ESPN announced Friday that Grantland would be suspended, effective immediately. The website originated as a forum for writers to publish unorthodox journalism pieces, and Grantland became an intersection of sports, pop culture, opinion and analytics. Despite its short life, Grantland’s impact on sports fans is undeniable.
In 2011, ESPN gave writer Bill Simmons permission to start Grantland, and it immediately became one of my favorite websites. Any time Simmons posted an article or podcast, I would read or listen to it as soon as possible. In the winter of my senior year of high school, I even wrote a paper about Simmons and his style of writing for an English class.
While Simmons is a talented writer, his ability to identify talent was what allowed the site to prosper. Simmons was willing to use unorthodox methods to find writers for his site.
After ESPN announced Grantland’s suspension, Robert Mays explained how Simmons hired him. Mays introduced himself to Simmons during an NBA Finals game. Simmons continued to read Mays’ writings, and two months later, Simmons tweeted a link to one of his articles and offered him a job at Grantland. Simmons found many writers in other interesting places, and in doing so he located some of the best sports writers in the world.
Bill Barnwell was perhaps my favorite Simmons hire. Although “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis opened my eyes to the world of sports analytics, I rarely read articles about the quantitative side of sports. But that changed once I read “The Lions’ Financial Cage,” which discussed the implications of the Detroit Lions’ player contracts on the team’s future financial flexibility. In Barnwell, I found a writer whose articles were grounded in quantitative evidence.
Grantland introduced other great writers to sports analytics. Last year, inspired by this genre, I co-authored a piece about expected contract values in the NFL. This article helped me land an internship with the Cleveland Browns.
I know I am not the only one whose life, both professional and personal, has been influenced by a Grantland author. Data-interested basketball fans love Zach Lowe, whose articles include both wit and analytics. Andrew Sharp’s articles felt like a conversation between him and the reader. Rembert Browne wrote articles about society and culture that were interesting and thought-provoking. The list goes on and on: Grantland was a hub for good writers.
That is what makes this so sad. According to Deadspin, ESPN said it will honor Grantland’s writers’ contracts, and that the sportswriters will likely be brought over to ESPN.com. Still, many writers lost their jobs for an engaging and exciting website. Everyone expected Grantland would struggle once Simmons left. The final blow came when five top editors left Grantland, four of whom joined Simmons’ new, unknown project. According to Deadspin, Simmons told the editors to leave ESPN without giving any of their co-workers or ESPN any warning.
Simmons, in essence, ended what he started.
For some of the younger writers, this is just another bump in the road. For older and more experienced writers like Lowe, who just had a child several months ago, Grantland’s suspension might cause life- and career-altering ramifications.
Earlier, I spoke to a fellow columnist for The Hoya about the termination of Grantland, and we lamented the loss. He confessed he had always wanted to work at Grantland. Now, he will never have that opportunity.
I lost the site that made me love sports on another level. The site has influenced my life and others in a way that I am sure no one, not even Simmons, could imagine.
Nick Barton is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. More Than a Game appears every other Tuesday.
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