My Eulogy for Grantland
In my scholarly, somewhat slightly less mature days in the quad dorms in college, I would occasionally write a dorm room bi-weekly one-page newspaper called the "East Carson Daily". It was called this because East Carson was our intramural basketball team...no...dynasty name. Why? Well it goes back to a stolen street sign from somewhere in east Tennessee and let's just move on with the story.
In the East Carson Daily, I wrote about stupid things. Pointless topics. It started out as a diatribe breaking down that week's NFL Blitz games between my roommates and myself. Why? Because kids, in college if you're a guy and don't mind skipping class a few dozen times you do so with the intent to A) sleep or B) play video games. So we did that: skipped American history classes and played NFL Blitz tournaments. Eventually the East Carson Daily morphed into a rundown on the events of the week on campus: did our school lose another football game? Is the chicken just as bad this week as it has been every other week we've been in school? Is so-and-so guy really dating the homecoming queen? I also tracked our East Carson basketball games via the paper, including our 21-game losing streak and the moment we got our first win (March 15, 2001).
Writing these meaningless papers were fun because it featured things that interested people. Of course, that's the reason any writing exists to some degree, but these papers were based on the lives of roommates and teammates and basketball rivals that we wanted to destroy. I tried to make them humorous, because nobody wants to read serious news about themselves. I tried to even make serious stories light-hearted, such as when my roommate nearly drowned in a freak kayak accident and had to reimburse a kayak rental company nearly a grand for losing their wonderful man-eating kayak. Ah. Collegiate memories.
My lame attempts at weekly humor via a one sheet paper on absurd events in the lives of roommates were, on a very minute scale, a Grantland of sorts. It wasn't focused solely on one topic or one genre, it touched on numerous interests because normal people have, well, numerous interests.
My love of Grantland wasn't so much the basketball nerd-think pieces from Zach Lowe. It wasn't the Hollywood Prospectus work from Rembert Browne dissecting unimportant things that somehow were important in a pop culture sense or having the Bar Rescue guy question everything about his work cubicle. It wasn't even the "crap I laughed so hard I think I just farted a bit" work of Shea Serrano. It was a culmination of everything: it was scrolling through my Twitter feed seeing headlines of stories I would never glance at anywhere else. It was going to grantland.com in a few minutes of idleness only to spend the next 30 minutes engrossed in stories of sports' greats, rap legends, and TV shows that really suck (because Andy Greenwald told us so).
The nail in the coffin for Grantland could've been the day Bill Simmons departed. Perhaps it was when several writers departed for what are now, in hindsight, far greener pastures. It didn't have to end this way. ESPN should have clearly seen the tremendous success of the site and, had they any inclination to peer into social media at all, recognize the fandom each unique writer had created with their words.
Speaking of which, writer fandom must certainly be hard to come by. Endless hours are put into research which transfers to first drafts which spins into edits which whirls into furious deadline chasing. Writers for Grantland may have been relatively obscure before, but Grantland gave them unique voices that crossed horizons of sports and pop culture. The beauty of it all was that this was a site for us: a site for millennials. Where else would you go to get caught up on the weekend's NFL action but also read a breakdown on the history of Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life"?
Grantland knew when to take itself seriously, which wasn't often, and when to churn out content that created light-hearted discussion around office water coolers. Their writers knew how to make you care about things you never cared about before. They could turn long-forgotten actors into week-long contextualized subjects to be critiqued for reasons no one dared ask because it was so fun. Grantland embodied everything that the 40-and-under sports fans would ask for: a lot of sports with a healthy portion of pop culture side dishes to keep us satisfied.
Maybe it's because, as an aspiring writer who has spent time working on making words fit together better than the next guy, I grieve somewhat for the loss of Grantland. For the writers who put so much time and effort into something that in the end is ripped callously from them and tossed into some internet black hole, it isn't fair. I suppose the layoffs at any job aren't fair, but when good journalists and talented writers get tossed aside in the name of spiteful bureaucracy, it stinks. It just does.
So RIP Grantland. You existed to do something nobody else has done well...intertwine our insatiable love of sports with doses of TV and music and film and absurdities we never could've conjured up ourselves. You gave us fantastic podcasts and videos, without which I would've never realized Jalen Rose could be entertaining and that Brian Koppleman is the best interviewer on the planet.
For now we have the archives of all the goodness, and of course my favorite of all time, Shea Serrano writing about the unwritten rules of pick-up basketball trash talk.