ESPN the Magazine editor-in-chief Gary Belsky sent out an email earlier today (how convenient; the day before a holiday weekend!) with the news that Bill Simmons would no longer be writing for ESPN the Magazine. We’ll start the speculation, because there is sure to be some: Is this Simmons’ subtle way of saying that he values the written word on the internet more than in print?
Wanted to let you all know that the The Sports Guy’s column this issue will be his last for The Magazine. In many ways the decisions speaks to the kind of fan-oriented decisions we make around here given our multi-platform flexibility. Bill is a singular talent with the ability to craft his writing for various media (web, print, mobile). It’s become clear to him and to us that his columns work better when they’re more responsive to the news, more immediate, and therefore we’ve all agreed that they should be originated for espn.com and not bound to magazine publishing schedules, which require more lead time. Many of his other ideasâ€”for example, his trade deadline feature story on Baron Davis earlier this yearâ€”are better suited for The Magazine and Insider (where The Magazine lives online) reader. So he’ll do half a dozen longer pieces for us during the year. He’s already slated for two.
We’ll likely keep the column slot where it is for a while, filling in with different folks. We’re open to new voices, old voices and new conceits, both internally and externally. I have an idea for a column conceit that would need a strong writer focused solely on that, heavy on reporting, interpretation and analysis in a light and entertaining way. We’re kind of excited about the possibilities, for Bill and for that space. Bill will discuss this in his last column for us, and while it’s not a secret I would expect everyone on this email to treat this news as it was intended, a sharing of information between valued and respected colleagues.
The Mag has now lost two of its columnists in the last year – Stephen A. Smith and Simmons. This opening at the front-of-the-book has [enter Page 2 writer here] written all over it.
* Via email, Simmons writes:
I love that you’re posting leaked internal e-mails about my career decisions. This is the closest I will ever get to being Jon or Kate. Yes, I gave up my column this week but it was my choice – I was the one who initiated it. The reasons had nothing to do with the pay wall thing and everything to do with the fact that our printing deadline changed and infringed on the stuff I was doing for ESPN digitally. I will still be writing longer features from the Mag every 4-5 issues and also appearing naked in the “Body” issue. In fact, the entire “Body” issue is just picture after picture of me posing naked with different athletes. You’re going to love it. The picture of me standing under Yao Ming is particularly provocative. Anyway I wrote 200-plus columns for them and loved working with everyone there. Hoenig, Belsky and Fine are my friends. I am sad and I think they are too. Still, seven years was a long time to have that column and it was time to concentrate on other things. You know, like answering Jason McIntyre’s emails. Hope that helps.