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Thread: Grantland

  1. #1
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    Grantland

    A number of recent threads and/or comments have included remarks essentially assuming that we all hate Grantland, even going so far as to apologize for linking to the site.
    Confession: I don't hate Grantland. In fact, I really like it. I understand that it regularly helps to perpetuate the various canards of Duke-hating, but it also fills a niche that I don't think any other site really does...much better writing than almost any stable of sports(ish)writers anywhere else, without the full-throated surliness of, say, Deadspin (which I also rather like). Say what you will about Bill Simmons...he's a homer, he's resting on his laurels to some extent, etc. But he has also had an immense and, in my opinion, overwhelmingly positive influence on sports coverage in the past decade or so. His long-form pieces are more thoughtful and insightful than 98% of web/sports content (and frankly, he has done a lot to cultivate that whole genre), and 30 for 30 has been positively brilliant. Some may take issue with his open devotion to certain teams and/or dislike of others, but in the end, he is merely giving voice to the experience of everyfan. He also is more successful at making me laugh out loud than almost any other writer in any genre (and I think it's supremely difficult to make the written word truly funny like that).
    So really, I'm just curious: what's people's beef with Grantland?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by wilson View Post
    A number of recent threads and/or comments have included remarks essentially assuming that we all hate Grantland, even going so far as to apologize for linking to the site.
    Confession: I don't hate Grantland. In fact, I really like it. I understand that it regularly helps to perpetuate the various canards of Duke-hating, but it also fills a niche that I don't think any other site really does...much better writing than almost any stable of sports(ish)writers anywhere else, without the full-throated surliness of, say, Deadspin (which I also rather like). Say what you will about Bill Simmons...he's a homer, he's resting on his laurels to some extent, etc. But he has also had an immense and, in my opinion, overwhelmingly positive influence on sports coverage in the past decade or so. His long-form pieces are more thoughtful and insightful than 98% of web/sports content (and frankly, he has done a lot to cultivate that whole genre), and 30 for 30 has been positively brilliant. Some may take issue with his open devotion to certain teams and/or dislike of others, but in the end, he is merely giving voice to the experience of everyfan. He also is more successful at making me laugh out loud than almost any other writer in any genre (and I think it's supremely difficult to make the written word truly funny like that).
    So really, I'm just curious: what's people's beef with Grantland?
    i think you answered your own question...
    Duke Football:

    Winning in the ACC AND the NFL.

    "If you don't address the things you're not doing well when you're winning the winning will eventually stop."

    -David Cutcliffe

  3. #3
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    Personally it's one of my favorite sites. They have some really great features and writers. Most of all I think it's just honest opinions which you don't get on sites like ESPN.

    This is one of my favorite things I've ever read on Grantland. It's by Mark Titus and it's after Christian Laettner won the most hated player bracket. I also think it sums up most Duke hatred out there.

    "Think about it. What do you really hate him for? For being a pretty boy? For hitting the most famous shot in college basketball history? For winning back-to-back national titles? All that really says is that you’re jealous that Laettner was the total package. So instead of hating him, maybe you should hate yourself for not being him. Have you ever thought about that?"

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    You can tell I like Titus's views on Laettner, as it's been in my sig since that column was written.

    I agree with liking Grantland, in particular Zach Lowe who I assume watches about 30 hours of basketball a day - it's the only possible way he could write so intelligently on what so many teams are doing. He has a true eye for the game. I roll my eyes every time there's a reference to Duke, because I assume it will be unfavorable (Titus is actually more even-handed in this regard than Shane Ryan, a Duke alum and another Grantland contributor who, in my view, writes about Duke like he needs to apologize that's where he went to school), but that doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the content on the site.

    There is a decided difference between their "analysis" columns - guys like Lowe, Kirk Goldsberry (love the graphical statistical shooting depictions), Jonah Keri and Rany Jazyerli for baseball, and Bill Barnwell for football - and their "fan" columns - I put Titus here along with Simmons himself, Holly Anderson for college football, Andrew Sharp, etc. The former are almost always great, while the latter are often hit and miss (and the snide comments about Duke are almost always reserved for the latter).
    Just be you. You is enough. - K, 4/5/10, 0:13.8 to play, 60-59 Duke.

    You're all jealous hypocrites. - Titus on Laettner

    You see those guys? Animals. They're animals. - SIU Coach Chris Lowery, on Duke

  5. #5
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    On the whole, I like Grantland, because they have many great writers who are passionate and honest about what they write. They tell you up front where their biases are instead of subtly hiding them in their pieces. The good sportswriters strive to support their arguments with a variety of evidence (Zach Lowe, I think, is especially adept at this) rather than using straw men and pomp. They even acknowledge that to the point where they run the Hot Sports Takes column every so often to highlight how bad sportswriters attack certain subjects, even to the point where they are parodying their own espn.com.

    The thing that generally separates Grantland from Deadspin is that Grantland often highlights players or teams who are doing exceptional things that the casual fan cannot figure out for themselves, whereas I think that Deadspin is just there to put everybody down. It feels like they took good writers and told them to let the chips on their shoulders do the talking. It's a cesspool.

    Simmons is an interesting character. He knows so much about the NBA and about the NFL, and so little about MLB and college sports. I've trained myself to not pay attention to anything he writes that is outside of his real expertise.

    I think the most surprisingly entertaining thing on the site is Jalen Rose's podcast, which is often centered around explaining why NBA players do some of the ridiculous things that they do. Despite his feelings about Duke, which I think are overblown around here anyway, I can find most of what he says to be interesting.

    Grantland's agenda is to give each of their writers a voice the way that ESPN has given Simmons a voice for many years. Unfortunately, it happens that their lead college basketball writer's voice involves disdain for Duke. Whatever, I ignore him.

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    I love reading Zach Lowe - exactly my cup of tea in reading about basketball. I like about 50% of what Simmons writes, too - I could do without the constant efforts to make sports/pop-culture analogies, if only because I'm too old to understand most of the pop-culture references. All in all, it's a more thoughtful brand of writing about basketball than we had been used to. I love Greg Easterbrook, too, though I don't think he's technically part of Grantland.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillJ View Post
    I love reading Zach Lowe - exactly my cup of tea in reading about basketball. I like about 50% of what Simmons writes, too - I could do without the constant efforts to make sports/pop-culture analogies, if only because I'm too old to understand most of the pop-culture references. All in all, it's a more thoughtful brand of writing about basketball than we had been used to. I love Greg Easterbrook, too, though I don't think he's technically part of Grantland.
    Fully agreed on Easterbrook...I eagerly await Tuesday Morning QB, even though I care less and less about the NFL.
    I'm also glad to know that others recognize Grantland as a unique, insightful, intelligent outlet.

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    Only Grantland writer I do not try to read is Andrew Sharp. I know he's a UNC grad but his cheap shots towards Duke are just lazy writing at their worse. Other than Sharp, I really enjoy the site and have been a Simmons fan for a dozen years.

  9. #9
    I hate Grantland for the same reason I hate Esquire: Pierce. He has to go before I can take either publication seriously.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by wilson View Post
    Fully agreed on Easterbrook...I eagerly await Tuesday Morning QB, even though I care less and less about the NFL.
    I'm also glad to know that others recognize Grantland as a unique, insightful, intelligent outlet.
    I disagree on Easterbrook. I think his shtick is tired and he feels the need to lump way too much not-football into his column. I think Simmons is better as discovering he is off the tracks and promptly moving back on target. I'm not sure if its his choice or not, but Easterbrook's column also comes with many pictures that I don't need. The plain Grantland format is easy to read.

  11. #11
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    Grantland is the natural extension of ESPN's old "Page 2" site, where they tried to give more space to a mix of writers such as Simmons, the late great Ralph Wiley, and even the doomed tortured wordslinging of Hunter S. Thompson. (Perhaps Charles Pierce is filling Thompson's role as the cranky 60's dinosaur greybeard). I read the site pretty much every day, and the hits outnumber the misses by a good margin. The Duke bashing doesn't bother me; there also numerous examples where Duke gets due respect, but I don't think they get noticed as much (other than the Titus example upthread).

    I don't pay a lot of attention to the pop culture stuff; the fascination with reality TV is puzzling. But I can take the good with the bad. I've sent a few of the Zach Lowe pieces to my kids - they're almost like mini-coaching clinics the way he mixes his analysis with clips to illustrate his point. Their analysis includes more use of advanced metrics than any mainstream sports site that I know of.

    It was interesting to read Simmons' apology after they stepped in the cabbage about the transgender golf club inventor who later committed suicide. Despite his frequent diversions into adolescent humor, he takes this seriously and is trying (and succeeding, imho) to build something of value.
    "Quality is not an option!"

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by uh_no View Post
    i think you answered your own question...
    Agree

  13. #13
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    I have been a Simmons fan for a long time. He has often been intrigued, and explored mostly via his podcasts, the concept of a writer "writing themselves out". Tony Kornheiser admitted that this happened to him, that one day he just didn't have his fastball anymore and decided to move into television. In a lot of ways, I think Simmons wrote himself out with his basketball tome. As he was writing the book, he started his BS Report podcast and I quickly started to prefer his interviewer persona to his writer persona. I think Simmons recognized that he wrote himself out, but he still had a ton of ideas bouncing around his head, and the result was "30 for 30", Grantland, the expanded podcast network, his foray into actual feature film production, etc. Add to all of that the NBA studio gig, the regular appearances on PTI, and the guy is amazingly prolific. In fact, many of the most credible media pundits call him one of the most powerful people at ESPN, and I am sure he was instrumental in the recruitment of Nate Silver to the WWL. There aren't too many journalists who have made that kind of leap. It's annoying that he hates Duke and tweaks us whenever he gets a chance...but, again, loved or hated but never ignored.

    As for Grantland, I mostly like it, and I find the sports writing more tolerable than the entertainment coverage, but I think it suffers from what the rest of media suffers from - too much of everything. In the old days, with limited time and space, real decisions had to be made about what was worth covering and what was not. Now, with unlimited web-based real estate and a 24/7 cycle, things that aren't really important get far too much attention. Do we really need a panel-based dissection of the movie "Above the Rim", or an oral history of "The Superbowl Shuffle"? I know the answer is, "As long as enough people read it, yes, we need these things", but it seems a little much. Also, as a young middle aged dude, I have to admit that the writing style of many of these young scribes leaves me very confused. I often have to read paragraphs 2 and 3 times to figure out what the heck they are talking about. I'm not saying I need Hemmingway-esque clarity, but so much of the writing is over-stylized.

    I have heard a lot of complaints about the podcasts but that is the one area I really enjoy. There are a lot of them now and many don't suit my fancy (like, I actually loath 'The Hollywood Propectus' with Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald - a 30-60 minute weekly dose of laughing at each others inside jokes and lame improve style call backs wrapped around TV, movie and music talk), but I really like 'The BS Report', 'The Lowe Post', 'Do You Like Prince Movies', 'Girls in Hoodies', 'The Jalen Rose Report', and 'Men in Blazers'. I am trying to get into the new 'The Moment', with Brian Koppleman, but he seems like a really annoying dude who loves that he knows this many famous-ish people.

    While I like Titus, Grantland could really use a Zach Lowe level college basketball writer. But, as someone pointed out, Simmons straight up does not watch college sports so I am not sure it is his #1 priority.

  14. #14
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by uh_no View Post
    i think you answered your own question...
    Quote Originally Posted by bob blue devil View Post
    Agree
    Personally, I think y'all are cutting off your own noses to spite your face. The amount of Duke-bashing (and frankly, even that is an overly strong term...it mostly plays as grudging respect) on Grantland is veritably minuscule compared to the overall volume of material on the site. As others have pointed out, a great deal of Grantland's non Duke-related material (like 98% of the site) is of very high journalistic and analytical quality.
    If you're going to boycott all media outlets who occasionally disseminate anti-Duke sentiments, then you essentially have nothing left. Going looking for the scattered kernels of Duke dislike seems to me a waste of one's time and energy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wilson View Post
    Personally, I think y'all are cutting off your own noses to spite your face. The amount of Duke-bashing (and frankly, even that is an overly strong term...it mostly plays as grudging respect) on Grantland is veritably minuscule compared to the overall volume of material on the site. As others have pointed out, a great deal of Grantland's non Duke-related material (like 98% of the site) is of very high journalistic and analytical quality.
    If you're going to boycott all media outlets who occasionally disseminate anti-Duke sentiments, then you essentially have nothing left. Going looking for the scattered kernels of Duke dislike seems to me a waste of one's time and energy.
    Andrew Sharp is the only one I think who is petty with the Duke bashing and part of that is his UNC ties. I do really like reading Titus's write ups during the college basketball season.

  16. #16
    Grantland is probably my favorite site out there with a ton of great writers, and I'm grateful that it exists. I really, really dislike Shane Ryan's columns, so I don't like his contributions to Grantland's college basketball coverage and especially disapprove of him as a "Duke representative." Plenty of others get their digs in on Duke, so it's not surprising that there may be an unfavorable impression here, but that's just the culture these days. I enjoy Mark Titus's college basketball work - Titus as the main college basketball columnist over Ryan is a huge improvement for many reasons. He'll take plenty of shots too, and but it's obviously a nontraditional style and he at least knows what he's talking about. I'd rather read Titus mocking Duke than have a mainstream writer like Pat Forde (whose work I also mostly enjoy) insert the misspelled D-o-o-k and a cheapshot at Coach K into what's supposed to be more traditional coverage.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by wilson View Post
    Personally, I think y'all are cutting off your own noses to spite your face. The amount of Duke-bashing (and frankly, even that is an overly strong term...it mostly plays as grudging respect) on Grantland is veritably minuscule compared to the overall volume of material on the site.
    One of the problems with your argument here is that you assume I'd be a consumer of all of the content on Grantland. I don't have time for that. My consumption is biased towards my interests, and Duke athletics is an important one.

    Quote Originally Posted by wilson View Post
    If you're going to boycott all media outlets who occasionally disseminate anti-Duke sentiments, then you essentially have nothing left. Going looking for the scattered kernels of Duke dislike seems to me a waste of one's time and energy.
    I'm sorry, but what are you basing this 'boycott all media outlets" supposition on? Feels like a straw man... And, even then, why would it bother you if I chose to not support someone that is making money by slandering Duke, and by virtue of that, indirectly slandering me?

  18. #18
    I read Grantland regularly and find it has a number of very good writers (I am a Katie Baker fan). I give Bill Simmons credit for being involved in the development of a site which I now rarely visit for the purpose of reading or listening to what he has to say. Since I bet pro football the only Simmons contribution I check consistently is the podcast with Cousin Sal where they guess the weekly point spreads and provide a lot of information of value on which team they believe should be favored (but remember - outside of Nevada gambling in the U.S. on sporting events is illegal ). I agree that Simmons appears to recognize he burned out on writing his long articles that made his rep. He has moved on to his current goal of promoting the NBA however possible while being a major player in ESPN operations.

    As far as the ritualistic Duke bashing by some writers, I take that as lazy writing when someone cannot think of anything original to say and do not take it seriously

    This link and excerpt from an article on the redesign of the site provides an interesting discussion of how Grantland is evolving.

    What Was The Purpose Of The Grantland Redesign? ...

    Emphasize its other brands: Hollywood Prospectus and The Triangle. Grantland is the brand for features / magazine work. The Triangle is their sports blog. Hollywood Prospectus is their pop culture blog. Notice that each blog has a masthead with editors and a more detailed landing page (before it was similar to a tag page that was auto-generated). Now both blogs have custom navs and cover story areas to help brand them as destinations in and of themselves.


    http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/20...land-redesign/
    Last edited by Atlanta Duke; 04-04-2014 at 12:11 PM.

  19. #19
    Grantland is great one of my favorite sites around. Combines two of my biggest passions sports and music. Lowe might be the best basketball writer out there right now. Simmons and Jalen have their biases but at least their entertaining and upfront about it. Their cast of writers fill different niches and do it pretty well. Sharp is clearly a pop culture humor type type of writer and Lowe/Goldsberry are the more advanced analysis writers.

    Titus's work can be hit and miss for me.

    Hyden is also one of the best music writers. He isn't consumed with what's hip or not and just focuses on the actual music. Love his escape from Pop Purgatory series.

    It is a far more interesting and entertaining site than their big brother ESPN, even though ESPN seems to focus strictly on reporting, while Grantland seems to focus on commenting on these stories.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trey21 View Post
    Lowe might be the best basketball writer out there right now.
    This highlights an important point I meant to make earlier. Simmons has repeatedly done what everyone says good bosses are supposed to do, hire people who are more talented then you. Everyone had their own opinions of his ability as a writer, but he was a hugely popular basketball and football writer. Yet, he went out and handed over those beats to Lowe and Barnwell and others who are far better then him. That's his job as the boss of the site, but he could have been petty and not done that, shot for guys who were pretty good and not great. Again, at some point the switch flipped for him and he realized that (A) he had the ear of the most powerful people at ESPN (B) he had grand visions that went beyond writing and (C) A were happy to keep funding B. It will be interesting to see as he pushes closer to 50 from 40 if he's able to keep that magic touch. I am sure he looks in the mirror often and says, "How do I avoid becoming Rick Reilly!" Part of it is hanging out with young people.

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