And we have a new victim in the ongoing saga of the NFL’s attempt to reign in its occasionally criminal players. As most of you know, it’s Bill Simmons, the popular ESPN everyman-turned-national-brand.
The network suspended Simmons yesterday for a particularly salty podcast in which he bluntly called NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar (and did so with an obscene turn of phrase, no less) and then directly dared his bosses to, you know, discipline him for it.
Debate thus rages over free speech, proportionality, ESPN’s motivations – the bed the network shares with the NFL is feathered by a $15.2 billion contract for Monday Night Football – and whether what Simmons does can rightfully be called journalism.
But there’s one question that, as of this writing, has gone unanswered: Is Simmons’ leave paid or unpaid?
I’m gonna go out on a limb the circumference of Ray Rice’s biceps and guess that the writer will draw a paycheck during his three-week absence. Simmons is too important to ESPN’s overall platform to seriously alienate, and his silence in the wake of the suspension would be shocking if his banishment were accompanied by loss of income.
Assuming he is, in fact, being paid, think of the amazing situation Simmons has talked his way into. He gets three weeks at home with the wife and kids – isn’t even expected to fire off the occasional tweet. He still draws his unquestionably huge paycheck, while dominating sports-media news, adding to his fame and becoming a First Amendment cause celebre worthy of his own hashtag – #freesimmons – and will return to work just as his primary focus, the NBA, starts to heat up.
Who wouldn’t want this gig? I sure do. And so I am hereby goading my bosses into suspending me. I do not have a podcast, so please accept the following provocations:
- Roger Goodell is a poo-poo head. Yeah, I said it. His recent 45-minute press conference was boring and circular. I don’t like his haircut. And if he really cared about us out here in the Bay Area, he would send fighter jets – the NFL reportedly has the fifth largest military in the world – to turn the Oakland Coliseum into rubble.
- The Press Democrat does not have any gigantic corporate partners that I know of, but we do have advertisers. Like the gun shop that frequently buys ads in the Sports section. I can’t remember the name of the business, but they know whom I’m talking about. Well, listen: Your guns don’t kill people. People do. So basically your guns are worthless.
- I hereby publicly disagree with the judgment of my editors in Sports. My stories are not always in the central featured position on page C1, and they should always be in the central featured position on C1. (Note: This blog post should not be considered indicative of my talents.)
- People are constantly accusing the Press Democrat of either lavishly favoring or hating on Cardinal Newman High, our local private-school sports powerhouse. So how’s this for an incendiary comment: Cardinal Newman is the best. Also, Cardinal Newman is the worst.
- “Ass.” “Fart.” “Merde.” (Update: my Aunt Pearl has requested that I delete a portion of this item.)
- One time the company bought pizza for the newsroom on election night, and I came in and had a piece of mushroom-and-sausage, even though I wasn’t working. Bam!
- Sometimes I am late in filling out my timecard. And sometimes I DON’T EVEN CARE that I am late filling out my timecard.
Well, I think that should just about do it. Feel free to use the #freebarber hashtag at will, though people may demand you cut their hair. And remember, PD, we’re talking about a paid leave. Really, everybody’s doing it these days.