Has Bill Simmons Departure Hurt Grantland?

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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%.

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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…

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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.
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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.

 

Why Can’t Lance Armstrong Just Admit He Used Performance Enhancing Drugs?

Watching 60 Minutes this weekend, I caught an interview with two former teammates of Lance Armstrong admit to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and that they witnessed Lance Armstrong also using them as well.  Not surprising, these teammates testified to these facts recently.

Lance has categorically denied ever using PEDs and every test he has ever taken has been clean.  That has not stopped allegations from repeatedly popping up, 8 different times, since 2004.  Teammates, friends and competitors have all eluded to or admitted to knowing Lance used PEDs.  So why can’t Lance just come clean?

My theory on why he keeps denying the truth is that it would implicate much more than himself.  It is clear that the international cycling community may be just as complicit in ignoring and covering up the test results as anyone.  Interest in cycling was waning in the late 90s, but in 1999 Lance Armstrong started to change that when he won his first Tour de France and his story about his battle with cancer came out.  For most Americans, the only cycling race they know is the Tour de France, so it was a great story, and as he realed off 7 consecutive Tour de France titles.

It was in cycling’s best interest to keep Lance in the lead.  I believe that as fellow competitors tried to keep up with Lance they learned the only way was with PEDs and that because international cycling officials allowed Lance to do it, that they would be allowed too.  I find it nearly impossible to believe everyone was cheating around Lance, they could not keep up with him, and he remained clean.  What biological condition or bionic condition gives him that ability?

Armstrong has done so much for the sport of cycling, for cancer awareness through his Livestrong foundation, but his greatest contribution maybe his ability to lie to himself that he used PEDs.  He has done a better job avoiding getting caught than anyone in modern sports history.

Perhaps it is time for the all drug cycling competitons like SNL suggested a few years ago.