Grantland

NatetheGreat

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Charles Pierce's piece on Ozzie Guillen and Castro was interesting, because its the sort of culturally opinionated, explicitly political piece that you pretty much never find at pure sports journalism outlets, but built around a topic (a baseball manager's dumb comments) that you'd pretty much only expect to be covered in a pure sports outlet. It reminds me a little of the piece Grantland ran a while ago about NBA stars and the evolution of "black cool" into something outwardly resembling Carlton Banks, in that it was both sports focused, and was making a kind of larger point that sports-focused journalism doesn't usually get to make. I'm not sure that Grantland's the only place that would pay one of its writers for a piece like that, but if not, then its one of very few.

Like, paragraphs like this

My god, we're doing business in Vietnam. The butchers of Tiananmen Square are the country's primary landlords. We'd be building electronics factories all over North Korea if that country's leaders weren't all completely nuts. The émigrés who came from Cuba in the wake of the revolution can be proud of what they built, but they had it a lot easier than did, say, the Hmong people of Southeast Asia, whom the United States sold out at the end of the Vietnam War, breaking all kinds of promises about repatriation and leaving them to be slaughtered until, finally, we allowed some of them to come over here and farm chickens in Arkansas on the cheap for corporate agribusiness. And yet we can't come to grips with a sensible policy for one small island in the Caribbean because a bunch of old men in Florida are carrying a grudge against one old man who refuses against all odds to die?
Would be totally normal from, say, Matt Taibbi or something. But you don't expect them in sports pieces, not even ones by smart and culturally aware sports journalists. And if Matt Taibbi was writing on Cuba, the next line after that paragraph would definitely not be "Ozzie Guillen should have been smarter than to say what he said in Miami."
 

SydneySox

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Here's the link: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7800493/the-idiocy-ozzie-guillen-cuba-mess

I liked it. It's not really all that intellecturally defensible but, as you say, it was refreshing to see that take. I particularly liked this paragraph:

Now, Ozzie Guillen has the same relationship with saying goofy stuff as a firehose has with water, so I was not entirely surprised when he said this. And, as far as loopy political commentary goes, this wasn't anything too far beyond Luke Scott's being a Birther who opined, "Obama does not represent America. Nor does he represent anything what our forefathers stood for … He was not born here," which, being aimed at a sitting president, strikes me as a much more serious bit of idiocy than that aimed at the ex-head of state of a battered Caribbean island. Except, of course, that the United States has been out of its mind over Cuba for almost 60 years.
The point being, perspective is important in this entire stupid affair.

He later goes on to compare it to other things like Tiannemen and Vietnam and the Hmong which is silly and too far but the general 'this is a stupid issue' theme of the story was nice to read, for me.
 

BrazilianSoxFan

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The Jeter Diaries:

Sunday, April 22: at Boston (rainout)

Rainouts are awful in general, but a rainout in Boston is the worst. You can't do anything but stay in your hotel. If you try to go outside, you literally will be killed. No matter how tricky the traveling secretary gets with it, that Sons of Sam Horn website always finds out where we're staying (Schilling must tell them, right?) and posts the address in a thread called "Let's get together and go murder the Yankees." So then you have a flash stab-mob patrolling outside all day, all wearing Mariah Carey masks, waiting for you to get bored enough to try to sneak out for a Duck Tour or something. One time I managed to get past them long enough to grab a meal on Newbury Street, but they found me by the time the entree arrived and threw a batting helmet full of cement through the window. Mariah was really freaked out and punched a cop who was trying to calm her down. I guess that explains the masks. So, rainouts. Yeah.
 

JBill

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A few things I've liked in the past week:

1. In Memoriam: Adam Yauch: http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/48990/in-memoriam-adam-yauch-1964-2012. One of the better MCA pieces I've read in the past several days.

2. Tyson and Eddy: Divergent Careers of Two Former Prep Phenoms: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7887970/the-divergent-careers-miami-heat-eddy-curry-new-york-knicks-tyson-chandler, by Jonathan Abrams. I guess it's not a surprise with Simmons at the helm, but I think Grantland's best sports pieces are about basketball and the NBA.

3. Oden on Oden: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7908766/a-rare-interview-former-no-1-overall-pick-greg-oden-injury-plagued-career. An interview with Greg Oden by former teammate Mark Titus:

"Because I don't understand why they are so excited to meet me," Greg responded. "I'm just a person. I guess I didn't really mind it when I was at Ohio State and even right after I was drafted, but it just seems so fake now. Like, why are you bothering me at dinner for a picture when I'm nothing now?"
 

Mystic Merlin

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What the hell is this?

April is a pretty sweet month to get married when you think about it. For starters, your wedding is likely one of the first of the season, which means your friends haven't yet gone broke buying blenders and shacking up six to a hotel room and will actually be excited to see one another. (By the end of the summer, all the singles will have hooked up in every possible combination, as in Dawson's Creek or Gossip Girl, and it will be impossible to figure out how to non-awkwardly seat them. You don't need those kinds of headaches, you know?)

...
 

Gravistar

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What the hell is this?
I take it you haven't been reading Katie Baker's wedding pieces. They're pretty hilarious actually (it's like Portlandia for the rich and successful), mainly because Baker's really perceptive. The subject matter's obviously a stretch for Grantland, which I imagine lets her do it because she used to write these pieces for Gawker, where they were very popular I'm sure.
 

weeba

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Oh what the fuck is going on with the world.
"In March, Jessica Schnaider, 41, of Surfside, Fla., was preparing to shop for a wedding gown by spending eight days on a feeding tube," the article says underneath a picture of Schnaider sitting serenely as a designer plastic tube gets snaked up her right nostril. Hot! (This picture is wonderful too.) Even hotter:

It uses a nasogastric tube (a tube that goes through the nose and down the esophagus into the stomach) to provide all nourishment, with no carbohydrates, for 10 days. Dr. Di Pietro said body weight is lost quickly through ketosis, the state in which the body burns fat rather than sugar. Patients at his office are monitored during the 10-day period for things like constipation, bad breath and dizziness.​
 

SidelineCameras

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I don't visit Grantland every day, but they do seem to mention "Mad Men" on a fairly regular basis. They might want to up the content variety, methinks.
 

Leather

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I don't visit Grantland every day, but they do seem to mention "Mad Men" on a fairly regular basis. They might want to up the content variety, methinks.
Yea. Another thing that Slate.com has extensively covered (they have a roundtable discussion on MM every week).

Grantland does a lot of everything, but nothing as well as other places do it. It's like the Rockingham Mall Food Court of websites.
 

Mystic Merlin

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I take it you haven't been reading Katie Baker's wedding pieces. They're pretty hilarious actually (it's like Portlandia for the rich and successful), mainly because Baker's really perceptive. The subject matter's obviously a stretch for Grantland, which I imagine lets her do it because she used to write these pieces for Gawker, where they were very popular I'm sure.
No I have not - this is the first I've noticed her wedding pieces. I read the entire thing and can't say I enjoyed it, but, then again, I could not care less about weddings or wedding culture. Different strokes, I guess.
 

JBill

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Yea. Another thing that Slate.com has extensively covered (they have a roundtable discussion on MM every week).

Grantland does a lot of everything, but nothing as well as other places do it. It's like the Rockingham Mall Food Court of websites.
Personally I think their sports coverage is some of the best around. I think their pop culture side is weaker and more disjointed.

I'm not sure about the last couple of references you've made to Slate though. Are you saying because Slate discusses the Avengers and Mad Men, that Grantland shouldn't try to compete, or just that they're not doing it as well?
 

Leather

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My point is that Grantland has limited resources, and it should perhaps do a better job of not running pieces that directly overlap with a chief on-line news/culture competitor. It's like the Red Sox trying to out-spend the Yankees; it's a fools game.

Slate has a "Mad Men" scorecard where it talks about the different male characters sexual exploits. Grantland devotes a lot of time to its "Mad Men" power rankings. In recent weeks they've both run very similar pieces on Jack Kirby.

Either they aren't paying attention to what the competition is doing (which is lazy and foolish) or they don't care (which seems misguided). They need to make a niche for themselves, and appearing to mimic Slate's culture coverage, which has probably 2x the resources as Grantland, is not going to go well fo them.

It's not a big deal unto itself, but I think it speaks to a lack of developmental strategy. I think they spread themselves too thin with the pop culture stuff. Klosterman was their ace-in-the-hole in that regard, and he's off the masthead and not really a presence anymore.
 

Gravistar

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No I have not - this is the first I've noticed her wedding pieces. I read the entire thing and can't say I enjoyed it, but, then again, I could not care less about weddings or wedding culture. Different strokes, I guess.
Fair enough. It is weird content for the site; I just happen to have a friend who loves this kind of thing, so reading Baker's pieces help me keep up a conversation with him. A bit weird, but whatever.

I'm with drleather about the site doing a poor job shaping its identity/devoting resources to certain kinds of content. I hate most of the things on the pop culture blog because of its newsy-ness/gossip quotient. Andy Greenwald's Game of Thrones recaps are really well done, but there's not a lot else to like.
 

JBill

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Slate has a "Mad Men" scorecard where it talks about the different male characters sexual exploits. Grantland devotes a lot of time to its "Mad Men" power rankings. In recent weeks they've both run very similar pieces on Jack Kirby.
I just don't see mimicking Slate here. The guy who writes the power rankings for Grantland, Mark Lisanti, has been writing them for years on his own blog. I think it's similar to the Katie Baker wedding pieces, if a writer has something they were doing before Grantland that they enjoyed, they bring it with them. I actually think the rankings are unique, not similar to Slate's interactive scorecard which isn't a column, and are the best part of Grantland's MM coverage since the Molly Lambert recaps are terrible, although I can see how they might not be for everyone.

As for the Stan Lee/Kirby article, I didn't particularly like Grantland's piece because it got a little rambling in the middle, but the writer interviewed Stan Lee, and I read it as a response to articles like Slate's, by getting Lee's input.

Anyway here are my issues with their pop culture side:

1) Way too much focus on trash TV/pop culture. It's jarring because it seems at odds with the tone of a lot of their sports coverage. Their sports blog has fun/funny stuff too, but it all seems much more balanced and seamless on the sports end than on the pop culture end.

2) I agree about spreading themselves too thin and in too many pop culture-y directions (tv, music, video games, tabloid gossip, etc.), and yet they do very little with movies. Drop all the reality TV garbage and do some more movie coverage. During Oscars season they had a weekly "Oscarmetrics" column breaking down all the contenders in each category, and I think bringing some form of that back year round makes sense.

Overall, I will make a point to go check out Grantland's sports stuff, but other than Greenwald's columns, nothing really stands out on the pop culture end. They have talented writers, and good bits (like Rembert Remembers the 80s and the Watch Instantly bad movie reviews) but they need to trim it down and cut some of the dreck.
 

Old Fart Tree

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Yeah. That was dogshit. Molly Lambert is also terrible. That said, some of their actual sportswriting is great. It's just really hit or miss.
 

Leather

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I was kind of digging it until they ran out of the woods and the bum and coach chased them. That would never happen.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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I love Grantland, but this was an absolute piece of shit piece by the "Shit My Dad Says" guy....

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7929543/a-memoir-little-league-pornography-creator-sh*t-my-dad-says

I'm all for a little immature comedy, but there is absolutely 0% chance that this story is all true. Grantland should not be a place for fiction.
I agree. There is no way that story happened, it was too neat. All of the quotes are too spot on and a bit too sophisticated for a bunch of 12-year-olds--unless Kevin Williamson is writing the dialogue. I understand that he had to clean up a lot of things (details, quotes, etc.), but if you're going to do that cut the bullshit. Plus there were a few illogical things: he runs away from baseball practice with two bums chasing him and his coach doesn't call his parents? And not one kid ever has been in the canyon? Seriously?

And his dad sounds like a real asshole.
 

cromulence

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I agree. There is no way that story happened, it was too neat. All of the quotes are too spot on and a bit too sophisticated for a bunch of 12-year-olds--unless Kevin Williamson is writing the dialogue. I understand that he had to clean up a lot of things (details, quotes, etc.), but if you're going to do that cut the bullshit. Plus there were a few illogical things: he runs away from baseball practice with two bums chasing him and his coach doesn't call his parents? And not one kid ever has been in the canyon? Seriously?

And his dad sounds like a real asshole.
Took all the words out of my mouth. I recall commenting similarly here about his last piece, which had all of the same issues with plausibility and dialogue that was clearly too detailed and witty. But most of all, like you said, his dad sounds completely awful. I'm quite sure it's just a distorted caricature at this point, but the man sounds horrible.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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"You should just be called the Padres, not all that bullshit about credit unions," my dad said
"Yeah, well, I pay for you to do everything, and you don't see me making you wear a shirt with my giant goddamned face on it."
"Please. You wear all kinds of dopey shirts, and — what the fuck am I talking about right here? The shirt's not real, I'm just making a point. You got your gear?" he asked

"Fascinating. Now out of the car. Vamoose. Out! Out! Have fun and don't screw with anyone bigger than you. I'll be in the stands when your game starts," he said.
I put my hand up for a high five, and he used that hand to push me out of the car.

"Why would gay people screw each other in a canyon filled with wolves?" my dad asked
"Hey, look at me, I'm screwing. My pants are off. Oh shit, there's an angry fucking wolf. Does that make any goddamn sense to you?"

"Well, contrary to popular fucking belief, I enjoy a little time to myself, so I wake up early so I can have it. Clearly I'm going to have to start waking up earlier."

"Is this about that Arachnophobia movie, again? I told you, a spider that large couldn't sustain itself in an urban environment. The ecosystem is too delicate. Not fucking plausible."

"Well, scientifically speaking, human beings fear the unknown. So, whatever's freaking you out, grab it by the balls and say hello," he said.

"Son, no offense, but you play Little League. It's not the Yankees. I don't get daily reports about who's hitting the shit out of the ball."

"Son. What in the fuck are you doing?"

"Please explain to me right now why you're in your underwear digging a fucking hole in my backyard at three-thirty in the goddamn morning."

"And women aren't going to screw you in all those crazy ways, either. You got it? They don't look like that and they don't screw crazy. That's what you're taking away from this, okay?"
So this Kurtwood Smith-esque father talks like this to his 12-year-old son and he doesn't say anything about guys potentially having sex with each other in the woods next to a baseball field other than "Most people don't have sex in the woods, other than high school kids."? Seriously? I think that's a bit of selective editing to make his dad look like a good guy (which is fine, as long as you don't make your dad look like a complete dick for most of the rest of the piece).
 

kenneycb

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Took all the words out of my mouth. I recall commenting similarly here about his last piece, which had all of the same issues with plausibility and dialogue that was clearly too detailed and witty. But most of all, like you said, his dad sounds completely awful. I'm quite sure it's just a distorted caricature at this point, but the man sounds horrible.
I mean, he's recalling stories from 15 to 20 years ago so there's going to be a fair amount of discretion with regard to the dialogue pieces, which he's trying to primarily use as a means to ultimately drive the narrative to the overall point he's trying to make. Or something like that. Maybe.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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So this Kurtwood Smith-esque father talks like this to his 12-year-old son and he doesn't say anything about guys potentially having sex with each other in the woods next to a baseball field other than "Most people don't have sex in the woods, other than high school kids."? Seriously? I think that's a bit of selective editing to make his dad look like a good guy (which is fine, as long as you don't make your dad look like a complete dick for most of the rest of the piece).
My point is that the selective editting was the entire piece! I dont think for one minute that the father said ANY of those "witty" comments or anything.
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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My point is that the selective editting was the entire piece! I dont think for one minute that the father said ANY of those "witty" comments or anything.
I agree. My point is that his father is a dick, and you're right: I don't think that his dad said the stuff the way he said it. Unless his dad is the son of Kurtwood Smith and Chuck Klosterman.

Edit: my selective editing comment was about his father's nonreaction to the news that gays may or may not be having sex in woods next to a park. I found that his tolerance for supposed public homosexual affairs while his intolerance for his 12-year-old's question to be strange.
 

Rook05

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I always look forward to Wednesdays for the Men in Blazers podcast. Those guys are fantastic.
 

Tartan

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I mean, he's recalling stories from 15 to 20 years ago so there's going to be a fair amount of discretion with regard to the dialogue pieces, which he's trying to primarily use as a means to ultimately drive the narrative to the overall point he's trying to make. Or something like that. Maybe.
If this is the case (which I suspect it is) it doesn't help that his dad's dialogue sounds so scripted that you can practically hear the laugh track after each zinger. If this was my introduction to Halpern, I'd assume he was a lousy sitcom writer.
 

kenneycb

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If this is the case (which I suspect it is) it doesn't help that his dad's dialogue sounds so scripted that you can practically hear the laugh track after each zinger. If this was my introduction to Halpern, I'd assume he was a lousy sitcom writer.
He isn't?
 

Shelterdog

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Chuck Klosterman hasn't written anything for Grantland in more than a month. I wonder what he's up to?
Probably joining Wright Thompson, David Eggers, Malcom Gladwell, Colson Whitehead, Chris Jones, and the two guys who did the kickass oral history of the National and never wrote another thing in the long list of "writers Grantland bragged about a year ago whose column space is now being filled by David Jacoby reality show fantasy league updates".
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Agreed.

Are you guys clicking on the ads?

Because I'm not clicking on the ads.

I have no idea how long this site can continue to produce good writing if it doesn't make any money.

Regular ESPN site makes money on Insider, Merchandise, and Fantasy. Grantland?
 

Shelterdog

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Agreed.

Are you guys clicking on the ads?

Because I'm not clicking on the ads.

I have no idea how long this site can continue to produce good writing if it doesn't make any money.

Regular ESPN site makes money on Insider, Merchandise, and Fantasy. Grantland?
Do they need to make that much money if it's just going to be mostly BSG stuff and a bunch of crap by about six no-names (Baker, Lamber, Barnwell, Kang, etc)? Simmons and his podcasts remain pretty popular so while they afford to be "The National 2.0" as they originally aspired to be they probably can afford to be "Deadspin Plus a Little"
 

JBill

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What is supporting the theory that they're not making any money? According to the ESPN The Book guys in March:

@richarddeitsch @Grantland33 was profitable way ahead of sked; web gold mine. @sportsguy33 on Bristol's financial Mt. Rushmore for reason.
https://twitter.com/espnbook/status/179666967148507137

And they're continuing to hire full-time writers, it seems like they've tripled their staff since they first started out. I think they are OK on the money front. As for why more "big" names don't write more regularly for the site, the only one that was "promised" that is surprising/disappointing to me is Klosterman. I wish Eggers and Gladwell would at least try, but they haven't seen the first few weeks so it's not surprising.

Whitehead, Thompson, the guys who wrote The National oral history, etc. are all listed as "contributing writers" unlike the "staff writers" like Pierce, Baker, Phillips, etc. who write regularly. I imagine they can write whenever they feel like it (Whitehead tweeted he's doing stuff for them for the Olympics), and I wish they would, but they're not on a regular schedule like their full-time staff.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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I read what they're writing about them being profitable, but I just don't see how the numbers work. Tend to agree with Shelterdog -- if it's BSG and the 7 dwarfs, they can last longer, but I don't see how they can pay anyone good money and survive.

I'm sure Grantland is great resume fodder for young writers who can't demand a big payday, yet.
 

Shelterdog

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What is supporting the theory that they're not making any money? According to the ESPN The Book guys in March:



https://twitter.com/espnbook/status/179666967148507137

And they're continuing to hire full-time writers, it seems like they've tripled their staff since they first started out. I think they are OK on the money front. As for why more "big" names don't write more regularly for the site, the only one that was "promised" that is surprising/disappointing to me is Klosterman. I wish Eggers and Gladwell would at least try, but they haven't seen the first few weeks so it's not surprising.

Whitehead, Thompson, the guys who wrote The National oral history, etc. are all listed as "contributing writers" unlike the "staff writers" like Pierce, Baker, Phillips, etc. who write regularly. I imagine they can write whenever they feel like it (Whitehead tweeted he's doing stuff for them for the Olympics), and I wish they would, but they're not on a regular schedule like their full-time staff.
I don't care what they call the contributing writers, Grantland used to feature a lot of really talented big names and now they don't have those guys.

I'm not surprised myself--I always figured Eggers and Gladwell and Whitehead would stick with their day jobs, give some scraps to grantland, and send their best stuff to the New Yorker or the NY Times Magazine or GQ or whatever--but it's pretty obvious that they've ditched the quality, long form style and are more interested in Mad Men power rankings and TV recaps.

And the staff hasn't really grown; the people who write regularlary have been there since day one: I'm pretty sure each of the first 12 listed contributors on the contributor section of the website have been there since the inception.

Maybe they make money; I don't know. But they're not the place for high quality sports or cultural journalism and writing that they initially wanted to be.
 

ifmanis5

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Probably joining Wright Thompson, David Eggers, Malcom Gladwell, Colson Whitehead, Chris Jones, and the two guys who did the kickass oral history of the National and never wrote another thing in the long list of "writers Grantland bragged about a year ago whose column space is now being filled by David Jacoby reality show fantasy league updates".
This was a great post. I'd go as far to say that Grantland is guilty of bait and switch.
 

ifmanis5

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This would be true if this was their initial intention. If it just turned out that way, then it's not bait and switch.
ESPN has a long history of rolling out big then replacing with steadily inferior content.
I know because I was there for the rolling out of ESPNews and ESPN2's Sports Night. They call it 'evolving' but the reality is unsustainability.
 

The Social Chair

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When Simmons annouced the idea of Grantland on his podcast he made it clear that he wanted a place for young writers to make a name for themselves (and make money...something rare for a young writer in 2012). They have added a lot of good writers recently including Alex Pappademas, Brian Phillips, Bryan Curtis, Tess Lynch, and Sean Fennessey. And I personally don't care if I ever read anything else by Gladwell or Eggers in my life again. The site is great to me but I fit comfortably inside their niche.

I think the site was making money and that was before they hired David Cho.

but it's pretty obvious that they've ditched the quality, long form style and are more interested in Mad Men power rankings and TV recaps.
You're mixing up their blog content with their main site content: which I guess is a site layout problem.
 

Fishercat

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I usually find a couple things each day that I like to read and spend some time on. That's better than most other sites. Grantland has warts but I think, content wise, it's been a pretty solid success.
 

Shelterdog

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You're mixing up their blog content with their main site content: which I guess is a site layout problem.
No, I'm not mixing them up. They just aren't publishing as much of the high end writing, period. Jay Caspian Kang talking about singing divas and the grantland staff's youtube hall of fame are two of the six main site articles as I write this.
 

The Social Chair

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They do 5-10 longread features per month. If you are expecting them to do more than that than you have unrealistic expectations for any magazine, on or offline.
 

Leather

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"any magazine"?

The New Yorker puts out more content every two weeks than Grantland puts out in six. And it's even edited and shit.

Grantland promised to be the "National Geographic" of sports/culture online magazines. Intead, it's turned out to be the "Ranger Rick."
 

John Marzano Olympic Hero

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I don't think Grantland is that bad, Leather. They have some talented writers: Jonah Keri, Charles Pierce, Katie Baker is a unique voice in hockey, I like the guy that does the soccer stuff (his name escapes me), Rembert Browne is funny and has an interesting take on things, that Amos dude isn't too bad, the Masked Wrestler is pretty awesome, it's 50/50 Wesley Morris will write something that I will enjoy. A few weeks ago Chris Sims wrote for them. And once I got the rhythym of the "Mad Man Power Rankings" I began to enjoy them.

Yes, there are a couple of clunkers like Molly Lambert and the Reality Show Fantasy League (I have never clicked on any stories under this title, is it a real league?) and I can do without the gambling columns. For the most part I like the site. Like I said, I wish that Klosterman would write more -- I noticed that they took his name off the tab bar.