I know Bill Simmons

November 6, 2009 | By | 1 Comment

Bill SimmonsIt isn’t often that I’m aware of someone long before that person becomes famous. Apart from Adam Sandler and I don’t know who else, there just aren’t many people who hit it big from New Hampshire.

The lack of famous athletes drives the point home. I had to chuckle when, in 1999, Sports Illustrated put together a list of the 50 greatest sports figures ever to hail from the Granite State. A ski coach was ranked #6 (Bob Beattie anyone?), a rower #22 (silver medallist in the men’s four without coxswain) and an umpire at #39 (an umpire?). Ex-Yankee slugger Steve Balboni checked in at #19, and, rather than expounding upon his accomplishments, SI mentions that he struck out 166 times in one season.  It’s hard to even say that he hit it big.  After all, he didn’t hit much of anything.  The editor for The Union Leader newspaper came in at #49. Let me type that again.  The editor for The Union Leader came in at #49. The editor for the newspaper? Are you kidding me? A soap box junior division champ rounded out the list at #50. Honestly, I don’t even know what the soap box is.  And, couldn’t we have at least had the senior division champ?

I went through and counted how many of these people I had ever heard of. Bear in mind that I love sports and am a New Hampshire native. Well, I counted 9 out of 50. That is 18%. So, yeah, if sports is an indicator of overall famous people, there aren’t any. The most famous person from New Hampshire wasn’t even a person. It was a rock formation on a side of a mountain that looked like a man. Everyone was so excited about rock man, they put it on the license plates, driver’s license, interstate signs, state quarter, state documents and Lord knows what else. This was all well and good until he crumbled to his death back in 2003. The face of New Hampshire disappeared. Now, there is no face of New Hampshire. There is no person, symbol or sports figure (unless you count #11-while-still-in-college Matt Bonner) to rally upon.  Even politically, the state is becoming more and more ambiguous.  There is no identity. The only thing left is our state motto: “Live Free or Die”. It gives us a toughness. It makes us sound bad. We may have a lot of cows, but at least we know how to drive in the snow.

I say all this because, there is one person I knew before everyone else did. Yeah, you may question how well I knew him. After all, I knew him much better than he knew me. But I knew him. I knew Bill Simmons. I knew him because he wrote out of the overflow of his heart and I read every word.

It was early 1997 and my father had just purchased a Micron computer at Christmastime for over $2,000. I don’t remember much about that computer, except that the monitor was small and the computer was slow. Really, really slow. We went with the America Online trial and I was online before you could say “Prodigy”. I spent a lot of time on the Interwebs in those days. I still do. The only difference now is that I don’t tie up the phone lines. I even started this blog the following summer. Of course, it wasn’t a blog back then. Blogs didn’t exist. But, I did have a space to write down my thoughts, no matter how quirky they may be.

There was a sports channel on AOL. It was called Digital City. Each area had its own Digital City. Because it didn’t have one of its own, New Hampshire had Boston. New Hampshire has always had Boston. There was a sports writer on Digital City Boston who called himself “The Sportsguy”. He was only available on AOL and only in the greater Boston area. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love. I loved how he was different from everyone else. I loved his creativity. I could tell that he didn’t write columns just to get paid. I knew it was something that he loved and was meant to do.

I interacted with Bill regularly. I called him “The Sports Pimp”. I made the mailbag a number of times. Many of my submissions for the “links” column were included. He didn’t have that many followers back then, so he was very accessible. He made it a point to write back to everyone who wrote to him. One time, I emailed him a joke about Todd Day. He wrote back about a game against the Hawks where the C’s were getting crushed but Todd Day made a bunch of 3’s at the end. He wrote how Day had a disgusting “I got mine” look about him during the fourth quarter. As always, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I knew what he was talking about because I was there. March 9, 1997.  It was the Sunday before our High School team would play in the state finals.  We were at the same game. I wondered what he looked like. I was curious if maybe we had passed by each other in the crowd.

Eventually, it became impossible for him to respond to every message. He did such a good job with the columns, his popularity grew and grew. I was pumped when I learned that he was going to be doing an interview on the radio. I remember just about every word he wrote about the time he did a TV spot with Bob Lobel. I was thrilled when I learned that he had signed on with ESPN.  This guy I followed from basically nowhere was rising to the top in front of my very eyes. I felt like I was the one being promoted.

Our lives have gone in drastically different directions. Simmons has become a hugely popular writer. His podcast is among the most listened to. His second book just came out. He is a household name. He has a family and now lives in California. He’s even starting to make more and more appearances on TV.

After living in Boston for a number of years, I am back in New Hampshire. I am out of work. I don’t have a family. I ran out of money and am living with my parents. My car is falling apart. I make money by selling sneakers on eBay. I am getting old. My life feels the furthest thing from a success.

I am still very happy that Bill made it so big. There is one part, though, that makes me sad. Bill Simmons has no idea who I am. If I were to meet him, I would be just another of his adoring fans. I wouldn’t be able to talk to him about which of his columns I particularly enjoyed or tell him which of his recurring jokes I like the most. I couldn’t ask him about that girl he wrote about over 10 years ago whom he wasn’t speaking with anymore. There is no way I could communicate everything I would want to communicate in 30 seconds. There is no way he could know me like I know him. I would be just another face in the crowd.

It is a one-sided relationship. Unfortunately, the same can be said about my relationships with many of the people I’ve really cared about.  But I know Bill Simmons.  I know him and love him the same.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Category: Gallery, Musings

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. The Old Man on the Mountain | Leaving a Mark | May 2, 2013

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: