Grantland Was Always a Risk—Just Like Bill Simmons Wanted It to Be


It was three days ago, on Halloween Eve, that ESPN abruptly closed Grantland, the sports and culture website founded by Bill Simmons in 2011. Simmons had already left the site in May, after ESPN declined to renew his contract, and had gone on to partner with HBO for a weekly talk show, among other things. But he was not too busy Friday to lash out at ESPN over Twitter for killing off his former baby. The shuttering affected about 40 full-time staff, contract writers, and freelancers.

We were appalled, too. There aren’t enough quality journalistic outlets that publish the work of talented observers of the culture, and Grantland had often been that—a go-to place for good, smart reads. That said, we couldn’t help but remember a Q&A with Simmons that ran in Los Angeles in 2009, when Grantland was just a seed of an idea waiting to germinate. David Davis, who interviewed Simmons for the magazine, got him to say a lot about stuff we care about, such as: Do Los Angeles fans get a bad rap?

But it was Simmons’ answer to Davis’ final question—“What’s next?”—that rang in our ears 72 hours ago when Grantland went poof. Because here, presciently, is what Simmons said back then: “I’m definitely going to try something big. I just don’t know what. I’m ready to go down in flames on something so that people say, ‘Did you hear about Simmons? He lost $20 million in two months. All the investors want to kill him.’ That’s one of my goals.”

Simmons will be fine, of course. It’s just weird to realize that on Friday, as much as he hated it, he kind of got what he asked for.

Read the full 2009 interview here.