When I was in high school, I got a "job" doing office work for my dad as a law clerk. I mostly made copies, maybe cut some stuff here and there. Maybe read a document or two, but not because he really wanted my input. He needed a reason to feel like I should be paid $8 an hour. Here's a very real fact: I shouldn't have. I didn't deserve to be paid. I was usually just in my "office," reading things from this website that I had found.
That website was Grantland.com. I don't remember how I came to follow Bill Simmons on Twitter, but I know that I did, and he linked to one of Grantland's first stories about the National Sports Daily. There's a word to describe the way in which it was written, and I didn't know it then, and I don't fucking remember it right now but it really doesn't matter. I just remember that I read a five-page, probably 10,000 word article about something I didn't know about. And it was interesting. And it was fun to read. And it made me check the site again the next day. And the day after. And so on.
I write for this, The Dream Shake, which by comparison to Grantland is a much smaller website. I've only done so for a few months. Let me interject this point with a story though — My dad, the same one from before, and I both agree that basketball is, by far, the best sport, and even further the most fun sport to play. My reasoning for that is that you can go play by yourself and just have time to yourself and feel athletic. You can't really do that with other sports.
My dad's point was much better, as it often is. He says that playing basketball is the best because there is something about when that shot goes in, seeing it go through the basket after you shot it, that is inescapably similar to what the pro's do. "That's the same thing LeBron does," he says. Obviously, you're not LeBron James, but you feel like it, if only for a second. All of that, is to say that I am not Bill Simmons, Zach Lowe, Jason Concepcion, Shea Serrano, LITERALLY NAME ANY PERSON FROM GRANTLAND.COM HERE, but when TDS posted my first story, I felt like a part of the sportswriting community in a way that I didn't know was possible.
And it goes even deeper than this somehow. Last summer, I needed something to do. I knew I wanted to get into writing and I knew that spending all day reading Grantland was no way to productively spend my time. One night this summer, Shea Serrano, my favorite writer at Grantland and person on Twitter, sent out a tweet saying something along the lines of "People who wanna write: email me your questions." So I did.
My question was mostly "Hey, how the hell do I get started, how do I get hired." He responded within an hour (seriously) and told me how he got started, while also encouraging me, and telling me that I must be a decent writer already judging by the email I sent. Within three weeks, I had applied and gotten the job with The Dream Shake. I emailed him to thank him for his help and told him about getting the job. He didn't even hold it against me that I was a Rockets fan.
I don't exist as I currently do without Grantland. If it doesn't begin that summer when I was working for my dad, I don't get into sports or sportswriting in the same way. If I don't know who Shea Serrano is to email just under a half year ago, I don't have a job here.
Grantland, arguably, housed the most talented writers in each of their respective fields. Bill Simmons could churn out a feature at this very moment after being months out of practice and it would be miles ahead of anyone else in sportswriting, quality-wise. No one, no one writes about basketball as well as Zach Lowe. Michael Baumann is a brilliant baseball writer. Bill Barnwell somehow makes football interesting to me. Shea Serrano can find humor and beauty in everything (even the Houston Rockets despite his birthplace). Molly Lambert made me think of television and pop culture in ways I never imagined. Rembert Browne was able to balance insight and comedy in a way I haven't seen anyone duplicate, except for maybe Jason Concepcion a.k.a. netw3rk. And these are simply the people off the top of my head.
Grantland reached that level of the National Sports Daily in that it was not simply the standard, but far beyond that. Grantland was the goal for sportswriting. It was what I, and we all strived to be like. The internet, writing, and the general public is and will be worse in its absence, and I just had to get that off my chest.