Has Bill Simmons Departure Hurt Grantland?


An article last week on Deadspin caught my eye about what ESPN is going to do with Grantland.com.  If you remember Grantland founder and Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons was told his contract was not going to be renewed back on May 8th and effectively it was his last day at ESPN.

I’ve been reading Bill Simmons since he was writing for Digital Cities AOL back in 1999 and I followed him to Page 2 on ESPN to his penultimate move when he and ESPN created Grantland.  A cadre of writers came on board, some well known others who would become well known after writing on the site for a while.

So the question Deadspin asked was what will happen to the site, but I’ve been curious what’s happened to the site since Simmons was fired.  Here is what Alexa and Quantcast show:

Quantcast Data

Quantcast Data

Alexa Data

Alexa Data

Clearly traffic has dipped since Simmons stopped working on the site, but part of that might be seasonal.  The NFL season ends in early February, and as the weather warms people spend less time thinking about sports, but that doesn’t fit what Grantland likes to write about.  Bill Simmons is a huge NBA fan and writes about it extensively all the way through the playoffs which wrap up in June.  Then there is the pop culture part of the site which covers May sweeps and summer movie season.

When I tried to compare the social engagement of Grantland, two things stood out.

  1. Social engagement on the site dropped 51% in the first 6 months of 2015 as compared to the first 6 months of 2014.
  2. Since Simmons stopped working on Grantland on May 8th social activity is down 53%.



So does this spell the end of Grantland?  I hope not, there are terrific writers there and they’ve been a big contributor to the resurgence of podcasts, but as Deadspin notes if the writers depart when their contracts are up, they don’t have the same momentum heading into 2016 as they did heading into 2015.

Atlantic City’s Next, Best Bet…

Yesterday morning Trump Plaza closed its doors for the last time.  Trump was already planning to close the Trump Plaza next week, but now the Taj Mahal is at risk of closing in November.  This news in conjunction with the Revel closing earlier this month preceded by the Showboat casino closing leaves 7 casinos left open, if Taj Mahal closes in November.

I wrote a few years ago about the blight of Atlantic City and how surrounding states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York have reduce the amount of day trippers going to AC.  Hurricane Sandy in 2012 did the Jersey Shore no favors and so here we are today.  Seven casinos left without much hope, except…

Enter sports gambling!  This is the last best hope for New Jersey gambling revenues and it is the bet (pardon the pun) that Governor Chris Christie is making.  This was put to a vote a couple of years ago, and it passed.  The federal government has blocked New Jersey’s efforts and the NCAA and professional sports leagues have joined in.

Governor Christie has had enough, the casinos are closing and consumer behavior is forcing his hand to ignore the federal government and allow race tracks and casinos to start taking sports bets immediately.  Putting aside the legal issues, let’s assume this starts.  Here is how New Jersey benefits:

  1. Sports gambling brings in huge handles for the casinos 25 weeks of the year.  All 17 NFL regular season games, 4 playoff and Super Bowl weekends, 3 NCAA tournament weekends and Kentucky Derby weekend.
  2. The average annual handle (what the casinos earned) in Vegas for each NFL season since 1969 is $41.7M.  This doesn’t include all the ancillary revenue they bring in from people just being in Vegas.
  3. Over 200MM people worldwide gamble online and of those people living in the US they do so illegally.  Those people are making over $380B in bets each year.

Christie’s bet is a winner not just for the casinos but also for the bettors themselves.  Instead of betting off shore with the fear that their money will be stuck overseas, Americans can now cash their tickets and pocket the money.
I’ve been going to Vegas for 15 years for the March Madness tournament and would love to give AC a try as soon as the books are open there.

ESPN’s 30 for 30 is back.

In October 2009 ESPN ran the first in a series of documentaries celebrating the first 30 years of sports coverage at ESPN.  The documentaries were produced by filmmakers like Ice Cube and Barry Levinson.  Some of the documentaries were good, but others were captivating.  In my opinion ESPN was robbed of either a Primetime Emmy or a Grammy for best documentary.

Today ESPN announced it is kicking off a new 30 for 30 series this fall and winter.  I can’t wait to see what the next set of documentaries is going to cover.

Here are my top 5 favorite documentaries from the first 30 movies produced by ESPN:

5.    “The Band That Would Not Die” – My dad grew up in Baltimore and was a huge Baltimore Colts fan.  Watching the Colts slip out of Baltimore in the middle of the night was heartbreaking to him and other Colt fans.  In this film, we are introduced to the Baltimore Colts Band and how they never lost faith in bringing a team to Baltimore.

4.    “The U” – Lots of people, including myself, forgot how University of Miami went from an afterthought in football to winning multiple national titles.  The Hurricanes won with moxie and let everyone know it.

3.    “Catching Hell” – I am cheating a little since this film was not part of the 30 for 30 series, though originally it was.  Getting into the exact details of what happens when an innocent Chicago Cubs fan gets in the way of a Cubs’ outfielder catching a foul ball costing the Cubs a chance at returning to the their first World Series since 1945.

2.    “Once Brothers” – This story moved me the most.  Vlade Divac, the former LA Laker and Serbian goes back home to try and find closure over his broken friendship with former NBA star and Croatian Drazen Petrovic.  Their relationship was similar to brothers, but was torn apart when civil war broke out between Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s.  Unfortunately, Drazen Petrovic died in a car accident before the friendship could be repaired.  We should never take for granted the relationships we have in life.

1.    “The Two Escobars” – This should have been made into a full length movie.  “The Two Escobars” shown the spotlight on the lives of two men with the same last name, Escobar who’s lives inexplicably collided.  The first Escobar, Andres was a star soccer player in Columbia who accidentally scored an own goal that caused Columbia to lose to the US in the 1990 World Cup.  The second Escobar, Pablo, was the drug kingpin from Columbia who controlled almost all the cocaine in world.  Where the worlds collide is that both Pablo and Andres were from Medellin and it was there Pablo, who was a huge soccer fan, funded the Columbian soccer team.  Unfortunately it was the same cartel that ended Andres’ life in 1994 for retribution of that own goal in the 1990 World Cup.


What do $1 Razors and the Chicago Cubs Winning the World Series Have in Common?…

Great marketing campaigns!  Two totally separate online marketing campaigns have gone viral today, and both for very different reasons.  The first is from Dollar Shave Club which is out to take down the cabal that is Gillette.  By offerring $1 razor blades delivered to your doorstep each month, you can save hundreds of dollars over paying Gillette $8-10 a razor.  Not the most sexy business, but when you watch their online video campaign, you may change your opinion.

I am not a Chicago Cubs fan, but the misery that my North-side Chicago friends experience each summer tells me that the Cubs winning the World Series would be as big a deal as when the Red Sox won in 2004 after an 86 year wait.  Leave it to MLB The Show to come up with a video showing what it would be like for the Cubs and the city of Chicago to end their 103 year drought.  The game is so realistic that it is hard to tell fact from fiction.

Blake Griffin’s Dunk Shakes the Web

After watching Blake Griffin’s INSANE dunk over Kendrick Perkins Monday night, I wanted to see what happened across the web immediately following the dunk.  Not surprising, everyone linked to the video of the dunk and it did not take very long for people to start sharing, clicking and searching for the dunk.  Incredibly the number of searches, shares and clicks via AddThis for “Blake Griffin” increased 3500% the following day on January 31st.  Griffin’s dunk will be one of the best this season in the NBA, and it is definitely worth watching it again.

Flashing back to 1991…Giants and 49ers, What’s Old is New

In January 1991 I was in 8th grade, we were about to liberate Kuwait and bomb Iraq, Seinfeld’s 2nd season had just started and we were a two weeks away from Whitney Houston blowing the doors off Tampa Stadium singing the “Star Spangled Banner” for Super Bowl XXV.

One of the top NFL games that season was the NFC Championship game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco.  The 49ers were the favorites to win, led by Joe Montana, Roger Craig and Jerry Rice.  The Giants had a great defense but a boring ball control offense.  In 1991, defense won championships and it was the Giants defense that gave them the upset victory, by knocking Joe Montana out of the game and causing a fumble as the 49ers were running out the clock.  The Giants won the game a few minutes later with a field goal.  The win in San Francisco propelled the Giants to the Super Bowl where they defeated the Buffalo Bills.

21 years later, we are right back to that NFC championship game.  The players are different but the stakes are the same.  No one will confuse Alex Smith with Joe Montana, but some might think the Giants defense is just as good as the 1991 model, and they are probably right.  For those wanting to take a trip down memory lane, here is a YouTube clip of the game highlights:

Joe Paterno, Penn State and Morals

I waited a few days before writing about what has gone on at Penn State University because the first 2 attempts to write this post came across too angry.  I am angry at Jerry Sandusky who has been accused of harming so many young children, I am angry at the former Penn State quarterback, and at the time a grad assistant who witnessed one of the alleged assaults but only went to Joe Paterno, I am angry at Joe Paterno for not reporting the assaults to the police, and finally the leadership, or lack there of, at Penn State to take these statements seriously.

What happened at Penn State is that they forgot that as leaders they should have done more than the bare minimum.  Mike McQueary, was a quarterback at Penn State.  He led 10 other men into battle each week in the Big Ten Conference, and when the games ended, he became a grad assistant coach.  Why only tell Joe Paterno?  If someone was robbing the PSU Bookstore would you tell coach or campus police?  The athletic director and finance guy just sat on the news.  And then there is Joe Pa, he did nothing.  Sure he told the AD, but as the leader of 80+ student athletes, and dozens of coaches, he essentially did nothing.  If Joe Paterno saw a person injured on the street, would he try to help?  He has no morals, and was more interested in protecting his image, his university and his friend, Jerry Sandusky.

This pattern of protecting Penn State and the semi-pro status that the football team has is well documented.  I encourage you to read an article by Chris Korman, a PSU grad, who talked about all the cover ups that have occurred at Penn State under Joe Pa.

My heart aches for the victims and how their lives have been impacted by this.  In a community as small as Happy Valley, PA, I initially was shocked that no one had discovered this sooner, however, after reading Chris Korman’s article it became clearer.  At Penn State University the only morals that leadership had when it came to their football program was money.

Big East and West Virginia Sue Each Other, Who Else is Enjoying this $hit $how

The Big East Conference is on the brink of extinction.  The reek of desperation coming from the Providence, RI headquarters is overwhelming at this point.  The same week the conference, which was started by schools located in the Eastern Timezone, went and invited Boise State in Idaho to join the conference.  By Friday morning, the conference filed a lawsuit against West Virginia University to prevent them from leaving the conference at the end of the school year.

Let’s quickly rewind.  The Big East has been under attack since 2003 when the ACC came after two of the key football members in Virginia Tech and Miami to leave the Big East.  This upheaval caused the conference to add inferior teams and put in place rules that said if any other team were to leave the conference they would have to pay $5M to exit the conference and wait 27 months before departing.

Fast forward to 8 weeks ago, and Syracuse and Pitt decided they wanted out because they were concerned they would be left without a seat at the table of big conference football.  I said at the time this was a brilliant move, and 4 weeks later I still think it was an awesome move.  The league said Syracuse and Pitt had to wait 27 months to leave, which they made no comment on, and they did so purposely I am sure.  Now West Virginia wants out to move to the Big 12, again great move by West Virginia, but this time, both West Virginia and the Big 12 say WVU starts play in the league next year.  WVU immediately sues the Big East to get out of the 27 month waiting period, and that brings us to today.

Here is what Mountaineers do.  As soon as they can, work with the Big 12 to put together the football schedule for 2012 and release it publicly.  West Virginia sets the dates, announces ticket sales, start scheduling TV coverage.  I can see it now, next September, lowly UConn shows up in Morgantown and finds their locker room occupied by Iowa State.

Syracuse, Pitt and fans of each team are just sitting back with a bowl full of popcorn watching how all of this is going to play out.  Talking with a friend who is in the know at Syracuse believes that there is a 50/50 chance that they will be in the ACC starting in 2012, thanks to West Virginia though he believes the odds have dropped.  The league is going to get injunctions and prevent all 3 from leaving until 2013.  The Big East should just move on, they are starting to look like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction.  Give up!