When the new project launched to a ton of fanfare – including a high profile piece about Simmons in the New York Times Magazine – I was very excited. I should admit at this point that I am a huge Simmons fan. I read and re-read both of his books and actively follow his columns. I listen to his podcasts. His irreverent take on sports through fandom really appeals to me.
So far, I have enjoyed Grantland.com immensely. I have watched Grantland a little like a parent, watching their toddler run around, seeing them fall and then anxiously awaiting the response. Is the kid going to cry? Or simply stand up after a second and start laughing all over again?
The staff writers – all of whom have moved to Grantland, from somewhat lofty positions such as Esquire / GQ etc. – have put out a variety of interesting pieces on an astounding number of different topics. However…there are a few things about Grantland that are very puzzling:
1) The timing of the launch – Why would a 70% Sports / 30% Entertainment website launch at the start of the “Dog Days of Summer”? From an entertainment standpoint, it makes sense as the atrocious summer blockbuster season provides a lot of fodder. From a sports standpoint? No sense at all. The site caught the tail end of the NBA and NHL Finals but not much else. Now we have regular season baseball…and a running diary of Wimbeldon? Really? The timing could not be worse. Simmons and co. would have been better off waiting for September or October when the NFL, NBA and NHL return. They also have a serious columnist called “The Masked Man” who is writing about wrestling…and not the Olympic kind. (However…if there are lockouts in the NBA and NFL perhaps Simmons anticipated no football or basketball to effectively kill his new venture before it had a chance through a lack of material. At least now he has a chance to hook people before that happens).
2) A hectic pace of Simmons articles that cannot be maintained – Let’s face it: this is Simmon’s baby. He runs the show and the opening few weeks has featured a shockingly heavy dose of Simmons articles. More columns in fact than he released in the first half of the year combined. Simmons knows he is the major draw for the site and has smartly played up the most bankable asset of the site: Himself. There is no way, however, that he can maintain the pace he has set himself. Usually he publishes every 10 days or so. Now he is putting out new columns 3-4 times a week. His writing will suffer, the content will become stale and the ideas will dry up. Simmons is popular because his column is like a treat to be devoured when it arrives. Now there is a chance too many columns will equal too much of a good thing. Additionally – what happens when he goes back to 1-2 columns a week? Does the site collapse? None of the other pieces has hooked me as much as his work has.
3) Writers not sticking around / Too many writers – Can Simmons afford to keep the incredible level of talent he has stocked around Grantland? Every day there seems to be another new writer contributing a piece: Chuck Klosterman, Alex Pappademas, Chris Jones…the list goes on and on. Can there be too much of a good thing? Three weeks in I find myself logging on to the site, scanning the list of articles and maybe clicking on one or two. I am certainly not reading every word.
4) The necessity of the whole thing – ESPN.com is a great site. Page 2 is their Culture / Sports hub. Did they really need to bring up the expense of another site? The whole thing has a “this was built into Simmons contract” sort of feel, not to mention my brother’s assessment: “Simmons wants to make more money”.
I will keep going to Grantland, but time will tell if the quality and quantity of articles can be maintained.