I was pretty jazzed last week when Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman finally launched Grantland.com, a sports and pop-culture media play that's been in the works for awhile. Simmons, the "Sports Guy" columnist from ESPN's Page 2 and former Jimmy Kimmel writer, is one of my favorite podcasters. I don't read his columns, mainly because ESPN sucks at RSS feeds, but really enjoy the aforementioned podcast. His topics cover the full range of entertainment and pop culture, with special emphasis on TV & movies, comedy and, obviously, sports.
Despite his nickname, i actually prefer his non-sports topics. It's a mix between the fact that I can't stand his favorite teams (Boston), he can't stand mine (Minnesota), the fact that I don't bet on games (gambling odds are a frequent go-to), and that he spends way too much time (read: any time) on the NBA and NHL.
Or, its just that I find the pop culture (read: typically non-sports or at least not game analysis) more compelling. Particular favorites come to mind with guests like Disney's Michael Eisner and SNL's Jason Sudeikis (mostly about comedy - who knew he was George Wendt's (Norm from Cheers!) nephew - but also had a sports-bend to it).
My favorite guest is Mr. Klosterman, whose books I've blogged about here several times over the years. I particularly enjoy the way the two play off each other on the podcast - one or the other throwing out a hypothetical, then the two debating it. Simmons typically takes the role of the everyman in the conversation while Klosterman takes a deep analytic dive into the subject matter. Both are enjoyable, and seem to work whether the topic is music, reality TV (something I don't watch but do enjoy listening about) or, yes, sports.
I'm excited to see how this interaction, that I enjoy so much in podcast form, translates to the writtern web.
As a sidenote, as part of a media startup myself, it was pretty exciting to read Simmons' intro to the website (see Welcome to Grantland). His enthusiasm was actually contagious. As the business guy for our little startup, I also appreciated the way he was able to bring forth the core values of their company (or at least their site) in a way their customers can easily understand:
We had four goals for this site. The first was to find writers we liked and let them do their thing. The second was to find sponsors we liked and integrate them within the site — so readers didn't have to pay for content, and also, so we didn't have to gravitate toward quantity over quality just to chase page views. The third was to take advantage of a little extra creative leeway for the right reasons and not the wrong ones. And the fourth was to hire the right blend of people — mostly young, mostly up-and-comers, all good people with good ideas who aren't afraid to share them.
There are a lot of differences between our work at Silicon Prairie News (foremost among them, we're not backed by ESPN.com, which is part of ESPN, which is owned by Disney, which is ginormous company) but it will be interesting to watch the eventual success or failure of Grantland from a professional perspective.
From a fans perspective, it will be fun to read - and listen - along the way.
Note: some folks were calling for Grantland's demise already on launch day. (read: The Atlantic's Bill Simmons's Grantland is Doomed Even Before Launch)