Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bill Versus Doc: Fight!

One of the interesting side effects of modern commentator culture is that, increasingly, said commentators feel the need to make themselves part of what they're commenting on. You see it at concerts - there's always the jerk in the front row calling back answers to the performer's stage patter. You see it online, not that you should ever, ever read the comments section of, like, anything. And you see it in the traditional media, where the lines between celebrity and celebrity journalism have blurred to near transparency. 

Which takes us to the charming throwdown between highly compensated professional Boston homer Bill Simmons and former Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Doc, for those of you whose interest in the NBA starts and ends at Blake Griffin dunk highlights in the SportsCenter Plays of the Day, is now the coach of the L.A. Clippers after having been traded there via some fairly acrimonious and public negotiations. This was part of the Celtics' master plan to blow the whole thing up and rebuild, rather than scrape along to endless 7-seed finishes and 42 win seasons. And if you don't expect your team to win, there's no need to spend big money on a coach whose knack is with veteran players. It's like having a $15M closer on a 70 win team - the couple of extra wins he's going to get you aren't going to matter in the long term, and in the meantime everyone's unhappy.
So the C's did the smart thing and got something for Rivers. Rivers got to a better situation. The Clippers got a better coach. Everyone's happy, except the self-appointed grand poobah of Boston sports. Simmons, unhappy with the fact that the C's were entering rebuilding mode and unwilling to live in the reality where Pierce and Garnett were on the wrong side of 35 and Rajon Rondo is not a transcendent talent, called out Rivers for quitting on the team. 
This is the petulant cry of a spoiled kid who doesn't understand that there's only so much room under the Christmas tree. The Celtics were not that good, would not have been that good, and made the right call in preparing for the future, and no amount of furious breath-holding and foot-stomping in the corner by the erstwhile "Boston Sports Guy" - or, for that matter, Hoosiers references, detailed accounts of trips to Vegas, or reminiscences of when he saw Kevin McHale once drain a 3 against the Lakers - was going to change that. But Bill didn't get what he wanted, and he cut loose.
Unfortunately for him, he cut loose on a national platform, which allowed Rivers to respond. In a live interview, he laid out that the whole trade idea was the Celtics' idea, getting them salary relief and giving him a chance to keep coaching a winner. No quitting involved by anyone.
But then Doc did the unforgivable. He claimed Simmons attempted to get him fired, and he noted - correctly - that Bill's a fan. (Despite his many, many half-joking columns about how he'd be a great GM if someone gave him a chance)
And so Bill fired back. On Twitter. And he called Doc Rivers "Glenn".
Those of you who have been six years old at any point in your life will recognize this tactic. It's the moment before the pushing and shoving starts, where the one kid who's mad calls the other kid a stupid name. "Glenn", of course, is Rivers' given name, but at this point nobody but his immediate family uses it. Simmons pulling it out is a juvenile tactic, a way to distract from the actual argument (which he's losing), and a way to make it personal between him and Rivers.
That's the key, of course. Making it personal - making it mano-a-mano - puts Simmons on the same level as Rivers. It puts the "fan" on the same level as the championship-calibre coach. It takes away the sting of Rivers' real crime, which is "not taking Bill Simmons seriously", at least in Simmons' eyes. It's a giant "NUH-UH!" 
Because Bill Simmons, to take a page out of his book, Will Not Be Ignored. And he will no doubt carry on this vendetta until there's some sort of public rapprochement at his employer's behest, which will happen because ESPN doesn't need its staff feuding with the content, and once again Bill and Doc get to be equal participants in something. 
Which, really, is all Bill wants. 
And then he'll be happy to use his Clippers season tickets and cheer on Doc - not Glenn - Rivers' team.

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