Amid all the venom and anger, it turns out there’s one sports media figure able to defend Ben Simmons.
Dan Le Batard, the former ESPN host and Miami Herald columnist turned podcast entrepreneur, went after “cruel” Philadelphia sports fans for relentlessly pounding Simmons over his poor performance against the Atlanta Hawks during the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Le Batard was leapfrogging off comments made by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. The former Inquirer columnist said Philadelphians will not forgive Simmons for his poor free throw shooting and refusing to take a single shot in the fourth quarter during the final four games of the series.
“I think he’s right about that. I think it’s an ugly part of that city. Their fandom is cruel. There’s a pride in how mean they can be, and they file it under caring, but it can be very cruel,” Le Batard said on Tuesday’s The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.
La Batard wasn’t arguing that Simmons somehow played well or didn’t deserve some scorn
But Philadelphia certainly takes its sports seriously, and La Batard expressed sympathy for Simmons for having “a moment of mental and human frailty,” and doing so “in a city that isn’t going to be trusted with that vulnerability.”
“Consider your weakest moments,” Le Batard said. “Whatever you view them, whenever you’ve wept, whenever you’ve doubted, whenever it is you’ve felt self-loathing, whenever it is you couldn’t figure something out. And now put the pressure of a city, the pressure of a locker room, the pressure of a 1-seed on it.”
Shaq’s gotten some feedback over his Ben Simmons remarks
Following the Sixers’ Game 7 loss to the Hawks, Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t exactly shy about what he thought of Simmons’ performance.
“If he was in my locker room, I’d have knocked his ass out,” O’Neal said on TNT’s postgame show.
During the pregame show for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks, O’Neal returned to the topic of Simmons, noting his comments drew a loud reaction from fans.
“I’m getting some, not that I care, I’m getting some feedback for being hard on Ben Simmons. But what people need to understand is when you’re a great player, everyone goes through this,” O’Neal said on TNT’s pregame show Wednesday night.
“I won four championships, [was in the league] 19 years. Fifteen years of that was, ‘You’re terrible, you’re doing too much, you’re doing this, you’re doing that, focus on your game,’ ” O’Neal added. “So when you keep losing, losing, losing, you finally get to the point where you have to do a self-evaluation and say, ‘You know what? This is what I need to do.’ ”
Speaking of Simmons, the Nationals trolled the much-maligned Sixers star on Wednesday after Kyle Schwarber’s three-run home run tied the game (which the Phillies eventually lost).
Despite hosing the popular Mike & Mike radio show for 17 years, longtime ESPN host and former Eagles defensive tackle Mike Golic said the network didn’t even offer him a pay cut to stay before his contract expired back in December. “When you are there for as long as you are, and all of a sudden it’s not even discussed to keep you there, yeah, that’s a blow to the ego,” Golic told The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch. “But that’s life. I can’t sit here and cry about it. You move on.”
NBC announced Wednesday it will put live gymnastics and track & field action on the free-of-charge tier of its streaming platform Peacock. There will also be live U.S. men’s basketball team games on Peacock’s paid tier, which is $4.99 a month but free to Comcast subscribers with X1 cable boxes.
The Milwaukee Bucks responded directly to the hosts of ESPN’s First Take after cohost Molly Querim Rose said all four teams that remain alive in the NBA playoffs are “terrible cities.” For the record, in addition to Milwaukee, the remaining cities in the playoffs are Atlanta, Phoenix, and Los Angeles, which were all pretty great when I’ve visited them over the years. For what it’s worth, First Take cohost Max Kellerman tried to clean up Rose’s comments: “Terrible cities? Molly didn’t mean that.”
Longtime Inquirer Eagles reporter Paul Domowitch is the latest member of our sports desk announcing their departure from the newspaper. Domowitch has been covering professional football for us for 39 years — first for the Daily News, later for the Inquirer — and as the Athletic’s Bo Wulf noted on Twitter, he’s the best football mind ever born on June 11.