Grantland.com, an ESPN website named after legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, launched just over a month ago with much fanfare as the latest brainchild of Bill Simmons. Often lauded or skewered as the world's preeminent sports blogger, Simmons built a loyal following on ESPN.com by approaching subjects like a reality TV show about the Raiders cheerleaders with the same detail and irreverence as he might a breakdown of the NBA draft.
In building Grantland, Simmons enlisted the help of Chuck Klosterman, the pop culture essayist who appears regularly on Simmons' podcast. The result is a collection of longer and more reflective pieces on sports and pop culture than you're likely to find elsewhere online and even in many print publications. The homepage recently featured an oral history of the Friday Night Lights TV series, a regular Simmons obsession, alongside a first-person report from the World Series of Poker by novelist Colson Whitehead.
But Grantland is also offering some insightful sports analysis that outclasses its parent company. While ESPN commentators were pointlessly accusing the U.S. women's soccer team of choking away the World Cup, Grantland featured a precise explanation of exactly what happened on Japan's tying goal. Whereas ESPN's manufactured controversy assumes the viewer knows little and would rather be watching football, Grantland's analysis was smart sports commentary directed at both hardcore fans and novices alike.
Sports Illustrated used to be like that, but it got caught up in covering jocks as celebrities. It's interesting that a guy who got his start blogging might be one of the only remaining champions of literary sportswriting.