The interesting thing about Grantland, Bill Simmons’ new sports and culture web site for ESPN, is not so much that Bill Simmons is starting a new web site, or that Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman will be writing for it, or that there was some drama surrounding the hire of Deadspin’s senior editor, Tommy Craggs. What’s notable about Grantland is how much venomous hatred it has inspired, even though it technically hasn’t even launched yet.
The most thorough (and lengthy) of these takedowns was posted today at the blog MrDestructo.com. This one is notable for being thousands of words long and for characterizing the rhetorical structure of Mr. Simmons’ columns as “Baby’s First Hegelian Dialectic.”
But why would anybody care so much about Grantland? Or rather, what is it about the conceit of this particular project that makes a particular subset of sports writers and media columnists so very angry? It seems to come down to the site’s characterization as “literary.” For an aggrieved few who have been carrying around tattered copies of Grantland Rice’s books since early adolescence, Bill Simmons has apparently cheapened everything they hold sacred. “Bill Simmons is just a bro,” these critics keep shouting, to anyone who listens. “A corporate bro who doesn’t read books!”
Anyway, this is caustic vitriol at its purest:
Even fans of his would concede that a Bill Simmons Culture Museum could be housed in a newlyweds’ guest room, with four walls tacked with Bobby Orr, Pedro Martinez, Tom Brady and Larry Bird jerseys, with a single chair facing a TV/DVD cabinet stocked with copies of The Shawshank Redemption, The Karate Kid, sports movies, John Hughes movies, Pacino/De Niro movies and a complete set of Miami Vice and The White Shadow episodes. Die-hard fans can probably name only five non-sports books he’s ever read (and three of them are by Malcolm Gladwell). On the TV front, Simmons spent a few years proudly reminding people of his refusal to watch shows like House, The Wire or Arrested Development.