A Sports Guy and a Sports Pope Walk Into a Bar
Each man has a legion of devoted fan-boys. Each man has more than his share of detractors. Love them or hate them, few sports media personalities can move the needle quite like Bill Simmons or Mike Francesa.
Gallons of cyber ink have been spilled breathlessly covering the Sports Guy’s messy departure from ESPN. Speculation is rampant in the New York City tabloids that Francesa’s two decade reign as the “Sports Pope” of afternoon drive may be nearing a similarly contentious end. Mike has made no effort lately on air to hide his disdain for the suits that currently run WFAN.
One Simmons rumor has Bill starting his own online media endeavor, possibly with Jon Stewart. The Sports Guy has on multiple occasions alluded to a meeting that took place years ago where Francesa tried to convince him to join WFAN as the replacement for Mike’s longtime partner Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.
If Simmons did get to set up his own shop perhaps he would return the favor and look to bring a disgruntled Francesa aboard. I don’t know who would be Kim and who would be Kanye, but this would easily be the most talked about celebrity marriage in sports media history. Could the two egos coexist on the same platform? Would Deadspin deliriously self-combust from the coupling of their two favorite punching bags?
I’ve decided to examine this delicious potential pairing through a fictional retelling of the dinner meeting in New York where Bill tries to recruit Francesa to his team.
Bill Simmons walks through the door at the American Cut steakhouse in Tribeca. He scans the room and immediately notices Francesa sitting alone in a dimly lit corner booth in the back of the restaurant. “This is effing amazing,” he thinks to himself. “I feel like I’m going to speak to Don Corleone before Connie’s wedding. He’s probably stroking a cat under the table.”
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah… good afternoon Mikey! How are you today?” Bill squeaks in best Mad Dog voice.
Mike’s condescending smile suggests he is only mildly amused.
“Sit down here, Bill. I appreciate you coming all the way out here to meet with me, but we’ve got to make this quick. Julio is double parked on West Broadway and Emily has a dance recital tonight in Garden City.”
A waiter refills Mike’s half empty Diet Coke glass from a large carafe sitting on the table before asking Bill if he’d like a drink.
“I’ll take a Patron on the rocks please.”
“Bill, are you serious? Are you serious right now? You fly all the way across the country to see me and you order tequila? What are you a college girl on spring break in Cancun? Are you kidding me, Bill? You’ve got almost as much gray hair as I do now. It’s time to grow up, buddy. Scratch the tequila, Pierre. Bring us two glasses of Johnny Blue, neat, and a plate of oysters.”
“I’m telling you Mike, it’s a new world out there for guys like us with huge fan-bases,” Bill starts while struggling with the first sip of his scotch. “In this digital age we don’t need take shit from gutless suits that are nothing more than shills for their corporate partners.”
“So, let me get this straight, you want me to do a radio show for you that only broadcasts over the internet?”
“It’s not a radio show, Mike. It’s a podcast. I’m putting together a dream team of podcasters. I’ve already signed Jack-O, J-Bug, House from DC, and my dad. You’d be our cleanup hitter!”
“I don’t know about this podcast thing, Billy. Do you record it in a pod? I mean I need a full studio. I need to take calls. I need Monzo. I need the Mink Man.”
“Podcasts are the future, Mike. You don’t need a studio. You can record them anywhere. We’ll set up a dedicated line at your house on the Island. Shit we’ll even set one up for you at the track in Saratoga.”
Francesa’s eyes brighten at the mention of Saratoga.
“People don’t sit through six commercial filled hours anymore, Mike. Podcasts are an hour or less. People can listen to them at the gym, on the train, at the beach, anywhere. You don’t need to suffer idiotic callers anymore. No one wants to hear Mike From Montclair complain about the NBA for the 18,000th time. No one needs to hear Joey From West Islip suggest that the Mets should trade Dillon Gee and John Niese for Giancarlo Stanton. I’ve had President Obama on my podcast. I’ve interviewed the legend himself, Larry Joe Bird.”
Pierre the waiter returns to take their dinner order.
“I’ll have the salmon with the roasted asparagus, “ Bill starts.
“Whoa, come on Bill, you kidding me? Are you serious right now? I take you to one of the best steakhouses in Manhattan and you order salmon? Are you kidding me? You live in LA for a few years and this is how you eat? I feel like I’m getting dinner with my wife’s yoga teacher. Pierre, scratch the salmon. Bring us two rib-eyes cooked medium rare with the twice baked potato, the mushrooms, and the cream of spinach as sides.”
“I need someone to co-host my Guess the NFL Lines Podcast with me, Mike. I think you’d be perfect. Cousin Sal can’t do it anymore because Kimmel is on ABC and as much as he’d like to tell them to fuck off, that’s where his bread is buttered.”
“You guess the betting lines? I don’t get it. Why would anybody need to guess the lines? You can just open the paper and they’re right there in black and white. I’m surprised you’re not boycotting the NFL all together after they gave your boy Tommy Terrific 4 games.”
“Don’t get me started, Mike. Did Tom know they were deflating the balls? Of course, but 4 games and loss of a first round pick is excessive. It’s bullshit posturing. I thought there was supposed to be a fair and transparent new player conduct policy after he mangled the whole Ray Rice situation. Yet somehow he’s still judge, jury, and executioner. Oh, and if Tom wants to appeal his suspension Goodell gets to decide the appeal, because that’s fair.
Look, I despise the way the NFL is being run, but what can I do? If the Dunkin Donuts CEO was this big of a douche, I just start going to Starbucks. I’m not gonna start betting on CFL games. My fantasy leagues are gonna start scoring off Arena League stats. I’m not gonna stop rooting for the Pats. I’m not going to let some phony, incompetent corporate scumbags take my Sundays from me.”
“See, that right there is great radio, Billy Boy. You should have saved that rant for the podcast. I know we could make great content together, but my question is how does a podcast make money without commercials? Can you even make any money with these things?”
“I don’t understand exactly how it works, but I know you can. ESPN never seemed to figure it out though. I had one of the top-rated podcast on iTunes, millions of listeners and all they ever got me was a stupid stamps.com ad. My buddy Adam Carolla’s podcast apparently generated 8 million dollars last year. I don’t see why we couldn’t put up similar numbers. My agent Baby Doll Dickson is setting everything up. He’s got it all figured out. The money will be there.”
“Bill, are you serious right now? Are you kidding me? I got property taxes in Nassau County that are ridiculous. I own thoroughbred horses. I got kids I gotta put through college and you want me to put my financial fate in the hands of a guy called Baby Doll? You gotta be kidding me, Bill.”
“Baby Doll is the best, Mike. He’s a legend. He reps Kimmel, Colbert, and Jon Stewart. This guy has serious juice.”
“That means nothing to me, Bill. I don’t have an agent. I represent myself and I haven’t watched a late night talk show since Johnny Carson went off the air.”
“Trust me, Mike. Baby Doll is a guru. He’s like the Mr. Miyagi of Hollywood agents.”
“And what does that make you, the Karate Kid?”
“Yeah… I guess so.”
“Well that makes perfect sense considering you work about as much as Ralph Macchio does these days!” Mike replies with a bellowing laugh at his own joke.
A young bus boy comes out to clear the appetizer plates from the table. His eyes light up with excitement as he realizes that Bill Simmons is sitting before him.
“Oh my god, you’re the Sports Guy Bill Simmons,” he blurts out. “I just graduated Holy Cross in May. Me and my college buddies are obsessed with you. It’s really fucked up that ESPN let you go.”
“Thanks man. It’s always good to meet a fellow Crusader.”
“My manager will kill me if he sees this, but would mind if we took a quick picture?”
The star struck bus boy pulls out his cellphone, opens the camera app asks Mike to take the picture. Francesa stares daggers through the kid, but swallows his pride and does the deed.
“It’s killing me not to have any basketball content from you this time of year. What did you think of these NBA Finals?” the kid asks.
“You gotta give Kerr credit for making some huge adjustments,” Mike starts before Bill has a chance to answer. “The series was getting away from him until he went small and started Iguodala for the first time all season.”
“Yeah, Golden State was just too deep. LeBron deserves a ton of credit for dragging that group of misfits to game six of the NBA Finals. He was playing with a bunch of Knicks rejects and an undersized Australian coffee addict. I might have to move him up to the highest level of my basketball pyramid behind only Jordan and Russell.”
“Stop pimping your book Bill, I’m sure the kid already has it.”
The waiter returns to the table with their dinner and gives the bus boy a look that suggests he should return to the kitchen.
“Here we go, Bill. The food is here. I think we’ve talked enough business for one night. You have this Baby Doll character call me when he’s ready to talk figures. If he can make the numbers work I’m sure the Fan wouldn’t mind getting out of my contract and Fox Sports clearly doesn’t care on the TV side. I think they preempted me for one of your daughter’s travel soccer games on Wednesday.”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ve got to say, I’m glad you made me order the steak. This is might be the best steak since “Saving Private Ryan.” Good job by you Mikey! That’s a good job by you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”