Years ago I used to read Bill Simmons's columns on ESPN's website. It was mostly something to do when not doing work at work. Eventually I stopped. For one reason because he's such a homer. I mean come on not everything in the sports universe revolves around the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots. The other reason though was it's like when you listen to an indie band and then all the sudden they make it big and everyone is listening to them and it's really not special anymore. Once the dude got his mug all over TV as part of ESPN's NBA pregame show (ironic with how he used to lambast the lameness of pregame shows) and guesting on Pardon the Interruption and essentially closed down ESPN.com's Page 2 to replace it with his pretentiously named "Grantland" (which still sounds like a website dedicated to obtaining Federal grants) he got too big and I just stopped caring.
Anyway, I heard a month ago that Simmons's contract wasn't being renewed by ESPN. Which seemed stupid from both sides. Then I read this article from some of the competition and my jaw just hit the floor. Mostly from the part that said he wanted to double his salary from $3 million to $6 million.
It's like, WTF is that? $3 million isn't enough to bitch about Boston sports and make references to 80s movies? Christ, man, you know how many people go and pay to sit in sports bars or "man caves" to do that exact fucking thing? You or I would have to work like 60 years to make $3 million just once and that's not good enough for this guy for one year? It's absurd!
All I could think is that either this is a ploy because he really doesn't want to work at ESPN and so had his agent pitch a ridiculous offer they would never accept, or it's just pure hubris. The kind of hubris that ironically sports writers (and fans) are always chiding athletes about. The kind where an athlete says, "I'm better than that guy so I should get more money!" And damn the consequences! I know a while back I pointed out a stupid article on Yahoo! sports that was lauding Peyton Manning for "only" wanting as much as rival quarterback Tom Brady, which was $18 million. That heroic sacrifice still put a huge dent in the team's budget that could have been used to field a better team--one that might not have been crushed by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl--and wouldn't have needed to increase ticket prices. But hey, what a hero for "only" wanting $18 million to spite some other guy!
I'm sure if you could travel back in time to 2000 when Bill Simmons was just starting out and said, "Hey, you think you could live on $3 million a year?" he would say, "Fuck yeah!" But that's the problem once you start to make the big time. All the sudden it's not enough to make a measly $3 million; you have to make sure you're getting the "respect" you deserve by having a bigger paycheck than anyone else.
Even for those of us still down in the muck this can hold true. I used to be happy if I made $10 a month in writing sales. I'd be ecstatic if I made $30 a month! Now if I make less than $1000 I'm pissed off. A lot of that has to do with needing the money to live on, but once you get a taste of bigger money you don't want to go back. That's how money changes us. After a while you really do start to think of it as a barometer of success, of self-worth when really you should just be happy to have a goddamned roof over your head and food in your belly and stuff. It's the old Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs where once you've got the basics covered you want more and more.
It's like if you ever watched that "Cribs" show on MTV. I could watch about 5 minutes of that before I felt sick by the sheer avarice on display. I mean come on that was the whole fucking point of the show: celebrities showing off just how they can waste all the money the little people have given them. It's hard when they're showing off their shoe closet the size of my whole apartment in a house they only use for 2 months a year not to think, "Jeez, you know how many starving people you could feed for all this?" As awesome as it is that Jay Leno has one of every sports car ever built, there are millions of people going hungry or without a roof over their heads; the value of just one of those cars could sustain a guy like me for a couple of years! That's where there's a disconnect between the people who perform and the people who pay for them to do so. Yet like so many things, while we might be aware of it, we don't seem to have the stomach to try to do anything about it, which is why we complain about Wall Street and corrupt politicians and then elect more millionaires to Congress.
(Of course if I suddenly hit it big would I live like a Buddhist monk? Fuck no. I'd buy three different mansions so I never have to endure any bad weather and a whole fleet of cars, planes, and helicopters to get me there. Plus my own private security force to keep the riff-raff away.)
Anyway, Simmons should take a good long look in the mirror--a gold-plated mirror in his 45-bedroom mansion with his rocket car outside. I'm sure some desperate site will give him the millions he wants, though leaving ESPN hasn't worked out so great for a lot of people. In a few years he might have to go crawling back like Keith Olbermann or Michelle Beadle with hat in hand to work for a paltry $2 million a year.
Oh we should all have such problems, right?