Unlike many around the Interwebz, we’re not Bill Simmons haters. We read every column, think he’s entertaining and we too enjoy the Real World/Road Rules Challenge from time to time. So we were excited for today’s launch of Grantland, Simmons’ new sports/pop culture site which has attracted the writing talents of some serious heavy hitters, including Malcolm Gladwell, Chuck Klosterman and Dave Eggers. And we still are excited. Today’s debut has original pieces by Simmons, Klosterman and New York Times writer Jonathan Abrams among others.
But, forgetting content for a moment, at first glance there’s something that needs addressing: the ridiculously tacky ads. Simmons and his podcast have a longstanding relationship with Subway. Still, we were a little surprised to see a small banner at the top corner noting that the site is “presented by Subway” (it also seems to alternatively be “presented by Klondike”). For a site that aspires to the greatness of Spy, that’s pretty shameless. The LA Times took flack for putting ads on its front page. What if the whole operation was sponsored by AEG? Wouldn’t look so good, right?
We get that in order to bring writers like Gladwell aboard you have to pay the bills. But come on. This was supposed to be Simmons’ edgy realm, unbound by the constraints of his more commercial ESPN ventures.