A Few Of My Favorite Things 2011: #12 Grantland

This is part of my 2011 wrap-up series, A Few of My Favorite Things, in which I discuss what I enjoyed this year, regardless of when it was released.

12. Grantland

Sports and pop culture web site (debuted 06/2011)

When you visit www.grantland.com, you’re greeted with contrasting images: At the center, you have the elegant, classicly-styled heading. All around it, though, you have obnoxious Subway or Lexus ads.You can dig even deeper into the site’s contradictions, starting with the name of the site. Why call the site Grantland? One of the oldest great sportswriters is the namesake for a decidedly modern take on sportswriting.
It got me wondering: Does Grantland have a personality crisis? At a cursory glance, it’s hard to tell if the site wants to be a serious, respected analysis and criticism or if it wants to indulgent fun.When ESPN first opened Grantland in June, these questions nagged at me. I just couldn’t figure out what the site was. The name is catchy and brandable, and the look is delightfully elegant — but everything felt a little bit off. That old-fashioned baseball banner at the top of of a site works with some of the articles, but not so much with the site’s trivialities, like the weekly discussion of trashy reality TV and cheap shots at struggling quarterbacks.But as I thought more about it, I decided I actually valued the incongruities and vague mission statement. They’re all a part of a site that’s willing to sprawl and try different things. They add up to a site that brilliantly tries to push forward — deeper, longer articles from unexpected sources about a multitude of topics — as it restrains in other areas: There are no videos, few bright colors, no widgets or social media. Just content.

When Grantland is on, it’s almost thrilling how much it syncs with my brain and how happy it makes me. The edges of the sports world and the pop culture world blur together. The systems and statistics and structures of sports overlap with the narratives and emotional appraisal and critical thinking of arts and entertainment writing. The writers ramble on  in too much detail, come up with crazy theories, rank things pointlessly, celebrate tiny passions (and I mean all of that in a good way). It’s usually fun and it’s usually smart.

Of course, the man in charge of it is the one who popularized the all-encompassing writing style that Grantland: Bill Simmons. The site is his grand project, and he seems to view it as the culmination of his professional life.

I was hitting 40, and I was like, “What do I want to do long-term?” I always wanted to create a site that was sports and pop culture. 30 for 30 had a big impact because I loved how that was about finding, empowering and working with these incredible directors, and I thought the same thing could work for writers. I researched different sites and looked through all of my favorite magazines and tried to find people who were on their way up.

(from The Hollywood Reporter)

And right there you can see some the contradictions and a philosophical blurring of edges between arts (documentaries, writing) and sports (treating writers and directors almost like minor league prospects).Not every article really catches me, but at worst Grantland gives me a few substantial and thoughtful articles to read every day. Every so often, though — like whenever Chuck Klosterman writes or the guy from Shit My Dad Says reflects on his failed sitcoms — the site has me scratching my head, or crying with laughter, or (now and again) actually crying.

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

One thought on “A Few Of My Favorite Things 2011: #12 Grantland

  1. First off I would like to say superb blog! I had a
    quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.

    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out
    how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Thanks!

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