Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bill Simmons or: how I realized Grantland is terrible for other reasons

I DID IT!!!!!!

After years of contemplation, and checking in on it multiple times a day, I finally figured it out…

I know why Grantland sucks!

All this time I thought it was because Bill Simmons has lost a step—it is, but that’s only one of the myriad of reasons for the sites ultimate underwhelmingness.

First a little back story.  During my impressionable sporting years, I was looking for a sports writer who would not only offer compelling sports stories, but also look at sports in a slightly bizarre angle and point out patently obvious things, like ESPN is stupid or gambling is great, huh? HAHA I NOTICE THOSE THINGS TOO. 

And from there I was hooked on all things Simmons.  I read all his articles, I read all his mailbags, I listened to the BS Report, despite the fact that he has the vocal styling of a dying cat trying to hump a chalkboard.  Hell I came this close to buying his books, despite the fact that I don’t give two shits about either the Red Sox or the NBA.

But sometime around 2010, I wanted better sports coverage, I wanted longer pieces, that were more in depth.  That took sports seriously, but yet knew it was only a game and could have fun with their topics. Something that would blow the sporting words doors off.

Lo and behold that’s when Grantland was announced and I couldn’t have  been more excited.  A whole website, that would get the funding and the best writers together on the internet and tackle the interesting stories “the Man” was too scared to touch.  A kind of place where lively debates and interesting discussions would be brought up, unafraid and daring.  A place that would give me the place on the internet for good old fashioned sports journalism.

This was going to be my “The National”

But then something happened.  They brought in the writers, they brought in the resources, but then why was I always so bored?

For about a year I’ve blamed Simmons, it technically is all his fault, but the real answer is so much bigger than that.

See Simmons has long ago taken the Rick Reilly approach to sports writing and realized he is completely bereft of things to write about. 

He’s made all his points, used up all his pseudo pop culture jokes (LeBron James is just like Stringer Bell something, something, something) and used up all his materials.  Now he just does once a week mailbag columns and is on an NBA countdown show I don’t watch.  This was also a problem I noticed, awhile back and can’t possibly put it in better words, so I urge you to read this.

Yes Bill Simmons is no longer the ‘every man’ character that made his writing style work.  He is now an extremely well paid member of the media and quite frankly deserves to be.

But that still didn’t answer the question why I was always disappointed with the site.   I mean there are 20 other writers on staff, there had to be at least one that could fill the sports void that I felt in the pit of my stomach.

And today it hit me…

I read more of their pop culture articles than I do their sports pieces!

I’ve compiled a quick list of all the headlines I read on Grantland last week.  For skimming purposes, red means pop culture bullshit stuff, while standard black is sports:






And before you ask the painfully obvious question, yes I do have that kind of time where I can read this much off a website I don’t really like.  But that’s not important right now.

What is important is this: If you bothered to count (which why would you, because I’m about to tell you.  In fact I bet you’re reading this part too and if I bold the last word you’ll probably have to read it.  SUCKER) you’d see 45 different articles.  26 of those are red.  That means that on a ‘sports’ site I use it more than 50% of the time (58% if we’re being technical, 57.77777% if you’re being a dick about it) on shit I don’t care about.  Matt Damon ducked taped Jimmy Kimmel to a chair?!?!?!?!  I HAVE TO KNOW MORE!

Actually the sadder truth is I usually just click on a pop culture thing, give it a nod and then leave.  I’m maybe on Grantland a total of 20 minutes a day.  I don’t say that to be less embarrassed about some of my lamer clicks- I generally wanted to know about a Justin Bieber drug binge (I have a severe case of schadenfreude). 

But I think this actually stems more from the fact, that despite all their money and visibility, they only have one compelling sports writer—and that’s Katie Baker.

Chuck Klosterman was supposed to be their ‘big’ get.  He’s hip and ironic which vicariously is supposed to make him edgy.  He is none of those things.  He’s the kid in class who raises his hand, throws around a bunch of big words in the hope that he gets laid, and hopes you don’t realize how full of shit he is.  Chuck Klosterman reminds me of the guy at the end of Matrix 2 who says a lot of things, but if you actually listen you’ll hear what he’s saying doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

Charles Pierce is a great writer, I read him every chance I get on, but he’s wasted in sports for whatever reason.  He usually ends up talking about Massachusetts (God save it) (his expression, not mine) and writes a bland nothing piece that leaves me bored.

Bill Barnwell has no imagination.  He watches a game and writes about it.  That’s it.  Maybe his gambling stuff is better, but I don’t care about it enough to read.

Sure I love the “About last night” column, and Katie Baker is a must read.  But outside of that the only sports related column I read are Simmons’.  And I only read those so I can’t hate them.

Grantland’s mission was to bring long form, good sports journalism back,.  But they didn’t.  They don’t break stories, there is maybe one long form article every four months, and since the suckle at ESPN’s teat they aren’t  allowed to point out the startling obvious fact that ESPN is the worst thing to happen to sports journalism. 

Sigh, the only thing worth reading on their site right now is a “House of Cards” preview.  And I don’t even know what that means.

My point is, read Deadspin.


  1. Ken Dryden is terrific. I didn't include him because he doesn't write in enough, but he is so damn good.

  2. Jesus, not to pat myself on the back ( I do that enough already) but my piece came at a good time. Simmons article sucks. It's smarmy, it's arrogant and it's flat out stupid.

  3. I actually like Barnwell's stuff. It's a little formulaic (we get it, fumble recoveries are luck-based), but at least it's reliably sports-focused and somewhat insightful. And of course, Katie Bakes is the best--though anyone who ever read her incredible long-form think pieces on Deadspin wishes she'd take a week off from Bake Shop and Wedded Blitz and give us something really deep.

    I'll also read Rany Jazayerli, usually, and Jonah Keri. But you're right, doesn't it feel like the whole site could just be a lot more impactful in its writing? I understand that they want to have fresh content every day to drive traffic, but short, shallow articles have become the norm. I think we all wished for something a little better. And yes, I still check it every day. Sometimes it surprises me.