Bill Simmons, HBO, and Ultimate

By: Jimmy Leppert


Major news broke in the sports media world yesterday, with Bill Simmons – fired from ESPN in May – landing on HBO starting in October of this year, with a show debuting sometime in 2016. I’ve got some ideas of how Bill Simmons and HBO can do a solid for ultimate.

Here’s more information on HBO and Bill Simmons if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Details are a little sparse at the moment, since the deal was only just announced, but all signs point to ‘wait and see’ for more information.

Bill Simmons has made his name as a writer and sports figure for three reasons: 1) His style of writing. Simmons comes off, even on a bad day, as a true fan of sports. He always has some quirky story to tell about his daughter, wife, father, or his own childhood on being a fan of a sports team. Plus he’s extremely opinionated about his own sporting loyalties. 2) His references to pop culture. Read the comment section of the linked Sports Illustrated piece on the new HBO-hire for hundreds of jokesters offering their ideas of the pop culture references to come from Simmons. 3) His ideas. Grantland, a well-done sports and pop culture website, that features some of the best written-words on sports you’ll find on the internet – that’s a Simmons creation. The ESPN 30-for-30 sports documentary series was his brainchild as well. So, deservedly so, Simmons has earned praise, contempt, and a hefty new contract from HBO. Much like John Oliver has been able to elevate his news program on HBO, Simmons will be able to bring his programs to a higher level now with HBO as his backer.

Where does ultimate come in? Well I have some ideas:

  • Hard Knocks, but about an ultimate team.
    If you’ve never seen the series, Hard Knocks seeks to give the viewer an inside look at one team’s training camp, and how it’s conducted – from the drills, to cuts, to the lives of the players. Why attach Bill Simmons? They’re going to need someone there to help explain the sport, why not utilize the full arsenal, and have Bryant Gumbel interview Simmons about (or even after) each episode, to let us know what just happened.
  • A Friday Night Lights-like drama, but about a college ultimate team.
     Friday Night Lights is often considered to be the perfect drama about how crazy small towns in the middle of nowhere can get over football. Simmons would obviously be taking on an executive producer role in this show, and he would need to be there to help guide the subtle (yet in your face) references to pop culture the fictional college ultimate team would provide each episode. And college ultimate is just the next logical step for this kind of drama – heartbreak, sacrifice, personal strife, school, sports… it’s all there. Tourney Weekend Battles? The name is a work in progress.
  • HBO 24/7: Road to the AUDL Championship Weekend.
    For the NHL’s Winter Classic, HBO produced a behind the scenes look at each of the hockey teams. It’s been a great series, that’s really given fans an inside look into the game, and the lives of players and staff that they otherwise may not have known. Often, it’s given us a look at the charitable work players and staff make during the season, especially during the holiday time. With the AUDL’s recent move for the Spirit Challenge donation drive, what better way to showcase that and their playoff weekend, then with an informative and hi-def series of episodes. Just instead of Liev Schreiber doing the narration work, it’ll be Bill Simmons.
  • The Sopranos, starring Jeff Snader as Tony Soprano. 
    Sure, it’s a reboot on a series that only ended in 2007. But if they can reboot Spiderman three times, they can reboot the Sopranos to show the inner workings of the MLU-mob. Bill Simmons as executive producer, after he discovers Snader and the MLU while leaving a Philadelphia 76ers game early.
  • True Detective, solving the mystery on if that disc was really up or not.
    Simmons again as executive producer. Finally, we will all get an answer to this question, with truly talented actors performing the reenactments this time.


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