Why I’m excited for Grantland

I don’t care (like really don’t care) about sports. I don’t read Bill Simmons. I find Klosterman amusing but tiresome. Eggers is on the to-read list. Malcolm Gladwell is wrong about Twitter and other than that I don’t pay much attention. And yet I’m excited about Simmons’ new site Grantland.

In practice I’m excited about it because Katie Baker’s “The Garden of Good and Evil”, about being a one-time and born again Knicks fan, was awesome. So good it made me like reading about sports.

Here’s why I’m excited in theory, from Simmons’ welcome to the site:

We had four goals for this site. The first was to find writers we liked and let them do their thing. The second was to find sponsors we liked and integrate them within the site — so readers didn’t have to pay for content, and also, so we didn’t have to gravitate toward quantity over quality just to chase page views. The third was to take advantage of a little extra creative leeway for the right reasons and not the wrong ones. And the fourth was to hire the right blend of people — mostly young, mostly up-and-comers, all good people with good ideas who aren’t afraid to share them.

Simmons is one of those few lucky writers who doesn’t have to care about pageviews. He’s got ’em. If Grantland is a way for him to offer cover to young writers to also not have to care about pageviews – if he can increase the number of good writers able to prove themselves outside of the content sweatshops – that strikes me as a very good thing.

On the other hand, Nick Jackson has a pretty compelling takedown at The Atlantic. Especially this bit:

We already have long-form websites that give us the literary. We have the New Yorker‘s website (which enjoyed record traffic last month with 3.7 million unique visitors according to Women’s Wear Daily), we have the New York Review of Books, and we have dozens of others. Simmons has to build a long-form populist site. We’re going to go long, Simmons warns his profiler. And that means, he must hope, 5,000 words on boobs. Hell, even I would read that.

I suppose the beauty for me is that I have zero skin in the game. I don’t like sports. Not pop culture’s biggest fan either. So if I’m wrong to be excited, really, there’s nothing for me to lose.

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  1. If you want long-form, well-considered, and totally grassroots sports journalism, let me direct you to The Blizzard: http://www.theblizzard.co.uk/

    Jonathan Wilson and company launched this quarterly without any corporate support whatsoever; Bill Simmons has the financial backing of ESPN and, therefore, the funding to rope in big names like Eggers and Klosterman. In that sense they’re apples and oranges, but I’ll take the former any day if I’m looking for writing legitimately free of any constraints whatsoever. Also, no Subway ads.

  2. Oh man thanks for the link. Started following it on Twitter so hopefully I’ll see as new stuff comes out. There’s tons of awesome stuff out there to read from a reader’s point of view, but nice to hear about experiments into how writers can still make a living at it.

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