Drop Bill Simmons?

December 30, 2008 | 50 comments
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In which I crowdsource my conscience.

Bill Simmons is a star writer for ESPN.com. He has a big following. I’m one of them. I think he’s a really good writer. Kingsley thinks so too, so it must be true.

Every now and again he throws in a reference to strip clubs and pornography. These are two things of which, I take it, the Lord does not strongly approve.

One of his regular columns is a mailbag. I probably anticipate them more then any other of his regulars. As you might say if your brain were addled on internet, his mailbag columns bring teh funny.

He dropped a holiday mailbag the day after Christmas. The theme was one-night stands, that sort of thing. It was foul.

I’m thinking of dropping Bill Simmons. What do you think? What are the considerations?

P.S. Comment warning.

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50 Responses to Drop Bill Simmons?

  1. Steven Montgomery on December 30, 2008 at 10:37 am

    It’s better to “cast it from thee,” rather than to be yourself “cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)

  2. Ben on December 30, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Adam, that is the craziest suggestion you have ever made. ;)

    Seriously, I am also a fan of his writing, and when sense that his joke is going a certain way, I just skip to the next paragraph. (Same thing I do when he makes pop-culture jokes that go way over my head since I am very un-cultured when it comes to pop culture.)

    Maybe I’m just too full of sin, but I find his columns too hilarious to drop.

  3. Jane on December 30, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Should I drop Dooce? or House?

    (I am pretty sure the answer here is yes, but it ain’t happening any time soon.)

  4. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Jane, the wicked take the truth to be hard. (Grins).

  5. Rob M on December 30, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Bill Simmons is funny, but not THAT funny.

    I dropped Bill Simmons in the last year myself. The real struggle for me was “The Office.” Then I recently re-read a talk by Elder Bednar. Consider this: you benefit from a covenant that allows you to have the Holy Ghost with you at all times; the greatest gift we can receive in this life. Does reading Bill Simmons tend to encourage or discourage those feelings of the Spirit? What’s more important to you?

    Put it another way…

    A primary class in my old ward was shown a delicious-looking plate of brownies. After letting them salivate for a minute, the children were asked, “Would you still want one of these brownies if you knew that I had run out of chocolate and substituted just a small amount of poop?”

    As I sat in the back eating brownies…

  6. lamonte on December 30, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Pornography and strip clubs aside, Bill Simmons is an uneducated sports writer. Anyone who says that Deron Williams is not in the same class and Chris Paul has no business writing in the major sports outlet of the nation. Enough said. Drop Bill Simmons without looking back..

    [Ed.--recently Mr. Simmons did a statistical comparison of DW to CP and said that it showed CP was clearly superior. Problem is, DW was injured and not playing for part of the time. When numerous Utah fans brought this to his attention, he claimed he had been joking.]

  7. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 11:31 am

    How much poop and from what species? Were the brownies baked afterwards?

  8. Rob M on December 30, 2008 at 11:50 am

    How much? Not sure exactly, but not so much that you’re guaranteed to get some in every bite.

    What species? Don’t know. Is one species’ fecal matter more inedible than that of another?

    Baked? Yes. 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

    If you really want the recipe, I can try to track it down.

  9. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 11:55 am

    No need to track it down, Rob M. I have that episode of Martha Stewart on tape.

  10. Hans on December 30, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I love the Sport’s Guy. Having lived in Boston for three years I enjoy many of his articles even if he is a big homer. I agree that there is questionable material, but if we are willing to foresake Bill then we will need to stop watching anything that’s not on PBS or KBYU or else we would be hypocrites. Is there one clean channel where you would not run into the same material that Bill has written about? If so, please let me know which.

    In follow up to the DW vs. CP debate, I did like how Bill followed up about emails from Jazz fans: “You stay classy Salt Lake.”

    Perhaps we like Bill because he is a guy’s guy and says what we normally think. LDS typically like his articles because it’s like we are getting the college/sports atmosphere without the alcohol.

    Until I could stop watching everything on tv as well, I would be a hypocrite if I stop reading Bill.

  11. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Until I could stop watching everything on tv as well, I would be a hypocrite if I stop reading Bill.

    No, you wouldn’t. That’s a seriously backwards way of thinking.

  12. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    You’re making two other mistakes, Hans, to my way of thinking.

    First, you’re saying Bill Simmons=TV channel and Bill Simmons’ individual columns=individual shows. But its ESPN.com that is like the TV channel. Bill Simmons=an individual show and his individual columns=individual episodes of individual shows.

    Second, you’re saying that because sexual immorality has become pervasive in one genre (daytime soaps, e.g.), we shouldn’t care that its becoming mainstream in another genre (sportswriting) where it hitherto has not played as large a role.

  13. Hans on December 30, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    It’s not backwards at all. I just admit that it is nearly impossible to find anything that is clean these days, Bill included. There are other columnists on espn.com who are good but have questionable content as well (Greg Easterbrook comes to mind). Because nearly all TV is equally sexual in its overtones, I would be a hypocrite if I said that I will stop from reading Simmons and not stop watching House or The Office.

    I realize that it’s up to me to decide if I am willing to live with material like that, but that means that I am left to watch the BYU Channel all day if there is something that makes the overall work questionable.

  14. Benjamin on December 30, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    First of all, for what it’s worth, lamonte, how can you be so sure that Simmons *wasn’t* joking? The man covers sports for a living, and he knows more about the NBA, I dare say, than anyone commenting on this post, including you and me; he is the farthest thing from uneducated and, in fact, as he is building more and more connections in the world of sports, he’s only becoming smarter. I’m sure he knew that D-Will had been injured all season, and also of Jazz fans’ tender feelings when it comes to comparisons between their man and CP3. So I don’t find it at all implausible that he would throw that comparison out there just to make us mad.

    Second, to answer the original question, you’re making me feel very conflicted, Adam. I was born and raised in Boston and am a Red Sox fan (and, to a lesser extent, a Patriots fan), so Simmons’ writing resonates with me perhaps more than with his non-Bostonian readers. At the same time, I too am a priesthood holder and have been trying my darnedest not to care about the more questionable content in his columns because I enjoy them so much.

    I think this has got to be one of those issues that comes down to your personal feelings and impressions; I don’t think we can make a blanket statement regarding whether our standards rule out columnists like Bill Simmons or sitcoms like The Office. I have a real problem with the cliche “animal poop baked into brownies” (or cookies, or casserole, or green Jello, or whatever) analogy, because you can find something “offensive” in nearly everything out there, unless you intend to watch only G-rated movies and, as Hans has said, KBYU. I’ve never heard anyone advocate that level of isolationism from the pulpit. In fact, President Hinckley warned us to be careful, but not prudish. This isn’t an excuse to go out and watch R-rated movies and “Skinemax,” but I think it does mean that we shouldn’t feel that we need to keep it tuned to Playhouse Disney or PBS in order to go to the temple. Do what you’re comfortable with doing, and afford others the same trust.

    I dunno, just a thought.

    Personally, I will continue reading Bill Simmons for his sports analysis and his wit. You’ve given me cause, perhaps, to skip the paragraphs that are racier than is becoming a priesthood holder. But I find much of his sportswriting hilarious, and I’d like to think that we, as a people, can have a sense of humor (about sports and pop culture, not about strip clubs and one-night stands), and don’t need to rely on Elmo and the rest of the Sesame Street gang for our entertainment.

  15. Hunter on December 30, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Adam, Adam, Adam. You can’t be serious. Follow my logic here:

    “Men are that they might have joy.”

    Reading funny sportwriters makes us laugh.

    Giving up Simmons’ columns would decrease your laughing and overall joy. Ergo, God would not approve.

    (This logic also works for Scrubs episodes. Who knew that God enjoys Scrubs?)

  16. gibbyg on December 30, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    All entertainment has a “mendoza line” representing the ratio of entertainment/enlightenment received vs spiritual damage sustained. It’s a personal choice based on what you find harmful to your spirituality. For me SG is above the line whereas Deadspin is below the line. Big Bang theory is above, Two and a half men is below, etc.

    Two people can consume the same media and draw entirely different conclusions. For example, Deron Williams. People who think Deron Williams is even comparable to CP, are insane or Jazz fans. Everyone’s watching the same games, but each is evaluating the experience with different criteria.

  17. MadChemist on December 30, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Imperfect ability to be consistent does not a hypocrite make. If one claims to never watch anything inappropriate and then continues to without trying to improve the behavior, they may be hypocritical, but selective enforcement does not cause someone to be a hypocrite.

  18. Steve Evans on December 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Time to make the move to Richard Simmons. To wit: http://www.richardsimmons.com/j15/index.php?option=com_dailymessage&Itemid=31

  19. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    GibbyG, your model for media consumption is that its all relative to the individual. If watching hardcore porn offers entertainment value that outweighs the spiritual damage it does to me, then I keep watching. If, on the other hand, I find Mrs. Incredible oddly titillating and I’m not a huge Pixar fan anyway, I should stop watching The Incredibles.

    Obviously there’s something to that. We do have to take our spiritual temperature and take steps when some media that may be objectively fine makes it run high.

    But here’s why I don’t think our analysis can stop there. For one, we’re not very good judges of how media affects us. Spiritual corrosion can be slow and if we want to read something (if its entertainment value is high), then we’re likely to try to rationalize or excuse reading it.

    For another, I don’t like the idea that the value of media is entirely relative. There is a lot of relativity involved, sure, but I have to think that there’s some objective limits there.

    Finally, to the extent that the value of media is relative, I think its just as likely to be relative to a society and a culture as it is to be relative to an individual. To give an example, even if I’m personally pretty foul-mouthed on the job and pretty comfortable with it, I still might object to general trends that make being foul-mouthed more acceptable, on the grounds that its coarsening the culture. And I still might take the unprintable son of a deleted who cusses in my wife’s parlor, in front of my wife and kids, by the ear and drag him out. And I might be morally right to do so and maybe even morally obligated.

  20. queuno on December 30, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Bill Simmons is one of the 5 smartest sports writers currently writing today.

    I’m willing to overlook some of the bad to get to the good stuff…

  21. Bookslinger on December 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Does anyone remember 3 or 4 years ago when the new TV season started out and all the necklines plunged on all the prime-time network series shows at the same time? That was when I pretty much gave up prime-time TV entertainment. It’s like every female character has to show a lot of cleavage all the time.

    I see Adam’s conundrum as one of building up tolerance, fitting right in with President Monson’s refrain of quoting Alexander Pope about “endure, pity, embrace.”

    “Sin is a monster of such awful mien, That to be hated needs but to be seen,
    But seen too oft, familiar with face, We first endure, Then pity,Then embrace.”

    -Alexander Pope

    Having the face of sin before us innures us to it. Okay, so you’re not looking at porno, or doing one-night stands, but reading stuff _about_ porno, and _about_ one-night stands sends a message to impressionable minds who are observing.

    I’ve experienced similar stuff on the web. There’s much grey area between good and evil. And sometimes the evil does have to be spoken of. One key of discernment is how it is being spoken of. Is it the wink-and-a-nudge comedic approval of sports columns and Two and a Half Men, or is it spoken of as “a bad thing that needs to be avoided” ?

    I find that I lose a degree of the Spirit even reading material that is not evil per se, but speaks in reference to the evil stuff as if it’s not evil.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    - Edmund Burke

    I’ll play the same “generational card” I did (or tried to) in discussing homosexual marriage. Even assuming that it may not affect _us_ or _our_ generation, but when we outwardly show acceptance of it, our attitude affects the next generation. IE, “Dad doesn’t look at porno, or do one-night stands, but he’s totally okay with people who do.” “Dad didn’t say that stuff is _bad_, so it’s probably okay.” Or, “he _says_ it’s bad, but he reads about it, and listens to people talk about it.”

    I believe it is possible to “love the sinner and hate the sin.” But care must be given that the second half of that couplet is conveyed to our dependents who are observing and drawing unvoiced conclusions from our relationships with those who engage in things we disapprove of.

    More and more of my non-religious friends are coming around to realizing the destructive effects of pornography addiction. It’s not seen as just a moral (lusting in the heart type of adultery) issue any more; it’s got very real and very damaging psychological, marital, and financial consequences.

  22. Kaimi on December 30, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I hate to break the bad news, guys, but DW _isn’t_ in CP3′s class this year.

    Take a look at Hollinger’s stats (which are about the most advanced statistical analysis of the NBA around). CP3 currently has the 2nd best Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in the league, right behind Lebron. DW is currently back in the 70′s (which does underrate him, I think due to injury — but the numbers are pretty brutal).

    How does Hollinger get there? Well, look at the raw numbers.

    CP3 is shooting just under 50%, with 20 points, 11 assists, 3 steals (easily the league leader), 5 rebounds.

    DW is shooting 43%, 15 points, 9.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 3 rebounds. And he has more turnovers.

    (That is, CP3 has the 4th best FG% among point guards; DW has the 23rd, just behind Steve Blake, Ramon Sessions, and Aaron Brooks).

    CP3 vs DW was a fun debate their rookie year, but this year it’s really no comparison. DW will need to elevate his game, a lot, to rekindle that debate.

    (I know Utah fans like to think of DW as the second coming of John Stockton, but let’s be real. Stockton *never* shot below 47% (and that was his rookie year), and also never had a single year with less than 1.3 steals (also his rookie year)).

  23. Bookslinger on December 30, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Adam, Pope’s “Essay on Man,” which contains that one stanza goes even farther to describe your dilemma.

    Read it in context here; http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/etext00/esymn10.htm

    Start with: This light and darkness in our chaos joined, What shall divide? The God within the mind.

    And read through: Taught half by reason, half by mere decay, To welcome death, and calmly pass away.

  24. sscenter on December 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    A few months in Elder’s Quorum we discussed the chapter in the Joseph Smith manual that discussed creating a Zion society. I was teaching and raised the question of whether we would all have to like and enjoy the same kinds of books and music to have a place in Zion. Really quickly the conversation broke down with about half the quorum members saying they didn’t feel like they fit in at all in the church and some really strong feelings of anger by some at what they saw as the church trying to be all-controlling.

    I don’t know if we ever came to any resolution on the subject but we did decide that it was unacceptable that members of our quorum not feel welcome. The EQPresident began laboring tirelessly to recitify that situation and I think the results have been wonderful. However, the question of whether we will have to conform to a standard that makes us all the same was never answered and even the question as it is raised in this format makes me uncomfortable.

  25. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    SScenter,
    I don’t think worrying about media that celebrates pornography, strip clubs, one night stands, and avoiding marriage is a big obstacle to Zion. You might see the matter differently; you might be wrong.

    That is not the same as trying to impose a one-size fits all media diet on all church members (not that I think the church is doing that).

  26. RT on December 30, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    You all must be on a different righteousness plane than I am. I get that it’s a sin to go to a strip club. But now it’s a sin to joke about a strip club? And it’s also sinful to simply read someone else’s jokes about someone else going to a strip club? Really?

    Bill Simmons’ columns are obviously not something you’d read from the pulpit during a church meeting. But there’s a lot of things we do during the week that aren’t pulpit-worthy either, such as watch a football game, watch the news, or even go to work.

    The problem I see here is a confusion between the ideal and the real. Yes, when we get to the millenium we will live by a higher law. Among other things, we’ll devote all of our time, talents, and resources to God and His work. But although that’s something to be strived for, even in this life, it’s not something you can actually live. You have to work, right? And that’s time that you could be spending on God’s work, right? But you still do it, because you’re living a mortal life and have to play by mortality’s rules until the system is set up otherwise.

    Put differently, I’m guessing that the money you spent on your Christmas presents this year could have been better served going to a charity or a homeless shelter–but you bought them anyways, because your kids wanted them, you wanted to give them to them more than you wanted to give them to the orphan at the shelter, and because we’re not quite to the point where full consecration is expected or required.

    Given that, I think the earlier comments about KBYU are spot on. There is obviously an entertainment continuum out there, with seminary videos on the one end and hard core porn out there on the other end. If you’re going to draw an absolutist line and cut out anything which would offend the spirit, you’re going to have to cut out virtually everything on television or in print. Not even KBYU will really be safe if you’re really going to go there.

    But if you’re not going to draw an absolutist line and cut out all modern entertainment entirely, then by definition you’re acknowledging that you’ll be making at least some compromises in terms of how much of the world you’ll let in. At that point, you may draw the line in a different part of the fuzzy middle than I would, but don’t pretend that you’re not still making compromises.

    This is why that dog poop analogy is so totally screwed up (and why so many of the youth end up mocking–and then tuning out–the leaders who faithfully trot it out every year). EVERYTHING you’re watching has some of the fabled dog poop in it. Ads on the radio, KSL newscasts, ads in your morning newspaper, so-called family friendly sitcoms, documentaries on PBS, Twighlight books by Stephenie Meyer, Harry Potter books, the Book of Ether, most of the Old Testament, parts of the New Testament, Fox Newscasts. EVERYTHING has something objectionable in it.

    So if we’re going to compare it all to dog poop, then you’re drawing an awfully disgusting line around things that are basically unavoidable to all but the absolute hermits amongst us. And maybe I missed something, but I missed the revelation commanding us to be hermits.

    There has to be some common sense here. The Sports Guy is funny, witty, and insightful. He’s the only remaining must-read on the entire site.

    Sure, he jokes about pornography. But if we’ve reached the point on the sanctimony scale where we can’t recognize the vast universe of difference between cracking jokes about pornography and actually viewing pornography, then we’ve truly lost touch with the world that we’re supposed to be saving.

  27. Bryan H. on December 30, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    #22, Since those stats only cover this season and Deron has been playing hurt, you’re doing the same thing Bill Simmons did. Your most scathing critique of DW is: he’s no John Stockton. Well, CP is no John Stockton either.

    The media issue is always a judgement call. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I read the same article yesterday and didn’t give it a second thought. Looking again it was pretty bad, but Bill Simmons usually isn’t that bad and so I don’t think I’m going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But I’ve obviously started to become a bit desensitized and need to re-evaluate some of my other media choices.

  28. Kaimi on December 30, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Bryan, Stockton played hurt at various points in his career, and he never shot even close to 43%. CP3′s numbers this year — 20/11/5/3/50% — are actually pretty Stocktonesque.

    Before the season even started, this is what ESPN basketball stathead Hollinger projected for CP3:

    “2008-09 outlook: Paul projects to lead the NBA in PER this season, a fact that surprised some folks — like me, for instance; I’d expected LeBron James to be first. But Paul is only 23, is playing a position where development curves tend to be long, and has made substantial improvement in his first three seasons.

    In fact, if you compare how he played at ages 20 through 22 you’d be hard-pressed to find a single point guard in history who was demonstrably superior, which might make it easier to digest the possibility of further ascent. It might be odd to think of a 6-0, 175-pound guy as the best player in the league, especially when iconic talents like LeBron and Kobe are in their primes. But if Paul improves much at all from last season, we’re going to have to get comfortable with that idea.”

  29. Bookslinger on December 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    RT, #26, I agree with most of what you say, but… This is why that dog poop analogy is so totally screwed up .

    The dog poop analogy is spot on, and here’s why:

    Have you seen FDA and other health standards for contaminants in processed foods? Such as “insect parts”, “rodent hairs” and “fecal matter” ?

    Basically, food manufacturers are “allowed” minute amounts of contamination. Such minute amounts can’t be helped, even with very good hygienic conditions, and such minute amounts are generally considered harmless.

    However, a line is crossed when a) the quantity (ie., concentration) of allowed contaminants exceed the maximum threshhold allowed by food safety regulations, or b) are intentionally and unnecessarily added, or c) stuff that shouldn’t be there at all somehow gets in.

    Along the continuum of good-and-evil that we all must live with in a Telestial world, these same questions can be asked, and it appears that Adam is asking them in his O.P.

    a) does the quantity of “bad stuff” in Bill Simmons’ work exceed some safety threshhold?
    b) is the “bad stuff” in his work unnecessary, or worse, intentionally unnecessary?
    c) is the “bad stuff” in his work something that shouldn’t be there at all?

    In other words, are Simmons’ references to strip joints like unto minute and harmless amounts of “fly parts/rodent hairs/fecal matter” that we consume when we eat a hot dog, or are they like unto bits of poop intentionally baked into a brownie?

    I’m willing to tolerate small amounts of pesticide when I purchase produce at the supermarket, so I don’t spend extra on “organic” produce. Others have different personal standards and preferences, and are willing to spend extra on “organic” produce. I’m satisfied in rinsing off fruits and vegetables before eating them.

    The FDA, a recognized authority, says I’m safe eating the “regular” stuff.

    Others, who are more concerned, and many of whom have made very in-depth studies, say that the FDA doesn’t go far enough, and they promote the consumption of “organic” produce.

    I think it wise to minimize our mind’s and spirit’s exposure to contaminants. Where I try to draw the line is in between that writing which treats sin as bad, and that writing which treats sin as acceptable.

  30. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Sure, he jokes about pornography. But if we’ve reached the point on the sanctimony scale where we can’t recognize the vast universe of difference between cracking jokes about pornography and actually viewing pornography, then we’ve truly lost touch with the world that we’re supposed to be saving

    Its more than joking about strip joints. Its fascination with them. Its talking about one-night stands and strip joints and porn as if they were normal and even desirable. Is that good sports writing?

  31. Adam Greenwood on December 30, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Bookslinger, your #29 does a very good job of explaining what I’m getting at.

  32. Texan on December 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Here I thought that Bill Simmons (whose work I have been reading since his pre-ESPN.com days) was actually pretty tame. As part of the ABC-Disney conglomerate he’s censored against using the worst of the four-letter words and from anything too vulgar or offensive. My only problem with Simmons is that he has become much less funny over the years and seems to recycle a lot of his old humor.

    And anybody who didn’t immediately recognize that Bill Simmons was joking when he compared DWill’s stats from 2 games with CP’s stats from the entire season is out to lunch.

  33. Bryan H. on December 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Kaimi,

    Actually, Stockton’s durability was legendary, only missing something like 20 games in 20 years. But that’s besides the point. I’m not comparing Williams or Paul to one of the greatest point guards to ever play the game. Williams shot over 50% last season, and no one calls that Stocktonesque. And I find Hollinger’s quote to be ridiculous on its face. “If you compare how he played at ages 20 through 22 you’d be hard-pressed to find a single point guard in history who was demonstrably superior.” Really? Seriously? In history? Magic Johnson/Oscar Robertson history? Does that even deserve a response? I don’t think so.

  34. RT on December 30, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Actually, I don’t think Simmons is actually serious about the strip club stuff and obsession with pornography, and I certainly don’t think he’s “advocating” it in any real sense. While I have no doubt that he’s been there and done that, the last couple of years worth of columns have made it pretty clear that he’s settled down into a very successful, but still monogomous version of husband and father. His references to pornography and strip clubs seem very akin to Stephen Colbert’s references to politics–much more of an act than anything, and certainly not an act of advocacy. More telling, I think, is his reverential treatment of his wife and daughter.

    But I could be wrong.

    BTW–I liked Bookslinger’s # 29. Very well put, I thought.

  35. Hans on December 31, 2008 at 1:33 am

    For what it’s worth, the letter Simmons received in the holiday mailbag about from Marc S. from Tuscaloosa is hilarious is you follow Bill’s column and his tirades against Herm Edwards.

    WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!!!

    Otherwise, I think RT has really hit what I have been trying to say. We have so many distractions in life, all with a certain degree of canine fecal matter involved. Unless we stick our head’s in the ground and ignore the world, there is always going to be some degree of fecal matter in what we do with our time. Simmons, for me, hasn’t gone beyond that point yet. And maybe I am just a Boston homer.

  36. RT on December 31, 2008 at 2:05 am

    Moving away from Simmons for a moment and focusing on the oft-repeated dog poop analogy.

    I’m intrigued by the point Bookslinger made about the miniscule amounts of objectionable content in everyday life. Upton Sinclair might be a little upset that society hasn’t totally cleaned things up yet, but that’s a different post for another day.

    To me, though, it’s for that reason that the dog poop analogy does NOT work. The whole point of the dog poop analogy is to take discretion out of it and instead divide things into two camps: the pure brownies that you’d want to eat, and the ones with crap in them that you obviously would not want to eat. The message that this analogy sends to the youth, then, is one of extraordinary simplicity. Under this analogy, there are only two types of media: good and bad.

    The problem is that this is simply not true. There is a clear moral difference between an episode of Hannah Mannah and an episode of the Office, and there’s an equally clear moral difference between an episode of the Office and one of the American Pie films. There’s a clear moral difference between a 1950′s Batman episode and the Dark Knight, and there’s an equally clear moral difference between the Dark Knight and one of the Saw films. If you try telling a teenager that entertainment is either all good or all bad, they’ll see through you. What you really do, based on my own experience, is basically invite them to decide that you’re simplistic and unthinking when it comes to how the gospel actually applies to their world.

    Beyond that, however, lies the more important problem with the analogy: content has to be judged in context. In other words, a filmed depiction of the exact same violent act has a totally different moral import if you see it in, say, Saving Private Ryan or instead in a Steven Seagal film. Watching the torture scenes in Hostel will obviously impact your soul in a different way than watching the torture scenes in the Passion of the Christ. You read about a beheading in a Tom Clancy novel and you think he’s gone off the deep end; you read Moroni’s account of a beheading at the end of Ether, and you regard it as scripture.

    The problem with dog poop analogy is that there is no context in which you’d ever want to voluntarily ingest dog poop. It’s bad to eat, always, in every context and in every amount. But depictions of bad behavior aren’t always bad to take in, and they can in fact be healthy for you in the proper context and in the proper amount. The dog poop analogy is hyperbolic and silly, and it’s a terrible way to teach the gospel to youth who will likely know just enough to know that you’re feeding them a line.

  37. MikeInWeHo on December 31, 2008 at 3:25 am

    re: 18
    No doubt. That Simmons is the most chaste guy on the planet. No strip clubs or porn references with him!

    Richard Simmons hugged me at a small grocery store on Sunset Boulevard once. He was in an all-white track suit and smelled like my grandmother. I am not making this up.

  38. Bookslinger on December 31, 2008 at 3:54 am

    RT: re: dividing into two camps.

    Even when you take things in context and analyze the difference between a Tom Clancy novel and a gory scene in the Book of Mormon, each individual’s analysis still leads to a final binary decision: to read (ingest) it or not to.

    I assume that Adam and the commenters here are responsible adults who can determine on their own what level of objectionable material they want to tolerate. We are, supposedly, mature enough to detect when the Holy Spirit starts to withdraw due to us allowing material that grieves the Spirit into our minds. And as individuals, we are at different levels of sensitivity to the Spirit. I’ve heard of patriarchs who are so senstitive to the Spirit that they have given up watching network television. We’re all at different points along the path, and I believe the Lord expects spiritually mature people like the apostles to have a greater sensitivity to the Spirit than the average 16 year old member.

    Our backgrounds also come into play. As a former heavy drinker, I don’t like to go into bars to get a meal, or patronize bar-like restaurants. Having forsaken some serious sins, I don’t want to participate in or ingest things that I know can lead to serious sins. Even reading written material about serious sins as if they are not sins, can be a step in the wrong direction, both for adults like us who know better, and for youth who are figuring out at what point they need to avert their eyes, leave the room, walk out of the movie, put down the magazine, change the channel, etc.

    Maybe the youth you’re referring to are mature enough to analyze their own level of sensitivity and tolerance, and spiritually sensitive enough to detect when something grieves the Spirit, and smart enough to analyze an author’s intentions in discussing sinful behaviors (ie, is he decrying the behavior, or celebrating it, and if he makes no judgement on the behavior, what assumption is the reader left with?)

    But younger teens who are still in the process of developing that maturity, sensitivity and wisdom usually need and want guidelines from the grown-ups. There’s a time to teach nuance and analysis, and there’s a time to flatly say “Don’t do/watch/read/ingest that.”

    Adam has basically said that he smells something foul in Simmons’ brownies, and he asked the readers if they smell anything in it. If Adam detects something that is foul to his taste, then I think he’s already answered his own question as to whether he should continue ingesting it. Either Adam’s sensitivity has increased, or Simmons’ quality has decreased, or both. After all the nuance and analysis, it’s a binary (either/or) decision for him: to keep ingesting Simmons’ product, or move on.

  39. Jeremy on December 31, 2008 at 4:52 am

    RT said:

    “If you try telling a teenager that entertainment is either all good or all bad, they’ll see through you. What you really do, based on my own experience, is basically invite them to decide that you’re simplistic and unthinking when it comes to how the gospel actually applies to their world.”

    Very brilliantly put. Thank you. I would like to comment on your “morality sequence” as well. The problem with ordering things from “best” to “worst” is that criteria can be pretty iffy. I was surprised, for example, to see some people expressing problems with The Office on this thread. (I mean, really; I may have felt a TINY twinge of guilt watching the British version–and also, later, buying it on DVD, and then also loaning it to ward members and giving it as a wedding gift–but c’mon, the American version? Are people really that confused about depicting vs. advocating?). And I personally think shows like Hanna Montana (or Drake and Josh, or a bunch of other “tweener” shows on Disnalodeon), are arguably more morally questionable than something like The Office. Although those shows may not depict sexual acts, adultery, whatever, they contribute to the subtle, creepy, gradual sexualization of children. I personally have a WAY bigger problem with a Disney show in which 11-year-olds go on “dates” than I do with a comedy for grown-ups in which two caricaturized characters have a quickie in the stockroom. Because my 11-year-old is probably getting many more behavioral and social cues from the show on Disnay than I am from Dwight Shrute.

    (For that reason, I don’t let my 11-year old watch either one.)

  40. Tatiana on December 31, 2008 at 6:01 am

    If he leaves a bad taste in your mouth, or a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, then why follow him? Let it go. On the other hand, if you can skip over the bad parts as coming from ignorance or weakness, and aren’t affected by them, then just enjoy the funny stuff and don’t worry about it.

    I quit watching TV years ago because it’s so aesthetically bad. Life is too short for wasting time on things that degrade us, or are neutral. I stick with stuff that uplifts me, in my own judgment. That might be something that someone else finds horrible, in fact. But I can tell by the feel of it if it’s a good thing for me or not, and I try to stick with what’s good.

    Sometimes I get grabbed by an eerie fascination into watching or reading something I wish I had never seen, but usually that cures itself, as I tend to avoid it thereafter so I don’t accidentally get caught up again.

    It’s funny but I think what happens is not so much that I choose all that well moment by moment, but that I manage my environment deliberately so that it favors choices I’ve found to be good ones.

  41. Aaron on December 31, 2008 at 9:58 am

    This is about the silliest, most frivolous post I’ve seen at T&S.

  42. John K. on December 31, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Been a huge Simmons fan forever. I think it’s fine to overlook things you don’t approve of. That is much different than enjoy those things. As long as you aren’t looking forward to the strip club stories with your mouth watering, I don’t see what the problem is.

    PS. He was clearly pushing buttons with the statistical comparison of Williams and Paul this year. He got the rise he was looking for.

  43. kevinf on December 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    RT # 36, I have to agree with you. After a frivolous youth, I have over the last fifteen years avoided R rated films, and with the help of film reviews a lot of PG-13 films as well. Yet I have made a conscious choice to see what I considered “important” films with an R rating. That requires some serious thought about what constitutes important, but some examples might include “Saving Private Ryan” or Schindler’s List”, or most recently, “Frost/Nixon”. After a lot of investigation and trying to understand why the films got their R status, I then have decided whether or not the potential value outweighs the potential harm. I’ve fortunately only made a couple of mistakes on the handful (seriously, less than a dozen in fifteen years) of R films I’ve seen, and have regretted many more PG-13 films I’ve encountered.

    The decisions end up being personal. I respect Adam for his choice, but with no knowledge of Simmons and his sports commentary, I can’t judge whether I would make the same choice or not. It is why I have also given up reading most things by Stephen King. Recently, the gratuitous stuff usually outweighs the good stuff, with rare exceptions. It is hard to be poop-free in this poopy world we live in, but we can avoid getting it smeared all over us, and not feel bad when we have to scrape our shoes.

  44. kevinf on December 31, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    After rereading my previous comment, let me clear up any confusion. I’ve probably only seen a dozen or less R-rated films over the last fifteen years, and only a couple spring to mind as being mistakes, which shall remain unidentified. Artistic value alone is not enough; moral considerations are a big part of the decision process.

  45. Learned Hand on December 31, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    This is the silliest bit of navel gazing I have seen here. If the Office keeps me from an eternal reward then so be it.

    [Ed. - But for Wales?]

  46. Benjamin on January 3, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I’m not sure whether anyone is still reading this thread, but I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit since my last comment several days ago; in fact, I posted my comment on my own blog and solicited opinions from my minuscule readership.

    Here are some of my thoughts.

    Prophets have warned us against consuming media that offends the Spirit. However, I believe we can all agree that the Spirit manifests itself in different ways and in different magnitudes to different individuals, based in part on our personalities and in part on our worthiness. Furthermore, while we have been explicitly counseled to avoid R-rated movies, there is a huge gray area in other aspects of media consumption — print, televised, etc. — which is, in part, suggested by the Lord’s statement that we should not be commanded in all things. I strongly believe that prophets and apostles have shied away from commenting in clear, unequivocal terms on what television programs we should consume (despite a TV ratings system that would allow them to do so in much the same way as they have with the MPAA system) in part because of this commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants and, in part, because there may truly be areas of the gospel where a certain person can handle programs and sports columns without offending the Spirit where another cannot. This is normal; we are individuals. The way is straight and narrow, but it is not a tightrope.

    I believe that there is, as comment #39 says, a huge and usually crystal-clear difference between depicting and advocating. Never once have I felt that Bill Simmons is “selling me” on pornography, strip clubs, one-night stands, or anything like these. He depicts these things, and that certainly is regretable; I would prefer that he stick to writing about sports. But in to me, he doesn’t advocate them. Heck, beer commercials (including the one which stars our very own Kirby Heyborne, for what it’s worth) do more to advocate that kind of lifestyle, in my mind.

    I do not believe that watching The Office, or reading Bill Simmons, will keep you from an eternal reward (in reference to comment #45), unless your particular personality is such that the Spirit is offended when you watch it, or if it directly contributes to a bad habit of some sort. I just can’t believe that the Lord, with His tremendous love and mercy toward each of His children, is into splitting hairs as long as we’re progressing and becoming a little bit more like Him each day. If you feel a loss of the Spirit when you do these things, by all means stop doing them.

    Regarding comment #26, ironically, I did actually quote Bill Simmons from the pulpit once. I was giving a talk on discipleship and began with an analogy regarding Las Vegas (a common topic in Simmons’ columns). This was shortly after the NBA All-Star Game was played there, and he wrote about just how wild things had gotten. (That was, in the context of this thread, one of the more skippable columns I suppose.) Anyway, I described how the Las Vegas Temple overlooks the Strip, acting as a beacon of righteousness in Sin City, and compared that to our lives and how our discipleship makes us a beacon to others.

    [Ed. -- Thanks for this comment. In my opinion the column I linked moved beyond depicting to advocating. Anyway, a sports column shouldn't need to 'depict' incessantly.]

  47. gst on January 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    “Anyway, I described how the Las Vegas Temple overlooks the Strip, acting as a beacon of righteousness in Sin City, and compared that to our lives and how our discipleship makes us a beacon to others.”

    I hope you didn’t neglect to point out its utility as an aerial navigation aid.

  48. gst on January 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    “Yet I have made a conscious choice to see what I considered “important” films with an R rating. That requires some serious thought about what constitutes important, but some examples might include “Saving Private Ryan” or Schindler’s List”, or most recently, “Frost/Nixon”.”

    I would also include the “Porky’s” cycle.

  49. Benjamin on January 4, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    @ gst: Ha! I did neglect that, unfortunately. If I ever give the talk again, I’ll have to work it in :-)

  50. Eric Russell on January 7, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Frost/Nixon is great fun, but hardly important, whatever important means.

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