The Grantland Generation and the Lie We Chose To Believe

 Grantland tricked a lot of young people into becoming writers. I’m one of them. Call us the Grantland Generation.

Grantland launched the summer before my senior year of college. In short time, what they were trying to become—what they eventually became—was clear. They were good, thoughtful writing, focused on developing specific voices into diverse content. It would be romanticizing Grantland to say that providing those things filled a gaping hole in the market. Great, nuanced writing, about both sports and pop culture, existed before and after them at publications with similar goals.

What Grantland did was make that work appear mainstream, cool, sharable, and discussion worthy to not just the pretentious or unrealistically informed. Mickey Mouse was putting his backing behind Grantland, and a conglomerate of that size has an ability to legitimize a venture as industry simply by association. Writing—writing about things most young people already love—represented a sect of ESPN, that we chose to believe was equal to any other sect of ESPN, because why would we stop to think otherwise? To a tremendous amount of young writers, Grantland was massively influential in their decisions to call writing a career. That may seem silly to older generations of writers and readers because four years is barely even recent history, but to those of us in our twenties it’s the most informing and impressionable period of time imaginable.

What Grantland did for writers my age was create a similar construct to the one that made so many sports fans in the nineties and early 2000s (and even now) idolize Stuart Scott, Scott Van Pelt, Dan Patrick, and other SportsCenter anchors. They had dream jobs. Grantland came along and, all of a sudden, being a writer didn’t seem like the starving artist livelihood that being a painter or a poet appeared to be. Grantland had an office that ESPN paid for, and great writers hung out there. It created an ideological shift that cool, funny, serious, and weird writing was a career field. The Grantland Generation didn’t need to get a job at Grantland. We just assumed we’d get a job at a place-like-Grantland, because once you freelance enough, a Bill Simmons-type will notice you and you’ll become a specific voice for a much larger vehicle.

I was never published in Grantland, and that fact doesn’t bother me. I’m proud of the places where I’ve seen my work. I can say truthfully, that some of the writers whose names I’ve been published alongside are probably my greatest sources of satisfaction in my career. And working with some of my editors has been like taking free throw lessons from Steph Curry.

Sure, Grantland writers inspired and influenced my writing. I wouldn’t have chased down a story on Johnny Manziel’s hometown if I hadn’t studied the writing of Bryan Curtis. I wouldn’t have started a column called “Tuesdays With 2 Chainz” if Shea Serrano hadn’t made me laugh so much. I wouldn’t have reported on the world’s largest podcast conference if I hadn’t read Molly Lambert on the world’s largest porn conference. I wouldn’t have published joke emails to Ryan Gosling’s restaurant (and Justin Timberlake’s, and Mark Wahlburg’s) if Rembert Browne didn’t make me realize that being silly won’t make people discount your intelligence. I wouldn’t have learned how to write about basketball and make it sound like I’m talking about it with my friends if I hadn’t read Chris Ryan and Jason Concepcion.

But I had inspirations elsewhere, too, and there was incredible, versatile writing outside of Grantland. Too much to begin to name, in fact. Look around and you’ll find it, and love it. But Grantland convinced me, and countless other, that there was an industry to support the size of this writing community. It didn’t take much convincing. We believed it because we wanted to.

We’re writing now. Not at Grantland, but we’re writing, and it’s hard. Not just for the reasons it should be hard, that is, because writing anything is a painstaking, vulnerable task. No, it’s hard because not quite enough people care, and less pay.

Grantland’s death—more specifically, the way Grantland died—is first and foremost sad for the great writers who lost their jobs. But for the Grantland Generation, it was a punch to the stomach, because Grantland didn’t have enough financial support, and was so unimportant to ESPN that it could exist at 10:00 AM and be a memory at noon. I think a lot of us young writers liked to pretend that maybe every Grantland writer was making six figures while totally aware it was just a fantasy we used to justify the less-than-lucrative work we were doing ourselves. Now, we realize, the majority of those writers are not just unemployed, but now competing with us for jobs and space in a room we already could barely fit in.

To an older generation of writers, the demise of Grantland is surely just another reminder of the nature of a tough business with no guarantees. To us, to those that came into writing in a world where Grantland already existed, it’s a shattered illusion. It’s a look behind the curtain to see that the Land of Oz is actually controlled by Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

So in a way, Grantland lied to us. Or maybe we just lied to ourselves. It doesn’t really matter.  Many of us, and perhaps some Grantland staffers, chose to see Simmons as an Ari Gold-like figure, running around town protecting his talent (a reference and analogy many writers would probably shudder at, but I have a feeling Simmons would appreciate). But that’s not how this industry works, and ESPN was never all in. Advertisers care less about Time On Site and more about clicks, which is a bad thing for anyone putting effort into each thought. 

So that mindset led many of us not to a career, but to a life of hoping that the most recent invoice comes through before rent’s due. But the reveal of the illusion doesn’t actually change anything except for our own realizations. The landscape isn’t all that different, but it feels more intimidating. The odds were always stacked against us, and some of us are just now realizing the gravity of that.

This came in a month stretch when I was having increased difficulty getting paid for what I considered good writing (as if it’s ever easy). My gut reaction to this, to all of this, is to write, and to write more than I already do, which will be no easy task. Even if that doesn’t make sense. Even if I don’t get paid or pieces go to waste, unpublished.

Trying to be one of many people contributing good, thoughtful writing out into the world isn’t a job just because I want it to be. You don’t just get health insurance because you write every single day.

But I’m going to keep doing it. I think a lot of other people just like me will too.

“You are meant to play the ball as it lies, a fact that may help to touch on your own objective approach to life.”

-Grantland Rice

Written by Jonny Auping

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The Wistful Decline of Nineties Nostalgia: A Short Story

Max is 25 years old

He and a group of his old college friends had just seen Jurassic World. His friends all agreed it was great. They debated whether it was as good as the original…Chris Pratt movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.

At the bar afterwards, they all laughed as they discussed Game of Thrones with another group of friends on Periscope. He did not participate. “Hey Max, you should really download Periscope,” Jenny said to him from a few seats away. “I think you’ll really like it.”

“I don’t know,” Max replied. “It just seems kind of dumb to me.”

“I feel like you just don’t really understand what it is,” she called back, just getting the sentence out before bursting in laughter at whatever was displayed on the phone Sally was holding in front of her face.

“I understand what it is,” Max said, annoyed. He definitely didn’t understand what Periscope was.

“It’s so great that we’re all back together,” an anonymous member of the group proclaimed to everyone and no one in particular.

“That’s for sure,” Karen replied to the anonymous voice. “I haven’t been able to stop eating all night though. I think I have food baby.”

“IT’S NOT A TOOMAH” Max yelled out, taking a step towards Karen and Sally’s bar seats to feel like he was comfortably a part of their conversation.

The room went silent. The whole group took a break from their separate conversations to turn and look at him. “Uhh, what was that, Max?” Dave said looking both embarrassed and concerned for Max’s reputation.

“Umm… you know…like… from…Kindergarden Cop,” Max replied. He was sweating.

The entire group made eye contact with each other, gave Max a patronizing nod and said “yeah, sure, man” before trying to reengage in their prior conversations. “Wow,” the anonymous voice said under its breath while rolling its anonymous eyes.

“We shouldn’t end the night here,” Karen yelled out. “Anybody have a suggestion for what we can all do later?”

“The new season of Orange is the New Black is out,” Sally responded. “We could all binge watch it at my place. We’ll Uber over there.”

Everyone except for Max seemed pleasantly in agreement that Sally had made a great recommendation. He thought there was still some room to convince them of a different plan.

“OR…we could watch a marathon of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air while we have a Words With Friends tournament! We can order some ‘za from my Kindle Fire. And guysssss… I just found my old Smash Mouth CD! What do you think?!?!”

This time the group refused to humor Max. They all collectively pretended not to hear him. Defeated, Max threw the box of Milk Duds that he had brought with him from the movie theater on the ground and sulked away to an empty booth at the end of the bar.

Dave watched him from the corner of his eye. He and Max had known each other since before kindergarden. He put his hand on the shoulder of Megan, a girl he thought he always had great chemistry with in college but nothing ever happened between them, and said, “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but I’ll be right back.”

He walked over to Max’s booth and hinted that Max scoot over a bit so that he could sit next to him. He took a swig out of his bottle of beer, sighed, and said, “Hey, what’s wrong, bud, you’re acting a little weird.”

Dave, shifted around uncomfortably for a second, took a deep breath, lightly put both hands on the table and stared forward as he spoke.

“I don’t know, I guess I just don’t like how things have changed. I miss the days a few years back when everybody was really nostalgic about the nineties. I remember when I used to post videos and jokes about Boy Meets Worlds and Homeward Bound and Zoo Books on Facebook and they would get so many likes. Those nineties references were gold. I was like Jesse from Full House when I made a good nineties reference.”

Dave rubbed his chin and stared at the ceiling, thinking. “Hmmm, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook…Oh, is that that birthday reminder app?”

“Forget it, man,” Max said in dismay. “I just really miss a particular time, you know? Around 2012, maybe 2013 when the nineties nostalgia craze was at its peak. I just have a wistful yearning for that period of time. I wish there was a word for that.”

“There’s not,” Dave said bluntly. “At least not one that I’m aware of. Look, we’ve known each since when? 1995?”

“I was seven years old in 1995, Dave. How am I supposed to remember?”

“Okay, okay. But the point is that things change, but I’m still here and so are all your other friends.”

Later that night..

Max smiled.

“You know, you’re a pretty good friend. I’m lucky to have you and I’ll always be here when you need me.”

He turned off his Tomagotchi, turned on his Macklemore Pandora channel and drifted to sleep.

DIY Tips for Preparing Your Dog For Its First Snowfall

It’s that time of year when certain states across America are soon to receive their first snowfall. You know what that means; thousands of adorable little puppies will watch snowflakes flutter through the air before landing on their wet little noses leaving them both utterly confused and excited.

But did you know that 972 dogs die each year of cardiac arrest because they can’t handle the shock of seeing snow for the first time? It’s important that your dog enters this winter prepared for what’s to come. These simple tips should really help:

 -Wake your dog up one morning with an aggressive foam machine in the corner of the room. Place a piece of bacon at the foot of the machine and have your youngest daughter scream, “IT’S A MIRACLE!” repeatedly while your dog nervously navigates through the foam on his way to the bacon. This reenactment is as close as your dog is going to get to his first experience with snow.

 If you don’t think your pup is capable of such a high intensity drill then simply start by showering him with confetti while your grandfather downplays the existence of global warming.

 -Sit down with your dog while the two of you watch the 2002 film “Snow Dogs” and make sure he takes time to consider the peculiar career arc of Cuba Gooding Jr. Does your dog even realize that “Snow Dogs” featured rapper Sisqo playing a character named “Dr. Rupert Brooks?” Then how do you expect him to process the inexplicable?

 -Assuming you read to your dog every night, begin reading him Robert Louis-Stevenson’s “Winter Time.” Pay attention to his tail as you read the words “And tree and house, and hill and lake, are frosted like a wedding cake.” If his tail is curled under his body then he still isn’t ready. If it wags two or more times then he is prepared for snowfall.

 -Once your dog is ready to handle snow you’re not out of the woods yet. You don’t want that rascal tracking dirty snow into the house. Teach him to shake snow out of his coat by playing Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” If he is able to shake off the snow by musical cue then Swift will personally take down your Christmas decorations come January. 

Here are a few snow related tips for pets outside of the canine species:

Cat: Put it in a box in the basement until winter season has ended.

Gerbil: Fill its roller ball with processed sugar so that its entire existence resembles a snow globe.

Human Baby: Cover it with vegetable oil before taking it out so that it is resistant to snow and will not become mysteriously trapped in the lower portion of snowman.

 Reptiles: No preparation needed. Lizards and snakes are naturally equipped to handle cold weather.

-Jonny Auping

Bugles and Americana

With each passing year the tides change, the leaves turn, the snow melts and the fingertips of America’s youth remain adorned with Bugles.

As one calendar year gives way to another the climate of our globe warms as glaciers melt, artic polar bears starve off extinction in search for environments that permit survival and you look sort of like a witch until you bite off each witch finger because witches can switch back to normal-looking people whenever they want, plus you have more Bugles, anyway.

 From the millions who died in Vietnam fighting a war they could hardly comprehend to the questionable half-truths we’ve accepted as motives for entering Iraq and Afghanistan, America continues to showcase its superiority and powerful intimidation upon the rest of the world while operating in a blurred gray area of what is ethically acceptable and the salt from the Bugles has entered the cut on the cuticle of your index finger and your eyes begin to water.

While the family road-trip to American landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty remains an outlet for domesticated life, what once occupied that travel time with spoken games while gazing out the window as Americana flies by has since been replaced with apps and vain expression through social media. Unchanged is the country gas station where your parents allow one snack each and finding the Bugles never takes more than a minute. Of course, your younger sister, Sally’s dumbass got Sourpatch Kids instead. It’s only a matter of time until she is complaining about her tongue being numb and you’ll probably just stab her in the eye with one of your Bugle fingers.

 It was 1966, as the country was growing weary of the status quo and evolving into a new era of acceptance and expression, that the Bugle was invented. Its early adopters were sitting on their back porches listening to Creedence. They were replaced by the generation sedating themselves with Bugles and the Ramones only to be cast aside by the next era of youth. But no one stopped believing in Bugles when arena rock came around. The Bugle was a place of comfort for those experiencing teen angst during the grunge era. While the music cherished so deeply by each generation became ridiculed by the next, the commonality remained that whether it was a flower dress, a leather jacket, big hair or a flannel shirt, the tiny crumbs of Bugles would eventually rain down on all of them.

 With political scandal inevitably finding prominence in the newspapers and the self-serving motives of politicians becoming only more discernible, we bicker and disagree over the merits of republicans and democrats, of liberals and conservatives. All the while social compromise becomes a sign of weakness rather than the strength needed for a country to thrive. You look down into the bottom of your bag and realize that the last of your Bugles are simply crumbles, no longer in the shape of a cone and you think to yourself, “Do these things even taste good?”

-Jonny Auping

Should Puppy in Drunk Driving Ad Still Be Worried?

Don’t drink and drive. The people who sell the number one product leading to bad decisions don’t want you to. But don’t avoid it for them. Don’t avoid it for your boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, sister, brother, mom or dad. Don’t avoid it for your friends. Don’t even avoid it for your own life and all the great things you have yet to accomplish. Avoid it for a good looking guy’s fictional dog.

Budweiser really dropped a bomb on driving under the influence recently with an anti-drunk driving ad featuring an incredibly adorable puppy-turned-dog. Will this dog prevent people from endangering their lives and the lives of others on the road? Who knows, but if we spread it around on social media enough then we might all have the courage to ridicule anyone who even thinks about it. I’m happy to do my part. Anything for this cutie:

So we solved the drunk driving problem.

But now that I’m fully invested in this dog’s happiness, I’m concerned about something else entirely: Who is “Dave” and should the dog be worried about him?

At the end of the ad, the owner of Aware Bud (I have given the dog this name as we aren’t provided one in the ad. It’s a play on Air Bud, drunk driving awareness and the fact that Bud is owned by Anheuser  Busch, otherwise known as “AB,” which is Aware Bud’s nickname given to him by Gary, the name I have made up for his owner who we think died in a senseless drunk driving accident, but was far too caring for such a mistake) says to him, “I decided I shouldn’t drive home last night. I stayed at Dave’s.”

You’re going to have to do better than that, Gary, if that’s even your real name (it almost certainly isn’t). This dog just went through an emotional roller coaster. Those wimpers have haunted my dreams since this commercial was first posted on my Facebook feed a few days ago. I’m indescribably relieved that AB’s owner isn’t dead, but I’m a little worried that this “Dave” character could be a problem. Here are a few possibilities:

1. Dave could be another dog.

Could Gary be cheating on AB? He’s clearly the type of guy that talks to his dog like it’s a human, is it that farfetched that he talks about dogs like they are humans?

Look, we’ve all seen this story before. Good lucking guy finds the perfect partner and they get together in the early days. In the beginning it’s all fun and games: early morning snuggle sessions in bed and trips to the lake. Over time things begin to get repetitive and mundane. He doesn’t look at his partner the same way anymore. He develops a wandering eye. He is constantly grabbing six-packs of beer and mysteriously staying out late while his partner remains at home, worried.

2. Dave could be a human he is romantically involved with.

This in itself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it could be great. Maybe Gary and Dave are truly in love. Perhaps the three of them will form one happy family with incredible Christmas cards.

BUT why are they always staying at Dave’s place? Maybe Gary just isn’t ready to tell AB about Dave and he will when the time is right. This is a delicate matter, he has to be sure first.

OR maybe Dave is allergic to dogs. Then we have a real problem. I’m all for love and romance, but Dave, if you tear these two apart, with God as my witness, I will send so many twenty-something female Facebook users in the direction of your profile so fast your head will spin.

3. Dave could be a cat.

Jesus Christ, Gary.

4. Dave could be one of these guys:

Budweiser has sold us cuteness before. They showed us an adorable dog befriending a clydesdale and reuniting them in a touching moment in between Doritos and Go Daddy Super Bowl commercials. The two animals had nothing to do with beer, but we all bought Bud Lights anyway.

This commercial has about as much to do with drunk driving. It’s a story of a guy who didn’t drink and drive and his dog who really loves him. It’s a commercial for Budweiser as much as it’s an anti-drunk driving commercial. You’re much more likely to think about that little pup when you’re in the beer aisle than when you’re slurring your words and trying to unlock your car.

I’m glad that Budweiser used their powers of cuteness for good, but ultimately advertising is effective with simple cases of association. The association with that dog is the Budweiser logo. That’s what will stick.

Even if adorable #friends aren’t #waiting, don’t drink and drive. You could die. Or kill someone else. If that’s not a good enough reason, then just do it for them:

Jonny Auping

 

16 Brussel Sprouts That Are Having a Worse Day Than You

It’s only Tuesday. Ugh. It’s going to be awhile before the weekend roles around and nothing seems to be going right for you. Your check-engine light just turned on, you poured a bowl of cereal before realizing you don’t have any milk and your phone’s 4G is being really annoying. Well, maybe this will cheer you up. Here are 14 Brussel Sprouts that are having a way worse day than you are.

The eight brussel sprouts next to the stalk are only 2.1 centimeters in diameter as opposed to the typical 2.5-4 centimeters that brussel sprout farmers are accustomed to finding.

A slightly below average sized brussel sprout? That’s about as useful to a brussel sprout farmer as a can opener is to a penguin. 

This goofy sprout lacks the proper amount of glucosinolates compounds that help reduce the bitterness that would otherwise be found in many edible brussel sprouts. Talk about a bad day for this Bitter Betty.

This ragtag gang of brussel sprouts were served to a heart patient who is regularly prescribed anticoagulants, which, as we all know, is a huge no-no considering excessive brussel sprout intake isn’t recommended to such people because the high levels of Vitamin K  could lead to blood clotting. Talk about embarrassing. 

This brussel sprout was yelled at by Kanye West for not standing during his concert. Is it Friday yet? It is just not this Brussel sprout’s week. 

I hope you feel better.

-Jonny Auping

 

 

 

The Grand Canyon’s Take on Ferguson

If you’re anything like me you have really been wondering what the Grand Canyon has been up to lately. A week ago I wasn’t sure it still existed. That trip that your aunt took to go see it was over ten years ago. Has anyone heard from that big gap between two giant rocks since?

I had to jump through a few hoops, but after getting the Grand Canyon’s number, I caught up with it and got its hot takes on some of the country’s biggest stories. Here’s the interview.

Jonny Auping: Hey, Grand Canyon, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I don’t want to waste any time so I’ll get right to it. I think a lot of people are wondering what your thoughts are on the racially charged situation in Ferguson, Missouri?

Grand Canyon: It’s certainly pretty rocky out there. 

JA: I can’t tell if you’re being serious or if that’s a canyon pun.

GC: It sure seems like everyone involved is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

JA: To be honest, I think it’s a little tasteless to be making jokes about such a serous situation. 

GC: I’m sorry. I think that the situation in Ferguson is complicated, but there is no denying the racial history of our country. Less than 100 years ago prominent newspapers argued that African Americans on cocaine were the biggest threat to the country. They claimed that when on cocaine, “negros” could not be taken down with regular bullets and actually convinced police forces to change their caliber of gun on that platform. We see people unknowingly taking toned down, but similar stances now. People seem eager to point out Michael Brown committing theft or the possibility that he came at the officer as if that justifies shooting him six times. African American men are still perceived as more dangerous than other citizens. Ferguson needs policing, but tanks and assault rifles are unnecessary.

JA: Wow, that was actually pretty insightful. I’m sorry I got upset about the puns earlier.

GC: It’s ok, I’m glad I could get a clean slate.

JA: Uhh sure. So let’s move on to a lighter subject. What do you think of Iggy Azalea?

GC: I think she is just gorges.

JA: Any thoughts about the alleged beef between her and Nicki Minaj?

GC: Look, schist happens. I don’t know much about that. I’m sure they will work it out. It’s nothing like my beef with Niagara Falls. 

JA: So you aren’t picking a side?

GC: I’m a fan of both of them. Let’s just say they can both fit a lot into their geolo-jeans.

JA: Weird. Well, I think the whole country is still mourning the death of Robin Williams. Any thoughts?

GC: He was such a great actor who brought smiles to so many faces. It’s so sad to know that people can be going through so much pain without us realizing it. It goes to show that we shouldn’t take life for granite.

JA: You hear about the rumors of trouble in Jay Z and Beyonce’s marriage?

GC: Yeah, but I don’t believe them. Every time they go out in public you can see some real national (s)parks between them.

JA: Don’t you mean natural sparks?

GC: Yeah, that’s what I said. A lot of people don’t realize that Beyonce is the eighth wonder of the world.

JA: Have you heard that new Taylor Swift album?

GC: It was too slow for me. I can’t help but can-yawn every time it comes on air-izona.

JA: Well, Mr. Canyon, we’ve covered a lot of stuff. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

GC: Yeah, everyone add me on SnapChat at NotScaredOfHeightz. Also, remember that Gameboy you left here when you were a kid? I still have it.

-Jonny Auping