Last Friday, Grantland—the sports and pop culture website founded by Bill Simmons in 2011—was shut down by ESPN. In a statement that reads like a “Most Sportsmanlike” award being handed out to the least athletic player on the team, ESPN gave applause to Grantland for its “quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun.”
In an era of internet journalism where content generation trumps storytelling, revenue has little to do with readership, and information is crafted with "likes" and waning attention spans in mind, Grantland felt like a golden era. It was journalism that valued the craft of writing, long-form storytelling and the art of finding the story that would make readers feel something.
I first heard about Grantland from Simmons—and all of my male friends’ unchecked enthusiasm for all things related to this Sports Guy—but my interest was further peaked by early the involvement of Bay Area writer Dave Eggers. In the winter of 2009, Eggers and McSweeney’s published a one-time 300-page Sunday-style newspaper called the San Francisco Panorama. I rushed out that morning to get a copy of my own, and it was all mine for just $16. It was an experiment in an age of print media eulogies, but it did what it was intended—it gave life, once again, to a tired and uncelebrated form. How exciting it was to see long-form articles with no word restriction spread out against color photography, and feel the pages slip in my hands as I turned them. Certainly, this was a much different project than Grantland; since 2009, the internet has taken even more measure to replace print, and has been largely successful doing so. But my early hope for Grantland was similar—that it too was going to uphold a fading form and have the balls to take risks and celebrate creativity in the face of a changing landscape and audience. And it did.
Grantland boasted some of the most talented journalists of our generation during its era, and boy did they write. It was smart, informed writing that wasn’t afraid of the spirit of the zeitgeist. They celebrated prose, but understood how to make it dance online and how to grasp ahold of their digital audience in the process. Some pieces were much too long for print; other pieces decorated themselves with videos, images and gifs like a powder room made more inviting for visitors. Often, it was unconventional. It was a site that published Mark Lisanti’s Mad Men Power Rankings, Rom-Com Week, Paul Thomas Anderson Week, a bracket on anything really, and Rembert Browne’s exceptional, hilarious and often heartbreaking Who Won series. On the same site you could read about PEDs, Taylor Swift’s squad, Game of Thrones and Michael Brown. Sisqó's Unleash the Dragon and a first-person account of Ferguson are both wrought with the kind of extra personal sentiment that this generation has penned, and often demands. It’s passion really, and it will claw your heart out if you’ve only been fed a healthy diet of inverted pyramid reporting.
Perhaps that’s the thing about journalism today. The who, what, where, when and why aren’t all that relevant when everyone has four of the W's in 140 characters before the story makes it to the editing room. It’s the "why" that we wrestle with. It’s the “why” that so many Grantland articles stridently tackle, and in a way that speaks to an audience influenced by social media, bloggers and real-time footage (see Who Won 2014). I made the mistake of reading some opinions about Grantland’s demise, and the seediest things thrown around were naughty words like “blog” and “first person narratives” and “ideas from within." How naïve—how remiss—to write something off that has the fingerprints of its author on the page, especially in this age. Blog on.
Until both of their telling podcasts deaths, I could listen to Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan (Hollywood Prospectus) and Wesley Morris and Alex Pappademas (Do You Like Price Movies?) talk about anything. I was on a run the other afternoon listening to Andy interview Seth Meyers. At the end of the podcast I heard that all too familiar phrase, “For more Grantland in your ear balls…” It felt like such a loss for my ear balls, eyeballs and sports balls everywhere. Grantland was above all a collective personality of really smart, diverse and intelligent people. And we were friends—albeit in a strange, digital, esoteric way. It was a place to gather insight, to be around smart opinions, to laugh and to consider changing your mind.
In our digital, always connected but still detached approach to news media, Grantland provided the kind of journalism that this age merits: writers—first and foremost—informed like journalists, but passionate and wide open like you and I. Let’s take a leap and call them what they are: fans. This kind of enthusiasm can’t be shutdown, put to bed, or suspended like school children, or Tom Brady for that matter . That it was, that people will talk about, and that it will remain archived on ESPN (or we will revolt) is Who Won 2015 .
 That was for you, Sports Guy.
 See Rembert’s future article that will not appear on Grantland.
Here’s a suggestion. Head to Grantland.com and read it all. Read all of Andy Greenwald’s Game of Thrones recaps, all of Molly Lambert’s Man Med recaps, read the way Zach Lowe writes about basketball like it’s the most beautiful and precise thing on the planet. Read or listen to Chris Ryan on, well, anything. Go the movies with Wesley Morris, or let Katie Baker tell you about marriage. It’s all worth your time.
Just in case, I've pulled some links together. I’ve missed many and couldn’t possibility include all my favorites. These are a few that came quickly to mind, and that speak to what was so unique about Grantland.
The Front Lines of Ferguson by Rembert Brown
My Bodies of the Year: Kim Kardashian’s Instagram Moment and 12 Unsexy Months by Wesley Morris
Porntopia by Molly Lambert
Who Won 2014? by Rembert Brown
At Least One Real, Authentic Moment of Humanity with Cameron Diaz by Alex Pappademas
Wu-Tang, Atomically by Amos Barshad
The Third Revelation of Father John Misty by Sean Fennessey
‘Mad Men’ Series Finale: Where You Drink Champagne and It Tastes Just Like Coca-Cola by Molly Lambert
‘Mad Men’ Power Rankings: Episode 714, ‘Person to Person’ by Mark Lisanti
Slow Burn: The Excellent ‘Rectify’ Returns for a Second Season by Andy Greenwald
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Couldn’t Lose an by Oral History by Robert Mays
‘True Detective,’ Season 2, Episode 8: ‘Omega Station’ by Chris Ryan
The Consequences of Caring by Bill Simmons
A Fighter Abroad by Brian Phillips
Home Is Where the Hockey Is by Katie Baker
The Trade Deadline Diary by Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons
The Sea of Crises by Brian Phillips
The Dr. V Story: A Letter From the Editor, by Bill Simmons
I've missed a ton, especially in sports, and I feel more disappointed than people who watched all of True Detective's second season. Please add your favorites to the comments.