Somewhere Between Winning and Losing

Sponsored Content

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Bethlehem Shoals

Bethlehem Shoals is the NBA Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. He was a founding member of and is currently raising funds for his new project, The Classical.


  1. I like your general point. I question why you decided to mention the Simmon’s quote, though. It’s not like his post argued that fans should judge teams and athletes on a simple win/loss binary. Did you just assume that he would argue that based upon the one sentence you quoted that (kind of, sorta) says the Suns weren’t “successful”?

    I tend to agree that championships are overvalued and those who never won one are treated too harshly. Couldn’t you make that point without the Simmons’ quote? Maybe I’m missing (or misunderstanding) something, but I found the references to him forced and distracting.

    It’s also confusing, since the teams, movies, and television shows he references are all really well regarded, despite them not winning. If Simmons comapred the Suns to shitty things, then I could understand how you would have a bone to pick with him. But he clearly isn’t saying that.

  2. His notion of “critically acclaimed” suggests that these teams are relevant only to snobs, not sports history in general. That does set up a binary between those that almost make it, but fail, and those who do.

  3. So he’s saying that only snobs like Pulp Fiction, Arrested Development, and The Wire? Or is that what you are suggesting? Either way, I disagree. Maybe we have different conceptions of what a snob is.

    • “We would always remember them fondly and feel like they were more successful than they actually were.”

      I really could care less about how successful these teams were. And my view of them doesn’t depend on distorting what they did or didn’t accomplish. They mattered. That’s all.

      And Arrested Development and The Wire, relatively speaking are for snobs.

  4. If you really could care less about how successful these teams were, then you’re not really a fan of those teams.

    I loved this year’s Patriots team. They were a throwback to 2001 with a nice mix of rookies, budding superstars and wily veterans. They went 14-2, a successful regular season by any measure. But then they threw up all over the field in the playoffs against the Jets. And because of that, the regular season means nothing. Just like the 2007 undefeated regular season means nothing because they didn’t come home with the Lombardi trophy.

    My view on those teams are absolutely changed because of their lack of accomplishments. As they should be.

  5. Pugnacious Reilly says:

    How is success correlated to fandom, or importance? Just because you sez so?

    Listen, Daddy – you’ve got your own, not terribly original, interpretation of what’s significant in sports, and part of what Shoals offers is an alternative. Some of us are thankful for that.

  6. Shoals, been a big fan.. you were fresh in perspective and proses but the act has gone tired. Sports is the toy section of life and, lately, you’ve been akin to giving a Shakesperean review to Pootie Tang. Reaching is not very becoming of you.

    • Then you’ll be happy to know that this is a revised version of something I wrote (and never used) several years ago.

    • Rich,

      Pootie Tang is f’cking sensational. The subjectivity of fandom is beyond you. It what makes you a loudmouth, and Shoals a critical voice worth reading.

  7. I just think you misinterpreted the Simmon’s quote, and I’d say you’re just taking a due-swipe at him, but I’m not sure if this is post “History for Children,” or whatever you called his amateurish revisions in later editions of the BoB. Anyways, I feel like you kinda misread his quote, and went on to eloquently articulate an argument which basically said the same thing as the quote, only much longer. Tryin’ to beat Simmons at his own game, eh? But then again, this is all the fault of his maddening writing sometimes that tries to take a simple idea, like the one you spelled out, but speak it in the only language Simmon’s knows (or cares to use): Sports/Pop Culture.

    • A quote from later in his piece:

      “When you’re critically acclaimed in sports, that means you failed in the end … and those Suns teams did fail. As much as we hate to admit it.”

  8. why does “critical acclaim” imply those teams accomplishments can only be appreciated by snobs? i think simmons’ point is that their play was worth taking note of for the sort of reasons you suggest, i.e. that they were “thrilling, creative, inventive and loved by all.” his point is just that they fell short of achieving their full potential, which seems to be true. after all, the s.s.o.l. suns were skilled enough to win a championship, and they certainly aimed to, but they didnt. when simmons says the suns failed, he means they failed at a particular goal, one which is generally considered to be a pretty important one by competitive athletics.

    i’m not sure why being a sports critic is exclusive with thinking that championships matter/are a important gauge of the merit of a particular team. if your argument is just that things other than championships should matter in how we think about teams, then im not sure that that is a criticism of simmons, as he starts the article by making just that point. he even goes as far as to say that we might sometimes justifiably think better of non-championship teams then champion winners (his discussion of the spurs v. suns), if better is to be thought of in aesthetic, or “critical” terms. the question is why those aesthetic considerations should cause us to ignore, or assign secondary importance, to winning? why can’t we both be fans of what the suns did, and acknowledge what they didnt do?

    when you talk about the win-focused view as being unnecessarily teleological/de-emphasizing the agency of sports fans, im not sure why that has to be the case. cant we think both winning and critical acclaim are both important aspects of the way we value teams. i think you could still agree with the marcus type point while still thinking of competitive success as an important criteria for evaluating sports teams. it also seems like the analogy to culture or art more generally misses out on the competitive element of sports which is part why we care about them. i guess im not if your point is supposed to be that we shouldnt care about competition, in which case im not sure why what you’ve said justifies that strong a conclusion, or if its just that things other than competition are important too, in which case i’m not sure you’ve really criticized simmons.


  1. [...] flops aside, I’m glad you brought up the idea of liberated fandom—from our friend Bethlehem Shoals. Any “true” sports fan scoffs at the idea, but I don’t think there’s [...]

  2. [...] the work into useful, redeeming parts and pointless, hateful ones. At the Poetry Foundation, GMP contributor (though usually regarding basketball; but if you’re familiar with his work, you’re well aware [...]

  3. [...] Discussion of Male Sexuality, Black Male Eligible and Hopelessly Single, Never to Be Sold Again,  Somewhere Between Winning and Losing, How Sports Made Me Realize I’m Not White, In Defense of the Dong [...]

  4. [...] my descriptions above) watching these players on video, that I got watching them play as a boy.  Shoals seems to understand this.   I think, though I may be wrong, that it’s why Shoals ends his stirring chapter on Wilt as [...]

Speak Your Mind