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A farewell to Grantland

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ESPN has long held an iron grip on sporting news across the world, so when the network decided to shut down one of its most popular blogs, Grantland, on Oct. 30, it came as almost no surprise.

Veteran sports journalist Bill Simmons created Grantland in 2011 as a long-form sports writing blog that brought sports and pop culture together as an alternative to the often cookie-cutter ESPN programs. Simmons put together a group of writers who can best be described as young and hip, two things that spiced up the drab and cliché sports reporting that ESPN specializes in. The stories were original, engaging and frequently hilarious. They were often hyper-critical of current controversies in the world of sports, which eventually spelled the demise of Grantland. In 2014, ESPN decided not to renew Simmons’ contract with the network, and Simmons soon signed on to a new show with HBO.

It’s sad to see a site like Grantland go, because it was far more entertaining and engaging than the typical ESPN program. Grantland dared to mesh sports with pop culture in ways that were generally funny and informative. The blog was a relief from the endless waves of ESPN programs that simply spew boring information and meaningless statistics. An article about the president of Turkmenistan draining free throws or an article analyzing timber sports is far more interesting than a panel of fity-year-old men discussing their fantasy football predictions. Seriously, why the hell would I want to watch a group of men who are clearly still living in the past bicker about whether the fourth round of the NFL draft will see a kicker being drafted? I’m tired of watching and reading sports news that fails to capture the attention of passionate sports fans. Grantland did this perfectly and all it needed to do was recruit a host of young writers who gave young sports fans what they want: a blend of insightful athletic analysis and edgy pop culture commentary.

ESPN’s programs have typically followed a stringent agenda. This agenda has been used for quite some time and ultimately holds the networks bottom line above all else. ESPN expects its shows to follow a certain set of rules so that viewers aren’t turned off by overly controversial statements. Grantland was created with the idea that money didn’t matter as long as the blog was relevant and interesting. Grantland signed its death warrant once it churned out a few articles that ESPN felt would reflect negatively on the network. Once Simmons left, nobody was left to take the reins and ESPN did not care enough abbout Grantland’s unique ability to draw in readers, like me, who are tired of the endless stream of boredom that ESPN spouts daily.

ESPN will see the negative reactions to this decision and consider where the network might go in the future. As far as I’m concerned, Grantland was a success despite its inevitable demise. Grantland showed that sports and pop culture could mesh and that people actually enjoyed reading and watching the new types of sports reporting and coverage that the blog brought to the world of sports.

hatzky1@stolaf.edu