With the Internet these days, it’s hard for most people to concentrate on one thing for a long time. There’s even an expression for it, TLDR, which stands for “Too long, didn’t read.” There’s too much stimulation online, too many options. Researching dog breeds can turn into Hotline Bling memes minutes later. It’s tough to stay focused online. The result is that we become a jack of all trades but a master of none. We don’t take deep dives anymore. We stay in the shallow end, where it’s safe.
Grantland, which suffered a quick and painful death this past Friday, wasn’t afraid to take deep dives. That’s what made it special. And that’s why I’ll miss it like it was a family member.
If the rest of the Internet was fast food, then Grantland was a slow-cooked beef brisket. Quality over quantity.
From what I’ve heard, Grantland didn’t make ESPN a lot of money. If you think of clicks as monetary values, then this makes sense. The site was split up into two blogs (one sports and one pop culture) and one features section. Off the top of my head, Grantland would publish approximately 8-10 blog posts and 3-4 feature articles per day, in addition to various audio and video content. Oh, and Grantlanders were 9-5ers, never publishing on evenings and weekends.
Given the financial state of online print journalism, this was a ballsy move. While their competitors were going HAM updating their websites to turn clicks into revenue, Grantland stuck to its model. There were no listicles. There was no clickbaiting. Just quality, thoughtful, well-researched long-form journalism.
There was Rembert Browne’s storytelling, whether he was on Air Force interviewing the President or in the middle of it all in Ferguson, Missouri. There was Jonathan Abrams giving us an inside look at Matt Barnes and Joakim Noah. There was Andy Greenwald making me anticipate the recaps almost as much as the episodes themselves for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. They even invented a word: Precaps! There was Zach Lowe, perhaps the most impressive basketball mind out there, getting us ready for NBA seasons with his crazy predictions and his reads of the league. And there was not much on the Internet more fun than the brackets that Grantland rolled out. To name a few, George Costanza was the top “second banana”, The Empire Strikes Back was the winning sequel, Hey Ya won best song of the millennium and “footage” won 2014.
And then, of course, there’s Bill Simmons, the mind behind Grantland. Bill often talked about the importance of taking risks with the site. To try things out, to push the envelope. And that’s what they did from 2011 until this past Friday. In the end, Grantland felt more like a group of friends than anything else and I believe that, to an extent, that’s what Bill was going for. I’m going to miss this bunch and will consume their content wherever they end up. Given the amount of talent on the team, I don’t see them struggling to find work. So thanks for the memories, Grantland. It was a great run, indeed.