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An Ode To Grantland: We Wouldn’t Exist Without You

The major ESPN project, dubbed, named after decorated sportswriter Grantland Rice, ceased production today after a four year run. The project, which was the brainchild of loud-mouthed, highly controversial sports personality Bill Simmons, dies a sad, silent death today. ISH writer Max Marcovitch explains what this means to him, you, and the sports world.

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Without Grantland, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. You probably wouldn’t even be on, because it probably wouldn’t exist. I probably wouldn’t be able to use personal pronouns and contractions in my writing. And I certainly could not imagine a world in which my life, passions, and interests were the same.

It is not hyperbole to say that Grantland changed my life, and I know I’m not alone.

It all started just four years ago. A young, middle school sports fiend heard that his favorite sports personality, Bill Simmons, was starting his own website. Trying to get me to read anything was like trying to get Simmons to admit the Patriots’ guilt in Spygate; it wasn’t happening. But, as a huge Boston sports fan, I figured that could be an interesting project, so I logged on. At first, I exclusively read Simmons. His weekly picks columns and mailbags were fun and engaging, but my true passion for writing and analytical interest in sports dramatically changed only when I explored everyone and everything else Grantland had to offer.

Thank you, Zach Lowe. The most knowledgeable basketball fan on the planet, Lowe perfected the puzzling task of providing insight to the basketball nerds like himself, while also communicating in the vernacular of the average fan. To me, no column better portrays his talent than the one he wrote just after the Warriors’ championship last season. It’s apparent that behind each anecdote, each nugget of detail, Lowe not only did his research, but also made his connections behind the scenes. That article is everything journalism should be.

Thank you, Rembert Browne. A graduate of my own high school, Browne is a personal role model of mine for his versatility. The pop-culture editor, Browne often wrote about the tumult of our hometown Atlanta Falcons. He is often sarcastic – go read his annual pop-culture brackets right now – but also has the talent to channel a serious side when called on to do so. His first-person account (and tweets) from Ferguson still tackles that situation in the best way I have seen. Not to mention, he interviewed President Obama on Air Force One.

Thank you, Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays for changing the way I consume and analyze football. The Grantland NFL Podcast, specifically, has been one of the more constant things in my life for the last few years. It will be weird not to hear Mays drool over offensive line play or Barnwell fawn over Odell Beckham feats.

Thank you, Chris Ryan, Andrew Sharp, Juliet Litman, Mark Titus, Shea Serrano and countless others. These talented writers embodied the most impactful change Grantland made on the writing community in the last four years. They altered the style of sports writing. Instead of stressing over formality and sweating grammar and AP Style, they wrote what they thought how they thought it. Careful not to be sloppy in doing so (and they most certainly were not), these craftsmen and women made writing more engaging, and frankly more readable.

Most of all, thank you Grantland. You inspired me to read, write, and obsess over sports in a way that had never been accessible or even imaginable before.

When Simmons left/was fired last year, it was, inevitably, an uphill battle for Grantland to stay afloat. He was the reason I came to Grantland in the first place; but the truest testament to the quality of Grantland, for me, came after he left. Despite his absence, I found myself listening to just as many podcasts, reading just as many columns, and enjoying just as much of its content.

Grantland was like Oceans Eleven. Simmons (the George Clooney equivalent) assembled his squad of relative no-names, who each performed his role to perfection to accomplish something special. While most came in as no-names, they now leave as superstars in their individual niches. As has been said tirelessly: every one of these immensely talented writers will land on his/her feet; they will all be fine. But we, the reader, will not be spoiled to have them all in one place.

Rest in peace, Grantland; it truly has been a great run.




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