The Year in Fighting

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Bill Simmons arrives at the world premiere of "Million Dollar Arm" at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles in May 2014. After 14 years together, sports commentator and hipster hero Simmons and his employer, ESPN, had an ugly breakup. Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

If 2015 seemed like a banner year for beefs, it was because Twitter became a digital boxing ring. Think-pieces were written, fans and friends took sides, and then, as always, any bad blood receded into the ether and the sun rose once again. Let’s look back in anger at the best fights of the year, one last time.

Guy Fieri vs. Anthony Bourdain

Guy Fieri, the Dark Lord of Flavortown, and Anthony “Vegans Are the Enemy of Everything Good” Bourdain have been embroiled in a slap-fight for years. Bourdain started it, when he called Fieri’s Times Square restaurant a “terror-dome” in 2012. That same year, he said in a Houston appearance that Fieri looked like the resulting child “if Ed Hardy fucked a Juggalo.” But in a November GQ profile, the food fight reached an impasse when Fieri told the magazine that Bourdain’s “definitely gotta have issues” because he’d never bullied Fieri face-to-face. Bourdain then insisted he was just cheesin’ about ripping into Fieri and moved on to talking shit about other chefs, including Adam Richman and Alton Brown, to Atlanta Magazine. For his victory lap, Fieri signed some Lean Cuisines and tossed them out triumphantly to fans. Bon appétit.

Winner: Anthony Bourdain, for the quality of his insults.

Nicki Minaj vs. Miley Cyrus

It was the passive-aggressive “What’s good?” heard ’round the world. At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards in August, the Pinkprint-cess herself, Nicki Minaj, went up to accept the award for best hip-hop video for her song “Anaconda” and used part of her acceptance speech to slam Cyrus, the show’s host. “Now back to the bitch who had a lot to say about me earlier in the week,” Minaj said. The reason? Minaj had taken to Twitter to critique MTV’s snub of “Anaconda” for video of the year, citing its preference for “women with very slim bodies.” The next month, Cyrus told The New York Times that Minaj’s comments were sour because “you made it about you,” and that the rapper was “not too kind” and “not too polite.” After the onstage kerfuffle, Minaj explained, quite eloquently, to The New York Times Magazine the issues at the root of her comments, suggesting she thought Cyrus was a hypocrite and had “pretty big balls.… You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important?” Minaj told the publication.

Winner: Nicki Minaj. “Miley, what’s good?” is not only a meme, but there’s even merch emblazoned with the phrase. How’s that for a burn?

Drake vs. Meek Mill

Like so many beefs in the hip-hop world, this feud started with a question of authenticity. On July 21, a frustrated Meek Mill tweeted: “Stop comparing drake to me too.… He don’t write his own raps!” Meek questioned whether Drake had written the guest verse on “R.I.C.O.” he contributed to Meek’s album Dreams Worth More Than Money, then went on to claim that the reason Drizzy didn’t actively promote the record was because Meek had discovered his dark ghostwriting secret. Drake responded five days later, when he released a dis track about Meek titled “Charged Up.” Meek, again taking to Twitter, called the track “baby lotion soft.” So Drake released another, more brutal dis track, “Back to Back,” in which he addressed the incident head-on: “Very important and very pretentious / When I look back I might be mad that I gave this attention.” Regardless of any alleged softness, the song was a massive hit and even got a Grammy nomination.

Winner: Drake, who not only wrote a dis track but also got a damn Grammy nomination for it. Meek ended up looking just that.

Women vs. Hollywood

This fight has raged since the birth of film, but this year, some of Tinseltown’s leading women—Jennifer Lawrence and Patricia Arquette among them—began speaking openly about the gender pay gap and the lack of representation in Hollywood. The numbers prove it: A report from Variety found that women constituted only 18 percent of editors, 11 percent of writers and 7 percent of directors in the biggest movies of the past 17 years. The divide has even prompted an American Civil Liberties Union investigation, which will probe “the systemic failure to hire women directors at all levels of the film and television industry.”

Winner: So far, everybody loses.

Richard Dawkins vs. Ahmed Mohamed (a.k.a., the Clock Kid)

In September, 14-year-old inventor Ahmed Mohamed was arrested and detained at his high school in Irving, Texas, when he proudly brought a contraption he’d made—an alarm clock—that teachers believed was a homemade bomb. Mohamed’s accusers quickly garnered shame from the Internet, especially as he was touted for his innovation by the likes of Silicon Valley tech ventures, and even snagged an invite to the White House from Obama. But the disgruntled evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ruffled feathers once again when he questioned Mohamed’s “motive” in a tweet, linking to a YouTube video in which user Thomas Talbot claims that the clock was a commercial alarm clock. Eventually, Dawkins withdrew his accusations and apologized, saying: “Sorry if I go a bit over the top in my passion for truth.”

Winner: Ahmed, who clocked Dawkins where it hurts—right in the Twitter mentions.

Amazon vs. The New York Times

The New York Times published a scathing exposé of Amazon’s harrowing workplace culture in August that sparked a war between the paper and the retailer. In a post on the site Medium, Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs (and former White House press secretary), questioned the Times’s approach to the story, writing that reporters chose “not to follow standard practices” by interviewing only former employees and focusing on the sensationalistic aspects of the story. The Times ’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, quickly responded in another Medium post, arguing that the story, based on dozens of interviews, was an “accurate portrait” of Amazon’s workplace culture. Amazon’s initial Medium post in response to the Times’s exposé reads like a bit of PR trickery that tries to shift the narrative to the track records of the employees interviewed in the piece, without refuting the most resonant line in the Times story: “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

Winner: The New York Times. Tears trump smears.

Bill Simmons vs. ESPN

After 14 years together, sports commentator and hipster hero Bill Simmons had an ugly breakup with his employer, ESPN. In May, Simmons fans learned in a statement from ESPN President John Skipper that Simmons’s contract would not be renewed. The network was mum on why it had cast away the prolific podcaster, saying only that “it was time to move on,” but Simmons, speaking to WFAN’s Mike Francesa in October, says the likely reason was that he had called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar on his podcast (an offense that earned him a three-week suspension) and declared he didn’t think Goodell “was being honest about the Ray Rice thing.” Simmons was also critical of ESPN’s handling of its now-defunct pop culture site, Grantland, which he founded, saying that not only was it understaffed, but that ESPN couldn’t give it more support than a “tiny little hyperlink at the bottom of the ESPN mobile site.” When Grantland staffers began leaving ESPN to join Simmons at an as-yet-unnamed venture, ESPN seemingly retaliated by shuttering the site. On a recent SportsCenter segment, when frequent ESPN talking head Sal Iacono tried to plug his podcast with Simmons, the network cheekily put up a screen reading, “We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.” When ESPN “came back” on air, host Neil Everett cracked, “Never heard of him!”

Winner: Simmons. Grantland may be kaput, but fans and former staffers still swear allegiance to the guy who put Roger Goodell on blast.

Quentin Tarantino vs. NYPD

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino sparked outrage during a speech at the RiseUpOctober protest in New York in late October. Tarantino said that if the issue of police brutality would be “dealt with, these murdering cops would be in jail or at least be facing charges.” Given that NYPD officer Randolph Holder had been killed while pursuing a suspect that same week, the comments were not well-received by law enforcement. The NYPD union urged civilians and fellow officers to boycott all Tarantino films, particularly his upcoming The Hateful Eight. Since then, the Philadelphia and Los Angeles police departments have joined the boycott.

Winner: Draw. Until the numbers for Tarantino’s latest come in and reflect (or don’t) the boycott, it’s hard to call a winner.

Melville House vs. Penguin Random House

This beef between the two rival publishing houses easily takes the cake for being the most delightfully witty and nonthreatening shade-throwing of the year. It unfolded like this: On a Friday in October, Brooklyn’s Melville House posted a photo on Twitter parodying a Donald Trump hat that read: “Make publishing great again.” Penguin Random House promptly fired back by saying, “Don’t you have work to do?” Melville House reiterated: “Uh, check the hat.” Then, things got silly. Penguin got low, saying: “Right, but can’t you do that by, like, making books?” Melville House offered: “Omg are you out of books? Do you need some books?” Penguin declined, to which Melville snapped a picture of the “emergency books” it was sending the publisher. Accusations of being thirsty or hating books and offers to donate to Patreon, a crowdfunding site for supporting artists, were also hurled.

Winner: Draw. Both sides drew ire and spat fire.

Leah Remini vs. Tom Cruise

Leah Remini’s recent memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, bashed the tenuous religion, which she left in 2013. In it, she takes aim at Scientology’s most high-profile member, Tom Cruise, for whom, she writes, the church may have bent a few rules. But the beef goes way back, since Remini was punished by the church for filing a “Knowledge Report” about Cruise and then-girlfriend Katie Holmes, in which she told them to “get a frickin’ room” after she saw Cruise “forcibly kissing” Holmes at his home.

Winner: Remini. Cruise has remained silent, while Remini’s book became a best-seller and inspired a Billy on the Street episode in which she plays a game called Leah Remini’s Escape from Scientology.

Idris Elba vs. Anthony Horowitz

Earlier this year, a rumor circulated that claimed the dapper Idris Elba would be the next in line to take over the James Bond movie franchise. The hearsay was met with considerable applause, but one dissenter was Anthony Horowitz, author of the latter-day Bond books. In early September, Horowitz told the U.K.’s Daily Mail that Elba wasn’t right for the part, not because of “a color issue” but because he was “probably a bit too street for Bond.” His comments sparked serious anger from many dedicated Elba fans, and Horowitz eventually apologized upon realizing that his comments were actually pretty racist.

Winner: Idris Elba, who posted a screengrab of the Daily Mail piece on Instagram with the caption: “Always keep smiling!! It takes no energy and never hurts! Learned that from the Street!!” Ouch.