Balls. Either you have 'em or you don't.
My Mom had a huge set of balls. She taught me more about the importance of having balls and knowing when and how to use them than my Dad ever did. Five years ago, one of my best friends lost one to cancer yet still has the biggest set I've ever butt heads with. My wife told me recently that I have the biggest balls she's ever seen. I won't be shy, this delighted me.
I'm going to lay some cash that Jeff Simpson's balls were at least three times the size of mine, and not just because he towered over my 6'4" by at least a foot and a half. From the moment I first became aware of Jeff Simpson - reading his newspaper articles covering gaming and business - I was entranced by his balls. Big ones. Veiny Italian marble. Finely polished. Then - and even more so now - Jeff's brand of telling the truth didn't exist in Las Vegas journalism.
Over the ensuing years - as our relationship evolved from "fanboy admiring the Jedi master" to our collaboratively arming a trebuchet of gaming biz invective with the Vegas Gang - I learned from Jeff that punditry requires one to stop kissing ass and start kicking it. Unless, of course, your goal in life is to use ass kissing to vault yourself into a lifestyle of being rich and famous, a crime punishable by public tongue lashing according to Simpsons Law.
When the Wynn Resorts legal team threatened VT with lawsuit back in 2009, we could've easily folded up like a lawn chair, given them what they wanted and made the whole thing go away. Instead, we chose to stand up for our right to free speech and laid out our case to the court of public opinion. And just like Jeff did in his court room battles with Las Vegas Sands Corporation honcho Sheldon Adelson, we won. Owners of bully pulpits can't help but use the power of money or legal might to silence their critics. It is the duty of critics and their supporters to fight back by every means possible and to never, ever, ever give up, give in or surrender. In the heat of battle, the tendency to run from the truth towards safety is ever present. A true warrior knows that sacrificing truth for safety kills more than a warriors body, it kills their cause, their spirit and the spirit of those who follow the warrior's cause.
Perhaps one of the most important things I've learned from Jeff is that testicular fortitude isn't courage, but responsibility. Jeff certainly had balls enough to withstand telephone tirades from casino executives, but he was also sensitive enough to know when a private call to discuss matters "off the record" was a more effective strategy. Unlike many who achieve success in the world of punditry, Jeff had no interest in being a bully or getting into fights just to prove he was right. It was always Jeff's goal to get the story right, as accurately as possible, often to the chagrin of public relations departments all over the city.
Like nearly every industry watcher, I scratched my head bafflingly when Jeff was laid off by the Las Vegas Sun in 2009. Every ending signals a new beginning, and becoming a regular contributor to Two Way Hard Three was Jeff's, one that undoubtably would've evolved into a "Simpson on Vegas" research consultancy should he have had the time. The freedom from traditional media seemed to suit Jeff. Not having to cover "the beat" meant that Jeff could editorialize on whatever subjects moved him. He relished having discussions about the gaming biz and took great care in responding to questions or comments attached to his Two Way Hard Three blog posts. Although late to the game, Jeff took to Twitter like an instant professional, even though its character constraints didn't suit his natural tendency to go long. Still, he managed to make his points. And what delicious points they were.
Over the last two years, Jeff Simpson - unbeknownst to him - became my big brother. To me, Jeff was a gentle giant of incomputable magnitude, a wealth spring of knowledge and insight about casinos, history, sports and life. I aspire to live a life as fearless, thoughtful and full of love as his was.
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