Sports Media Musings: Barstool & WEEI, Grantland Issues, Twitter Fights

Beating the Dead Horse

You are probably sick of the David Portnoy controversy like you are sick of the unstable economy. It is what it is, right? Staties went to the infamous blogger’s home to ‘persuade’ him to take the photos down. He complied. And here we are, a week later. If you want to read my full take on the story (what it means for old media vs new media; how I feel about it) – click here.

Events like this provide residual backlash. And, to me, residual backlash is interesting. Portnoy claims Glenn Ordway ordered the masses to murder him. This is kind of like saying MTV ordered Justin Timberlake to disrobe Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl. In other words, it didn’t happen. And that’s fine. Propaganda is propaganda, which is propaganda.

Personally, I’m more interested how the whole issue was, in fact, perpetuated by WEEI. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how this all went down, but at the end of the day (Hey! Crutch Phrase!) the station’s continual scrutiny only added exposure to the ordeal.

The right move, of course, would have been to write-up a press release stating the station’s decision to disassociate from Portnoy. A quick and easy hit. Don’t forget the cannoli.

Instead, the airwaves were inundated with debate on the post. The discussion introduced a whole new segment of people (other then the “stoolies”) to the content. Maybe this is a result of how our new Twitter-centric world creates opportunity for PR situations to go awry. WEEI claimed the on-air debate had nothing to do with ratings – and you’ll call me Bruce Allen’s lackey, and that’s fine – but everything in radio is about ratings.

Ratings = Advertising Dollars = Job Security.

Beating the Dead(er?) Horse

And now onto our weekly edition of “Who’s Crapping on Grantland!?”. Seriously, not that I’m ever flippant, this is actually a great piece. The author lays out his admiration of Simmons (shows no agenda), points out the site’s key flaws, and offers solution.

The thing about ESPN is they know the ugly step-sister is getting eviscerated all over the Inter-webs. I think the company is pensive to reign in some of the power initially given to Bill Simmons in regards to his brain-child. This is probably because of his petulant attitude and proclivity to act like a diva.

In the inception, I defended the site. The transient operation was being treated like the Miami Heat because, well, they were the Miami Heat of blogs. Commentary from critics was specious considering the site had been around for all of 2 weeks.

I’m waiving the white flag now, though. Grantland seems to be all talent, but no flow. There is no direction. The common blemish – noted by many – is the site catering to what Bill Simmons likes rather than any real theme. (Or, maybe that is the theme?)

Bill Simmons is getting into soccer. There is a soccer column with Chris Ryan.

Bill Simmons likes bad movies. There is a Razzie Watch column.

Bill Simmons likes Vegas. Bill Barnwell is now doing a column from Sin City.

Bill Simmons likes professional wrestling. There is a professional wrestling column by David Shoemaker. (Who is originally from Deadspin, and by far is putting out the best work on Grantland.)

This could go on and on (and on).

I agree with the criticism Molly Lambert is there to provide a woman’s take in a misogynist world. This is evidenced by columns about Cindy Crawford, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, and finally Blake Lively. Yeah, those are all separate columns.

And the thing is — I like Molly Lambert. 

I, mostly, agree the main issue with Grantland is that 76% (an estimation) of the writers should have simply been brought on to supplement a revamped “Page 2″ on ESPN.com. Remember when Page 2 mattered? Remember when Whitlock, Simmons, and Hunter S. were the scribes?

This could have been that. Unfortunately, execs decided to cash-in on the “Sports Guy” brand and attach his name to the project. This didn’t help, it created a target.

I will say this: I’ve always defended Simmons. I think he is innovative (a weird thing to say about a guy who’s references are approaching the 25-year-old mark). I also like the “idea” of long-form journalism.

As I pointed out in my podcast with Grantland staff writer, Anna Clark, since when is ambition a bad thing? Does the site have a pretentious aura? Yes, yes it does. But I like the idea, the delivery just needs serious refinement. And, as much as I’d hate to concede, a better editor.

Twitter-Tiffs! Twitter-Tiffs!

If this segment of my “Mega Media Musings!” column existed a few weeks ago, I would have included this little exchange between Andy Gresh and Mike Giardi..

Youre a beast RT @MikeGiardi@GreshandZo Linemen always say that b/c they’ve got nothing else! And I’m a solid 165 lbs Skippy

This was Gresh going after Giardi after inciting the CSNNE reporter by saying he “brings nothing to the table.” That sparked a reaction from Giardi and the two went back and forth culminating in the tweet above. At one point Gresh quipped that Giardi was a “Ken” doll who frosted his tips, or something like that. It felt like an episode of the short-lived MTV show, Yo Momma!

This week, after Fred Toettcher attacked Tom Caron in jest on his radio show, Caron fired back with this gem:

@fredtoucher Fred would appreciate facial hair for Bruins Foundation. Must be upset that I beat him in BSMW’s approval ratings.

Fred responded asking inquiring what BSMW was. These exchanges, presumably, are all in good fun. I doubt any of these personalities would be obtuse enough to air out dirty laundry. Nonetheless, I find it entertaining.

  • Guest

    That just shows the striking difference between a true pro like Carron and an amateur like Gresh. Carron gets the joke and plays along. Gresh is just an idiot who screams for the sake of screaming.

    As for Grantland, I think a lot of the criticism is more based in jealousy than anything else (especially when it comes to Deadspin). If you look at other sports blogs, there are posts that are just as random as what you'll find on Grantland. The only real difference is that some of the authors take a few extra thousand words to get their point, or lackthereof, across. Could this all be consolidated onto Page 2? Sure, but I always found the navigation on Page 2 to be somewhat cumbersome. For what it is, the format and dialogue is fine. It's basically an extension of any post that Simmons has made over the past several years. Is it revolutionary? No. Is it good for browsing on a slow day? Yeah.

  • Alessandro

    My biggest problem with Grantland? There's no archives to speak of; if I'm away from the computer for a few days, I feel like there's no way to find any articles that I missed in the "normal" fashion (once it's off the main page, you have to click through the author's bios to find what they've written most recently, but what about authors I don't usually follow who've touched upon a subject I'm interest in or have come up with something insightful?).

    Also, I agree that The Masked Wrestler is putting out some great material (luckily for Simmons, the WWE has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance in terms of mainstream appeal since his site launched).

  • APimpNamedDaveR

    I thought Joiner's piece made some good points, but was also hypocritical to an extent. He dings Simmons (to paraphrase) for being self-absorbed in his writing style — while spending the first quarter of the piece talking about his background and why he's a writer. Not so easy to keep your persona out of your writing, is it, Bryan?

    But I don't want to be too critical of him, because I think he makes (and Ryan echoes) the most imporant point re: Grantland: the poor editing is the site's biggest fundamental problem. I actually kind of like the haphazard "what the hell are they going to post about today" randomness of the site. But the typos, the occasional grammar mistakes, and the atrocious fact-checking greatly diminish the quality of the writing.

    The only real issue with Grantland right now is that it isn't answering the question "what if we had a website that was just like The National?" — it's answering the question "what if we had a website with a bunch of talented writers and let them post untouched rough drafts?"

    • Ryan Hadfield

      On board with you APNDR. Mostly with the stuff about "putting yourself in the piece". I think that is what Simmons is BEST at. Colloquial conversation relating sports/culture to himself. BUT – a whole site dedicated to that (with other writers catering) is grating.

      Forgot to point out, this article was getting a lot of play on Twitter because TheBigLead.com tweeted it out. Not just a random article I found on Grantland.

  • Doc Michaels

    Bruce, these guest columns are not doing your website any favors. It's not so much whether I agree or disagree even — it's the tone, the tenor of these columns…they don't gibe with your own posts, and come off like simple rants. More often than not I ask myself why I should care about this author's point of view altogether.

    • Scott B.

      I'm not sure why we would have cared about Bruce's point of view until we got to know him and understand what his POV was. That's how it works. Ryan has to start somewhere and I think its been a pretty auspicious start. Also, I think its out of necessity that BA expands his stable of guest columnists. You can't expect one guy to keep this site going all by himself for now 10 years. At the very least he needs someone to lift the content weight once in awhile.

    • mandb97

      Doc, I disagree with you. I like the guest columns. As you can see they have had a lot of comments. The only thing I wish is Bruce would put the credentials of George Cain on his articles. I am not asking because I disagreed with his column. I am asking because it would be nice to know. I think the major reason why Bruce has these guest columns is because this site was not supposed to be a full-time job for him. His family has expanded and he has full-time regular assignments for SBNation and I believe Patriots Daily. He can correct me if I am wrong.

  • Rick

    Grantland is just plain bad. It's only been a few months but the writing hasn't shown any cohesion or flow. Most of the articles come off as uninteresting nonsense. I had really high hopes for the Simmons-led spinoff but it has been a disappointment from the jump. It's a colossal failure in my view.

    I've been waiting for Bruce to weigh in but Bryan does a pretty good job of painting the picture.

  • NutCracker

    Who's this guy Jona Keri? I've seen him on NESN recently and he's written for GQ, his own website and now for Grantland (his Daddy must be a macha). He claims to now live in NH and is a Celtics fan but if you've seen some of his past work he bashes Boston every chance he gets. I don't mind haters on NESN giving their opinion but don't masquerade as some unbiased analyst.

    Why everyone—yes, everyone—outside of Boston is rooting against the Bruins http://www.gq.com/sports/profiles/201106/boston-b

    My Jihad Against Entitled Boston Sports Fans http://jonahkeri.com/2011/06/09/jihad-against-ent

    • mandb97

      Jonah Keri lives in Durham, NH, but he was born and raised in…(drum roll please)… Montreal, Quebec. I think that may answer your question on the Boston bashing.

  • Siggy

    I think this post is excellent Ryan. Thank you.

    I've followed Simmons since the old old days. He lost me when I saw a Mike Barnicle byline on Grantland. I admit I suffer from Barnicle Derangement Syndrome (had to leave the room when he came on Chronicle last night) but I trusted Simmons on certain things.

  • Winning_

    I'm still 50/50 on Grantland. I find myself reading the articles and slowly drifting asleep. The articles I have read, and I cant say its been more then 10-15, haven't gotten me. There is a arrogant stench that permeates its content. I get the feeling they are trying to belittle any reader who likes what they talk about. I need to give it more time i guess.

    Hey Ryan, I've been listening to Gresh and Zo, and I'm guessing Gresh read your stuff. he just mentioned something along the lines of "bloggers on little media websites saying he doesn't like Giardi." I was completely paraphrasing, but Gresh appararently reads this stuff. Nice job!

  • Tony

    I've checked out Grantland a few times, but to be honest I also sort of "checked out" mentally on Simmons a while back. There are only so many pop culture references I can take and his inability to accept any amount of criticism, be it mild or otherwise, is a huge drawback for me. It's almost like he's a younger, hipper version of Shaughnessy when he pulls that act. I also find his knowledge of sports, unless it's the NBA, to be rudimentary at best.

    That said, I give the guy a tremendous amount of credit for being an aggressive entrepreneur. His meteoric transformation from an unemployed sportswriter bartending in the Boston area into a nationally known and highly paid celebrity sportswriter truly is an American success story.

    I wish him well in this new venture of his, but I've pretty much lost interest in most of what he's had to say over the past few years. If he pens a column about one of the Boston teams, I'll still give it a look, but even then I usually end up disagreeing with a lot of what he says and I also get lost amidst the pop culture references about halfway through.

  • mandb97

    I am in complete agreement with those who dislike Grantland. There is a reason Ken Fang calls Simmons Captain Blowhard. I have always felt he is overrated. The two worst things you can about a professional site is that it is poorly edited and it is booooorrrrrrrrriiiinnnnggggg. Grantland is that. I will not give up hope it though. I was never a fan of the Dan Patrick show because of fear I would fall asleep at the wheel and hit a phone pole. Recently, the show has improved and I like it a lot. Maybe that will happen to Grantland.

    • kzf1

      I knew there was a reason why I liked you, mandb97. Ha ha.

  • collis jones

    Say what you want about Bruce, he comes hard and has a take.

  • PlayedTheGameAtURI

    “Weak Backer” “Sam Backer” “Mike Backer” “Zero Set”

    Greshy had the never to call this a “hack website” today.

    • Ryan Hadfield

      He called me a hack, and he misread the column (or did not read it at all). Giardi responded to me on Twitter. He understood the context and affirmed that is part of the reason he likes Twitter.

      I clearly state that these tiffs are made in “good fun”. If Gresh called the site “hack”, I think there would have to serious re-evaluation on his-part of BSMW’s online presence and place in the media landscape.

      • mandb97

        Ryan, Gresh probably called BSMW a hack website because he mostly gets hammered for the awful personality that he is. I think he has one of the highest disapproval rates in the 2011 BSMW sports personality poll. Let's just say it is well earned.

  • latetodinner

    A few media related thoughts this late Friday afternoon:

    1) The U of M payola scandal is fascinating to me but not in the way the non illustrious talk media in town have covered it. They have covered it as a "gotcha" story. 72 players named in the pieces not one denial. All are most likely guilty including beloved nose tackles who are charitable and play for the Pats. To me the real story that was ignored by everyone is the dichotomy of college athletes. There are two types of players, ones who have the talent to make a professional career out of the sport and those that are good enough to play at the college level but not beyond and are more than willing to trade 24-30 hours a week training/playing for the scholarship, education, status on campus, and graduating debt free. The boosters do not target the second group. For the most part the sure fire stars in the first group get good advice and usually with few exceptions (Reggie Bush, everyone at Miami) avoid taking the "illegal" money. Its the guys who are between the two groups who are the targets. I call them potential lottery tickets. These guys are good enough to start in college but they aren't stars. With hard work they may make the NFL or NBA but they will have to work to get more than vet minimum. The agents and boosters figure if they can get their hooks into 10 of these guys and 1 or 2 make it…it was a good investment. These guys have no use for the academics because they are either too uneducated (don't get me started) or too ego maniacal to believe that they aren't the second coming…my favorite example of this would be a Providence College guard named God Shamgod who came out after his Sophomore year thinking he would be a first round pick.

    None of the hosts I heard talking about this topic this week identified this problem. Some like Fred Smerlis and Lou Merloni talked about how players needed to make some "walk around" money. Others talked about how the free education was worth the trade off for the money brought to the school. There was a little title 9 talk…if you pay football players you also have to pay other student athletes in programs not making as much money. Lots of blame the NCAA talk. But very little good analysis of the motivations of the different players and why they might be tempted.

    2) I get it the Pats are going 16-0 this year. Any chance any talking head in town can at least acknowledge the Pats have played two fake games, using pretty vanilla schemes, facing vanilla schemes? BB is notarious for using preseason exhibitions to look at players in situations, score be damned, why is this year any different. I am not raining on the Pats parade…I am actually quite excited about this year because I think they are going to actually play defense. But to listen to the media folk on tn and radio…while reading the print guys…there is no reason to play the season.

    3) When Albert Haynesworth plays this year, and when he plays well…too many Media people in town will have been exposed as frauds. I would love to say I can't remember the last time I have seen such closed mindedness when it comes to the groupspeak coming out as media commentary…but this same media bunch had the same reaction to Randy Moss prior to the 2007 season.

    4) The more 98.5 plays the raps the different hosts have written to belittle each other…the more respect for the target I lose.

    5) On Grantland…I am in the minority…I like Bill Simmons with a caveat, I actually like his none sports work much better than his sports work. As I see it the problem with Grantland is it is supposed to stand on its own…when it reality it reads as great long form companion pieces. So unless it is a topic you are interested in…usually the pieces are 5000 words to long.

    • mandb97

      All very well put. The only minor disagreement is on number two. I think the media has gone out of their way in telling us, "Let's not get too excited. It's only preseason." Yes Eric Frede, Greg Dickerson, D.A., Felger, Mutnansky, and of course, as Bruce tweeted, the one, the only Hector Longo, we know it is preseason. Hector not only said he was unimpressed with the Patriots, he believes they are in deep trouble because of the second string DBs. Longo can give those who are down on their luck without a job a boost of self-confidence. Why, because when anyone reads a Longo piece he/she realize they could easily write better then Hector without one single journalism class.

      • latetodinner

        Ugh…not that well put…I just found two typos I can't edit…that will drive me crazy.

        I think on point 2 I exaggerated a little in saying no one is looking at these games as preseason. I am certainly not looking for people to hammer the pats performance or nit-pick it. My larger point, which I argue often here…is for talking heads…especially talk show talking heads…to please put conversations in context. Case in point before condemning Danny Woodhead playing in a fourth quarter of a game on special teams…at least consider that at most there are 8 live kickoffs or punts in a game. You can't practice 1s v 1s on punt and KO units in practice because a lot of the same guys are on both units. So BB uses a late 4th quarter punt in an exhibition game (situation) to give his first team punt unit some work. Its not BB's fault he did not get 8 punts in the first Quarter when the 1s were expected to play. Same with the new fangled attitude on defense. Or Mark Clayton is coming to visit…it must mean the Pats are ready to cut Chad 85 because he is not picking up the offense. Its just silly.

        Good take on Longo…had me chuckling.

        • mandb97

          Absolutely, it is like the talking heads honestly believe we like overreaction. It's laughable.

        • latetodinner

          One other quick thought…regarding Bruce, guest columnists and BSMW in general. Bruce because of his own hard work and dedication has created a very thankless job/service. For a lot of people he distills an overwhelming amount of news into an easy to read summary that also allows you to easily get at the original information to form your own opinion. He gives reasoned opinions when he opines…not that I always agree but I do way more often than not. He does all of this and does not get paid. He sells advertising on the website and that along with his occasional request for financial support from his loyal readers allows him to break even. He is certainly not getting rich from either this site or his work at SB nation…he has a day job which pays the bills. He has written about his conversion to being a family man (first about getting married and then the birth of both of his children). Being Jewish the word I would use for Bruce is Mench.

          Having said that some people who use his services feel entitled to them. He has received emails from people complaining he does not get the links up early enough, or that he does not cover enough outlets, or that his work is too Boston centric (I don't get that one). He gets personally attacked for by people who read this site and who are covered by this site occasionally in vicious personal/creepy ways all because he expressed a well argued and defended opinion. People have problems separating the person from their ideas.

          After 10 years it has become a lot of time and work. He no longer does weekend links (when he first started he did saturday and sunday). The site has always used outside writers to help enhance content. That is how Patriots Daily developed. I don't want to talk directly for Bruce but I do think he needs/wants other voices on the site because he can't do it all alone any more…not that he ever could. If the outside voices are more editorial in nature, great we will filter their opinions, if they continually suck Bruce will dump them. If they are continually great they will become part of the fabric of the website and we will embrace them. In either case we should support Bruce in whatever decisions he makes because he has earned our respect.

          Just felt I needed to get that off my chest.

        • mandb97

          here here

  • Classless

    Simmons' mailbag (a former fave of mine) has been atrocious since he rolled it back out on grantland. I can't say really that any of the other stuff on there has been interesting. That site is a vanity piece right now. I bet Klosterman and Simmons have 2 hour podcasts privately where they discuss their own pieces.

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