June 14, 2011

Why Grantland Rice Sucked: Though Grantland was created to showcase great sportswriting, its namesake Grantland Rice was spectacularly awful, Deadspin's Tommy Craggs writes. "The name of mainstream sportswriting's last best hope is an homage to so many of the bad impulses that helped snuff out mainstream sportswriting in the first place."

posted by rcade to general at 09:40 AM - 4 comments

Read this a few days ago, and I think Craggs is more than a little off base here. Rice was nothing more than a product of his time. If you were in New York, he had something like fifteen other papers he was competing with for your eyeballs. If you were in most other areas of the country, there was little other means to get any information about the goings on in the world of sport. The flowery prose was endemic to the era. Many historical figures do not come off particularly well when viewed through a prism filtered with our current realities and sensitivities. It seems rather unfair to cast them in that light.

posted by Scottymac at 01:10 PM on June 14, 2011

I kept wondering what to say other than I agree with Scottymac, but then how to explain. Compare TV shows of today with those from the 50s and 60s. Compare literature from the past couple of decades with that from the first half of last century (or compare it to the stuff your kids probably still have to read in high school). Compare politicians' speeches now with those from last century. Times change; things change; language changes. With TV (both broadcast and TV), almost anyone that wants to can see a game now, so writing is more stats and interviews. In Rice's day, very few could actually see a game so the stories or columns had to do more than just say who won, who scored, and how many hits a player got or how many yards a rusher gained. The writing for many was the game.

posted by graymatters at 06:20 PM on June 14, 2011

I don't think generational differences excuse horrid sportswriting. F. Scott Fitzgerald and other novelists have stood the test of time over the same span. Grantland Rice, from the excerpts I've seen, simply doesn't. That minor league baseball story is shtick. The game itself was uneventful and his lead provides no useful information. It's a fun period piece to read writing like that, but if we're going to lionize somebody as a sportswriter, he shouldn't be a hack.

posted by rcade at 07:02 PM on June 14, 2011

It isn't quite fair to demonize Rice based on an early minor league account, though. I can understand the huge generation gap in his writing - the " purple prose" that does not quite translate to todays readers. The hyperbole that really lays it on thick. Comparing a sporting event to specific historical battles and the majesty of nature....well, probably a little thoughtless regarding men going to war literally, but culteral sensitivity was not as evoved as it is now, for sure. The author was absolutely dead on when mentioning Rice mythologized players. It is without a doubt this mythology that makes the era so magical, applying both to the readers who could not attend to those who could and read about it afterword. It is impossible to create this mythology today. With 24 hr. media coverage in every form possible to live on in perpetuity. You can't make any legends from the instant gatification achieved daily in this Sports Age. Can't mythologize what you can see on thier own reality show or recieve tweets from. So, props to Rice - and lets not forget Damon Runyon - for his reign at the table of his era, forgiving outlandish digressions and ridiculous hyperbole. ...unless somebody posted that 1923 Yale vs Princeton game on YouTube.

posted by puppeluv at 03:24 PM on June 15, 2011

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