WTOP recommends: The best of Grantland

The Sound and the Fury: The fall and rise of the first all-sports talk station, WFAN by Alex French and Howie Kahn I’m a radio guy through and through. Even when I made a three-and-a-half-year detour into TV news producing (after spending the previous 11 years doing almost literally everything that can be done in radio), I knew I’d be back someday. So when this oral history into the humble beginnings of WFAN showed up about six months after I departed AM radio in Los Angeles, I thought it would feature only everything I already knew. I mean, I am crazy about knowing as much about the history of radio and television in the U.S. as is possible. But what Alex and Howie were able to do is get many of the principal players into the conversation. And that allowed for incredible insights into how sports radio really took flight. This helped remind me: never stop trying new concepts; never stop innovating; never let any good idea go to waste. It also inspired me to get back into radio as soon as humanly possible. WTOP was the lifeline, and that is an opportunity for which I will forever be grateful.

-Brandon Millman, writer

Out in the Great Alone by Brian Phillips I apologize for making this my submission, because if you trust me at all and click on the story above, the rest of your day is shot. Phillips was, for my money, easily the best writer at Grantland, and this is arguably his epic. It’s less a story than a nearly 20,000-word immersion into Alaska’s defining sporting event, and how it feels taken in from the sky to a member of the uninitiated. It is a story of man vs. nature at its grandest which will pull you into its world as it draws you further and further up the tundra and into the unknown.

– Noah Frank, digital sports editor

The Wet Stuff: Jeff Henry, Verrukt, and the men who built the Great American Water Park by Bryan Curtis This is my favorite piece of multimedia web journalism to date. I won’t ruin it for you, but suffice it to say that once you click on the link, you’ll be hooked into reading the story. Just make sure the sound’s on. I never cared about water parks, or water slides, or any component of this story until I read it. I don’t even really care about them now, but the journey was worth it.

– Noah Frank, digittal sports editor

What Happened at Brian Holloway’s House by Jay Caspian Kang Do you remember when Brian Holloway’s house was taken over by rabid, party-hungry teens? Do you even know who Brian Holloway is? Yeah; I answered no to both of those questions. And I probably would have been fine not knowing until I read this. The story of former Patriots player Brian Holloway and “HelpMeSave300” is a fascinating look at the dangerous power of social media, especially in the hands of people who rally against it. Author Jay Caspian Kang dug deep into the details of the event and found that there’s a lot more to the story about the ruined house in Stephentown, N.Y., and none of it looks good for the former NFL player.

– Dana Gooley, digital editor

The Faded Smile by Jonathan Abrams Eddie Griffin died suddenly at age 25 after his car crashed into the side of a moving train. He wasn’t a famous one-name guy like Kobe or LeBron. He had recently been let go from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and some believed Griffin was suicidal. This features very little in Jonathan Abrams’ longform article. Abrams tracks Eddie’s life from start to finish, weaving together vignettes from his early days with memories of former coaches and fellow players. Griffin was by no means a saint, and Abrams doesn’t shy away from that. The domestic assault and violent, often uncontrollable behavior he exhibited eventually overshadowed his talent on the court. He presents the real Eddie Griffin to you, to the best of his ability. Obviously, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Don’t let that discourage you from reading it.

– Dana Gooley, digital editor

National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez  is introduced during an induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Cooperstown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A Culmination in Cooperstown: Pedro Martinez enters the Hall of Fame by Jonah Keri I don’t know whether Jonah Keri loves his own mother as much as he loves Pedro Martinez. And who could blame him? Growing up in Boston during the Red Sox’ glory days, I thought Martinez was pretty much royalty. So maybe this article won’t mean as much to you as it does to me. In a world of cold, hard statistics, a little love for a great man is a welcome interruption. The article is both a narrative of the Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., and a love letter to Martinez, complete with video highlights. Keri describes seeing the pitcher while gatecrashing a fancy Red Sox party in his honor, writing, “For almost every day of every year, I will write and report objectively on baseball, but for one night all decorum and protocol were lost.”

– Dana Gooley, digital editor (AP/Mike Groll)

The Ballad of the Piggyback Bandit by Bryan Curtis You can sum up the basics of Bryan Curtis’s “The Ballad of the Piggyback Bandit” really quickly.  A young man apparently obsessed with jumping on the backs of high school athletes gets banned from high sporting events in five western states and becomes internet famous. But there’s much more to the story that Curtis really explores, to figure out the motivation for the “piggyback bandit’s” actions. Spending this kind of time on a story that usually ends an evening newscast was remarkable. Of course, this story became particularly memorable when the bandit showed up in the D.C. area.

– Brian Drew, editor

‘Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!’ by Amos Barshad Regardless of whether you’ve been to Boston, you’ve seen these shirts before. The timeless chant, immortalized in block letters on basic cotton t-shirts, can still be seen today. But I guarantee you don’t know how much blood, sweat and punk music went into their creation. Amos Barshad takes you to junkie flophouses, hardcore rock venues, and the famous bridge over the Massachusetts Turnpike where the Boston teens illegally pedaled their wares. Once you read the full story of how these shirts came to be, you’ll never look at them the same way again.

– Dana Gooley, digital editor

The Lingerie Football Trap by Jordan Ritter Conn Take all of your preconceived notions about lingerie football and throw them out the window. These women are hardcore. Wearing minimal padding to emphasize the things that make people actually watch the games, they hit each other with as much ferocity as your average NFL player. And the injuries are frightening. Here’s the difference: they don’t get paid, they don’t have benefits and they can be fired from the team for gaining five pounds. Despite all that, and a sleazy league manager to boot, these women continue to play in these conditions because it’s the only way they can. If this isn’t an argument for a women’s national football league, I don’t know what is.

– Dana Gooley, digital editor

National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez  is introduced during an induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Cooperstown, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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