Two weeks ago, ESPN announced they will not be renewing Bill Simmons’ contract.
Whether it’s because Simmons is too good and too expensive or because he didn’t exactly get along with his bosses, we’re not exactly positive. Whatever the reason, news spread rapidly that Simmons was parting ways with his creation, Grantland.
If you’re a regular reader or even somewhat familiar with the super blog powered by ESPN, that’s a very odd thought.
Especially when you see that Grantland tweeted out an old Bill Simmons column about David Letterman on Wednesday, in honor of Letterman’s momentous farewell that night.
Of course, it’s just one tweet. Maybe Grantland was symbolically repurposing Simmons’ farewell to David Letterman as “Simmons says farewell to Grantland.” But nonetheless, Letterman’s farewell was a bit less complicated and a lot more voluntary.
Let’s be real: Bill Simmons was Grantland. And right now, Grantland is still Bill Simmons. After all, his last name is still right in the middle of the goddamn homepage and it’s not like the entire framework he created is going to implode. The incredible writing staff he put together (if you like NBA and Game of Thrones follow netw3rk on Twitter immediately) doesn’t appear to be going anywhere either, at least for the moment. But moving forward, it’s hard to imagine the site ever being the same without his overall voice and direction.
Grantland’s all-encompassing sports and pop culture vision was ambitious as hell – and it’s clear now Simmons was fit to be at the top of it.
Moving forward, you’re not fooling anyone by tweeting out his old stuff. While relevant to the current events and certainly quality content, is hard to be seen as anything but click-driven.
It makes ESPN look like the evil empire that everyone hates, which made the backlash to Grantland’s tweet on Wednesday even more predictable:
Not a huge deal, until you see the automated ESPN logo that pops up with the Grantland URL.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 21, 2015
Starting to see why this break-up is complicated?
It makes sense to tweet out old content that is relevant to what’s going on. And obviously, a lot of that old content was written by Bill Simmons…who was just fired by the blog’s bankroll.
If you’re Simmons, of course you’ll tweet out your old stuff. He obviously wants Grantland to succeed, with or without him, regardless of who the pageviews are owned by. Shit, maybe he was the one who tweeted the Letterman article from the Grantland account (and also the one who re-tweeted that link to his complete archive from the Grantland account).
Unless ESPN forced Grantland to change their Twitter password, I would have to think Bill Simmons still has access to it. And it would be a total Bill Simmons move to go and re-tweet himself in the aftermath of being fired. Him doing things like that is exactly why he was fired in the first place.
Either way, the corporation that did this will continue to get the page views of their blog’s biggest attraction (despite him being a former employee).
Overall, I guess you could say things are pretty complicated.