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The Top Sports Media Feuds of 2016

Like every broadcaster, NBC football analyst Cris Collinsworth probably reads a bevy of criticism about his work on social media after each game. But a comment from Bill Simmons Monday appeared to set him off.

Simmons, an unabashed Patriots fan, tweeted Collinsworth shouldn’t have been so effusive in his praise of the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line. “Somebody needs to gently break the news to Collinsworth that the Pats have a weak front 7 and that’s why Seattle’s o-line looks good,” he said.

Collinsworth, who spends at least six hours before each game breaking down, didn’t take too kindly to Simmons’ advice. He responded with one of the great Twitter burns of our time, poking fun at Simmons’ HBO show, Any Given Wednesday, which was cancelled after just five months:

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Though Collinsworth deleted the tweet, thanks to the magic of screenshots, his diss will live on forever. Even if there’s never another chapter in this feud, it will go down as one of the great examples of media-on-media crime. Here are three more media fights that have grabbed our attention this year:

1) Curt Schilling vs. ESPN: Ever since ESPN canned Schilling earlier this year for posting a crass anti-transgender meme on Facebook, the three-time World Series winner has positioned himself as a martyr for the extreme right. In a series of interviews shortly after his dismissal, he said he lost his job at the WorldWide Leader because of his political views.

“[ESPN] send out memos [stating] we want out sports people and talent to stick to sports and stay away from politics and all the other stuff. The next day Stephen A. [Smith] tells people Robert Griffin can’t play quarterback because he’s black, not because he sucks,” he said on the Dan Patrick Show. “Which was because he sucks. You’ve got [Dan] Le Batard, you’ve got Tony Kornheiser comparing the tea party to Isis. And so what I think the memo meant to say was if you’re not liberal and you’re not a democrat do not stray from sports. I get it to some extent. But I’m not doing this openly and outwardly anymore — this is something I’m commenting on. … A lot of times people would be like you know come up to and whisper, hey man, I’m with you, I’m a Republican. As if we were the secret card carrying members of some group, — those that shall not be named. But the inclusiveness is inclusive as long as you’re point in the same direction as they are. Otherwise it’s a problem.”

Though ESPN sent out a memo urging employees to refrain from political commentary, Schilling still regularly spouted his views on social media. Prior to his dismissal, he was disciplined for comparing radical Muslim extremists to Nazis and said Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere.” If ESPN wanted to fire Schilling because of his political opinions, they would’ve done so long ago. But it’s smart business for him to act like a persecuted party. After spending his summer and fall Periscoping and acting like a madman on sports talk radio, Schilling recently landed his own talk show on Breitbart. It’s a match made in heaven.

2) Troy Aikman vs. Skip Bayless: The genesis of the Aikman-Bayless feud dates back to 1996, when Bayless reported on rumors about the star quarterback’s sexuality in his book about the 1996 Dallas Cowboys, Hell-Bent: The Crazy Truth About the “Win or Else” Dallas Cowboys.

Twenty years later, Aikman still carries a deep-seated grudge. Shortly after Fox Sports brought Bayless aboard to host a carbon copy of First Take, Aikman voiced his unhappiness about the move to Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch. “To say I’m disappointed in the hiring of Skip Bayless would be an enormous understatement,” he said. “Clearly, [Fox Sports president of national networks] Jamie Horowitz and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to building a successful organization. I believe success is achieved by acquiring and developing talented, respected and credible individuals, none of which applies to Skip Bayless.”

But apparently Aikman isn’t offended enough to turn down Fox’s money. He signed a three-year extension with the network earlier this month.

3) Bill Simmons vs. ESPN : Simmons has taken several jabs at ESPN since leaving the network in 2015: ripping its Deflategate coverage, saying he thinks the NFL played a role in his ousting and poking fun at its mass talent exodus.

For the most part, the suits in Bristol, Conn. haven’t returned fire –– except for president John Skipper, who laid into Simmons this summer.

“Let me be unequivocal and clear and take responsibility for my actions: I alone made the decision, and it had nothing to do with his comments about the [NFL] commissioner,” he said, via the New York Daily News. “I severed our relationship with Bill because of his repeated lack of respect for this company and, more importantly, the people who work here.”

Damn. No wonder why Simmons has shifted his sights to Collinsworth. Sounds like Skipper got the last word.

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