The first part of the latest Simmons vs. ESPN went down on Friday, but Bill Simmons not only hosted ESPN Senior VP & Exec Editor John Walsh on his podcast, he also got ex-Ombudsman LeAnne Schreiber to discuss the current "State of ESPN". Simmons has obviously been vocal in his distaste for his employer lately and the two guests talked about everything from commenting on employees (i.e.- Kornheiser on MNF) to the role of sex in Sports (i.e.- Erin Andrews). Here's are a few quotes (some quotes via Sports Business Daily) from both and then an audio snippet from both interviews....
Walsh and Simmons on discussing current ESPN employees: Walsh: "We don’t want to have people doing things critically within a company, going after one another."
Simmons: "For me the Kornheiser thing, the root of the issue, is ... fundamentally people watching a football game want to hear from people who played football or coached it. Anybody outside of that realm they just don’t trust their opinion on it."
Simmons on Sports Center: "I watch ‘SportsCenter’ and it’s like, all right we made money there, we made money there. To be honest, I miss the old ‘SportsCenter.’ I just feel like we make enough money as a company that we don’t need to bleed ‘SportsCenter’ with all these different zingers."
Schreiber on Announcers: "ESPN is the only way you can experience the game, and the announcers have a tremendous impact on it. So I think they care a lot about who the announcers are and how they're operating. I received almost no complaints for instance about, very few complaints about play-by-play announcers."
"The analysts and color commentators, you know, there were a lots of complaints about them and the all essentially come down to essentially one thing. You're too much of a presence between us and the game."
Simmons and Schreiber on random ESPN Segments and Sponsors: Simmons: "My personal biggest, I don't know if it's a fear or I just don't quite understand about ESPN is that they care so much about being a media entity, and reporting news, and being on top of things, and having the best editors and reporters, breaking stories. And then on the other hand, you know....the Budweiser Hotseat, and the Coors Light Top Five, and all that other stuff.
Schreiber: "Yeah that's the trick. You have the argument that could be made, that you have a sponsored segment and what you do on that segment better be something that is justifiable in and of itself that is news."
"Simmons: "Did you feel that was consistently the case?"
Schreiber: "No. It felt it was variable, but I felt it was actually getting better.
And that's just a small taste of the over two hours and thirty minutes (!) worth of audio. I had recently thought that Simmons was just trying to get fired, but if his gripes cause this much discussion, you have to consider his complaints/bitching one of the most productive things to happen to ESPN in years.
As far as the quotes above, nothing sums up everyone's feelings on the network better than the last exchange between Simmons and Schreiber above. I am in the group of people that think ESPN has certainly has improved, but for every step they take forward....they take a giant leap back.
Hopefully these discussions help the network, and I have an idea. If ESPN won't have me on as the Ombudsman, they should get Simmons to try out the role.
John Walsh (ESPN: BS Report)
LeAnne Schreiber Part One (ESPN: BS Report)
LeAnne Schreiber Part Two (ESPN: BS Report)
Simmons Discusses Gripes With ESPN Senior VP & Exec Editor Walsh (Sports Business Daily)