Let's get one thing out of the way up front: We dig Bill Simmons. He's smart, funny, passionate, and prolific. He gets paid to do something we try to squeeze in between a conference call and calculating the time we spent on a conference call. He's also innovative and ambitious. ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series? His idea. And at the same time, to many people - especially men of a certain age - Bill Simmons is totally relatable. He has more than earned the title, "The Sports Guy." Does he spend way too much time writing and talking about the NBA, Boston, and Beverly Hills 90210? Of course he does, and we admire the hell out of it. You can't be great at this stuff if you're not inspired by your subject matter. Simmons just covers what he loves. In case you hadn't noticed, we're a little heavy here on the NHL, Pittsburgh, and the Bachelorette. Sports is personal.* But the key to great sports writing is making the reader feel like a game, a moment, or some insight into the lives of an athlete or a team, is shared. The reader has to have some buy-in.
|Living the Dream|
For example: Can you guess which of these sentences are actual lead-ins to "pieces"** on Grantland.com?
"Like most 6-year-olds in the METCO-serviced suburbs of Boston, I spent the last two weeks of October 1986 with a Red Sox cap on my head."
"My grandfather used to tell a story about a wrestling show in small-town North Carolina."
"The Australian-born, Queens Park, London resident sitting next to me on our British Airways flight was putting in a good shift as an aerial tour guide, but I could tell he was getting a bit tired of the whole act."
"I remember the moment when I realized I wanted to write."
"My father had three things left on his Sports Bucket List: seeing a Stanley Cup finals game in Boston, going to the Masters, and going to the Kentucky Derby."
Trick question. Grantland ran every one of those leads.
|My grandfather laughed too, at that exact moment, but about something else entirely.|
We get what Grantland is going for. Simmons wants "pieces" like the ones Sports Illustrated used to run in the back of the magazine. Sports literature. But those stories were never about the writer, there was only one of them per week, and nobody was reading them on their work computer while answering an email from their boss. Incidentally, Simmons tweeted the following message on Friday:
"Getting feedback today that certain companies are now blocking Grantland.com. HOW DARE THEY! You suck, companies who want employees to work."Sort of a humblebrag tweet right there, but let's address the substance of it. Of course companies are blocking Grantland.com. Would you want your employees reading "War and Peace" at their desk every morning?
|Bookmarked on work computer.|
So we wish Simmons the best of luck with Grantland.com (like he needs it from us), and we hope that the site becomes an even bigger success by learning from some of its early and rather wordy mistakes. In the meantime, if you're looking for something that goes down a little easier, a little smoother, then look no further. You know what you're getting here. It's all we know how to be. So Smart. So Steady. So Serviceable. GTOG.
* 15 years ago Artistry was a local sports anchor in Billings, Montana. If there is one thing in this world that is certain, it's that no one in Billings, Montana cares about the Pittsburgh Penguins. That didn't stop Artistry from leading off a sportscast with a regular season tilt between the Pens and Boston Bruins. Just so he could do the highlights. Sports is personal.
** Isn't it a touch pretentious to call these things "pieces?" Pretending your 10,000 words on J.J. Barea is like precious art is exactly the issue we're talking about here. It would be like us referring to our podcasts as "sublime." Oh wait, we did that?