What Grantland Meant To Me
And I was devastated by the news.
Originally the brainchild of veteran sportswriter/reformed frat boy/wannabe nerd Bill Simmons, in the four years that Grantland ran it became so much more than the collection of blog posts it was originally billed as. Smart, witty acerbic, and moving in parts, finding out it was closing last week was like finding out your favourite bar had been bulldozed.
Because Grantland was more than just a website for me to while away a lunch break while eating a £3 sandwich at my desk. To me, Grantland was a testament to what could be achieved with pop culture. Rather than treat it as the fluff stuff that came packaged at the end of traditional news broadcasts, Grantland understood that pop culture is in fact a fantastic, digestible way to unpack numerous meaningful issues.
On top of that, Grantland also understood that brevity wasn’t tantamount to readability when it came to online reading. Sometimes, the most readable thing on the internet wasn’t a 400 word piece designed to be read in an “image-sentence-image-sentence” children’s book, but rather a several thousand word piece on a kid in an olive green long sleeve.
Grantland is the reason I’m still trying to write and make it as a journalist today. I’ve had editors take me aside after a bad day, reminding me that there was a space for young people who just want to write thousands of words; who just want to play around with the form and function of paragraphs. There was an area where a twenty-something black man could just shrug his shoulders and rank the best sketches from ‘The Chappelle Show’ in a stealth attempt to get the reader to understand the nuances of black comedy.
Grantland became my armour when I was asked to remove jokes from my copy. Grantland became my ace in the hole in every pitch meeting. “If the people at Grantland could do it… if the people at Grantland could consistently publish well written, always mocking and hilarious bits of long form that young people could enjoy, then we could do it too.”
“Grantland do this…”
“Have you seen this thing Grantland do?”
“Oh man, have you seen the new Grantland scrolly thing?”
Grantland was more than a website to me. It became the core of my writing philosophy. Its writers became my writing heroes. Their stories became the stories that I wanted to tell. When Rembert Browne, a black 28 year old pop culture writer, got to interview President Obama this March, that more than anything else allowed me to realise that there was something to this journalist game for black people like me. If I worked hard enough, kept writing, kept experimenting, kept putting my name out there, I could achieve great things.
When Shea Serrano, a hilarious thirty-something Latino high school teacher, spun out of Grantland and took his Rap Year Book to the New York Times Bestseller list, it showed me that if you just keep doing you, if you keep slugging and smashing words together, anything is possible. Someone once asked Shea how to become a writer when you have a 9–5 job and he responded: “You do your writing between 10pm til 1am.”
Grantland was the goal I strove for everyday I walked into a newsroom and was confronted by editors who didn’t look like me, or understand how to talk to me. Grantland was the goal for me every time I wrote something more than 300 words. Grantland was my argument point every time someone said that an article was too long, too time consuming, or too niche to garner worthwhile traffic.
If I was here, and Grantland was there, how I would make that jump became my fire for writing.
Whenever someone asked me in a job interview where I saw myself in five years, I answered I wanted to have written something for Grantland. In ten, I dream of setting up my own British version- a place for BME writers under 35 to experiment with longform.
Grantland was more than a website for me. And now, while it’s gone, what it has meant to me will carry me for the rest of my career (hopefully).
Rest in Power, Grantland. You shall be missed.