It’s been an up an down week for Bill Simmons’ new online startup Grantland. The Atlantic proclaimed the site DOA. Deadspin has been hating ever since word of the site got out. And then there was this brutal reaming. Even we had to get in on the action a little, pointing out that a website that purports to have high-minded literary ambitions loses its credibility when blanketed by tacky Subway ads.
But all that said, one thing you can’t argue is that they’ve had some interesting pieces up there. Chris Jones’ story on his conflicted reentry into the baseball beat was easily one of the best written sports pieces we’ve read in quite some time. We enjoyed Chuck Klosterman’s take on how DVR kills the thrill of sports. And then there’s today’s piece on the long-deceased sports newspaper The National. Written Legs McNeil-Please-Kill-Me-style, the piece delves into the glorious but ill-fated 18-month run of the country’s only national sports newspaper.
There’s plenty of interesting history, but this part about Norman Chad taking the piss out of Bob Costas was undoubtedly our favorite.
Chad: After college, I was a standup comic. I quit because I was getting married and couldn’t make enough money.
Deford: We got Norman Chad off the rewrite desk at the Washington Post. There wasn’t a chance for Norman to be himself there. George Solomon, great editor — but what the hell was he thinking?
Kindred: For the first issue, we had New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Deford wanted a profile of Patrick Ewing for the New York edition, Jordan in Chicago, and Magic in L.A. Ostler did Magic. I did Jordan. Lupica refused to do Ewing. The quote was, “I don’t do that.” He did his column, but he didn’t do anything else.
Pierce: I needed The National. I needed to break a national profile. Norman was the same way. Then you had people like Lupica and Feinstein who went there not particularly invested in the project, except for the fact that they couldn’t see a large thing happen in sports writing without them.
Granger: I edited Norman. He did a piece about Bob Costas, and every time he’d mention him he’d refer to him as “the 5-foot, 5-inch Bob Costas.” NBC called complaining we’d gotten Costas’ height wrong.
Chad: I told the publicist, if I run this correction — The National misreported Bob Costas’ height, he’s 5-8, not 5-5″— at the end of the column, I don’t think it looks good for Bob.
Granger: Every time Chad wrote about Costas in a column for The National after that he would talk about “Bob Costas, who was not 5-feet, 5-inches tall.”
Chad: One morning my phone rang. I go, “Hello?” And I hear, “Norman Chad?” I go, “Yes.” The voice goes, “This is Bob Costas. You’re an asshole.”
Hilarious. If Grantland can keep cranking out pieces like this we’ll definitely check in every day.
Previously on FishbowlLA: Bill Simmons’ Grantland Launches, Replete With Obnoxious Subway Ads