Grantland launches, is what everyone expected

It would have been downright foolish of me to judge Grantland after Bill Simmons’s new playground had been online for just one day. Sure, when your site is masterminded by Simmons, a subject of perpetual online and media fascination, and when it features a lineup of Big Name Writers, and when you promote it with a countdown clock on the homepage, you are perhaps building up outsized expectations relative to what a new outcropping of your site can legitimately provide. Still, judging it after one day would be silly. Now that it has been online for more than a day, we can render a complete judgment.

The resounding impression from the site’s first day was: That’s it? There just wasn’t a lot there on Wednesday, at least in the early going. The big stuff: Simmons had an introductory column and, later, a column about LeBron’s performance in the Finals. Chris Jones, who has apparently shifted from writing full-time for Esquire to covering the AL East for Grantland, wrote about baseball and himself. There was a dumb post about a dumb idea (a “reality TV fantasy draft,” which, honestly, this post and concept lowers this entire enterprise by at least one letter grade). Chuck Klosterman was doing his thing off the bench with the story of a basketball team that played three-on-five and won. No new podcasts. A blog that hasn’t gone up yet. No Eggers, no Gladwell, no Katie Bakes.

A day later, the site looks a little fuller, as you might expect. Klosterman wrote a great little thing about our modern interconnected, over-informed era (nothing hugely original, but still entertaining). Tom Bissell on L.A. NoireDave Eggers on Wrigley. This interesting look at Dirk in the 2011 playoffs.

The design seems to have irked a few people, but I like the relatively sparse and clean look. (Clearly [motions to the surrounding site].) There are still some kinks to be worked out. For instance, former New York Times NBA reporter Jonathan Abrams spoke to Donnie Walsh about parting ways with the Knicks; the post (a preview for the site’s sports blog) was initially found on the main Grantland page and has since disappeared, located only by Googling. It’s going to have to be easier to find everything on the site; people aren’t going to want to have to hunt down everything that’s not Simmons or Klosterman. (And, for what it’s worth, I’m very glad to see Klosterman has a new, regular place to write. He can be frustrating in long chunks — i.e. his books — but in brief bursts, he can be tons of fun.)

As for the introductory note: It reminds me why I liked Simmons in the first place. He’s simply honest about how he doesn’t know what this is beyond what it looks lik so far. He’s still self-satisfied and self-impressed (comparing your new site to a new late night comedy show is…not an apt comparison, but he clearly knows that). Yet he writes with an emotional honesty that I honestly think is his real, true self, not a character he portrays, not a persona he has adopted, because after all these years and in all of his interviews, podcasts and countless gigabytes of produced columns, he doesn’t come across as somebody capable of faking the things he says and does.

It’ll be very interesting to see how the site looks in a month, six months and a year. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens when ESPN does some accounting to figure out of all of this brand name talent is worth what is essentially a better Page 2. Like pretty much everybody else (even people who will complain about it ad nauseum), I’ll be going back frequently.

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