Have you read Bill Simmons’ reasoning behind his “accidental” tweet last week about Randy Moss getting traded to the Vikings? If you missed the tweet, Simmons turned out to be right … but Jay Glazer of Fox Sports was the first to “report” the news of the trade, and ESPN got scooped – some might argue – because of the Simmons tweet. We enjoyed the Simmons column. It’s a good read. But are you buying it?
Let’s cannonball right in:
My BlackBerry vibrates.
It’s a text from Someone Who Knows Things. And not to go all Bob Woodward on you, but this person is never wrong.
Moss to Vikings. Very close.
This is Simmons telling you he’s connected in Boston. Nobody should be surprised by that – he’s a longtime passionate fan of the teams in that city and is probably the most recognizable writer among fans in Boston. Of course people In the Know want to tell him things.
At the same time, I know a few Guys Who Know Things at this point. Whenever I stumble into relevant information — it doesn’t happen that often — my first goal is always to assimilate that material into my column (as long as it’s not time-sensitive). Sometimes I redirect the information to an ESPN colleague. Sometimes I keep it in my back pocket and wait for more details. It’s a delicate balance. I have never totally figured out what to do.
What jumps out from this: If Simmons got this information, why didn’t he just write it for ESPN? Answer: They’d make him find a second source, and at some point, ESPN would look to one of their NFL guys, like Mort, to help confirm the story. Then they’d confirm it and … at best, Simmons shares a byline. At worst – since he was taping a TV show – Mort gets the scoop on twitter, then goes on TV with the news, and he gets all the credit. Simmons had the scoop, but the lion’s share of the credit would go to a reporter. Which leads to the obvious conspiracy theory: The Simmons tweet was a big F U to ESPN! That’s Simmons saying, ‘I’m bigger than you guys, and I’ll do as I please because guess what? You need me more than I need you’
First, I blew a quality scoop for my employer. Second, I look and feel like a total jackass. Third, if my source ends up being wrong, I will look like an even bigger jackass … What I never expected was other writers wondering if the tweet was truly accidental. A good conspiracy theory always hinges on a reasonable motive, and in this case, ticking off my bosses, blowing a killer scoop
But what is ESPN to do? Are they going to try and punish Simmons for something they have no proof about? Of course not. At best, they can chalk this up to, ‘don’t let it happen again,’ and frankly, Simmons is too bright to make another ‘mistake’ like this.