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Grantland.com: Bill Simmons Uncensored or More of the Same?

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Regular readers of ESPN.com will no doubt be familiar with Bill Simmons, also known as The Sports Guy. The Boston-raised sportswriter has cast a wide net with his easily accessible columns which are pockmarked by pop culture references and anecdotes from his own life as a sports fan. Although most of his fans had long been content to simply take in his columns as they came and accept them for what they were, Simmons had long been butting heads with his editors behind the scenes. Because of the relatively family-friendly restraints of ESPN, the general consensus has been that Simmons has been restrained and unable to fully express his opinions in a way he’d consider ideal.

Up until this point in his career, The Sports Guy had been circumventing ESPN’s limitations by using his spare time to write and publish books. Although his first effort, Now I Can Die in Peace, was primarily a collection of his ESPN columns about his beloved Red Sox, his second book, The Book of Basketball, was the first real glimpse any of us had at Simmons “unleashed,” so to speak. Though the tone he employed throughout much of it was intently familiar to regular readers of his work, it was also evident that there was a certain edge in his writing that had been previously unseen.

Grantland.comNot content to use the occasional 700+ page book as an outlet, Simmons had spent much of the past year negotiating with the higher-ups at ESPN for more editorial control over his own work. The result of his efforts has manifested itself in the form of Grantland.com—a site owned in whole by ESPN, but branded entirely separately with Simmons as the final decision marker.

Named after Grantland Rice, a renowned sportswriter from a time that came before the vast majority of his fan base, the stated purpose of Grantland.com is to provide a hub for not just Simmons, but also other established writers—which include Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Dave Eggers, as well as up-and-coming writers such as Katie Baker, Chris Jones, and Jonah Lehrer—to share their opinions on both sports and pop culture, which are basically Simmons’ regular genres.

So what to make of the new site? It’s a bit too early to form any definitive opinions, as the site has been launched for under a week. But what’s there so far has undoubtedly been solid work. The articles that have appeared on the site thus far have been an amalgamation of thoughts on current sporting events, the impact of films, television shows, and even DVRs, and a retelling of stories offered by classic games and ballparks. It falls perfectly in line of what you would expect of a project helmed by Simmons, both in terms of content and quality.

One does have to wonder, however, how necessary Grantland.com really is. While fans of The Sports Guy will undoubtedly appreciate his columns and those of other writers who come from his “school,” so to speak, being conveniently gathered on a single site, it has so far been a bit difficult to discern any major differences between Simmons’ writing on Grantland and that of his on ESPN.

His first on the site, while an insightful look into his personal life and his feelings leading up to the site’s launch, wasn’t exactly what one would call breaking new ground. Aside from a few curse words tossed in, albeit organically, it’s not completely dissimilar from what a reader may find digging through his ESPN.com archive. Likewise, his second post, an analysis of LeBron James’ dissolution during game four of the NBA Finals, is exactly the type of article you would expect to see from him on ESPN.

Of course, as with anything else that’s new, it may just be a matter of waiting for Grantland.com to find its own voice. Still, Simmons and his new project are off to a fantastic start.

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