Dwight Howard Makes Bill Simmons More Simmonsy

It’s soothing to find opinions outside your head in harmony with those inside it. This is an awkward way to say it’s nice when people agree with you. What am I talking about? When it comes to Bill Simmons, Deadspin has a way…

In a nut: Past performance is no indication of future returns. Or even current returns, for that matter. (By the way, in the context Simmons offers it, this is a highly arguable point. You say Jim Carrey isn’t a movie star because his recent films have fizzled, and yet you don’t notice? I’d say the very definition of stardom means you can make some duds and still remain hugely famous and employable.)

In applying that framework to 2013 Dwight Howard, Simmons summarized his old analysis this way:

There’s more than a little Jim Carrey Syndrome going on here. Jim Carrey is an A-list movie star, right? Well, here are the six movies Carrey has headlined since 2005.

Fun With Dick & Jane

The Number 23

Yes Man

I Love You Phillip Morris

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Yikes. At some point, you are who you are. Jim Carrey isn’t an A-list movie star anymore. And Dwight Howard isn’t a mega-max player anymore.

Reader Dave (h/t!) noticed the rehash and declared it a case of recycling “almost word-for-word a conceit he first advanced in his execrable Ryan Reynolds column.” After comparing the columns, I don’t think it’s a case of recycling so much as the return to a Simmons trope: discerning a pop culture synchronicity and pinning a catchy title on it. Plenty of culture writers display the same tic, by which they apply a handle to a concept so simple it doesn’t really need its own name. For instance, we might just as easily have said Dwight Howard has jumped the shark and yet remains in high demand. But then Simmons might miss a chance to invent the next Sickboy Syndrome.

Apr 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Simmons’ habit is to name these observed phenomena after a famous exemplar. In the future, to describe this habit, we might refer to it as Bill Simmons Syndrome, defined loosely as the tendency to brand ideas by tagging them with a term such as “syndrome.” Spot David Brooks his Patio Men and Bobos, and Malcolm Gladwell his Blinks and Outliers, Simmons is our alpha carrier of Bill Simmons Syndrome. Some of his diagnoses:

Hugh Grant Syndrome. Characterized by reaching your peak in a given pursuit (e.g., romance) and finding nothingness (e.g., a fling with a woman far less attractive than your wife) beyond it. “Hugh Grant Syndrome can never derail a real sports fan,” Simmons writes. “We’ll always find ways to care as much as we always did …”

Year-After Syndrome. The emotional hangover from winning a title and then returning to regular fandom, sort of Hugh Grant Syndrome Lite.

The Ewing Theory. An honorary syndrome Simmons popularized and co-developed; he credits its origin to his friend Dave Cirilli. It notices when underachieving star athletes leave teams, which then greatly overachieve. So-named because the Knicks often won more often without their ostensible best player, Patrick Ewing, than when he played.

New Owner Syndrome. When a newly minted NBA owner slings around gobs of cash to signal that he’s willing to spend enough to win. Often, though, they just overspend to lose. “[W]hen you give competitive billionaires an NBA team, they’re rarely (if ever) patient,” Simmons writes. “They want to win right away, and they’re always going to plow ahead with a couple of risky/splashy moves because they don’t know any better yet.”

Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Simmons didn’t coin this one, but perhaps tellingly it arrived ina recent mailbag column of his.

Detlef Syndrome. Observed when foreign-born players pick up English largely from their American-born black teammates and thus take on “a hip-hop twang.” Simmons writes of Detlef Schrempf: “By the halfway point of his career he sounded like the German guys in Beerfestcrossed with the Wu-Tang Clan.”

Frontrunner Syndrome. Teams enjoying popularity now because they’ve been good for a long time. Simmons uses it to explain why Pittsburgh and Green Bay are so beloved among NFL fans: “You think it’s an accident that the most successful team of the 60′s and the most successful team of the 70′s have 2 of the biggest fan bases?”

Karpal-Tunnel Syndrome. Says he almost developed it on a book tour.

General Motors Syndrome. Not one he coined, but one he has cited. It describes continuing to conform to old practices even in the face of mounting failures. Simmons applied itto the NBA’s “failure to acknowledge any officiating woes until the Donaghy scandal (and even then the league just shuffled a few Titanic deck chairs and called it a day) …”

Last Great White American Player Syndrome. Yeah, well, pretty self-explanatory. Simmons applied it to such non-African Americans as John Stockton and Tom Chambers.

Topics: Bill Simmons, Dwight Howard, Grantland, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA

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