Egomania has long been the downfall of many, including some incredibly talented people. Those who have little and want more (or even just something) can be understood (and pitied) when they blow their own horn. The result is awful, if any, music being produced. For the skilled member of society, maybe it’s trying to go too far too fast, or overstating past accomplishments, or, as in the case of Bill Simmons, deciding to pull a power play. These actions often lead to a downfall. Whether that ends up being the case for the egomaniacal Simmons has yet to be seen, but if how he dealt with his superiors at ESPN (although it’s doubtful Simmons feels that’s the proper term for the ESPN hierarchy) is any indication, he could be creating a crash and burn mission for himself.
Lefty Driesell, who revolutionized recruiting in college basketball, was often criticized for being a poor Xs & Os coach (a false charge but that’s to be debated at a later date). During an interview, he was asked how he felt when people would tell him he was a bad coach. The lefthander responded, “No one has ever come up to me and told me I was a bad coach.” Of course not! That’s called human decency (with a dose of cowardice). While it’s easy to call in to a talk show and blast an athlete or coach (politicians, too, but let’s keep this athletically related), especially if the show’s host shares the caller’s feelings, face-to-face confrontation (assuming no “liquid courage” is involved) usually makes it uncomfortable for everyone concerned. Note: Jim Rome might have done it to Jim Everett on national TV but that was in Rome’s studio with plenty of people to make sure he was safe, as opposed to a back alley with no cameras.
Because of this human decency factor, celebrities often get inflated opinion of themselves. This relates to electronic and print media as well as players and coaches. Sure, callers may phone in to disagree, even going so far as being obnoxious, but the host can either shout them down or simply disconnect them. This means they get so many bouquets thrown their way, they believe their own BS (what a coincidence those are Simmons’ initials). Granted, with the anonymity social media gives to anyone with an email or twitter account, people feel more power to criticize, the majority of correspondence guys like Simmons get is from people who agree with him, e.g. fans who hear him say their team’s QB sucks or whose coach is a fool – and like what he says because he tells the world what they wish they could say but aren’t smart enough or possess the courage to say in their own name.
Simmons has had a laundry list of issues with ESPN management. He’s been with the “World Wide leader” for 14 years. His contract expires later this year and ESPN’s president John Skipper told The New York Times, “I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’s contract. We have been in negotiations, and it was clear it was time to move on.” Early on, Skipper and Simmons were thick as thieves, with the columnist considering his boss a mentor. Simmons last contract was worth around $5 million per year, making him the highest paid reporter at the network at the time.
Others at Bristol didn’t get along with Simmons, who showed no interest attempting to ingratiate himself with his colleagues, e.g. he once fired verbal shots at then-colleague Rick Reilly. What ultimately did him in was his sense of entitlement. That arrogance annoyed co-workers, as well as his disregarding rules, as if they only applied to others. Also lighting fuel to his self-inflicted fire was calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a liar (for which he received a two-week, unpaid suspension) and, later, lacking “testicular fortitude.” To illustrate how bad things became between Simmons and his employer, ESPN didn’t deduct any money from his paycheck, making him think the suspension was just for show, only to find the money deducted from the December paycheck. Kind of a reverse Xmas bonus. Ho, ho, ho. Ho.
Simmons more or less boasted of his edgy personality, better known to some as “little man’s complex.” An unabashed Celtics’ fan, he roasted Doc Rivers one season, only to have to eat humble pie when Doc coached Simmons’ beloved Celts to the NBA championship. He got over it, though, and returned to scathing criticism, showing his true feelings. Ironically, one point of contention with Simmons was that management was badmouthing him (how’s it feel, Billy?). The straw that broke the camel’s back was an appearance he made on the Dan Patrick Show, which everyone at ESPN knew was considered out of bounds. In the end, Bill Simmons had a lot – but wanted more – and was a star but felt he was bigger than life. With so many BS “clones” out there, i.e. small people who dream of being able to criticize big stars but lack “testicular fortitude,” Bill Simmons will probably be signed, soon, by some other entity and get even more money and power. Just don’t be surprised if his career follows the identical path.
My mentor, the late John Savage said it best:
“There’s no such thing as having no ego. Everybody has an ego. The key is to keep it in check.”