Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Taking a break from all our worries about what to get Rob for his birthday today (Teej has some Skymall selections for us), I thought I'd add to the anticipation . . .

In less than an hour, Bill Simmons (née Boston Sports Guy, suivi de Sports Guy) unveils his heavily – but perhaps appropriately – hyped new endeavor Grantland. It’s a website independent of, or at least adjacent to ESPN, but one ostensibly still steeped in sportswriting, as evidenced by the moniker; Grantland refers to Grantland Rice, the hallowed sportswriter of three generations ago. The press release indicates a broader scope, however, a “sports and pop culture web site” “with a mix of original columns, long-form features, blog posts, and podcasts.” Huh . . . sounds like a little website I know.

Okay, so it sounds like what 10,000 homegrown blogs and sites aspire to be, a forum for high-minded thought veiled in tongue-in-cheek humor that transcends sportswriting into limitless topics of interest. Somehow, though, the internet has become littered with pseudo-literati waxing indignant at the trifles within their reality (or in a reality show), tilting at windbags, and splashing together liberal arts alliteration and juvenile toilet humor like they were vinegar and water in mad railings against pop culture giants that reek of day-old hypocrisy doughnuts. Case in frickin’ point.

In truth, the only time you’ll find something truly original amid the html-ting pot these days is when some lunatic transcribes the insane, idle ideas that ricochet through his grey matter like Benoit balls in your mother’s attic, and we get Tourette’s-style renditions of chronicles of taco eating, updates on quests for salamanders, Cliffs Notes on acid, hilarious inside jokes from a NJ English department, cute tales of two precocious little boys, and recorded songs fixated on the anal sex scene from Deliverance. “Unique” is misapplied nearly often enough these days to warrant some blowhard dedicating a blog post to expressions like it, but there are still one-of-a-kind places out there in the ‘sphere. Grantland, however, is probably not one.

What it may possibly be, however, is the apex of its ilk. Some of you know by now that my obnoxious bloggings have tended to take the piss out of Bill Simmons and his online works (unbeknownst to him, of course); most of you can figure out that’s predominantly because I am thoroughly jealous of him and the job he has earned the right to do every day. I will probably continue to put too fine a point on it, calling him SportGuy for his limited breadth of interest and understanding in certain pockets of the sporting universe. I will probably continue to hear Wyatt from Weird Science every time he speaks. And I will probably continue to casually dismiss most of his new projects, even as I tout the 30 for 30 series as one of the most enthralling recurring segments on TV, the Know Your Minor League Mascot of cable television, if you will.

Not this time, Biff. Not this time. ESPN’s fondness for doling out enormous amounts of melodramatic pre-event build-up on a regular basis usually evokes my ambivalence; truly, they sound like the radio spots for my local furniture outlet before the Memorial Day sale, and they garner the same amount of enthusiasm from me. This time, however, it’s been a little bit different.

For one, there’s the name. No, it’s not an amalgam of where the Keaton kids went to college. When I first read about Grantland, I thought, “Grantland Rice?” Really, it’s true. As much as I’d like to claim a vast knowledge of the late Mr. Rice’s journalistic or literary accomplishments, I don’t think I’ve ever read a piece of his in its entirety. I don’t know very much about him. I only know one quote:
"For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game."
I know this because I spent every summer from 1980-1989 deep in the Shenandoah Valley at a place called Camp Virginia. It’s an awesome boys’ camp steeped in tradition, and it’s where I learned everything from how to throw a curveball to how to get shot down by girls at the dance. In my time there I ate rattlesnake, I won the Malcolm U. Pitt Baseball Award (my proud mention of this flies directly in the face of the quote), and I learned that navigating the winding roads through the Goshen Pass after visiting a handful of Lexington bars is a terrible, terrible idea. More than just about anything else, I learned that Grantland Rice passage. It was (still is) painted on an old piece of wood hanging on the wall in the mess hall; our three squares were always accompanied by its message. A quick visit to the Camp VA website today reminded me that it’s still a big part of the lessons of gratitude, humility, and sportsmanship that permeate the summer. This graphic is from the main page (see the top right corner).


Grantland.com has chosen not only to borrow its name from the man who gave us the quote, but – at least thus far, in “Coming Soon” status – to embed the quote in its main page logo. It will be interesting to see whether, and how, its message remains imbued in the offerings from Grantland. In a venture like this, there’s not a lot of winning and losing inherently incorporated. Seems like a different tagline might have been more appropriate . . . maybe . . . maybe, with the sports media world so aggressively self-important and non-ironic these days, something about taking ourselves less seriously would fit the bill?

The masthead impresses, with names like Klosterman and Gladwell, among many others, and with priors like the WSJ, NYT, GQ, and J’sW all over the staff’s collective curriculum vitae. How they play the game will dictate whether this is an instance of “we didn’t invent it, we just perfected it” or simply yet another road stop on the information superhighway where we can find insights and insults on SEC football, Mayer Hawthorne, news of the weird, Monty Python, feats of eating, LeBron James, vajazzling, Live Aid, political gaffes, baseball card collections, cereal mascots, crystal meth, Andre Agassi, Mike Love, state fairs, the Fighting Wrens, Alfonso Ribeiro shirtless, Gheorghe Muresan, and rapping muppets. Here’s looking forward to their regularly scheduled dipshittery.

Best of luck, Grantland, and don’t steal our stuff.

33 comments:

rob said...

actually, feel free to steal our stuff so we can sue you and retire to the compound.

zman said...

I still think we should sue blogger for lost profits for the day the site was dead.

Dave said...

just started reading but i love the positive PR for sentence of dave-- thanks igor! can't wait to read the rest while my kids watch"the manchurian candidate."

Danimal said...

"Amen Corner" - coined by Mr. Rice. Now ya know. (full disclosure - some say it wasn't actually him, but most do)

Igor said...

Thanks, Danimal. Good nugget.

TR said...

Joey Fat One.

Dave said...

grantland has klosterman and gladwell?

how do i get a job over there?

well done igor-- a good reminder that all of us on the internet should take ourselves even less seriously.

rob said...

didnt you write something for mcsweeny's? that should be enough.

T.J. said...

Wait...that's Carlton/Meadow Soprano/Joey Fatone?

Oh my.

Jerry said...

The Klosterman article was good, but I like everything that he writes.

The Simmons article was about 100x over the top. I realize that he put some work into this, but it's just a website that has articles about trivial matters. He's assembled some stuff that people might read. Settle down.

No interest in the Reality TV thing, other than noting that the #4 article on a site called Grantland is about reality TV.

Also, I'm of the opinion that if Grantland Rice had been named Bill Rice he'd be 99% less famous.

T.J. said...

You guys remember when Jerry had a blog? Me too.

rob said...

anyone catch the subtle reference igor dropped to jerry's eponymous 'house? that igor, he's clever. and lazy.

TR said...

I love Klosterman when he writes about music. I could care less about his sports-related prose, because his podcasting on sports is very...meh. It's the exact opposite with Simmons.

To Jerry's point on the web site, what's the failure/success proposition? It will get traffic because it will have his writing and his podcasts. How can it be a "failure"? Will that be measured by weak page view counts? And what will make it a "success"? More visitors than Deadspin? Cooler guests? More ad revenue?

He may just be excited that he can now curse and make drug references in his articles and podcasts.

Igor said...

Nice catch, Rob.

Marls said...

It's easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat.

But the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat.

Danimal said...

Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name

Dave said...

klosterman has a great essay about football.

http://sentenceofdave.blogspot.com/2009/11/11272009.html

TR said...

On the topic of Klosterman, everybody who peruses this site MUST MUST MUST read Fargo Rock City. His writing style on music is so eerily similar to Simmons on sports. And I mean that as a big-time compliment.

Klosterman's glam metal groupie pecking order may be my favorite part.

rob said...

you're not the boss of me, tr

TR said...

You...don't...want...my...life?

Squeaky said...

Rob, in honor of your b-day I will try to get something signed by Will at Okkervile River show.

Here come the 'something' body part jokes.

And had no idea about the Grantland site. Shows you how far out of the loop I am.

Mark said...

"Killing Yourself to LIve" by Klosterman is a pretty solid read too. It drags in a few spots but his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of music is enlightening and his writing style is easy to read.

rob said...

i second mark's recommendation. that's the only klosterman book i've read. guess i have some catching up to do.

Jerry said...

Short TJ Tale:

So you might have seen my comment earlier this afternoon regarding some of the Grantland articles and TJ's immediate response. Nothing particularly notable there.

I talked to TJ on the phone a few hours later and after a bit of conversation he asked me if I'd heard of this Grantland site and if I'd read any of the articles. No recollection whatsoever of the comments from 3-4 hours prior.

rob said...

in his defense, he does huff paint almost daily

zman said...

"Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" belongs on your bookshelf too. "Eating the Dinosaur" was ok except for the essay about the ethics of time travel after which the collection was named.

Jerry said...

I really like Klosterman's sports stuff. For one, he seems to really enjoy just watching sports with no regard to rooting interest, gambling, fantasy, storylines, etc. This is something that's increasingly rare. Most sports journalism these days has little to do with the actual sport anymore. In the coverage of the NBA Finals, even the result of the games seems to be about the 3rd or 4th priority.

It's a stark contrast to Simmons, who doesn't even really like sports that much anymore and lives almost exclusively in the world of storyline, gambling, and fantasy. I love when Klosterman asks "Why do you care about that" when Simmons gets wrapped around the axle of some triviality like what a player says in the media.

Generally, I like Klosterman's perspective on sports, although I'm not sure exactly how I'd describe it. It's certainly a more interesting take than 90% of what else is out there.

TR said...

Jerry obviously doesn't read Stephen A. Smith...

zman said...

Much like rob, I suspect that Klosterman enjoys watching competition for its own sake.

d-train said...

greasetruck/yojo/others need to check out google today. it's neat!

Danimal said...

Wow

zman said...

"I don't want to have you guys asking me the same questions. I got almost 370 bombs in the big leagues and everybody wants to make a big deal because I bat-flip one of them. (Expletive) that (expletive), man. If I have to make that video on my (expletive), let's see how many bat flips I got on this (expletive). Good night."

Well said.

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