After he graduated from a good northeastern school with a degree in political science with a focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict, he interned/worked for the Boston Herald. He was covering high school sporting events and local minor leagues, when he realized that he could be fetching coffee for a fat old sports writer for ten years before he gets his own sports column in a leading newspaper. These writers and national reporters never retire, and even when they do, the available positions are very limited. He opted for Grad school in Journalism and worked as a bar tender until, in his own words, “Al Gore invented the internet”. He wrote a piece on a web page under the name “
His Wikipedia page tracks the details and evolution of his career. (Typical Wikipedia alert: Some of the information is inaccurate and some details are irrelevant). His career resembles a great success story for someone who “did not start making $25,000/ year until he is almost 30”, yet he refused to give up on what he enjoys doing and was confident that he is able to do. He started with a webpage (he still refers to his columns as blog entries sometimes) and ended up “making it big” in sports journalism. He has his own section on espn.com and a weekly column in ESPN The Magazine (never as good as his online stuff; he is always complaining about the word limit (that he is not accustomed to), and he has to cater for a wider (casual) readership). He has a carte blanche from ESPN to attend, cover and write as many words as he wishes on any sporting event on the planet, from Super Bowls (he attended three of the last four in person) to Spelling Bee Nationals (which he covered in one of his patent running diaries).
Simmons is a must read for any true fan of American sports and American pop culture in general. He is smart, funny and covers everything from a behind-the-scenes, between-the-lines angle, which is so appealing to people who pay attention to details. He makes any event from WWE Wrestlemania to the stupidest reality show (i.e. Flavor of Love) more enjoyable to watch, just because he will be writing about it. (This phenomenon probably needs a post on its own, but remember that there is always a way to enjoy stupid reality TV and wrestling without being a stupid idiot; for example just think of the “unintentional comedy factor” (more on that later)).
His early work was better-written and more genuine, and he tried a number of things to increase popularity (hiring an intern who posted funny links, a daily update section (more cowbell), a cartoon based on his columns...), but unfortunately it may be true that, as he admitted to a rival sports magazine and website, that he only has 18-20 good months left in him. (Sports Illustrated felt compelled to interview him for a story about internet sports columnists, an interview that really demonstrates how does it feel to have your office in your garage, watch sports and movies for a living and become a public figure based on an on-line article. He gives his takes on blogs, wikipedia, and more details about his unique experience).
I really enjoy his work. I had bad days that became instantly better when I found out that he had just posted another 6,000-word article about anything. I tried to contribute to his world- famous (Mailbag), but my questions were never good enough to make it. I entered his intern contest, and did not make into the first round. I consider his style a blue print for amusing sports commentary and I try to emulate and adapt his approach while incorporating my own thoughts and analysis about sports.
Here is a sample of his quotes and theories, that are not too technical on sports:
-List of 'Guys Who Wield Just A Bit Too Much Power' -- like the bouncer at any snooty bar, the deli counter guy who only gives samples to people he deems worthy, and ice skating judges (especially the French ones). Softball umpires ... the guy at Best Buy who checks receipts before you can leave the store ... sixth-grade gym teachers ... bank tellers ... bartenders in crowded pickup joints ... condo association presidents ... sports radio hosts who hang up on callers when they don't agree ... everyone who works at a video store ... stewardesses on long airplane flights ... movie theater ushers ... the maitre'd at any restaurant in Vegas or Manhattan ... and the hotel worker in charge of the volleyball games at any resort.)”.
-"The most annoying people in a sports bar or lounge, in order: The Over-Clapper; the Inconsiderate Chain-Smoker; the "Guy Who Sits Down Right In Front of You And Blocks Your View" Guy; the Guy Who Keeps Taking Cell Phone Calls; the Over-Excited Guy; the "Guy Who Gives Running Commentary and Thinks He's Phil Simms (in Jordan il m3aidi)" Guy; the Drunken Idiot; the Guy Who Gets A Little Too Angry; The Guy Wearing Too Much Team Paraphernalia; and the "Guy Who Won't Sit Down and Watch the Game But Keeps Popping In Every Five Minutes To Ask About the Score" Guy.)
-On Unintentional Comedy:“One of the running themes in this space has been "Unintentional Comedy," those moments when something or someone cracks you up ... even though that wasn't necessarily the original intention.” A sample:
“every episode of "Friends" where Chandler is abnormally skinny or fat ..., any trophy presentation with the Williams Sisters where Venus won, and it looked like Serena wanted to hit her over the head with the second-place trophy, WWE-style ... any episode of "Cribs" when a rapper has a "Scarface" movie poster ..., the video where Bill Clinton says, "I did not ... have ... sexual relations ... with that woman", Sofia Coppola's performance in "Godfather 3", Buffalo Bill from "Silence of the Lambs" ... Mike Tyson's post-fight interviews from the mid-'80s”
-From his Soccer running diary in 2002:
-"Reason No. 125 why I never could have been a soccer player: Those four-man walls where everyone holds their hands over their packages and then the other team kicks the free kick right into them. That's about as fun as a car crash. It's funny, soccer players always have a reputation for being wusses, but this game is much more dangerous than baseball or basketball".
-"Quick plug for the World Cup: I'm not a soccer guy by any means, but I enjoy any sporting event when the following things apply -- 1) Players are playing at a world-class level, 2) the level of intensity is through the roof, and 3) the crowds are fantastic. I could watch a kickball match if those three things applied; hell, I could watch two guys playing dominoes. So for anyone to say that they can't watch the World Cup because they don't like soccer ... I just don't get it. I can't think of a more dramatic sporting event. For instance, Monday's South Korea-U.S match featured the best crowd I've ever heard for any sporting event. I mean, ever. I'm not kidding. They spent two solid hours screaming their heads off, organizing cool chants, rocking in rhythm, maintaining an unreal level of intensity….."
(and he has not even seen Al wi7dat and its fans yet…)
-"Here are 10 more "Guy Rules" (if you stick by these, you're all set):"
- Don't operate the remote control at someone else's house, unless they give it to you.
- Don't ask to borrow a porn movie under any circumstances.
- Don't even think about hooking up with a friend's ex-girlfriend or sister.
- When you're sharing a bed with another guy, sleep as far away from him as possible.
- Don't use somebody's towel when you're using the same shower, unless there's absolutely no recourse.
- Don't drink the last premium beer in someone's fridge, unless they give you the OK first.
- Don't ask to borrow a DVD, unless it's someone you see at least two or three times a month.
- Don't call to make fun of them after their sports team suffers a tough loss.
- Don't let your friends keep buying rounds without stepping up to the plate yourself.
- Don't order a seven-course breakfast when everyone else is eating bagels, then say "Let's just split the check evenly" when the bill comes.
In Jordan, a few more can be added like: ; Do not ever bump the last cigarette from anyone even if he offers it (extra: Do not bump a Marlboro cigarette from anyone if you are not a true smoker and you are just going to puff it without inhaling); While playing Tarneeb or Trix sharakeh (or any partners card game) do not try to outsmart yourself and try anything funny, (actually there is a whole set of rules regarding cards, maybe later). Do not ask anyone to take a test for you even if its English 101 and he had aced it before, Do not ever go out without making sure every guy, who is kind of your friend, is completely aware of your plans and is invited to join (especially if there are girls involved in the plans)…actually, this can be a whole new post.