ESPN's Bill Simmons on His Mini-Empire, Why Hollywood 'Sucks' and Why He Won't Write about Sandusky (Q&A)
America's best-read sportswriter, whose Grantland site is gaining, also tells the new Hollywood Reporter why the Huffington Post "pisses me off."
THR: Will you do another 30 for 30 series where you commission Hollywood directors to make documentaries about sports stories, people and events?
Simmons: Oh yeah, we're planning it. I don't know if it'll be 30 or 35 docs, but I'm pretty confident it's going to happen. It was so hard to get 30 last time, and the series probably hit about 70 percent of its potential. We were learning as we did it. As we explained it to directors, we could see their wheels turning, like, "Yeah, that sounds great." Then you could tell they were thinking, "I'm not f--ing doing this for ESPN." This time around is different, and I think [ESPN's] Connor [Schell] and I will be able to get whomever we want.
THR: What else haven't you done that you'd like to do? A feature documentary?
Simmons: I want to do one. I can't talk about it, but I've got one idea that I think will be really good. And ESPN really wants me to do TV. They want me to do an NBA show, which now it doesn't matter because the season is getting canceled.
THR: What would your NBA show look like?
Simmons: That's part of what we're trying to figure out. I wouldn't do it the typical way that we do it. For me, it would have to be more loose and Morning Joe-ish because I'm not a real TV person, and I would never want to be one of those guys that stares into the camera. I've never been good at it, either.
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THR: How about selling a sitcom? ABC is developing a Boston sports-fan sitcom; what about a Boston sports-guy comedy?
Simmons: I definitely wouldn't do that. I had a couple of experiences with TV and movies, and it just sucks. There's so much that you can't control, and there are so many different ways it can get f--ed up. You might have a show and they hired a shitty showrunner and the show sucked, or you might have some network executive who after you've got through the whole process just decides he doesn't like your lead or he doesn't like your pilot. I sold two shows, and each time they went nowhere.
THR: What is the most underexploited sport on TV?
Simmons: Hockey. It was a real shame that it didn't work out with ESPN. It's a great spectator sport, and it looks great on TV. They've fixed a lot of what was wrong with it, and I think this window that they have with the NBA stupidly imploding could be a really great thing for hockey. But it's on Versus.
THR: How would you improve baseball coverage, which has struggled in the ratings?
Simmons: They have to speed the game up. You'll have these great games every once in a while that make everybody think you don't need to do that. But it's skewing old. I look at my son -- he has to be doing three things at once at all times, and he's not going to sit there for nine innings. It's just not going to happen.
Bill Simmons Sounds Off...
NFL IN Los Angeles: I think the stadium belongs downtown, I think it's going to happen, and I'm already preparing emotionally for the day when my son tells me, "I know you root for the Patriots, but I want to root for L.A.'s new team like the rest of my friends." And then I tell him: "Pack your things. You have 10 minutes to get out of my house."
Fate of the Dodgers: It's the best deal in sports: an iconic brand, great fans, a famous stadium and tons of land. Someone smart will buy them and do what the Red Sox owners did -- cut deals with restaurants and bars, build around the stadium and make it more fun to go there. Plus, you'd be an instant hero with Dodgers fans. Following the McCourts is like following a boyfriend who's hung like a mouse -- you can't lose.
NBA Lockout: The owners wanted to blow up the season; the players gave them gas and matches. They deserve each other. I think we're going to lose the entire season. But, hey, any time you can shut things down after one of the five greatest seasons in the history of the league, you have to do it.
Penn State Scandal: It continues to horrify and disturb. As a parent, I just find myself unfathomably disappointed by everything about this story, to the point that I can't even write a column about it. I have no take. I don't think I could hand in, "I'm dejected and angry," as an entire column.