John Skipper, ESPN’s top executive for content, admitted it was “a little zigging while everybody else was zagging and talking about how it’s all about video now.’’
But the beauty of being ESPN is that it has the power and resources to try different things, even things as retro as Grantland.com, a new site fronted by Bill Simmons, the most popular sportswriter in America.
“We have enough platforms that we can do a very literary, smart site, but with some attitude and style,’’ said Skipper, a former executive at Rolling Stone. “I think people are going to like it.’’
So far, so good. Grantland, named for the early 20th century writer Grantland Rice, is not for everyone, especially people with jobs and families and stuff that limit time for reading really long stories.
But its roster of scribes, including Simmons, Chuck Klosterman, Dave Eggers and Charles Pierce, is deep, and its intentions are noble.
The first week brought several goodies, including an oral history of The National, an experiment in a national daily that 20 years ago tried to turn sports journalism on its ear.
Grantland’s ambitions are more modest, and it is likely to last far longer.