Now that the dust is settled and the writers have spoken I wonder if it’s safe to emerge from the bunker and say this: Grantland just wasn’t very good.
Yes, there was good writing – although that had become less obvious in its final year or so. Yes, there was stuff you might not easily find elsewhere. But what there wasn’t was a compelling reason to go back day after day – not unless you are yourself professionally interested in writing and thus find a site like this compelling regardless.
This morning I have logged onto Deadspin, I’ve logged onto Just a Bit Outside, I’ve glanced over the Guardian Culture pages and I’ve read the FT. I should have loved Grantland, despite the fact that I’d happily spend hours punching Bill Simmons in the face (at least part of the reason being that he’s made a success of being Bill Simmons and gets paid shitloads for watching sport). But I didn’t love Grantland.
Grantland felt like an inside joke that I was on the outside of. It felt like no one could be that bothered connecting what was being written with what was actually going on – all of those other sites at least have some up to date stuff about things that happened yesterday or overnight. Not just hot-takes but actual responses too. Grantland wasn’t somewhere to go if you wanted to understand how game 1 of the World Series happened – but, ultimately, it wasn’t anything else either. Even the most esoteric of sites should acknowledge the turning of the world.
Too much in love with writing for its own sake Grantland forgot to get an audience. It also seemed to forget to edit. Podcasts that could and should have been awesome forty minuters drifted into a second hour without purpose. And I think it also forgot that the internet is international even if we’re reading about Americana. Deadspin seems to get this, although I don’t need to see quite so many videos of on-field injury, and it keeps things (bludgeoningly) direct. So many Grantland references would have sailed over the heads of all but the most committed, erm, Ameriphile. It was like all those Saturday Night Live movie spin offs that wound up in our cinemas and died over the weekend, unwatched.
Obviously, I’m sad people lost their jobs especially when so many were obviously smart and good writers. And obviously we need more, not less, decent long-form writing about sports and culture. But what we don’t need is a site that thinks we should sit in respectful silence and marvel at how great its wordsmiths are. The internet is two-way and Grantland forgot that, or never cared for it. It was a heroic failure, but it’s time to move on.