Bill Simmons’ Grantland debuted yesterday and since I’m a person who writes about sports and pop culture and related topics on the internet, I’m obligated to share my opinion with those that usually sample my opinions on sports and pop culture and related topics. Here goes:
I like Grantland. After reading most of what Simmons, Chuck Klosterman and company offered in the first 24 hours, it’s what I thought it would be. Longer form pieces on sports with a pop culture twist and the occasional swear word.
I’m still not sold that Grantland is altogether necessary. All this stuff seems like it would fit on ESPN.com. Of course, on the one hand, it still is ESPN.com. Simmons didn’t go anywhere. It seems like Grantland exists as it’s own “separate” entity only to make it seem like an exciting new thing. Which makes sense. ESPN has to keep evolving. Page 2 seems stale. Page 3 died before anyone could notice. It was time for a new “non-ESPN ESPN.com page.” Simmons wanted more freedom and control, ESPN needed something edgy. Everybody wins. Including the readers.
Simmons’ site introduction served its purpose. He can finally say “fuck” on ESPN.com without it really being on ESPN.com even though it really is ESPN.com. It’s not like Simmons is paying for his own server or the Grantland hits aren’t rolling up to ESPN’s comScore numbers. He’s still saying “fuck” on ESPN.com.
Simmons’ second piece was on LeBron’s disappearing act and it was freaking fantastic. Simmons loves the NBA almost as much as he loves talking about how much he loves gambling. So his best stuff is usually NBA-related. Only we would have seen the same article on ESPN.com for the most part. Would it have been less effective if Simmons couldn’t get away with talking openly about the rumor of a teammate banging LeBron’s mom? No, but again – edgy, new, exciting.
Chuck Klosterman’s first two post/column/articles showed exactly what you’ll be getting from him at Grantland. The first was a ridiculous claim that a junior college basketball game was the greatest sporting event he ever witnessed. There’s not a hipster alive who could top that. How do you respond to that? I much preferred his second piece on DVR’d sporting events. I’ve always loved Klosterman when he takes the things you don’t think about thinking about and expands the shit out of them.
The supporting cast has been hit or miss. Jay Caspian King and Bill Barnwell shared a byline about Dirk, yet wrote separate pieces. Both were good so I won’t question the reasoning behind the single headline.
Andy Greenwald’s article on HBO using the same actors on multiple shows produced a neat, if indecipherable graphic. Other than that, what was the point? Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters were both in The Wire and Treme. Yes… and?
David Jacoby’s reality television fantasy draft is something I’ve listen to on the Simmons podcast a few times. Looking at it on my computer, much less interesting. Once its written down its just other people’s fantasy teams. Nobody cares about your fantasy team. Even if Jenn with two N’s is involved.
The archives are still a work in progress, but I like the layout. It’s probably just my unrefined eye for web design, but I can find everything I’m looking for. (Minus the archives which currently disappear after they fall off the first page.) And once you open a post or article – navigation at the top, black-on-white-background text and red annotations on the side. I really like how they integrated the annotations.
Just like everything, there are things to like and dislike about Grantland. From a content standpoint, I like almost everyone involved with Grantland. (One of my friends from college even did art design on Grantland back when it was just an untitled project.) I have liked most of what I read at Grantland and I’ll probably end up reading and enjoying most of the stuff at Grantland.
Having said that… I’m also going to make a lot of jokes about Grantland. It’s so damn easy, and fun, and that’s what I do. Sometimes, I even get paid for it. As soon as I saw Klosterman’s first topic, I tweeted a joke about the greatest sporting event I ever witnessed. Don’t bother clicking – you’ve probably never heard of it. So while I’m not entirely necessary, it will feature things I will read and sometimes even enjoy. Not that I’ll ever admit it again.