On October 30th, 2015, ESPN made a mistake. They shut down Grantland, which was a writing institution featuring some of the best writers that I have ever read. This mistake may have been a long time in the works, but it was a mistake nonetheless. In an age where the internet is filled with hot takes, click baits, and lazy, poorly worded articles, Grantland was a diamond in the rough. You could always count on the writers to have something meaningful to say, even if it was a satirical article. They were known for sports articles, but what first turned me to the site was Andy Greenwald and Jason Concepcion, working with Mallory Rubin and Chris Ryan, to recap the international hit TV show Game of Thrones. They called their podcast, Watch the Thrones, and that’s what they did. Jason and Mallory brought in more experience, as they had previously read the books, but they all loved the show and gave their opinions on that week’s particular episode.
Unfortunately, that won’t be available to us anymore.
There was an outcry on social media after the announcement was made, and most people were deeply saddened by the news. I asked Honi Ahmadian (my friend and colleague from Lakers Outsiders) what he thought about Grantland, and how ESPN handled the situation. The response was emotional and beautiful:
About a year ago, a close friend and I decided to try our hand at writing about sports, something that we talked about almost daily. The thought of doing something like this had been in my mind for a long time mainly due to Grantland. I discovered Grantland a couple years ago and was mainly intrigued by Zach Lowe’s in depth columns during the NBA playoffs. In the one month where I started reading his work, I learned more about basketball than I had in the five or so years I had watched it. That led to me becoming a frequent visitor of Grantland, reading everything from NFL columns from Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays to quick analysis from the Shootaround Crew including Andrew Sharp and Jason Concepcion and of course to the long forms from the founder of it all, Bill Simmons. In short, Grantland was not only a highly entertaining and knowledgable source of everything sports related, but a symbol of everything I loved about sports and an inspiration to try to do the same thing as all of the talented writers employed by the site. I am truly truly saddened by how ESPN handled Grantland, from letting Simmons go to finally disbanding the site as a whole. The Sports World is not the same without Grantland. However, rather than continue to be sad about the situation, I have now become excited about seeing where these writers end up in the future. I am very excited to see their writing blossom in a more free environment and I will be following their work as they start to recreate some of the magic of Grantland.
Much of what Honi said applies to myself as well. I remember reading Grantland articles and feeling inspired to write about various subjects, like sports and pop culture. I went to Colten and that’s how we started this blog. It also inspired me to write for Lakers Outsiders, and I try to take a Grantlandian approach to each article that I write over there, because I know that it will give the best quality of content for my readers. I’m still learning, but I think that it’s helped my style.
I asked one of my mentors, Harrison Faigen, what his favorite memory of Grantland is, and what kept him a constant reader on the site:
Probably the day they hired Zach Lowe. When I started obsessively following the NBA in 2012, voraciously consuming all the coverage I could find, Lowe was can’t miss for me. I read all of his stuff at the old “Point Forward” SI blog, and it massively influenced my views of basketball and writing style. I was a Simmons fan (what blogger isn’t) but the hiring of Lowe was what solidified Grantland in my mind as must read, and made me want to check out what else was going on over there.
No one combines reporting and insight with the caliber that Lowe does, the quality, humor, and insight of his writing is unmatched anywhere else on the web. But bringing me to Grantland led me to Bill Barnwell, who has taught me more about football than the previous 20 or so years of my life combined. Netw3rk (Jason Concepcion) might be the funniest person on Twitter, and his articles left me sitting alone in my apartment laughing at my computer more times than I should probably admit.
Harrison summed up another key point about Grantland: they were always the most knowledgeable people on the particular subject they were writing about. One of my biggest inspirations to getting into journalism was Jason Concepcion. Not only did he have some of the best articles on the internet, but he also has the best tweets. Seriously, if you aren’t following this guy already, follow him. His commentary on Watch the Thrones kept me coming back each week, and he actually tweeted at me once about GoT, so I was pretty proud of that feat.
ESPN did say in a release that all of the contracts for sports writers would be honored, but that left the pop culture writers out of a job. However disappointed I may be about the loss of Grantland, I know that every writer and editor on that staff has the talent and references to find another job elsewhere. Yes, it will be sad not to see them all in one place (unless they all go join Bill Simmons), but it will be nice to see their articles pop up on my timeline. I know I will read everything that they post, because it’s still some of the best content on the internet.
Before I close out the article, I want to give thanks to some other sites that are fighting the war on click bait articles. I don’t know where I would read basketball news without Hardwood Paroxyism. Everyone on that staff knows what they’re talking about, and Matt is another person that you need to follow. Silver Screen & Roll is a must read for Lakers fans, and they keep you posted during games on their Twitter account. Another site to keep your eye on is Lakers Outsiders. Everyone that I write with there always has something intellectual to say about the team, and we get into a lot of fights on Twitter about food. There are plenty more that I am forgetting about right now, but every time I read a good article, I’ll be sure to post it on my Twitter page.
Harrison had the perfect quote to sum up this article, and I would be damned if I don’t close out with it. Hope you enjoyed!
Journalism lost on Friday. No other way to put it. But hopefully the generation of bloggers and writers like myself that Grantland had such a heavy influence on can live up to it’s legacy and improve the sports discourse as we continue to move forward.