Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons Feud Over Tiger Woods vs. Muhammad Ali Comeback Comparison

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Less than two weeks ago, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, AKA “The Sports Guy,” wrote that Tiger Wood’s comeback will be tougher than Muhammad Ali’s.  Simmons argued the following thesis:

When Tiger Woods returns to golf, he will face a level of pressure that well surpasses anything any other transcendent athlete has faced in my lifetime.

Simmons penned a lengthy column arguing this after he voiced his opinion on an ESPN podcast and received thousands of listener comments.  While both podcast and column drew a significant amount of criticism, one person in particular lashed out more than anyone else: Keith Olbermann.

In his blog, Olbermann attacked Simmons for daring to make such a comparison, going so far as to discredit his successes (of which there are many – Simmons’s “The Book of Basketball” recently topped The New York Times bestseller list). Here is a snippet from Olbermann’s initial rant:

If the writer can let me know when Woods is punitively drafted by the military even though he is about eight years older than almost all the other draftees, I’ll begin to take him seriously. In the interim I am again left to marvel how somebody can rise to a fairly prominent media position with no discernible insight or talent, save for an apparent ability to mix up a vast bowl of word salad very quickly.


Simmons, to his credit, did not back down to Olbermann’s bashing and responded with this tweet:

KO, please know the feeling is mutual. You’re my worst case scenario for my career in 12 yrs: a pious, unlikable blowhard who lives alone.

Right back at’cha, “KO”.  Olbermann, of course, didn’t like this very much and decided to get personal in his follow-up blog post:

This [Simmons’ tweet] assumes that Mr. Simmons’ career now is where mine was twelve years ago (anchoring SportsCenter, then my own MSNBC political show, anchoring NBC Weekend Nightly News, writing a best-selling sports book, etc). In fact, this assumes that this is Mr. Simmons’ career, which is remarkable. Also, anybody who could write as many words without saying anything of consequence really should throw around the word “blowhard” as frequently as he would a street sewer cover.

I am surprised, however, to be able to shed some light on something that has been a prominent topic of late around the internet: the prospect that Mr. Simmons is leaving ESPN. Admittedly I am something of an authority on this process. Nonetheless, I was stunned to receive several emails from some of Mr. Simmons’ bosses there, thanking me for pointing out the absurdity of, and the embarrassment to ESPN provided by, the Woods/Ali comparison.

Simmons, conversely, finally took the high road and replied via twitter:

I’ve said enough. This was not why I got into writing.