Grantland is firmly established as my favourite blog. Even if 90% of its content covers American sport, it’s just filled with the kind of writing I aspire to.
Here are some recent samples of Grantland writing that you should most definitely flick through. This seems as good an opportunity as any to put a new tweet-a-pull-quote plugin I’m trying.
1. Chuck Klosterman – he recently went to a Creed concert and a Nickelback concert on the same night to figure out why it’s ok to hate both bands (also this piece on indie music, well, one particular indie band).
“Over the past 20 years, there have been five bands totally acceptable to hate reflexively (and by “totally acceptable,” I mean that the casual hater wouldn’t even have to provide a justification — he or she could just openly hate them and no one would question why). The first of these five acts was Bush (who, bizarrely and predictably, was opening for Nickelback that very night). The second was Hootie and the Blowfish, perhaps the only group ever marginalized by an episode of Friends. The third was Limp Bizkit, who kind of got off on it. Obviously, the last two were Creed and Nickelback. The collective animosity toward these five artists far outweighs their multiplatinum success; if you anthologized the three best songs from each of these respective groups, you’d have an outstanding 15-track album that people would bury in their backyards.”
“The day before the New York show, Kroeger appeared on a Philadelphia radio station and was asked (of course) why people hate Nickelback so vehemently. “Because we’re not hipsters,” he replied. It’s a reasonable answer, but not really accurate — the only thing hipsters unilaterally loathe is other hipsters, so Nickelback’s shorthaired unhipness should theoretically play to their advantage.[pq]A better answer as to why people dislike Nickelback is tautological: They hate them because they hate them[/pq]. Sometimes it’s fun to hate things arbitrarily “
2. This piece on horse racing, and the murky world of gambling.
“I boarded the Jockey Club elevator with a group of filthy-shoed men I assumed were from California; they headed to the Winner’s Circle, I headed back to the proletariat. They were staid and dignified. One of them shot his cuffs and adjusted his tie, ready for his picture. Just another day at the office.
The elevator opened and dumped us out into the throng. People were lining up at the windows to cash their tickets and collect the $1.20 in winnings that Secret Circle paid on a $2 bet. It was nowhere near the six figures that Secret Circle’s connections had won, but these fans were high-fiving and back-slapping like their ship had come in. Perhaps my dad was right. Having a winner was fun, even if everyone else in the track had it, too. I pulled my tip sheet from my jacket pocket and unfolded it. Disgusted, I read the words Secret Circle — BEST BET!”
3. This review of the Avengers.
“The insane advertising and development costs of the Harry Potter–style franchises we consistently reward at the box office have turned studio heads into marketers trying to find audiences big enough — i.e., young enough and male enough — to justify the cost of movies whose budgets routinely exceed $200 million. At that kind of rarified airspace, in which the marketing budget amounts to as much as half or more of whatever is spent on the actual film, you need a sure thing,like a toy, or a preexisting brand; [pq]auteur types and people with new, unproven ideas are dangerous and threaten the bottom line.[/pq] Better to just make a movie called Candy Land starring Adam Sandler and pray that people remember that a board game of the same name once existed.”
4. This tribute to Pep Guardiola (and pretty much everything they write about football, like this piece about Pele, and this one about Messi)…
“Throughout his early life he’d been consumed, Valdés had, by the fear of failure and compulsive perfectionism that tend to haunt top goalkeepers.”The mere thought of next Sunday’s game horrified me,” he has said. And: “[pq]Playing in goal was, to put it mildly, a special kind of suffering…[/pq]
For Guardiola, joy was also instrumental. He had realized that, in order to play the game the way he wanted, his players would need to be tuned in a certain way, that it would require a kind of psychic generosity for them to read one another well enough to move in the perfect tandem he envisioned, and that even the goalkeeper had to be part of that, which, odds were, would be impossible if the goalkeeper were sealed in a self-created hell. “Have fun,” the way Guardiola said it, was a cliché, and a profound statement about the nature of the game, and a tactical manipulation as fussily meticulous as the kind that used to torment Victor Valdés.”
5. The Masked Man – overthinking the WWE. This piece on a recent Pay Per View, which travels back to the 1920s to resolve a modern wrestling dilemma, is really something.
“Back in the 1920s, there was a wrestling stable called the Gold Dust Trio. They were the most powerful group in pro wrestling’s fist heyday, and they helped mold the sport into its modern form. The Trio’s members were Ed “Strangler” Lewis, the champion; Billy Sandow, the businessman; and Toots Mondt, the enforcer and, more important, the wrestling visionary.
Prior to the Trio’s ascendance, wrestling mostly took place on fairgrounds and in vaudeville halls. It was, more or less, real. According to legend, grapplers would travel from territory to territory, taking on local tough guys, and if the wrestler began to feel overmatched, he would wrangle his opponent back against the curtain at the rear of the stage, where an accomplice would clock the local with a blackjack, unbeknownst to the audience.
The subsequent era of higher-profile, “championship” matches had its share of fixed bouts, but they contributed to a more fascinating reality. The Gold Dust Trio would change everything. Sandow hired Mondt to be Lewis’s sparring partner and enforcer; Mondt would take on opponents before they got in the ring with Lewis to make sure they were “worthy” foes, but in reality, he would soften them up for his colleague. Then, when wrestling audiences started to dwindle, Mondt conceived of a new style that combined Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling with brawling and boxing.”
There you go. If you’re not persuaded now, you never will be…