If my days were not as busy as they’ve ever been, I would write more elaborately about Grantland, now that the website has been killed by the evil powers of ESPN/Disney Corporation. But my days are really fucking busy, so much so that I have to take spare moments whenever I can to realize that the basketball season has started, and watch DVR-d Celtics games as part of NBA League Pass free preview week. I can’t order League Pass this year, because it would just make me depressed how few Celtics games I watched. As it is, I will be busily fast-forwarding to get to the final 6 minutes of the meaningful regular season games on national TV, and I will DVR all the good Warriors match-ups, because I live in the Bay Area and that comes with our cable package. I will have to settle for the rare nationally televised Celtics games, and the occasional trip to my friend Eric’s house. Eric gets League Pass.
But what about Grantland?
Grantland no more, say the important men at ESPN. 300 will be laid off. After Bill Simmons left, you had to wonder how long it might last. Then came the rumors of former Grantland editors bolting for Simmons’ HBO project. And like that….poof…the site is gone.
I will have to search for Jonathan Abrams’ book and hope he catches on elsewhere soon. I will have to search for Zach Lowe’s analysis. Will it just appear on ESPN’s site? How ugly, to have to search through the mud for those long Zach Lowe pieces. I will have to keep an eye out for Bryan Curtis. Wesley Morris is headed to the New York Times.
Truthfully, I can’t remember the last time I was deeply effected by a Grantland piece, but I kept reading for the insights and the solid writing. I think the novelty wore off and the tedium of pop culture flotsam and jetsam set in. Or the analytics and contract talk took over. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been reading too much internet writing for too long. Maybe its the limitations of hyperbole and snark. Maybe its the looped videos or the hipster affect. Maybe its the fact that I’m no longer 26 or 28 or 30 or 32. I am all of 35 and have busy days.
For a while, I wanted to write for a living. I wrote fiction and personal essays. A collection of stories exist, partially-edited. Several ideas wait on several back burners (certainly a fire hazard in a drought-riddled area). I was even paid a small pittance for my written work at one site on many occasions. I had a few pieces published at a site that was later bought by Sports Illustrated. This is not monumental or important. It just is.
For three years, I read everything I could about the NBA. I watched and observed and wrote. I got involved with Twitter. I obsessed about my Celtics, and then about the Warriors. I still love the NBA, but this way of living, this type of fandom, is only possible when you are piecing jobs together month-by-month.
I teach. I write. Neither is very profitable, but teaching is more profitable than writing, and also offers a structured routine and a place to actually exist that isn’t in my own head or in my imagined future.
People read words on websites and they rarely pay money to do so. This is not monumental or important. It just is. I do it. You do it. People do it. It strikes me that the internet is not all that profitable, and that this is a problem for companies.
I will mourn the loss of a website that I visited routinely for the last four years. I remember The Atlantic ran a story about how Grantland was doomed even before it launched in June, 2011. Of course, everything on the internet is doomed, isn’t it? Everything that brings a group of men in suits to sit around a table must have benchmarks and must be profitable.
A site that was determined to be a different kind of venue for sports, one that encouraged and enabled actual writing?
Of course, the idea that long-form meant better was indulged. Longer doesn’t in fact mean better. In some cases it means less editing and critical thought.
At the same time, some of the site’s best content was personal essay-length, rather than internet blog-post length. The writing mixed humor and pathos. Stories were told with quiet confidence, not shouted or beamed. Whether it was a Jonathan Abrams profile, a Brian Curtis essay or examination of sports media, a Charlie Pierce ode, a Jordan Conn piece about Gregg Popovich in 1980, or something else, I was always opening a Grantland story.
I wish that the internet worked differently. I wish that the places you clicked determined your monthly Comcast bill. But then I’m guessing many people would be terrified of showing their significant others where they spent their internet money each month.
People don’t pay to read. Writers are always looking for more readers. If nobody reads, few writers keep writing. Like Wayne Coyne says in “Do You Realize?”
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Goodbye, Grantland. You made the internet a little bit less awful for a good long while. Maybe I’ll actually read some of those books now…if I ever find the time.