Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bill Simmons and the Problem of Third Gear

Something Like This
 In 1999, I acquired the best car of my life. There are few professions in life that are more useful for your brother to be than a car salesman, assuming your brother isn't slime, and my brother hooked me up good. It was a Nissan 240SX, a 5-speed stick with an after-market exhaust that gave me 240 horsepower in a 2-seater and freaking race car tires that were rated up to 180 mph. It only got about 25 miles per gallon, and it wasn't terribly feasible for a ton of cargo or people in the back seats, but that wasn't the point. I was newly 30, not yet a father, and enjoyed the hell out of being able to get from 0 to 60 faster than just about anyone else.

And there's also this: stick. If you actually want to be involved in the act of driving, there really is only stick, especially when you can break free of traffic and kick things into fourth and fifth gear. Once on a trip from Oregon to California, I found myself on a long straight stretch with clear sight lines that made me pretty sure that there were no police, so I took the opportunity to test the vehicle's capabilities in fifth gear. When I finally lost my nerve and eased off the gas, I was going 135... and the RPMs were still in the 5500 range, with the red line for fifth at 7500. The car didn't even sound like it was straining. Magnificent.

Now, the problem with going 135... is that 65, or even 85, feels like you are crawling. This is the way of good gear and big paychecks and better food and acquired tastes; going back to what you had before will always taste of ash. Getting your head around something new that might not be as good, or will have to accept certain compromises, is a real challenge. (For the record, I drive a hatchback hybrid now, and lost all taste for speeding once I became a dad. It changes you a lot, fatherhood.)

And this leads us to the reports hitting Blogfrica about how the only content provider to ever make real money (that would be Bill Simmons, for whom the rest of the sports blogosphere mostly loathes, for reasons both jealous and correct)... is contemplating leaving the World Wide Lemur when his contract comes up next year.

Which is probably just inevitable, given the Bad Tooth's recent suspension for telling the truth about Roger Goodell in obnoxious ways, and his employer's increasing willingness to tell him to take a powder. Simmons also has on-air time for the only sport he's still good at (that would be the NBA), the documentary side that probably can run without him now, and the side sites under the Lemur Umbrella that can't possibly make it on pure traffic and ad sales. For a bottom-line business that laid off people last year, in the race to the bottom CPM land that is online, it's got to be a hard thing to scratch a $3 million annual check.

There will be others, of course, who would take him on if the World Wide Lemur demurs, or he truly wants to be somewhere else. (Fox, Bleacher Report, etc.) They wouldn't give him as many things to do, or pay the same freight in the long run, and in the hustle hustle hustle world of page views, the guy in his '40s with life, wife and kids is never as good as the guy in his '20s with none... but brand names are brand names, and prestige / challenge signings happen all the time between competitors. (For the sake of argument, we'll also take off the table that he enters a totally new line of work, in that no NBA team is going to make him a coach or GM, and no NBA network is going to put him on-air without a fight, as he's grating and horrible there, and doesn't have Ex Star Athlete cred.)

But for the principal his own damned self, leaving the Lemur for properties that are just words is going to feel like 55 after 200. It might be the right speed to drive, especially if you want to know your kids, and you may decide you've banked enough to move on to new things.

Or you may decide that you really miss it all, and sigh a little sigh every time you think about what you've left behind.

Me, I lust after Lotus Super Sevens... which go 0 to 60 faster than a Lamborghini, and pigs will fly before I get one. (You'll see why below.)

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