Hell of a Start: Grantland’s Oral History on The National

So Bill Simmons and a few pals (such as Chuck Klosterman) have started a venture called Grantland (named in tribute to sportswriter Grantland Rice), a sports and pop culture news site (owned by ESPN).

I have mixed feelings about Simmons, sometimes he just gets too obscure or pompous or something that rubs me the wrong way. But there’s no way you can dislike a website that dedicates one of its first major stories to a history of the short-lived sports newspaper, The National. It’s a piece that has writers Alex French and Howie Kahn interviewing Frank Deford, Dave Kindred, Tony Kornheiser, Ed Hinton and many many other folks. The number of people represented in the piece is staggering. Plus, as an Atlanta native, I am grateful to Hinton for this: “The Atlanta Journal Constitution staff in the mid-’80s was the best sports staff in the country. We were better than the Washington Post. We took Dave Kindred away from theWashington Post. We took Gordon Edes away from the L.A. Times. Roy Johnson from the New York Times. Van McKenzie was getting anybody he wanted.”

But really, my favorite quote comes late in the story, from Deford (a writer/pundit I have admired for years):

“You’d be amazed by the number of people who stop me, bring me papers to autograph. I give a speech and ask for questions afterwards, this is 20 years on, and somebody always asks about The National. People do remember it fondly. The thing they always say is, “I read every issue.” And I think, “Bullshit.” I know you didn’t read every issue because you couldn’t get every issue.”

Read the whole damn thing, I really wish the story about John Feinstein’s cats was true. Even then, it’s a damn funny fictional tale. And there’s the added bonus of Charlie Pierce’s recollection of his time at The National.

I wish Grantland the best of luck, and I really hope that Simmons succeeds in his effort to get Kornheiser to write again.