The divorce everyone saw coming was officially filed Friday as ESPN President John Skipper announced he wouldn’t renew the contract of the sports fanatic turned columnist, website creator and TV host Bill Simmons.
This occasionally happens when you publicly call out the hands that feed you numerous times, including ESPN’s signature radio stars Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in November, when Simmons called their show “absolute garbage.”
Simmons will not lack suitors, however, as he’s developed a huge following from the popular Grantland site as well as his podcast, “The B.S. Report.” Here are the top potential destinations for the now-former ESPN personality.
His Own Network
“Most expect Simmons to start something on his own,” SportsBusiness Journal’s Dan Kaplan told TheWrap. “My question is, is his brand tied to ESPN and it’s platform?”
What his own network would look like is anybody’s guess, as is whether he’s got the star power to make it work, like Glenn Beck did, for instance, when he left Fox News.
“I think it’s really hard to start your own network,” Bloomberg View Sports Columnist Kavitha Davidson told TheWrap. “He does have a hubris that he can probably take that on, but he’s also kind of priced himself out of having too many options beyond that frankly,” she continued, noting he was reportedly asking ESPN for $6 million.
“That’s not columnist, that’s multi-platform personality money,” she said.
“I’d say he heads to Fox,” blogger-in-chief at NBC Sports’ HardballTalk told TheWrap, “They just hired former ESPN chief Jamie Horowitz [whose tenure at “Today” lasted 78 days], who was something of a Simmons guy back at ESPN, though I don’t think he was really in the direct chain of command.”
A Fox-Simmons pairing could make sense, as the network could give Simmons the same opportunity to reach across platforms, on TV, radio and digitally. It also can pay within the ballpark of what he’s seeking.
But, like ESPN, Fox isn’t a place known for renegade sports hosts who occasionally go off the reservation.
The brand has Katie Couric for news and plenty of money to spend, so tapping Simmons as its signature sports personality would be a bold move that could result in a traffic jolt as the digital giant continues to try and elevate itself to a live video destination across topics.
The move would erase Simmons’ TV potential, unless Yahoo allowed him the option of contributing elsewhere. It might do so in order to bring in a personality who comes with a rabid fan base in the sports category that will click throughout the year.
Jeff Zucker has revived and evolved CNN from being all news, all the time to one that has a broader focus on news, tech and culture, with original series as a major cornerstone.
The network has shown a willingness to dedicate time to a sports show, as anchor Rachel Nichols hosted “Unguarded” for a short stint before it was a casualty of cancelations and layoffs in October.
At CNN, Simmons could be the go-to when a big sports story breaks, like right now, with the Deflategate frenzy at full speed. He could also have his own column on CNN.com and potentially create his own original series for the network, similar to ESPN’s successful “30 for 30” or HBO’s “Real Sports.”
Simmons’ would also provide the network with a trademark, big-name personality — a must to compete in cable news.
If Shane Smith‘s Friday tweet to try and lure Simmons to Vice says anything, the renegade network would love a a poster-boy sports renegade.
@BillSimmons you are a beautiful baby boy and we love you very much. Come to VICE we make you happy for oncet in our misery lives.
Baby boys aside, Vice would make sense for someone like the popular sports fanatic.
“He’s not one who takes too kindly to corporate structure or censorship — at the same time he wants $6 million dollars. I don’t know how you reconcile those two things,” Davidson said.
With its new TV network coming down the line, Vice could potentially pay Simmons a few million dollars to bring his followers over to TV and digital.
18 Dramatic Championship Sports Movie Moments: From 'Rocky' to 'Remember the Titans' (Photos)
"The Pride of the Yankees" (1942)
This beautifully dramatized moment of sports history, as wonderfully monologued by Gary Cooper, helped to immortalize the already infamous "Luckiest man" speech by Lou Gehrig.
In the ultimate underdog story, newcomer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) gets a shot at the world heavyweight title against champ Apollo Creed. Rocky proves he has the goods, going the entire 15 rounds against Creed, but loses in a split decision. Rocky would get a rematch though and win the title in “Rocky II”.
"Breaking Away" (1979)
One of the most inspiring underdog stories ever made, the Little 500 bicycle race in Bloomington, Indiana, is a local classic as made famous by this film. In the film's closing race scene, the locals -- dressed in plain white T-shirts with their nickname the "Cutters" -- upset the richer college students with more expensive bikes and uniforms, riding across the finish line in pure glory.
“Chariots of Fire” (1981)
Two Englishmen push each other to be the best sprinter at the 1924 Olympics. While they won gold on the big screen’s racetrack, “Chariots of Fire” would go on to win Oscar gold for best picture.
“The Natural” (1984)
Robert Redford plays middle-age rookie Roy Hobbs in “The Natural.” Hobbs leads his team to a championship on his final at-bat when he launches the most famous home run in movie history. Thus proving the unspoken rule in baseball: If you break the lights you win the game.
Another Indiana classic in what is widely considered one of the greatest sports movies of all time, “Hoosiers” follows a small town high school basketball team as they make it all the way to the state finals. They play a bigger and more athletic team in the finals, but with a last second shot pull off the surprise victory.
“Major League” (1989)
Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger lead an outfit of misfit Cleveland Indians from last place to a shot at the league pennant against the powerhouse Yankees. Even though the film is a comedy, the final game plays out in dramatic fashion.
“A League of Their Own” (1992)
“A League of Their Own” proved that girls can play baseball, and ends in a play at the plate that determines the championship. Geena Davis’ Rockford Peaches may lose that final game, but as Tom Hanks taught us, “there is no crying in baseball!”
Steve James’ revolutionary documentary follows inner-city Chicago kids William Gates and Arthur Agee throughout their high-school basketball careers. The film culminates in both striving to reach the finals of their city wide championship tournament.
“Remember the Titans” (2001)
Based on the true story of Virginia’s first integrated high school football team (led by coach Denzel Washington), the Titans not only change the views of an entire town, but they go undefeated on their way to a thrilling state championship against an all-white team.
“Friday Night Lights” (2004)
The film that spawned the critically acclaimed TV series (which in turn may spawn a film of its own) is memorable in that its featured team doesn’t win the championship. The Permian Panthers mount a great comeback, but come up one yard short of the state title.
In perhaps one of the greatest upsets in sports history, a team of U.S. college hockey players defeated the Soviet Union, the three-time defending gold medal winner and best team in the world, during the Cold War.
Okay, okay. This is really a parody of sports movies. But for all its send-ups of underdog sports movie formulas, it also embraces them full-heartedly during the gripping championship showdown between the Average Joes and Globo Gym.
“The Fighter” (2010) David O. Russell‘s Oscar-winning picture depicted boxer Mickey Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) climb up the ranks from middling contender to a shot at the title. The final fight shows the grit and heart that it took for Ward to win the belt.
The best sports documentaries are as riveting as their scripted counterparts, putting viewers right in the action as if they are watching it unfold live. "Senna" is one of the finest examples, using primarily archival footage with no narration and few interviews to show the bitter Formula 1 rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost that led to the 1989 and 1990 championships being decided in controversial fashion at Japan's famed Suzuka Circuit.
"Survive and Advance" (2013)
ESPN's "30 for 30" series included a look at arguably the most famous championship run in college basketball history. In 1983, Jimmy Valvano led the North Carolina State Wolfpack on a streak of nine consecutive overtime or one-point wins, culminating in a last-second basket to win the championship over top-ranked Houston. In this documentary, even though the outcome is known, every game's heart-stopping drama is recreated perfectly.
The power and hypnotic beauty of this famous running scene from "Creed" as directed by Ryan Coogler is immense. Michael B. Jordan captures the inspiring training run from the original "Rocky" with a modern spirit. You can feel the emotion of the moment so strongly and can't help but root for him.
"Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies" (2017)
Another ESPN documentary that puts you right in the moment. Narrated by Lakers fan Ice Cube and Celtics fan Donnie Wahlberg, this five-hour doc covers the most famous championship rivalry in sports, which peaked with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the 80s. The tension hits its peak with Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals, in which Bird infamously missed a game-tying three-point shot.
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Whether it’s the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, TheWrap recaps the biggest moments in these sports classics