Our sources here at Crooked Scoreboard are rarely of any use. We don’t break much news or report on many rumors in the sports world. Until today. In response to ex-Grantland boss Bill Simmons’ new multimedia venture The Ringer (probably unrelated to the potentially problematic, but ultimately Special Olympics-approved Johnny Knoxville vehicle), ESPN, as it did with Grantland, is leveraging a familiar but divisive face to spearhead a new venture. Please welcome to the world Stephen A. Smith’s Rantland.
Stephen A. Smith, who will fulfill Rantland editor-in-chief duties while continuing his regular appearances on TV and radio, has been quietly assembling a top-flight squad of sports and culture contributors, and has been given carte blanche to make his vision a reality. As a result, you’ll be seeing some familiar faces with Rantland bylines.
Chris Berman | Columnist: On Rantland, you will see original ESPN employee Chris Berman like you’ve never seen him before: in print! Before you throw your computer or mobile device in excitement, feast your eyes on this: a real-life excerpt from Berman’s upcoming column, Nobody Circles the Wagons Like Chris Berman!
Swami Sez: Chiefs 12 – Texans 11”
P!NK | Music Editor: Stephen A. stayed on brand when inking this deal, bringing aboard the only available candidate who had an exclamation point right there in her name. When questioned on the Grammy-winning singer’s journalistic chops, Smith paraphrased one of his greatest diatribes. “What? W-w-what? What? That is blasphemous!,” he said, in varying tones of voice and levels of intensity. This continued for over seven minutes, until the reporter stopped trying to get a word in edgewise and left the conference call.
Applebee’s presents Guy Fieri | Food and Drink Editor: Partnering with Applebee’s (NYSE: DIN), Rantland is taking viewers on a multimedia joyride through the United States, destination: Flavortown. The journey will be led by no less a food authority than Guy Fieri! Watch as Guy hits all his favorite neighborhood spots, from the Nampa, Idaho Applebee’s restaurant all the way to the sole Maine location in scenic Bangor! Visit your local Applebee’s today and take advantage of two-for-one apps while supplies last!
Rob Gronkowski | Contributor: There was reason Grantland lost money and ceased to exist after four years. Not lacking for quality content and best-in-class writers, the site failed to entice a key demographic: whoever reads Bleacher Report enough for it to be worth billions of dollars. Enter Gronk, who instantly brings to the nascent venture much of what its predecessor lacked: namely, jokes about flatulence and pictures of swimsuit models. Industry insiders project that traffic from the weekly Gronkowski column Yo Soy Fiesta will dwarf even the most perceptive Bill Simmons longform examination of NFL gambling lines, capturing a mix of gym rats and instantly confused Spanish speakers.
As for Smith, he’ll be plenty busy himself. No stranger to print, radio, and television, Smith seeks to branch out even further. These new, well-funded projects are reported to be Bristol’s main marketing focus in the 2016 fiscal year.
Rantland: The Podcast: The premise of this daily podcast is simple: ESPN audio producers have bugged Stephen A. Smith’s house to capture the long-winded soliloquies he goes on naturally. Much as Prince wired his famous Paisley Park home to record audio wherever and whenever he decided to play music, capturing Smith’s musings in their most organic state is said to be paying dividends already. Topics for the first week are rumored to include “this toaster indubitably does not have the heart to toast two bagels evenly at once,” “why does the word receipt have that P in it?” and a two-parter on “there are various rocks in my shoe.”
“Second Take”: A web-only series in which Stephen A. and co-host Skip Bayless rehash all of the day’s “First Take” topics, except with each taking the opposite side in the argument they had originally.
“Stephen A. Smith 360”: Not to be confused with the Anderson Cooper news program of the same name, this new venture takes the “360” part far more literally; it uses newly released Oculus Rift VR technology to give you the immersive Stephen A. Smith experience you didn’t know you needed. Don’t have enough confrontation in your life? Are your professional and family disputes handled in a civil and subdued manner? Does nobody in your life give you a steadfastly sympathetic view of Floyd Mayweather? Download the app, and those issues will melt away!
Stephen A. Smith’s Rantland will launch in time for the beginning of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, with Dick Vitale coming on board to share his all-Duke bracket and several other associated treats. G’s are being pried off of existing signage and keyboards as we speak to ready the office space.
Jaime Alayon is a writer who will be leaving Crooked Scoreboard to serve as Rantland’s public editor. You should follow him on Twitter.