Dan Le Batard joined Colin Cowherd’s ESPN Radio show this morning. After discussing the latest twists and turns in the Ballghazi saga, talk turned to Bill Simmons, which is a relatively sensitive topic for ESPN airwaves just a week after he was publicly executed in the streets. Simmons had cordial relationships with both hosts, appearing semi-regularly on their radio shows.
The lesson from Simmons’ firing, Le Batard said, was that everybody at the Big Corporation is replaceable, and if you want to command big money you must also be producing it. Cowherd felt that companies could stand to lose one star like Simmons at a time, but not bunches of them. He likened such a scenario to the New York Times getting rid of three columnists at the same time. As Le Batard pointed out, this was a tad self-serving from Cowherd’s perspective because his contract is also up soon.
To what extent Simmons’ firing was about money versus behavior is unclear, but both were factors. ESPN President John Skipper said this week that it was not about dollars and cents, but talked about value in the same breath. Simmons was a habitual line crosser, calling out fellow ESPN personalities, and, obviously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Nearly all of these critiques were defensible on individual bases. But, one can empathize with Skipper in the conundrum of what to do when somebody is crossing the invisible line, which you need hundreds of other on-air staffers to abide by, and the rebel’s not making money for you.
This is not to discount the artistic value of 30 for 30 and the prestige of the staff he assembled at Grantland, but someone with Simmons’ temperament will always run up against trouble in a large, amorphous institution. If it wasn’t “testicular fortitude,” it would have been something else, especially this week when he almost assuredly feels like the patriots are getting railroaded by Goodell and the league. In the end, his ouster came about from the inextricable combination of value and volatility.