User Interview: The Sports Guys

Q&A with noted WhatIfSports user and ESPN.com Blogger The Sports Guy

The Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls. The Red Sox just ended a drought to win the World Series. Ben Affleck adorns the cover of half the tabloids. And, well the Bruins are going to play again. Everyone is talking about Boston, so why not us?

WhatIfSports.com recently contacted ESPN sports columnist and WhatIfSports SimLeagues user, Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) to discuss SimLeague Baseball, Dick Dietz, Terry O'Reilly, Barbara Walters, Cliffhanger, indoor soccer, his upcoming book, Brian Kenny and bionic intestines (among other topics).

WIS

Thanks for taking the time out to meet with us.

The Sports Guy

No problem.

WIS

Most of us are familiar with your Espn.com Page 2 column, but how did you become the Sports Guy?

The Sports Guy

That actually started back in my AOL days in 1997 - they gave me a column on the same site that already had someone called "The Movie Guy," so I thought it would be fun to call my site "The Sports Guy." And it took a life of its own. Just think, if that guy had called himself "The Movie Hombre," my whole career would have been different.

WIS

How does one become an official Sports Guy?

The Sports Guy

You have to fight me to the death.

WIS

Many of our users found out about the site through you. How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

The Sports Guy

My buddy Gus told me about it - as soon as I found out that I could create a team with all of my favorite Red Sox players from the 70's and 80's, then see their box scores every game, I was hooked. When I started working for Jimmy Kimmel's show, I got half the staff hooked on it. Even wrote a magazine column about it once - it's very addictive when you get into it. I still remember my friend Hench logging onto the concierge's computer to change pitchers on the night before the Super Bowl in San Diego. I've always been a borderline stat geek - in the mid-80's, Gus and I once played an entire 162-game season of the 1969 Mets against the 1975 Red Sox on Microleague Baseball. Kept stats and everything. Took the whole summer.

WIS

Having been a user since Feb. 2001 - which SimLeagues or Dynasty games have you played?

The Sports Guy

Mostly baseball. I had a brief fling with the NBA sim engine 2 years ago, but it seemed like the only teams that were winning started Oscar Robertson, Fat Lever, Dennis Rodman, Wilt or Russell... it was the same guy on every team. Then they changed the engine and it became too confusing to me. But I used to have this one team with per-minute guys - Bernard King, Roy Tarpley, John Stockton, John Lucas, John Drew, Travis Grant, etc. - and I must have lost in heartbreaking fashion in the playoffs like five different times. And always to those teams with Oscar-Lever-Rodman-Russell. Drove me crazy. I also had an All-Druggie Team that was pretty funny.

WIS

Which do you prefer?

The Sports Guy

Baseball. You can never top baseball for this sort of thing - it's a sports specifically designed for stat-obsessed dorky guys. And it's funny how it changes the way to remember certain guys. Like, I see Tony Phillips's name now and I think, "Helluva WhatIf season in 1993." Or like when Dick Dietz died last month, I was bummed out that nobody mentioned how he was a WhatIf Hall of Famer. That should have gone in his obituary.

WIS

Besides sports, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

The Sports Guy

We just had a baby three months ago - my hobbies are changing diapers, hopping up and down with a baby on my shoulder, and saying things like "What's wrong?" and "Why are you screaming again?"

WIS

Who are your favorite teams of all-time?

The Sports Guy

The Bird Era Celtics, the Brady Era Patriots and the Pedro Era Red Sox. You can't top those three eras - I'm 35 and already peaked as a sports fan in my three favorite sports. I need to get into NASCAR or indoor soccer or something.

WIS

Did you play any sports as a kid?

The Sports Guy

Of course, I played everything - liked basketball the most. I always thought I would end up playing point guard for the Celtics. Unfortunately, I peaked when I was 14.

WIS

Do you play any sports now?

The Sports Guy

I've been on the DL for awhile with a bad back - slowly making my way back. But I still play basketball and tennis. I might take up golf again now that I'm in my mid-30's - I could get some good columns out of that. I've written about so many topics over the years that I'm literally running out of things to write about. You name it, I've written it.

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

The Sports Guy

Larry Bird, Freddie Lynn, John McEnroe, Doc Gooden, Bernard King, Bill Walton, Terry O'Reilly, Jack Nicklaus...

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

The Sports Guy

It's a 10-way tie between 9 different Patriots and David Ortiz. I also have a soft spot for Pedro even though he left Boston last winter - in my Red Sox book, he's a much bigger part of the book then I thought he would be.

WIS

When does the book come out and what's it called?

The Sports Guy

It's called "Now I Can Die In Peace" and it comes out on October 1st - it's about my life as a Red Sox fan, centering on my columns from the past 7 years. There's also some new stuff in there and extended footnotes for each chapter. It's really different, I hope people like it - it's not a typical Sox book. I was going to put that I'm a two-time Whatifsports.com champion on the "notes about the author" section on the back of the book, but my editor talked me out of it.

WIS

What is the top sports related thing you want to do in life that you have not yet done?

The Sports Guy

That's a tough one - in the past 21 years, I was in the stadium or park when my team won Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals, 3 Super Bowls and Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS. I can't imagine topping any of those things. Now I'd like to be at Coney Island when Kobayashi finally gets taken down in the hot dog eating contest. I've been saying this for years, but we need to start cheating to win this thing. Couldn't we build Ruben Studdard bionic intestines?

WIS

Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable discussion?

The Sports Guy

Hmmmm... this sounds like one of my mailbag questions. I would probably pick Sly Stallone, Adam Carolla, Larry David, David Letterman and Larry Bird. Carolla would have to be there just to hear him interrogate Stallone about the scene where the girl falls to her death in "Cliffhanger." "Why was your buddy mad at you? You did everything you could! You shimmied across a little rope, 10,000 feet above the ground, without a harness, and your glove came off! It wasn't your fault!" And I'd like to hear Bird and Letterman talk about Indiana stuff as Larry David looked on awkwardly and tried to figure out how to not pay for the check. I also think it would be funny to invite Jon Favreau over for dessert, just to see how long it would take before he brought up Swingers.

WIS

If you could be commissioner of any league, which sport would it be and what would you do to change the game?

The Sports Guy

I would be the commissioner of the WNBA ... I would shorten the season to three games, then have a one-game Finals.

WIS

Do you draw on the philosophies of any past or present coaches in SimLeagues?

The Sports Guy

Yes, I learned my lesson from Grady Little - when Pedro's pitching for me, he's always on a 100-pitch count.

WIS

What is your greatest WIS moment?

The Sports Guy

Winning my first title. I had lost two Game 7's in the World Series and just assumed that my bad luck with the Red Sox had transferred over to WIS. I was really excited - it was like conquering "Grand Theft Auto" or winning the MaddenBowl, multiplied by 10. The weird thing is, I can't even remember who was on the team. Now I'm trying to win a WS with an all-Red Sox team, but it's impossible - I think there's a bug in the engine that defaults to an automatic playoff loss when the Sox are involved. I've just about given up - I can't stomach another season with the '99 Jose Offerman as my second baseman. Or the '77 Fisk. Or the '85 Boggs. I'm just bored of those guys at this point.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of our website?

The Sports Guy

I like seeing some of the theme leagues people come up with. "$100 million cap, 1970-on, no clones, only pick players with gay-looking mustaches or beards. See forum for details." Those league descriptions kill me.

WIS

Least favorite?

The Sports Guy

I don't think anyone's stats from before 1920 should be allowed. That's just stupid. I've lost in the playoffs to these dumb teams that basically just pitched John Clarkson for 8 innings a game out of the bullpen, and they had three different Hugh Duffy's going 4-for-5 every game...it's just dumb. I also think there should be a way to weigh eras a little bit more - I mean, Jim Rice's 1978 season was absolutely unbelievable at the time, but compared to the steroids era, it's run of the mill. Same for some of the Jack Morris seasons in the 80's, he was one of the defining pitchers of that decade and he sucks in What If. That seems wrong to me. And I wish platooning was easier. Every time I've tried to platoon guys, it's been a disaster. I think I've been screwed over by Dale Alexander's .372 season like 5 different times, it's like he has simulated AIDS.

WIS

You have helped with promoting (intentionally or not) and consulting on many of our games. If you could change one thing about each of our SimLeagues, what would it be and why?

The Sports Guy

I would have one across-the-board change for each league: You guys should create an engine that allows 12 teams to draft entire teams, almost like you would do your roto football draft online. I think that would be really fun. You pick first, then you don't get to pick again until No. 24. There would be a real art to it if there was a cap involved. Maybe you could even have a fixed pool of players (Editors Note: This is available in baseball but for the standard 24 teams). I also think you should be able to vary the number of teams per league - 24 takes too long to fill up sometimes. I want to be in a 2-person league - just me and my buddy Gus with an All-Sox team against an All-Mets team. I think I should have that option.

WIS

What is the best advice you can give to users in our SimLeagues?

The Sports Guy

Don't feel bad about yourself when your girlfriend or wife is giving you crap about spending 3 hours drafting a fake team of mostly dead baseball players.

WIS

Who is the best user from ESPN?

The Sports Guy

Brian Kenny - the guy is like the Branch Rickey of What If. It's unbelievable. I've been in like 12-15 ESPN leagues and he's always good for 95-100 wins. The guy should be running his own baseball team. The weird thing is, he has like 5 kids and still has time to collect What If titles. He's my hero.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position and how much would you cost?

The Sports Guy

Wow, you're ending this on a Barbara Walters question? Didn't she ask that one to Hugh Grant? Anyway, I would be a reliever from the late-70's - 112 innings, 84 hits, 130 K's, 26 walks, 1.79 ERA. I'd be like to be the caucasian version of JR Richard's 1980 season. He's another guy that everyone uses. Now they could have me for a cool $6.9 million.

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