Thank God it's Friday, right?
News broke today that Bill Simmons is leaving ESPN after the two sides couldn't agree on the terms of a new contract. "I've decided that I'm not going to renew his contract," ESPN president John Skipper told The New York Times. "We've been talking to Bill and his agent and it was clear we weren't going to get to the terms, so we were better off focusing on transition."
ESPN fired Simmons, or ESPN let him go, take your pick; but however you decide to qualify it, understand that this is a big deal, because Bill Simmons is a big deal.
Simmons leaves the worldwide leader of sports after almost 15 years with the network, a period during which he has built an empire. He has 3.68 million followers on Twitter. He has the biggest and most influential sports podcast, The B.S. Report, on the planet. He was among those to spearhead the efforts behind creating the wonderful 30 For 30 documentary series. And undeniably, he was a massive influence on countless young and hopeful sports writers, showing as a columnist/fan hybrid that it's okay to bring mailbags, movie references, poorly-constructed conspiracy theories and bad jokes to the mainstream media.
Have the times have passed him by since he first joined ESPN? To some extent, maybe but I believe this is overstated. He has embraced analytics the same way that sports have, though not equally for every sport: I don't believe it's a coincidence if he has a weekly basketball podcast, but not one for baseball.
Simmons's record with ESPN isn't immaculate, either. He's had many run-ins with the powers that be of the network, notably over Roger Goodell and Ray Rice although this reflects as poorly on the network as it does on him. Last year's Magic Putter feature debacle, for which he had to personally apologize, is a notable dark eye on his resume. Further, Simmons's decision to join the Dan Patrick Show yesterday to discuss #Deflategate could have been the last straw in ESPN and Skipper's eyes, according to Deadspin.
But the empire he has built, Grantland, will live on. The website will remain with ESPN, yes, meaning that the outlet will need a new editor-in-chief now but I'm not too worried about that. In creating the website, Simmons had decided to surround himself with gifted, promising, talented and (maybe, just maybe) people who are better at their job than he is at his. Grantland will be fine.
Simmons will also be fine, actually. Maybe ESPN didn't want to give him the annual $6 million he reportedly wanted for a number of reasons, including the (relative lack of) revenue he was generating for the network. But another media outlet will gladly pick him up, break its piggy bank and roll out the red carpet to announce his arrival.
Simmons's own movie premiere. Here, he'd be proud of this poorly-constructed metaphor.