Bill Simmons’ latest triumph: “30 for 30 Shorts”

You’ve got to hand it to Bill Simmons, aka The Sports Guy.

Not only has he carved out a distinctive niche of sportswriting that fuses personal  relationships, popular culture and sports analysis without going into locker rooms.

Not only has he been enormously productive and versatile, issuing forth books, columns, and podcasts at a dizzying rate.

Perhaps his greatest contribution will ultimately be as an incubator for other people’s work.

You can see it on Grantland, his ESPN-hosted site that has a stable of writers who weigh in on topics ranging from weekly Mad Men power rankings to homosexuality in sports to the minimum age level in the NBA to Simmons’ own musings.

You also can see it in “30 for 30,” the Peabody-award winning documentary series he successfully pitched to ESPN in honor of the network’s thirtieth anniversary.

Never lacking in either vision or moxie, Simmons has now convinced the bosses at ESPN to go for a second “30 for 30” series.

But this time it’s in a different format-short films.

Here’s the rationale:

“Because “30 for 30″ needed its own Mini-Me. Because live streaming has gotten so reliably fast that we felt like we could pull this off. Because there are stories out there that we loved for four to 12 minutes, but maybe not for a full hour. Because talented filmmakers are usually juggling multiple projects, so sometimes it’s easier for them to take on a shorter project than a bigger one. Because we wanted you to waste more time on your iPad, or possibly rear-end the car in front of you as you’re watching these on your mobile device when you shouldn’t be watching these on your mobile device. Because Pete Rose bet we couldn’t do it. (Just kidding.) And most important, because we felt like there was a creative void sitting there for this specific form of storytelling. As you’ll see with our first short film, you might not want to spend an hour in Pete Rose’s world at this point of his life. But eight minutes? Absolutely.”

“Here Now,” the debut piece, covers those eight minutes with Pete Rose, the ever pugnacious and controversial all-time hit champ who’s set up shop for the past decade or so at Caesar’s Palace.

It makes for gripping, if somewhat bleak, viewing.

The New York Times explains that as the films roll out, they will be augmented on Grantland by podcasts, feature stories and oral histories.

Based on the first one, they’ll be well worth the time, as will be watching Simmons continue to forge his unique and visionary place in America’s sportswriting and cultural landscape.

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