My nutritious breakfast was Mountain Dew, salted peanuts and Grantland.
The only recommended part of that meal was the sports and pop culture web site named after Grantland Rice — a spin-off from ESPN — which featured some of the best writers anywhere. Among my favorites were Wesley Morris, Alex Pappademas, Andy Greenwald, Steven Hyden, Zach Lowe, Jonah Keri and Charles P. Pierce.
Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his work with the Boston Globe, was Grantland’s prodigious movie critic. Pappademas wrote celebrity profiles the way Mantle hit home runs and made fringe pop culture icons seem important, because they are. Greenwald’s favorite television series is The Americans, which helped make him my favorite television critic. Hyden’s “The American Band Championship Belt” was a smart, accessible history of rock and roll. Lowe on the NBA and Keri on baseball were new media beat writers who deftly mixed prose, reporting and advanced metrics. Pierce proved old school journalists were also welcome. He is the cranky gold standard.
ESPN “suspended” the publication of Grantland on Friday. It was four years old.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” the network said in a statement.
Christmas was canceled. The dog died. The girlfriend packed her bags.
Bill Simmons — the longtime sportswriter for ESPN.com who founded Grantland in 2011 — said on the latest version of his podcast that the site was “understaffed the whole time” and received almost no promotion.
“People seem to think that ESPN was so helpful for us, and it was actually the opposite,” he said. “Anybody else would have been helpful. They weren’t driving traffic to us.”
In May, ESPN president John Skipper announced the network would not be renewing Simmons’s contract, which was not set to expire until September.
That was the beginning of the end for Grantland. Simmons signed a multi-year deal with HBO in July. He hired away four Grantland editors last month. Dan Fierman, the site’s editorial director, joined MTV News. The New York Times made Morris its critic at large. He and Pappademas recorded the final episode of their “Do You Like Prince Movies?” podcast a month ago.
The accounts are discouraging.
Grantland was the most interesting longform writing on (or off) the Internet, combining the pop culture depth and breadth of Vulture and what Sports Illustrated used to be — the best writing in the country. It was podcasts with chemistry like “Prince Movies” and “Hollywood Prospectus” with longtime friends Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan. Simmons’s “The B.S. Report” podcast was the most downloaded in history. Among his guests were David Stern, Lorne Michaels, Louis C.K. and — that’s right — President Obama. It was “30 for 30” shorts, which were better than the full-length televised ones. Finally, Grantland was better than ESPN and ESPN.com.
Jordan Rogers created the site you are reading now with Grantland as the model — unfiltered writing, podcasts, the whole schmear.
Grantland’s idea of an All-Star team of writers has been compared to The National — the only American sports daily in history, which was run by Frank Deford. It was interesting, longform writing every day. It lasted 16 months. Grantland, of course, wrote the oral history.
The front page of its last issue: “We Had A Ball.”
The front of Grantland since Friday: “It was a good run.”
Short-lived brilliance is such sweet sorrow. Freaks and Geeks is streaming on Netflix.
Then there is tomorrow’s breakfast.
Letterman retired. Grantland is dead. Long live “The Tony Kornhesier Show.”