Thursday, January 8, 2009
Breaking the Simmons Commandments
For many years I have been a follower of Bill Simmons, seen here partying on the Tampa Bay Rays Party Deck. I agree with many of his theories and I very much enjoy his lists such as the "Reggie Cleveland All Stars", "The Tyson Zone" and the "Diane Lane Hall of Fame". However, there is one "Simmons-ism" that I think needs serious re-consideration and revision. In his book "Now I Can Die in Peace", Simmons outlines that heinous crime of "sports bigamy" which is essentially rooting for more than one team per sport. "The teams you loved as a child are your teams for life" Simmons says. While inherently true in most cases, Simmons underestimates the effect that moving around during one's formative years could have on this sports tenet.
Bill Simmons calls it like he sees it, which is part of what makes him such a great writer, however his early life experience does not seem to be one of much diversity in geography. After reading his bio, it appears that Simmons grew up in the New England area (Connecticut and Massachusetts) , then went on to college at Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. After college he stayed in the Boston area and worked various writing jobs. Not until Simmons was 33 years old did he move away from New England to take a job in Los Angeles. For 33 years, Simmons lived in the area that his "childhood teams" were from. He didn't encounter any opposition to the teams he was rooting for, and was always in the majority of the fan base for his area. This does not sound like someone who is qualified to tell someone else that it is wrong to root for more than one team.
In my own experience, I lived in Philadelphia for my first 12 years and that is undoubtedly where my loyalties lie. However, when I moved to Boston at age 13 I found myself beginning to root for the Red Sox of baseball's American League. Was my "childhood" over at 13? Is it wrong to want to identify in some way with a city that you just moved to? I have found that it is impossible not to identify with a city that you live in. Pulling for the sports teams in that city is one of the most natural ways to create this identity. Maybe after 33 years of living in one place, it is a little easier not to be swayed.
When Simmons is spotting a trend or making a joke, he is spot on. His knowledge of pop culture is second to none. However, when it comes down to his so called rules for how fans should act, he needs to keep his mouth shut, or at least keep a loophole in his iron constitution. Simmons is basing his rules of sports fandom on his own life, which is a very shortsighted move on his part. Living the majority of his life in the same area has blinded him to the constant reality of change that occur in most other people's lives. Who knows, maybe in 20 years Simmons will become a big time L.A. Clippers fan.