Grantland, The Wire and Smacketology

If you like The Wire, March Madness and democracy then you should read the next 250* words.

You know, if Kurt, Mike and I had the resources (money, time, reputation, skill, connections, ESPN-overlords) we could pull off something like Grantland.com, the masterpiece of Bill Simmons, who continues to define himself as an innovative leader within the edutaining space where sports, pop culture and media collide.

Some of the similarities between Mr. Simmons’s online project and ours are uncanny. Grantland and the Daily Gumboot each boast writing staffs chock-full of people who went to grad school and try really hard to showcase that this was not a poor decision; I think the former website’s writers get paid, though. Sorry, Jim and Martin. Oh, we both use semi-colons and footnotes, too. We love soup. And, as with Mr. Simmons and his team, Kurt and I love to hypothesize about hypothetical tournaments involving incredibly nerdy supercool things/people/nouns like superheroes, historical figures, athletes (me), politicians (Kurt), and our friends challenging each other until only one is left standing.

Oh, and 92% of Daily Gumboot Correspondents think that The Wire is the greatest television show ever and that it is one of the most important cultural contributions of the twenty-first century. I can only assume that it’s the same over at Grantland.

This is where the similarities end, though. Because the fine folks at Grantland created something amazing, hilarious, and score-settling that we could never produce. It was called the Souperbowl – a March-Madness-like tournament that put one soup against another and we the people voted for the outright winner – and it was pretty great.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. The Souperbowl isn’t the thing that’s rocketed Grantland into a new whole class of awesome.

Smacketology is what’s rocketed Grantland into a whole new class of awesome. It’s got all the cool components of the Souperbowl and is also important.

David T. Cole/Grantland Illustration

Because Smacketology is a March-Madness-like tournament that will determine the greatest character from the greatest television show, The Wire. [Editor's note: Michelle and I aren't actually sure if the tournament is designed to determine the greatest character or if it's, like, a death match - it's not entirely clear. And my endictment of said lack of clarity is in no way a criticism of past, current or future grad students]. In terms of historical perspective, Smacketology was partially inspired by a conversation that Mr. Simmons had with an up-and-comer on the American political scene, President Barack Obama. Awesome.

According to Alex Pappademas, here’s what the tournament is meant to achieve:

What if we actually did subject the key players of the Wire-verse to rigorous bracketological inquiry? If we played corner boys against dock workers, murder-polices against hoppers, and craven politicos against enigmatic not-actually-Greek human traffickers, in matchups as arbitrary and occasionally unjust as life and death on the mean streets of West Baltimore, would the king stay the king?

I encourage you to, first, check out the Facebook commentary, which is as hilarious as it is inspiring – people really, really, really care about The Wire and have some really, really, really strong opinions about how their most/least favourite characters will do in the tournament. And, once you’ve settled down, get voting so that your favourite characters make it through. Most importantly, have fun with it!

Well played, Grantland. Well played.

Masthead photo courtesy of eli.pousson

*it was actually 500 more words … I regret nothing

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