Bill Simmons, the Cowboys, J.R. Ewing and our 'self-image'
MAY 30, 2013 11:15a ET
We've jousted in this space before with the gifted and powerful Bill Simmons, who does so much brilliant work with ESPN … but who also, maybe due to his volume of tasks, tends to take pop-culture shortcuts to answers regarding complex questions.
Can every sports circumstance be boiled down to analogies to the film careers of Jim Carrey or Tom Cruise? Must every sports circumstance wait for Simmons' most golden cliché, his assignment of the word "Syndrome" to it?
When it comes to taking complex social issues and transforming them into pudding to be consumed by what Bill seemingly views as the Lowest-Common-Denominator consumer (his fans), Bill Simmons suffers from "Bill Simmons Syndrome Syndrome."
Simmons reads DallasBasketball.com and takes pokes at us for being Mark Cuban lovers. We (like the rest of the country) read him, enjoy his work and return service. Both parties, I think, are well aware that Simmons worships Cuban infinitely more than we do. It's all in good fun.
But minimizing the complexities that come with an entire city's "identity" is more serious business. I've always argued that there is no such thing as "a city's identity." Not all of Los Angeles is Hollywood, not all of Boston is Irish and not all of Dallas is covered in tumbleweeds.
Well, actually, none of Dallas is covered in tumbleweeds.
But for folks on that coast in LA or on that coast in Boston to say so perpetuates a myth that allows them to neatly package Memphis citizens as "this" and Dallas citizens as "that."
Simmons' efforts to link MLK's 1968 assassination with Grizzlies fans' anxiety are a part of his podcast covering the Grizzlies-Spurs Western Conference Finals.
Says Bill: "I didn't realize the effect (the MLK assassination) had on that city... I think from people we talk to and stuff we've read, the shooting kind of set the tone with how the city thinks about stuff. We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind, and the whole crowd got tense. It was like, 'Oh no, something bad's gonna happen.' And I think it starts from that shooting."
That is a sociological psychoanalysis of 30,000 people — and maybe even the sociological psychoanalysis of the 652,000 citizens of Memphis. A professional in those fields might be more careful than to make a blanket statement about the collective identity of 652,000 people and their ties to an incident that occurred in their city six decades ago.
Simmons then applied his almost-patented brand of pop-culture pop psychology to Dallas, insisting that it took both the Dallas Cowboys and the TV show "Dallas" to help us gain a positive self-image in the wake of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy.
An aside, cutting Bill some slack here: His podcast is the equivalent of the live radio that I do every day, four times daily on 105.3 The Fan, or like the live TV I do on FOXSports Southwest. I'm sure Bill comes to his broadcast, like I do, with an "outline" but not a script. So the opportunities to misspeak are almost endless.
Maybe he'll come forward with a clarification, or better, a back-pedal. But for now...
The Dallas Cowboys and the TV show "Dallas" allowed DFW to gain a positive self-image in the wake of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Is that true?
I've lived in Dallas for 23 years. I've covered the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks and professional sports here for all of those 23 years. There is no question DFW's "mood" seems buoyed by good news, success, wins, championships.
Which makes DFW exactly like Denver and San Francisco, the other two cities where I've worked and covered professional sports.
Is it true that Dallas is different because "our" tragedy is different?
I haven't the slightest idea. I would ask Boston native Simmons: Is your city forever "defined" by the Marathon bombings? If so, is the balm that will heal all wounds as simple as the Red Sox winning a World Series and a New England-based prime-time soap opera?
I wouldn't dare attempt to group the 4.6 million people who live in the greater Boston area as if they are of one mind.
Nor would I dare do the same with the 6.7 million people who live in DFW, shorthand-scribbling about them as being of one mind, one mind that is so weak and so addled by a real assassination that it was in despair for a decade until J.R. Ewing was the victim of a fake one.
I'd like to think we're better and smarter than that.
I'd like to think my man Bill Simmons is, too.