Simmons v. Klosterman

Is it just me or does it seem like every time Bill Simmons talks to Chuck Klosterman he just gets destroyed?

Bill Simmons usually comes off as pretty smart, or at least witty, interesting and full of ideas. He seems to think more about things than anyone outside of Seinfeld and usually has opinions or suggestions for changes. That’s what makes him a lot different than other pundits out there, he almost always has solutions. They may not ever take place, or necessarily make sense, but he never really enters an argument without a change that he’d make if he were in charge.

But all of that falls apart when he talks to Chuck Klosterman. Chuck is an unusually bright guy if a little too intense about his thoughts about culture. He often thinks his way into and out of different scenarios and is an excellent contrarian and devil’s advocate. He’s great at reminding you that while you may think you know why you’re doing something or liking something, you’re probably forgetting something bigger (or smaller) that’s really going on. So when he talks to Bill Simmons, he just kills him.

The conversations that they’ve had publicly (ie, on Simmons’ podcast) are few but very telling. It’s like what happens in college when a blowhard tries to make a point in class and someone far more articulate who doesn’t talk much just mops the floor with the moron who is usually talking just to hear the sound of his own voice. Simmons asserts all of these opinions that his other guests either let slide or aren’t quick witted enough to respond to. Not Klosterman. Chuck challenges him on almost every point, and while he very often concedes a good point made by Simmons, he’ll slam the rest at junk.

Really, it’s a fantastic back-and-forth if you like seeing the inadequacies in someone being pointed out for all to see (or hear, in this case). I think Klosterman is brilliant (though way more into music than I prefer) but I would never ever want him on the podcast for this blog. Not that there’s any chance of that happening. But he’d kill me. All the points I’d want to make he’d question for psychological, ideological or other reasons like pure ineptitude and bullshit. That’s what he seems to have, a bullshit-radar that calls out people who are faking it. I wouldn’t say I’m faking it but sometimes people act like they know more than they really do. When Simmons does that, Klosterman jumps all over it.

I would link to their conversations on the BS Report but I try to avoid linking to ESPN at all costs. So go on there and find them if you’re interested in hearing them. Or better yet, read Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Klosterman’s excellent book on pop culture. For those of us under 30, there’s some stuff that goes over your head because of the age difference and the things he took in as a kid as compared to our generation. But still, check it out.

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12 Responses to Simmons v. Klosterman

  1. Trey says:

    Well shit, now I’m excited about listening to this one. I just finished Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and yes, that is an amazing book.

    I think you need to designate Rusty, Brad, or Prizz or somebody as your podcast’s Klosterman.

  2. Trey says:

    Hold on, I just listened to it and they cut if off. What a tease! I want to hear the newspaper stuff!

  3. mao says:

    Yeah, I’m waiting for it to pop up. That was a mega-tease. I hope they don’t wait until next week to put it up.

    Klosterman is such a beast. He just owns Simmons. I know Simmons isn’t actually very smart but he really looks like a dope in those conversations.

  4. Trey says:

    The one they did when Klosterman was in Germany was the wierdest one bc Klosterman kept asking Simmons personal questions and he tries so hard to never say his wife or kid’s name. That one made me think they were good interviews but not good friends.

  5. mao says:

    I’m not sure they knew each other very well in that one. Though I think Klosterman tries to pierce Simmons’ well-crafted privacy wall just for fun.

  6. Marcus says:

    Yes! Glad I’m not the only one who notices this. It’s usually when Simmons goes off on how Klosterman can’t understand fandom because he grew up in North Dakota and doesn’t get what it’s like to be a true fan, like a Red Sox or Celtics fan. Klosterman always destroys this argument and leaves Simmons stuttering. Plus, when it comes to pure writing, Klosterman blows him out of the water, especially when it comes to sports.

  7. mao says:

    Marcus, couldn’t agree more. You nailed it exactly. Simmons just can’t compete when Klosterman isn’t just conceding. And you’re right, Klosterman is a real writer. Simmons is funny and interesting for sure but he leaves a lot to be desired sometimes.

  8. Trey says:

    You know what is telling about the second part of the interview? Simmons really is sort of self concious about his work and status. He talks about the greatness of the internet but you can tell that there’s a part of him that know it sort of doesn’t count as “real” writing. I mean writing for the internet has nothing to do with the quality of the work necissarily, but you can tell that he knows that there is a perception that writing for the internet is less prestigeous.

    But here’s the big thing that bothered me. Simmons really doesn’t think that there is a seperation between popularity and quality. He seems to assume that popularity is always earned in an objectively valuable way. So his popularity is well deserved and the lack of popularity among newspaper writers is deserved too. But think about shows like Around the Horn or Skip Bayless. Those things are popular but not good. So clearly, popularity doesn’t imply quality. That actually kind of bothered me about Simmons.

    And I think the fact that your site and my site and our newsletter doesn’t strive for immediacy and focuses on the quality of our writing rather than the subject of our writing, would earn up brownie points with Klosterman.

  9. Trey says:

    Also, how in the hell is Jack McClinton the top scholar athlete in the ACC? He tried to punch a guy earlier in teh season so I’m not inclined to think that he’s a real book worm.

  10. mao says:

    Interesting. I haven’t listened to it yet so I can’t comment totally yet. But the point about Simmons thinking popularity = quality is right on, even from other stuff I’ve read/heard. A lot of his stuff is total bullshit, especially when he praises the NBA, but people are going to read anything he does at this point. It’s like when a band was really good and then they come out with a shitty album, people are still going to buy it.

  11. Trey says:

    that is exactly the point Klosterman makes. jesus man, dead on. and for that reason i fear the day that i go on a podcast with you bc i’d get batted around like simmons.

    but actually simmons holds his own at the end so i actually don’t think klosterman dominated him as totally as we’re making it out to be.

  12. Marcus says:

    I haven’t listened to this one yet so will withhold judgment. Here’s where they first talked about whether you can be a fan if you don’t have blind allegiance that’s there because of geography.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/050927

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