June 8th, 2011

Grantland launched, and as a prominent member of the “writing about sports is a deep and meaningful activity fuck you Boomer” community, I feel obliged to comment. Some disclosure: Early on, when Grantland looked like it might be a writer’s utopia, I made my interest known. Nothing ever came of it, and I’m fine with that, especially given the recent revelations about the limitations, and expectations, inherent in this project.

Nevertheless, I was expecting to find a much different Internet when I emerged from my therapist’s office at 10AM, Pacific Time. There were a few jokes in my timeline, many of which I could have predicted in advance. Other than that, though, it didn’t seem like, to paraphrase one friend, there had been any need to gird my loins in advance (I already have every STD in the book, anyway). For a launch that got its own Doomsday clock, Grantland’s sure was weak. Maybe I don’t know how to make a splash on the web; understand how slowly people read; or get the true value, and elegance, of negative space. Mostly, I wanted more than two features, a preview of a blog that appears to not yet exist, and the introduction to the Grantland oral history, on the way from Miller and Shales in 2057.

You’ve probably already formulated your own opinions about the design, the advertising, and maybe the content itself. My main gripes, other than being robbed of a Major Cultural Event, are more esoteric.

I don’t get opening with Simmons, Klosterman, and Chris Jones. Actually, I do; it’s the site’s two biggest names, and probably the most high-profile contributor. To the extent that Grantland did make a bang, or a dent, today, it was with that star power. However, Simmons was adamant about hiring “unknowns” who would be turned loose to “do their thing” and rise to prominence under his watchful gaze. The preview pieces from Katie Baker and Molly Lambert fit that bill; that was the site’s opening salvo. And then today, just the good ol’ boys. I wonder if the ambivalent response to those first two offerings inspired a change of course … or if some suit at ESPN was sick of being told that indie cred is a brand-building virtue.

I also sort of resent the perpetual cat-and-mouse game today seems to set us up for. After the previews, many suggested that we suspend judgment until the actual launch. Today scarcely represents any kind of cornerstone, or solid foundation for critique. I get that Grantland is an enormous project that, even if it weren’t were ESPN’s meddling, would take months to really hit its stride.

But as a reader, I’m wary of being coerced into a holding pattern, or being told that I’m a feral prick if I seek to draw any conclusions before the appointed date (Launch 2?). Grantland isn’t process, or becoming; it’s a major market initiative by a company flush with cash, and whether as art or commerce, should be able to at least make its intentions clear (no, telling isn’t the same as showing). I respect its right to grow and find itself organically. At the same time, at some point its identity has to become fair game. That’s not just about would-be critics, either. It’s about keeping the loyalists awake and charged, too.

  1. everythinglouder reblogged this from bethlehemshoals
  2. compulsivelyoblivious reblogged this from brianlovesthis and added:
    The thing I worry about with Grantland is that it will become all of the bad things about Bill Simmons (though there are...
  3. cleanworld reblogged this from bethlehemshoals
  4. aliikkutat reblogged this from bethlehemshoals
  5. brianbassett reblogged this from bethlehemshoals and added:
    Coming soon! My thoughts on Grantland! Seriously, I appreciate that someone’s mounting a Tet Offensive on Deadspin and...
  6. pineappleavenue reblogged this from bethlehemshoals
  7. brianlovesthis reblogged this from bethlehemshoals and added:
    Bethlehem Shoals says it right.
  8. mrdestructo reblogged this from bethlehemshoals
  9. bethlehemshoals posted this