The Night the Sports Guy Ran Out of Books

He’s my favorite writer.  Like he himself would say, if you had to do a fantasy draft for writers, who would you take first?

My first pick: Bill Simmons.

Here’s where it goes wrong.  For months, I have been waiting for The Book of Basketball to hit the shelves.  When Simmons would mention details about his book tour on his podcast, the B.S. Report, my anticipation only grew stronger.  So on Monday night my friend and I traveled down to Washington D.C., where Simmons would start his book tour as The Book of Basketball would be released to the public at midnight. 


About 12:50 a.m., still around the corner of the building

Arriving at midnight, I knew the line would be long, but I had no idea it would be this long.  Wrapped around the corner of the ESPN Zone on 12th Street, the line extended beyond the Borders book store next to it and up the street to the following building.  “Eh, an hour maybe an hour and a half tops,” I thought to myself.  Boy was I wrong…

Standing in line, I got just a glimpse of the wide array of fans that Simmons has gathered over the years.  So my friend and I struck up a conversation with the people infront of us, a studious looking red headed man and his girlfriend he dragged along with him.  We plotted ways in which we could get people ahead of us to give up their spots in line.  This list included: free beer down the street, the book tour didn’t actually start until Tuesday night and the power of female persuasion (one of our line mates was a girl).  Sadly none of these ideas were ever executed.

After about an hour I began to hear rumblings that they were out of books.  “No way…,” I said, “it can’t be true, can it?”  Soon enough someone behind me said that Simmons had tweeted about the rumored lack of books.

“So disappointed. Not enough books for everyone at DC signing. They promised me this wouldn’t happen. So sorry. This will only happen ONCE.”

“Such a letdown when you are counting on people to come through and they don’t. Nor do they listen to you. So sorry. This is embarrassing.”

-from Simmons’ Twitter account (SportsGuy33)

Maybe it’s some sick joke?  It’s Simmons, he would mess with us, right?  But having listened to how  much work had gone into this book and how excited he was for the book to finally be released I knew this was the sad truth.  So we sent the girl ahead of us to the front of the line to bring back details.  She said they had run out of books and that over half the people outside would not receive a book.

How in the world could ESPN grossly underestimate the amount of people who would turn out for the newest book of its most popular writer?  I decided I would wait longer, maybe find out more details.  Maybe some people would be turned off by the news and go home.

So we waited longer, rejoicing when the line would move up anything over three steps forward.  For a late October night, it wasn’t too cold, until the rain came…

Slowly we saw a few people give up on the night, including our friends in front of us.  And a few people would walk by with the book and a smirk on their face that said, “HA! You suckers are out here in the rain and I just met the Sports Guy!”

We even enjoyed a good laugh at two high school age guys who left at one point, knowing they had two of the last remaining books.  Their books were tucked tight into their bodies as they avoided eye contact with the potentially angry mob that was awaiting them outside.  No guarantee they made it past the guys at the end of the line who were still around the corner.  You never knows what goes on back there…


So this is what the front side of the building looks like...(Camera phone pics aren't they great?)

Time went on and so did the rain.  We now found ourselves at the corner of the street, talking to a college girl from New York and a man from Canada.  By now it’s after 1 a.m. and my friend has now removed his “whatever you want to do,” statement regarding the lack of books rumor and is now insisting on calling it a night.  I argued we must stay on principle.

What principle you ask?  I have read everything Simmons has written since I was a freshman in highschool.  I listen to every podcast when they come out and I already own and have read his first book, Now I Can Die in Peace, multiple times.

Now the chance to meet a man who has offered me countless readings and spurred my desire to one day be a journalist as well.  And you think a little rain and a rumor (until we were told to go home, it was still a rumor in our minds) would send me home? 

Finally around the corner of the building, papers are being passed back through the line.


The fans outnumbered the books at tonight’s signing!  We apologize for the inconvenience.  We look forward to sending you a signed copy of the book to enjoy.

The paper then asked you for the following: Name, phone number, e-mail address, credit card number, expiration and your signature.  Tell me if you think something is missing here…

Nowhere does it tell you the price of the book, nor does it ask for your home address where they “look forward to sending you a signed copy.”  Even though these were handed out by ESPN Zone employees, does anyone else find this to be a little shady?   Really, sure Simmons, here’s my credit card number, I’ll be waiting for my book in the mail.

It’s about 2:15 at this point.  Our friend from New York, gone.  And Oh Canada, well he appears to be the first person I’ve met that may know more about Simmons than I do.  Another ESPN Zone employee now appears at the front of the line.  To which we can barely hear or understand, “There are no more books, he has been here since 8 a.m. and will be leaving shortly.  Please go home.”  I don’t think a single person moved.  Nobody believed it, or at least they didn’t want to.

When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to meet the Sports Guy I decided it was time to make a move.  Not for the car, but for the front door.  I went in the exit door, only to be halted by locked interior glass doors.  There for a second I saw Simmons stand up before he disappeared behind a pillar.  Well there it was, nearly two and a half hours and I was still about 200 people and a glass door away from meeting one of my heroes.

I don’t blame Simmons.  Not at all.  Like I said, I think ESPN grossly underestimated the attendance for its biggest star (by about 400 people). 

Will I ever get to meet Simmons, I don’t know.  I was lucky enough to meet another of my heroes this past summer.  Maybe I’m limited to a one hero per six months kind of thing.

Needless to say I bought the book the next day at Borders.  It was on sale, 30%!  But I didn’t care, I wanted to meet the Sports Guy. 

For now I have 700 pages of new Simmons material to keep me occupied.

(Don’t expect any work from me this week professors…)


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