Why I Don’t Like “Grantland” Right Now
August 12, 2011 Leave a comment
Bill Simmons is one of my favorite sportswriters, and I believe a lot of what I’ve written and said about sports has been inspired by him. However, his brainchild, the new sports and pop culture website, “Grantland,” leaves a lot to be desired.
The thing that has always made Bill Simmons great, is the fact that he has written from the fan’s point of view. He always took on (for me) the likeness of the type of fan I enjoyed talking to. Growing up just outside of Philly, I have been exposed to some people who fancy themselves football “experts” just because they sit around, get drunk, watch the Birds, and curse at whoever is playing quarterback, and bash Andy Reid for being fat and having red hair. Those types of people don’t actually know a lot about football, and they are frustrating to talk to. Reading Bill Simons, who didn’t write with the type of pretense that people like Peter King and Don Banks did, but still brought a sense of knowledgeability on topics to the table, was refreshing. Throw in the repeated pop culture references and self-depricating humor, and it was a near perfect blend of entertaining sports media.
Obviously, I am not the only person who enjoyed Bill Simmons’ work, and his popularity and creativity have ballooned into ESPN giving him the ability to develop his own project. Thus, Grantland came to be. He would bring in people who knew their stuff on sports and all things Hollywood, and it would be wonderful. It didn’t have to try to live up to the “worldwide leader,” but it would be a place where people who felt like they knew their stuff could read from other people who knew their stuff.
I have no problem with that. However, I have a problem with people who evidently don’t know their stuff parading around like people who know their stuff. The Hollywood articles on the site are so mind-numbingly pretentious that it’s hard to believe that the people writing them are actually taking themselves seriously. Here’s a newsflash: Bashing the movie “Cowboys versus Aliens” and the television show “Lopez Tonight,” doesn’t make you smart, or hip, or anything. The same goes for the article on Shia LaBeouf; we all know he’s a self-absorbed clown, you didn’t need to remind us. It just makes you like everybody else. I haven’t read an article from the pop culture area of the site that hasn’t felt like it was trying to make me feel out of touch, but without providing any actual insight. The whole reason that Bill Simmons was successful at ESPN was because he wrote knowledgeably on topics, while still seeming relatable. The Hollywood writers at Grantland don’t seem the least bit relatable. Everything at that corner of the site seems condescending and unwelcoming.
The sports aspect of the site seems, if nothing else, kind of muted. This truly looks and feels like a sports website run out of an office in Los Angeles. My biggest gripe with their site right now is the use of Bill Barnwell. He seems to be their NFL specialist. I have read nothing from him that indicates he should be considered a legitimate source on anything NFL. He wrote a freee agency “winners and losers” column today. It was honestly less insightful than a horoscope. There was more depth and analysis in our predictions posts than in Barnwell’s free agency article. I bolded that, because there’s no reason that a couple of Marist College Juniors should be able to out-analyze a guy getting paid by ESPN to write about sports. I think Schwartz and I are both pretty smart dudes, and we know a decent amount about sports. But that guy’s getting paid! We still have a lot of growing and refining to do. He’s supposed to be the guy we’re learning from. We have just as much of a chance at being wrong about our predictions, but there’s no disputing that we put more thought and effort into the things we wrote than Barnwell did in his. That, in addition to his KC Joyner-esque creation of statistics that are of such little consequence that the very mention of them makes me feel like less of a sports fan, has made the NFL analysis on the site almost un-readable. Of course, there was Chuck Klosterman’s bit on how all of the Hall of Fames don’t actually exist. He rambled and rambled on, taking (I think) the stance that people who are on the fringe of the Hall of Fame, who have to get argued for every year, stand to gain more from not being in the Hall than actually being in. Whatever the hell kind of theoretical, AP English, type of crap was being pushed with that, I will never know, but it didn’t work. Maybe I just don’t get it. Like I said, maybe I’m out of touch.
If the editor-in-chief at Grantland, Mr. Simmons, could maybe help his writers in the Hollywood section of the site seem a little more down-to-earth, and possibly find somebody who actually knows something about football, to write about football, then maybe Grantland would work for me. But right now it doesn’t. There’s a mix of knowledgeability and relatability that makes Simmons great. Right now his site is far too heavy on what it assumes is knowlegability, really elevating them to the likes of people like Peter King and Don Banks who just pretend they know what they’re talking about. This site has too much confidence for something that hasn’t even justified its existence yet, and for now that will keep me from enjoying it. If nothing else, I think the site that seems to find a way to criticize everything has a real lesson to learn from Thumper, the rabbit from Bambi, who famously said: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Steve Sabato is a contributing writer for Home Field Advantage