Saturday, June 11, 2011

That New Website

So Grantland came into being this week, with a staff roster and layout to stick it to either of the baseball Rogers (Angell or Kahn).

And after three months of anticipation, the launch felt underwhelming, to say the least.

Aside from the whole not-being-an-urban-hipster factor, I'm pretty much the perfect target audience for Grantland. I'm the kind of internet-addicted sports fan who also reads actual ink-and-paper books - novels even! (If, admittedly, not nearly so much as I should.) I'm a young, glib, cynical, fresh-faced university graduate, and I like to support my opinions with acerbic writing and rhetoric rather than facts and shit. I don't care much for pop culture - maybe not even "culture" itself, so much, as an entity - but I do allow many of the unique strands of art that I have been exposed to to infest my own life. I'm a sponge, equal parts Freaks-and-Geeks era Martin Starr and Fast Eddie Felson, equal parts juggalo wannabe and lover of Irish folkpunk, reader of Sartre and lover of History channel's epic Pawn Stars. I'm not sure whether it comes out of insecurity or an actual interest in well-roundedness as an individual - probably some measure of both - but my point is that if anyone is, I should be buying what Grantland is selling.

Some people don't like Bill Simmons, but I don't care about that. To me, going in, he's nobody, some ex-columnist. I never read his articles on ESPN and as long he writes almost exclusively about basketball and hockey, I probably won't read too many of these ones either. The ones I do will be judged on their own merits (although he didn't buy himself a whole lot of goodwill by getting a name wrong in his very first one). Molly Lambert, on the other hand, once wrote a mind-blowing post analogizing writing with money and the whole thing with telephone wires, the kind of spacey random-tangent type of thing that should never work but that once, for me, absolutely did. That post clicked with me and made me think - the difference between writing that equates to someone stuffing their opinion down your throat, like I am doing now, and actually writing for the reader. You know, give a man, teach a man, etc.

As for the others? I haven't especially been impressed with Klosterman based on his puttering fawning in this Stephen King interview or the odd single-paragraph excerpt I've glanced through in a bookstore, but that's roughly the writing sample size of a single at-bat in baseball terms, so I could easily be convinced I've underestimated him. And my knowledge of Dave Eggers amounts to a couple of people saying that his autobiography is a touch megalomaniacal, so I've got nothing on that. These people are celebrated by some people, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I defer to that opinion.
But, after a preliminary read of the odd Grantland article, I'm left wondering. What is it? Is it highbrow? Is it aiming right in the middle? On the one hand, I dislike canonical thinking - the notion that a Mamet is better than a crime thriller because it's a Mamet, or that a Pitchfork review is better than an allmusic review because of its url - but at the same time I'm not sure that such a massive multifaceted entity can afford to go through the same kind of identity crisis I go through when debating whether to watch Spun for the fifteenth time or go to a baseball game.

The internet is full of noise, and it's the niches that stand out. IMDB became IMDB because it was the best movie site. Google became Google because it was the best search engine. Youtube - hell, ESPN, you name it. Yes, funds and readership appeal help sustain a site at start-up, but internet is anarchy.

And I wonder if by trying so hard to stand out, Grantland will fade into the woodwork.

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