Bill Simmons hosted Aziz Ansari on his podcast on May 11 ahead of Ansari’s second season of the masterful Master of None (more on that season soon). The entire 90 minutes is worth listening to and ranges from eating pasta in Italy, hosting Saturday Night Live, Kanye and Jay-Z, Dave Chappelle, and so much more. Around the 50 minute mark, Simmons brings up Harris Wittels – a former Grantland writer, who was also friends and coworkers with Ansari on Parks and Recreation as well as during the genesis of Master of None.
Wittels, famous for inventing the term humblebrag, passed away from a heroin overdose on July 28, 2015. The comedy world and his friends were shocked. You can hear how somber Ansari becomes while Simmons tells a story about the late comic. Ansari even jokes about how it’s weird when people get sad on a podcast and you can just hear the static.
Simmons tells Ansari how Wittels bequeath Grantland his wrestling figure collection as well as giving Simmons – a lifelong diehard Boston Red Sox fan – his personal baseball card collection.
The unfortunate news is that, while Simmons still has Wittels’ baseball cards, he has no clue what happened to the wrestling figures.
Here’s what Simmons had to say on the podcast episode with Ansari:
I think like two weeks [after he died] his brother-in-law emailed us and said that Harris had bequeathed all of his wrestling figures to Grantland. He gave us all of his wrestling figures. He also said… Harris wanted Bill to – you know do you want the baseball cards? And I’m like, yeah. So I have Harris’ baseball cards. The wrestling figures which we had at Grantland, I’m not sure because I got bounced.
Ever since Simmons was fired from ESPN in May 2015 after going on Dan Patrick’s radio show and lambasting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Simmons has never been a fan of Goodell and in 2014 was suspended by the Worldwide Leader in Sports for going off on the league’s mishandling of Ray Rice’s domestic abuse scandal.
You can read all about Simmons, the NFL commissioner who lacks testicular fortitude, and his ESPN ousting in depth at the Hollywood Reporter.
The point is, knowing the lack of respect ESPN has for its writers and on-air talent, those wrestling figures probably have been lost forever because of the media company’s desire to distance itself from Simmons and Grantland.
I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit.
It would be safe to venture a guess that 90% of ESPN higher ups have no clue who Wittels was or that he was ever paid by the company. They do not know about his addiction and struggles with drugs or what those wrestling figures meant to him, his friends, his colleagues at Grantland, or Simmons himself.
Hopefully, they’re boxed up in an inconspicuous storage facility labeled “Grantland: do not touch” until they eventually do a 30 for 30 (a Simmons idea) about their own foray into a pop culture/sports website.
It’s sad to think that a squabble between a [failing] media giant and an outspoken writer has led to the disappearance of something so meaningful to an under recognized comic writer.
Please find Harris Wittels’ wrestling figures and return them to his family, his friends, his colleagues, and his fans. And ESPN, please don’t try to monetize this. Just do it quietly.