By Michael Sol Warren
BU News Service
Earlier today, ESPN announced that it was suspending the publication of the popular sports and pop culture website Grantland. The suspension was effective immediately.
The announcement broke my heart.
I’ve been reading Grantland like it was the Bible since I was introduced to the website during my freshman year at the University of New Mexico. Since that time I’ve come to see Grantland as the gold standard in creativity of content and quality of product in both the sports and pop culture writing worlds. Once, one of my tweets became incorporated into an article on the site. I still keep that article bookmarked.
My reading of Grantland coincides directly with my time in college and I can’t help but consider it a crucial part of my education. Journalism school, first at the University of New Mexico and now at Boston University, taught me the art of reporting and gathering information. Grantland taught me how to write.
Sports writers like Zach Lowe, Bill Barnwell, Kirk Goldsberry and Robert Mays taught me to think about sports on a deeper level and consider the importance of data. All four looked at the NFL and NBA in levels of detail I’d never seen before. This doesn’t mean on-field and on-court detail, though all four can breakdown gameplay like coaches. It means understanding how money flows through the major leagues and why roster construction matters. This group of sports writers taught me how to take the most convoluted of details and express them in a way that entertains and educates an audience.
Wesley Morris and Steven Hyden taught me that the best way to write a review was to connect the product to the world it exists in. Morris does this by tying his review of new movies to his examinations of the world around us. Hyden is a master of context as well, but as a way to truly describe the music he heard rather than just comparing new music to old music.
Jonathan Abrams taught me just how powerful an interview can be and how compelling a given person’s story is. The man is the master of oral history (a style of writing that Grantland introduced me to). His profiles showed my that feature writing is more than just giving a subject free promotion; they showed me that great writing can make you empathize with any person, no matter the story.
Shea Serrano, Jason Concepcion, Rembert Browne, Andrew Sharp and Danny Chau taught me that writing can be, and should be, fun. No group of writers has brought more laughter to my life. Of course all of them are terrific when addressing more serious matters, but the way that they convey raw emotion on seemingly insignificant topics is inspiring.
Louisa Thomas taught me the value of history in journalism. Reading her pieces was always uplifting as I dragged myself to a dual degree in history and journalism. It was always refreshing to read the way she combined my two passions.
ESPN has said that the contracts of all of Grantland’s writers will be honored, and that the sports writers will be assigned to other ESPN platforms. I have no doubt in my mind that the pop culture writers will be able to easily find work elsewhere. I’ve never met any of the Grantland staffers in person (though Serrano once responded to an email of mine) but I view all of them as mentors. They are truly masters of the craft, and I can’t wait to read more of their writing in the future.
I just wish that writing was on Grantland.