Pondering Bill Simmons’ Future at ESPN

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With ESPN’s star online columnist Bill Simmons’ contract set to expire at the end of the year, the folks at “The Big Lead” ponder his future at the network. Their conclusion: Simmons should move on, if for no other reason then the opportunity to talk trash about his ESPN colleagues.

The internet loves to knock Bill Simmons for needing new material … can you imagine the torrent of game he’d have if he were writing for, say, Yahoo? All those colleagues at ESPN he has to tip-toe around become fair game: Chris Berman, Stuart Scott, Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, Hannah Storm, Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom, Erin Andrews, you name it, everyone’s in play. [Yahoo and SI get an edge over Fox Sports & CBS in the “nobody to protect” angle.]

From a media criticism standpoint — something Simmons did frequently in the 90’s before he hit the big-time — Simmons would have a similar freedom that Howard Stern had when he left for Sirius and was unencumbered by bleeps and the dump button.

Increasingly, Simmons has been handcuffed by ESPN and the long arm of Disney. Two tiny, recent examples: Anytime he talks to Adam Carolla, Simmons runs the risk of something potentially going wrong and ESPN overreacting. Maybe he laments the fact that Mike Francesa can call him a stooge on air (Simmons rarely engages with radio buffoons; Francesa is one he’ll fire back on), and Simmons can’t go on the air to defend himself.