ESPN’s Sports And Pop Culture Blog ‘Grantland’ Has been Shuttered
ESPN’s sports and pop culture blog Grantland has been shuttered. Visitors to the popular site were greeted with a message today announcing that after four years, the blog would be no longer, according to Julia Greenberg of Wired.
Grantland started in 2011 by veteran sports journalist Bill Simmons, who earlier this year parted ways with the entertainment sports network. Chris Connelly had been announced as Simmons’ replacement after ESPN President John Skipper announced in May of this year that the network would not be renewing Simmons’ contract, effectively ending Simmons’ tenure with the cable sports giant. Simmons, who had been the Editor-In-Chief since Grantland began, was seen by many as the heart and soul of the blog, which often featured contributions and editorials from luminaries across sports, entertainment, and popular culture, including former NBA star Jalen Rose and acclaimed author / philosopher Malcolm Gladwell.
The network released a statement regarding the seemingly sudden decision to suspend the operations of Grantland.
“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.”
“Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent. Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality.”
As Laura Wagner of NPR points out, ESPN slashed approximately 300 jobs earlier this month as the network continues to struggle, as most cable networks are, to transition to a new media age that sees increasing sports viewership online and an ever decreasing cable television subscriber base.
The success of Grantland, which featured long form essays on sports, but also on culture and politics, spawned a podcast network, which will also be folded with the website and even resulted in a televised version of the popular blog whereby Simmons would interview personalities from across the sports and pop culture landscapes. Following Simmons’ departure from ESPN, several writers and editors who worked with and were mentored by Simmons resigned, including Sean Fennessey, Mallory Rubin, and Chris Ryan. Simmons has since signed a deal with premium cable outlet HBO. ESPN announced that the writers and editors still under contract would have those contracts honored and be redesignated to other sections of ESPN.com. Those who did not have contracts have been let go.
While fans of Grantland have taken to the internet to express their dismay at the sudden move, Greg Howard of Deadspin reports that Simmons had lured away Grantland’s top editors in a de facto coup to defect on the same day and without warning to ESPN, placing his personal beef with the powers that be at the “Mothership” ahead of professionalism. The move was indeed a detriment to the blog, but fans of the site continued to visit the blog in hopes that Connelly would be able to continue the spirit and work for which Grantland had become beloved.
While said editors have apparently joined Simmons, who, between rocketing to sports journo superstar status with ESPN and his new, lucrative HBO deal has become a self-made millionaire, in an as of yet unannounced venture, expected to be similar to Grantland, nothing has been announced. Perhaps with ESPN effectively waiving the white flag on pop culture and political commentary, HBO, between Simmons, Real Sports, and sister network Showtime’s Jim Rome on Showtime, the a la carte cable network can capture the market on in-depth sports journalism and commentary. Perhaps, the network could even visit the idea of an add-on pay network revolving solely around sports. Only time will tell.
[Image via ESPN / Grantland.com]