The Sports Guy’s latest column is silly

First, I like Bill Simmons. Read all his columns, listen to most of his podcasts, I definitely think he’s got a place in society, and I’m glad he exists.  In theory, I even like his latest column on why he’s rooting for Michael Vick’s comeback.  I agree that legitimate reasons do exist for why someone could root for Vick. The problem is… Bill’s reasons aren’t any of them.

Bill starts out okay — talking about his natural inclination to root for underdogs, and the fact that Vick has paid a pretty heavy price for his wrong-doings (prison, bankruptcy, etc). Since Vick isn’t guaranteed any kind of return to glory, it could be fun watching him fight for it. I get that. But then he loses me when he says:

What more do [his detractors] want? Deny him a chance to make a living? Under what constitutional umbrella? The man paid his price.

Um, no one is denying him his chance to make a living. It’s the millions of dollars that bother most people.

The next red flag was his paragraph allegedly exposing the hypocrisy of those that decry Vick while ignoring other examples of animal cruelty. Again, in theory, it’s a valid point to make. I just don’t think his examples help his cause.

Ever watch what happens when a deer gets shot by a hunter but doesn’t die right away? Ever watch a group of turkeys get slaughtered for Thanksgiving? Ever watch how a mink coat gets made? Ever research what happens to greyhounds once they stop racing?

Really, Bill? Those are the examples you want to go with? I’ll give you hunting since it really is odd that so many hunters claim to love nature and animals. But the making of mink coats? Did you miss the entire national movement against them? Who’s still defending that practice? Aren’t male athletes the only group left that still wears mink coats anyway?

And the food stuff is really weird to bring up since that’s less a double standard and more just an accepted reality. To eat, things must die, and it’s never pretty. But we eat the food anyway under the belief that the people killing the animals aren’t doing so for their own perverse pleasure. (and you know what? If the guy at the industrial slaughterhouse is getting some perverse pleasure out of it, at least he’s doing so in a legal environment and only making minimum wage not to mention occasionally losing his fingers in the process.)

Bill still had another 4000 words left in his column, so I kept reading, expecting his usual wit to save the piece and create some valid points I hadn’t thought of before. I was wrong.

With the next point came the race card. Now, I don’t hate it when people play the race card because race is very much still an issue today. And Bill has ably handled the issue of race in the past, most recently in his great piece comparing Tiger Woods to Muhammad Ali. But this isn’t one of Bill’s finer (or more cogent) moments.

You play the race card when a person of one race gets treated differently than a person of another race, even when all other considerations are equal.

But Bill does not go there. At least, he doesn’t go there for long. His main point is that Southern Black people hate dogs because of the “role” that dogs played in segregation. And he backs up this point with anecdotal stories about how most of his Black friends are scared of dogs, even to this day.

Yes, Bill, that’s exactly how you use the race card — you introduce an entirely new stereotype for White America to believe, and you back it up with anecdotal evidence.

Um, does that mean I now have a greenlight to kick german shepherds because I’m Jewish? Actually, it does, since you also insist that all Orthodox Jews hate dogs too. (Wait, I’m not Orthodox, please, Bill, relate to me some story about a non-practicing Jewish friend of yours so I know how I’m supposed to act from now on.)

Here’s what gets me: Okay, so let’s say African-Americans ARE scared of dogs because of residual effects from the civil rights movement. But there’s a huge difference between being scared of animals and systematically torturing them for sport. Vick didn’t do what he did out of fear.

Bill’s insistence on backing up his points solely through personal anecdotes undercuts the legitimacy of whatever he’s trying to say. This is pretty shocking for a guy who usually covers all his bases statistically and factually before arguing anything his column, even the most arbitrary things. It’s almost as if this entire column was a knee-jerk reaction to something his wife to said him. Oh wait, it was. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have put a little more thought into it. My guess is that Bill was worried that Vick would drop a goose egg this weekend and next week the column wouldn’t have been as much fun to publish.

And then came Bill’s third point. It begins like this:

Much like how O.J. Simpson raised awareness about domestic abuse,

Sadly, I don’t know how that sentence ends because I started throwing up on my laptop.

I’m sure he wants to make some point about the “silver lining” of the Vick incident being that it brought so much attention to an issue that went unnoticed for so long (the prevalence of dog fighting in many areas of the country), but OJ? Really? That’s how you want to begin this point? You really believe that ANYONE found a silver lining in the OJ trial? That by the end of the trial, there were more than five people in the entire country saying “Yes, he walks free, but at least more people now know that a man can beat and then kill his wife”? Wasn’t domestic abuse already the subject of numerous “special episodes” of TV all throughout the 80s? Did it really need “the awareness” of the OJ trial?

I’m sure whatever point Bill wanted to make, he got there eventually.   But I couldn’t go along for the ride anymore. And the worst part? Bill still had one more point he wanted to make after that. I have no idea what that was, nor do I even care.

Bill, you’re a good writer. I suspect that in a year, you’re going to look back on this column be like: “I wrote that? Really?   Was I drunk?”  And remember, Bill, next time The Sports Gal questions your love of animals, instead of venting via a reactionary column you haven’t really thought through, count to ten, and then buy her a mink coat.  Problem solved.

Dog image courtesy

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