The sports media landscape is something that has changed in a big way over the last 20 years or so.
For a long time sports fans relied on beat writers and columnists for their sports news and opinions and they probably figured that was the way it was always going to be. This was not necessarily a problem, but it was really the same kind of pieces over and over again.
This all changed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Fans wanted new content and they wanted it in their way.
The fans wanted pieces with more opinion and something that was more conversational and down to earth. Basically, they wanted to read something that they could relate to.
The first person to really do this was Bill Simmons. Simmons came in and changed the way sports were covered and written about.
Simmons introduced the fan element to sports writing on the internet. Essentially, he was the guy that made online sports writing popular.
When he first started out, his writing was conversational. It sounded like he was someone we could sit at a bar with and talk sports all night long.
He was also someone that put sports and pop culture together. His articles were filled with movie and TV show references, which helped the readers relate to him even more.
Simmons also helped make sports gambling popular. Yes, I realize he was not the one to introduce sports gambling into sports writing, but he was one of the first to cover it online in a fun and relatable way.
When Bill first came to ESPN, he made it fun. He wrote for ESPN’s Page 2 and did articles on sports movies, sports and pop culture, how to go about choosing a team to root for and what the rules are in regards to that.
Simmons is really responsible for all the sports blogs you see today. In one way or another, Bill was the inspiration for sites/blogs like Barstool Sports, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, and many others.
With all of this said, it is unfortunate that he does not write anywhere near as much as he used to. These days, Simmons is more focused on doing podcasts, which are always terrific, but he has clearly gotten away from what made him so popular in the first place.
Regardless of who he is now, us online sports writers need to thank him. Without him, we would not be able to do what we do today.
*Photo: Vanity Fair