probably way too political for the Banter)?

64 MR   ~  Feb 28, 2011 7:14 pm

You're wrong, Emma. Women DO appear in this book for purposes other than to be ogled by The Sports Creep and his friends. They also show up to cry, whine, nag, keep men from watching sports, ruin their poker game (Jordan's wife), and generally just suck all the fun out of everything. They are at their best when they have big boobs, keep their mouths shut and wear as little as possible.

It's the relentlessness that's the problem for me. I could overlook a lot of the "jokes" (which, a lot of people have noted here, are not generally funny -- like his pop culture references and cracks about wanting to be black). But in a 700-page book he never finds a decent thing to say about a woman.

Like a lot of the female commenters here, I spend quite a bit of time in male circles and am not easily offended. But Simmons is disgusting, and I can't believe he has a daughter. Hopefully, she will inspire some change in him. Unfortunately, from what I know of guys like him, she probably won't.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver