Monday, November 2, 2015

The end of Grantland, plus some of my favorite posts

So by now you’ve probably heard the news: Grantland is no more. ESPN pulled the plug on the site on Friday, ending a four year run which I was lucky enough to be a small part of.

This isn’t exactly a new experience for me; before I was able to make writing a real job, I spent over a decade working in high tech, so I’m used to the reality that businesses sometimes make tough choices and people get caught in the middle of it. But this sucks. And it sucks because Grantland was easily the best job I’ve ever had.

I started with the site on an occasional basis in early 2012, joined the staff as a part-timer a year later, and was hired full-time shortly after that. I got to meet lots of cool people, travel to about half the league’s arenas (plus a football and baseball stadium) and be on the ice for two Cup celebrations.

And most importantly, I got to work with and learn from an almost ridiculous cast of talented writers and editors. I’d been reading Bill Simmons for over a decade. Katie Baker may be the best sports feature writer alive. I got to hear an editor say "Your post is up next once I finish with Charles Pierce." Barnwell, Mays, Keri, Phillips, Lowe, Rembert… I won’t try to list everyone, because it would be the entire masthead. But I basically got to spend the last few years being a fourth-line winger for the late-70s Canadiens, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Since I find myself with some unexpected time on my hands, I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite posts from the Grantland years and drop them all into one place. I hope this list brings back some memories for you, or gives you a chance to read some stuff that you missed the first time around. But if I’m being honest, this one is as much for me as it is for you. Time moves fast and at some point it will be on to the next thing, and I like the idea of taking a minute to put all of this in one place.

The fun stuff

I love hockey. It’s been an important part of my life. But it’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun, and most of what I do reflects that. If you can laugh at this stuff, at least every once in a while, you might be doing it wrong.

The serious stuff

I don’t do it often, but every once in a while I’ll put the punchlines away and get serious. (Then I spend the next few hours making fart noises with my armpit just to restore the balance.)

  • The End of Enforcers – The post I never thought I’d write, as I wrestle with where 30 years of being a fan of fighting has led me. This one led to an appearance in a 30-for-30 short.
  • Battling Ghosts in Montreal – With the Canadiens facing elimination, I spent an afternoon in Montreal making the walk from the Bell Centre to the site of old Forum.
  • The Return of the Whiteout – Another one from last year’s playoffs; I was lucky enough to get a chance to be in Winnipeg for the city’s first playoff game in 16 years. I’ve since regained 50% of the hearing in one ear.
  • Those games – In the wake of the most devastating Maple Leafs loss in a generation, I reflected on what it means to watch your team melt down.
  • Absence of Malice – Some of hockey's most horrific moments have simply been innocent plays gone terribly wrong. But what happens to the player whose ordinary actions cause a life-altering injury?

The big projects

Writing for the web these days usually means you spend most of your time posting quick reactions to whatever’s going on at that moment. But every now and then, I’d get the chance to sink my teeth into a bigger project.

  • How I'd fix the NHL -- Grantland’s "How we’d fix it" feature was one of my favorites. Eventually, the NHL got its turn. And I fixed it completely, in just 6,000 words.
  • The NHL Dictionary – Redefining the game. Literally.
  • Five-year Stanley Cup odds – It seems like a simple question: Which teams have the best odds of winning at least one Stanley Cup in the next five years? It turns out to be tougher than you’d think, and based on reader feedback to this three-part series, I was too pessimistic for literally every team in the league. Funny how that works out.

The history lessons

One of my favorite things to do on Grantland was to use a post to dive into the history books. Old time fans seem to enjoy the walks down memory lane; new fans couldn’t believe some of this stuff actually happened.

  • The championship belt of NHL rivalries – The "championship belt" concept was the creation of the brilliant Bill Barnwell, and he was kind enough to let me borrow it for a look back at the greatest rivalries in hockey history.
  • A brief history of Washington Capitals collapses – One thing that always amazes me: You can write stuff like this, and fans of the team in question will love it. I guess we all have our scars.
  • Does your Stanley Cup win count? – Many people enjoyed this one. Some people did not. And oh boy, did I hear from that second group.
  • The NHL draft was messed up in the 70s – They spun a roulette wheel, then read it wrong and almost gave a Hall-of-Famer to the wrong team. And that was only like the sixth weirdest thing that happened.
  • 10 Facts About a Fun Team – Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I still have a list of like 40 more teams I want to do, by the way.
  • The YouTube section of every grab bag – The Friday grab bag became my signature column at Grantland, and now I can admit the obvious: The whole thing was basically a front to give me an excuse to break down old YouTube clips in excruciating detail. Miss you, Second Row Guy.

The just plain weird

The single best thing about writing for Grantland: They trusted you enough to let you do literally anything you wanted.

So what now?

I’ve heard from plenty of you who’ve had very kind things to say about Grantland, and that means a lot. Many of you have also asked what’s next for me, and the answer is that as of right now I have no idea. In the short term, you may find me on ESPN.com, or right here, or somewhere else, or nowhere at all for at least a little while.

But you’ll know when I do. And thanks for reading.




71 comments:

  1. I've been reading this blog for a pretty long time. I followed the jump to Grantland, and enjoyed every moment of it--not just because your stuff was brilliant but because it exposed me to Grantland at all. It quickly became my go-to place for actually interesting sportswriting. Kind of astonished that they're pulling the plug. I know I'll still be able to follow all of the writers wherever they go, but the truth is something special happens when you bring that many talented people under one umbrella. And once it's gone, it's gone. And that's a damn shame.

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  2. Why did they feel the need to shut down Grantland?? Another great piece of journalistic excellence down the drain... I hope you still continue to write because whenever I see a new DGB article pop up in my feed, my day stops so I can read and stifle laughter in my cube. Keep being awesome!

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  3. I think this should have made your list. Not sure if you wrote anything better about why hockey is great and why we love it:
    The Year in Holy S#!t: Chicago and Los Angeles Melt Our Minds With an Overtime for the Ages
    http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-year-in-holy-st-kings-blackhawks-overtime-game-five-nhl-playoffs/

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  4. if ESPN replaces Grantland with more coverage by BleacherReport, I'm moving to Syria...

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  5. Keep writing, always entertaining.

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  6. Such a drag Grantland is shut down. Hope to see you keep on writing as it is great.

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  7. Thanks for such entertaining writing, Sean! I've really enjoyed reading your pieces over the last year or so. It's a shame I didn't discover your writing earlier. Good luck with everything!

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  8. Thank you so much for bringing hockey to the world wide leader, if even for a brief time. Here's hoping you land somewhere soon - you're too good of a writer to not be featured somewhere.
    /Proud Lightning fan (even if our Stanley Cup doesn't count)

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  9. I picked up your book as a birthday present for my brother and ended up reading the whole thing before I gave it to him... I love your writing, your passion for the best sport in the world, and your undying loyalty to the sinking ship playing in the ACC.

    Please continue writing amazing and funny things about hockey. I'll certainly find a way to pay for a copy whatever it may be.

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  10. this blows.
    really hope to read you on espn soon ... i'm following you since sometime in 2008 and you're the other half of my daily hockey fix besides puck daddy.
    starting the week with a weekend wrap and ending it with the grab bag was such a great routine. i'll miss that.
    keep up the great work and thanks for the insight, laughs and ammunition for hockey nerd talk!

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  11. Excellent list. Hopefully we will still see you post on this blog.

    Surprised your Detroit Week piece about the 88-89 Red Wings didn't make the list. One of my favourite pieces of yours.

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  12. I need my NHL Grab Bag fix!!! I need it bad!! Drug dependency jokes aside, please keep writing.

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  13. Dude, sorry to find out that Grantland died. I will definitely miss your weekly columns. Nowhere else was there smart, funny writing about the NHL.

    Two things I will miss specifically.

    2 years ago, in January, one of your columns "suggested" taking the LA Kings to win the stanley cup as a dark horse. I put $60 at 18 to 1 on them at the time.

    Last year, you "suggested" the Lightning was your dark horse. Not quite the same result, but pretty close.

    Now where am I going to go for my Stanley Cup picks!

    Best of luck in the future.

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  14. I've been reading this blog for a long time, and while I enjoyed the classic DGB posts I think the change to Grantland was one for the better. It helped to further my understanding of the game and learn a good deal about the history of the sport. Your passion and understanding of hockey (as both a game and a business) is unmatched. I'm confident you'll be back on your feet with another writing gig in no time (as will Katie Baker). The two of you are far too talented to be out of a job for long.

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  15. This sucks but please keep writing! Look forward to reading it every week! Makes my week. Seriously. Always well written and leaving me in stitches. You put into words so eloquently how much I love hockey and all the silliness involved. I have your book and maybe you can write another one!

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  16. Big fan here, been reading forever. At one point I went through your backlog a year ago and I'm pretty sure I've read everything you've ever written on grantland/DGB. You're the best, man. I have to say: The Grab Bag must live on. It is right up there with 30 thoughts for excellent hockey reading. I would seriously read you breaking down old YouTube clips all day. Please don't end up an ESPN Insider, because I'd never get to read you again :(

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  17. When you get a new job, please keep linking the stories here. You will get a new hockey writing job because you have us. We jumped to Grantland with you and we will jump to whatever site lands you next.

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  18. I'm kinda sure I've read every post you've written and has a link of a sort in DGB. When you moved to Grantland, I found myself reading about baseball, sumo wrestling and HandEgg you guys are so fond of. Great writers and interesting articles.

    So high praise to you and others. It was fun while it lasted.

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  19. Dude! First of all, I agree that Grantland was the best sports site ever made and it's a total shame that it is no more. And right before Rany Jazayerli could post the most homerific tribute to the Royals... sad!!

    You were a great part of it and an important reason why I loved it so much... It shows how committed they were to expanding people's horizons as we all know that hockey isn't exactly at the forefront of most people in the States.

    Now to the notion that you were a 4th line winger on the 70s Canadiens, well if that's true then you must be Mario Tremblay... enough skill and grit and obnoxiousness to play on the first line when the moment calls. You showed that you certainly belong witht the best of them and I look forward to reading your stuff for years... Maybe on Bill's new site whenever that appears!

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  20. You and Stu Hackel should start a blog. You're my favorite two hockey writers and finding you is a pain.

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  21. And seriously, for you, keeping up with The Grab Bag and Weekend Wrap is like sending out a resume. Find work!

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  22. "Does your Stanley Cup win count?" was definitely one of my favourites recently! I have been reading you since before Grantland and will continue after Grantland.
    However, you moving to Grantland introduced me to so many fantastic writers. I began to follow basketball regularly just because guys like Bill Simmons or Zach Lowe write so well about it. Friday was a sad day for sports journalism but I'm sure all you talented writers will find a new place to share your talent with the world. Good luck with whatever comes next and know that you have a very loyal fanbase.

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    1. Wide Right, No Goal, Forward Pass, No Goal 2. Welcome to Buffalo!November 4, 2015 at 12:53 PM

      I dunno about that post! BRETT HULL'S SKATE WAS IN THE CREASE!!!
      I myself was actually kinda depressed seeing the jump to grantland but seeing all the links from sb nation and die by the blade to grantland really lets you know it's greatness and how much a hole it makes.

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  23. Hi Sean!! I'm 53 old, from Argentina. Obviously, a soccer fan. But, thanks to ESPN (bad reference today...) I learned to love the NHL, maybe more than soccer today, ha!! But my love for NHL includes, among several things, your articles. Oh boy, The 20 types of depressed sports fans makes me laugh every time I read it, fantastic!! Please, keep writing, a wish frrom the very south of the world!!!

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  24. I only really follow hockey come the playoffs. Yes, I'm that kind of fan. But, I love your writing, love the breakdowns of old video clips, love all of it, and will be following you to whereever you wind up. Hope it's not too long in the making.

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  25. An another quiet, but loayal long time fan here!

    My heart just missed a beat when reading the bad news, that totally sucks! I hope you find as good job somewhere else that gives a lot to you, and we all your fans can still enjoy your writing. Your insight to NHL and gift to write are unique, the game would not be the same for without DGB!

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  26. Sorry to hear the news.

    Where did the name "Down Goes Brown" come from anyways?

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    1. "Down Goes Frazier" was already taken. LOL

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    2. From the Sylvain Lefebvre vs. Bobby Brown fight, as called by the the immortal Joe Bowen.

      View it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiPxTEG2Ax8

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  27. Sean, does this mean you can go back to getting Bloge Salming and some of the other partners you used to work with to collaborate with you again?

    Going to miss seeing your weekly stuff on grantland and like a few of the other people mentioned i was exposed to some great writing on the other site.

    Keep up the good work (now i need to change my bookmarks back to DGB)

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  28. Sean - I was going to write a nice .....oh, what the hell. Words usually fail me in normal situations, let alone this tragedy. The professional sports world (and the whole damn world in general) will have less humor in it until you find a new home. So hurry up already! Both worlds need as much humor as they can get.

    As far as ESPN's blog sites go, they must be following the USA Today model; namely, publish blogs for people who don't like to read.

    PS - Now, to get to more important things: I thought you'd enjoy what Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger tweeted earlier today about the Devils moving up their usual practice time this morning to avoid the traffic problems expected from President Obama's visit to Newark later today. "John Hynes said he scheduled early practice because roads in Newark will be shit down for President Obama at 1". Barry Melrose has been smiling all day and has no idea why......

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  29. Even Mike from Philly would have to be sad today.

    Good luck, Sean. We'll catch up with you wherever you land.

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  30. I was looking for my favorite article, the one about the Capitals' incessant need to come up short, and didn't see it at first glance. Then I realized it's because the font was a different color, because I'd read it again recently. Thanks for the memories...to you, not the Caps. If I could lobotomize some of those Caps memories, that'd be okay.

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  31. How appropriate that I heard about this while at the Sabres game on Friday night. Told my buddy about Erik Karlsson's Halloween costume from the Thursday column, and he said Grantland was done as of that day.

    Shock and awe of the wrong kind! What the hell am I supposed to read while eating lunch now? How are the hell are you supposed to pay your mortgage? But more importantly, what the hell am I supposed to do from noon to one now? No more YouTube clips on the left monitor with your walkthroughs on the right. No more footnotes that are funnier than the base columns. No more pee your pants animated GIFs. The one saving grace is that we can still comment here- I miss some of the response comments to the columns on Grantland the most.

    Hopefully you'll score a new gig before the Leafs win a playoff series again. No, really.... Long before that!

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  32. love the writing - I'll binge on all the ones linked here I haven't already read and look forward to seeing more from you in the future

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  33. So ESPN decided to shut down the holder of their best content IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BUSIEST SEASON IN SPORTS?!? In all seriousness, I understand that you probably need a well-deserved break, but maybe just keep the grab bag alive for the time being? Hockey season really won't be the same without it. Also an idea for a post: annoying things every teenage hockey player does (i.e. the fact that everyone whose ever played AAA feels the need to tell you they play "trips", myself included ;)

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  34. In my head, "The 20 Types of Depressed Sports Fans" has always been subtitled "... whose appearance marks the full bloom of spring in St. Louis." (Personally, I've been most of those types in my 20-plus years of being gutpunched by the Blues. I still flash back to #18 every time that @#%^ Yzerman-in-OT clip airs.)

    Anyway, thanks for the good times, and hopefully some media company with functioning brain cells will be along shortly to give you and a bunch of your compadres a new platform. In the meantime, though, I'm really looking forward to the screenplay wherein we find out exactly how "the new-look, leaner, more-internet-savvy ESPN" managed to amputate the division that best understood how to capture the attention of internet viewers. I'm not sure how Chris Pronger convinced the Worldwide Leader to cut off its face to spite its face, but he's a sneaky bastard like that.

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  35. You are right, by the way. As a Washington Capitals' fan, reading your link brought me here where I was compelled to read the 'History of Washington Capitals' Collapses', AGAIN, despite having lived every agonizing one of them as a charter fan (since the team's inception). Thanks, I guess...

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  36. Always entertaining, I bought your book and even paid full price for it. Easily my favorite source for hockey insight/jokes/passive-aggressive rage. I still remember losing it reading your Alan Thicke NHL Awards performance review. Of all you've written...that one. Pure gold.

    ESPN is all over the map right now. I'd be willing to bet this is a blessing in disguise for you. I hope you land somewhere quickly so we can continue to read your work. This will be a long and less-interesting season without it.

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  37. The Tom Kurvers trade piece was one of my favorite. I just sort of love the whole butterfly effect nature of the piece. Will keep checking DGB to see where you end up.

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    1. I wouldn't mind seeing a series on these "what-ifs". Forget about McDavid, what about that time in 1984 when the Penguins tanked but then the draft lottery...!!

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  38. Only read your column on Grantland so I missed out on some good writers/writing that can be hard to find. Guess we can blame the cost cutters at Disney for the shut down.
    Your pre-Grantland pieces were my favorite. For me there was more fun in them and they brought smiles and laughter (out loud, and by myself. and that is rare.) .



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  39. I'm really sad to see corporate America pulling the plug on something that was different and effective. But, I realize Simmons and ESPN have been fighting for a while now. You know it was dead once he left. I'm really sad though because your writings were the main reason I hit Grantland each time. I certainly hope someone picks you up so that the Tecmo Bowl injury music can stop.
    I will now follow this blog until I get new directions. Cheers!

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  40. Sorry to hear about it! Thanks for som truly great writing over the years, and I hope I'll read your work soon again!

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  41. If this is the end of Down Goes Brown then I have to say... you have been an absolute gem sir! As sad as the loss of Grantland is, for hockey fans your work is the toughest loss.

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  42. Sean, I've been reading your column for a number of years, and have enjoyed fun columns like the awkward Halloween parties, the map of the rink, and Lil Dictator's email account. However, when you were serious during your posts at Grantland, you taught a lot of North America about hockey. I've learned more from your column about the history than just about any other source. I do have your book, and hope you keep publishing somewhere.

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  43. Well this certainly sucks. A co-worker and fellow hockey nut told me about DownGoesBrown about a year and a half ago and I have checked it 3 or 4 times a week since. The humor/humour was great; it's something that I wish I had been doing myself. Because I was often checking the page at work, I watched a lot of the awesome/horrific YouTube clips without sound, so the detailed breakdown became even more funny and on point for what I was watching. I probably only went to the Grantland site itself a handful of times over the years, so I don't care at all about its demise but DownGoesBrown needs to continue in some form or another. Sean, thank you for everything. From a Flyers fan. Is your mind blown?

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  44. Hey Sean - Just wanted to let you know your writing has been some of my absolute favorite over the past few years. I read everything you posted on Grantland, and look forward to reading your stuff at your next gig. Best of luck in the job hunt!

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  45. Down Goes Grantland

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  46. This has to be Bettman's fault, everything bad is because of him...

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  47. Sean, I've been a long time reader of your blog and you are by far my favorite twitter follow. Thank you for all your great writing over the years. I hope you land on you feet in another awesome place working with another superb team of writers.

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  48. Grantland was a Treasure, and you were a marvelous piece of that war chest. Wherever you end up, I will be there to support it in some way, shape, or form. I fell in love with hockey (aggressively so) about 7 years ago. You contributed to this enormously. For that, I thank you.

    Last Friday was a sad day for Sports Culture. Not even the least bit surprising that ESPN is too far up its own ass to understand that real value doesn't come from click-bait articles, veiled political agendas, or tmz esque stories. That place went south awhile back. It's just truly sad that it had to drag one of the most amazing sports and culture destinations of our time down with it (and seemingly out of spite no less).

    I think I can speak for all of us when I say this: keep up the good work my man.

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  49. Your writing has reintroduced me to the joy of hockey and the ramblings of Don Cherry. I am grateful for your blog as a chance to continue following hockey.

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  50. I'm thinking that you, Baker, and a few other Grantland alumni should set up shop down the street...call it something different but keep a similar theme going. Wouldn't be so hard in this virtual world we live in... love your writing!

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  51. Sean, you may have been a fourth-line winger at Grantland by reputation (and maybe ice time), but unquestionably a Top Sixer by talent! It's been an absolute delight reading your columns, and Grantland will, of course, be sadly missed for all the reasons others have already said. But we all look forward to many future gems from your pen! Best of luck with whatever the next iteration is, and keep up the good work. James

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  52. Noooo. As much as I enjoy watching and playing hockey, I enjoy reading your blogs about hockey even more. Looking forward to seeing where you surface. For Sean: http://bit.ly/1l7UmuF

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    1. Man, that one hits way too close to home these days.

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  53. I've been watching hockey since Rod Gilbert was a pup, but your writing taught me more about the game, and made me love it more, than any other writer. I already miss you (and Katie - right you are about her), and know this simply means better things for you in the future.

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  54. Wide Right, No Goal, Forward Pass, No Goal 2. Welcome to Buffalo!November 4, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    This is a huge hit to great sports publishing. But I know that you'll hit the ground running. Your passion and humour puts you head and shoulders above every other hockey blogger. Myself I look forward to plenty more flow charts and venn diagrams that were on short supply on grantland.

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  55. Wherever you go next, PLEASE post it/link it here!! MUST. FOLLOW.

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  56. Nooooooo. Now how will I engage in informed hockey conversations with my husband and boys? Because of you I came across as a hockey genius. More importantly, I laughed. Write here until the sports headhunters snag you. Put some advertising on the blog to tie you over. Make it happen DGB.

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  57. "If you’ve ever wanted to watch a teenager hug his mother while a string orchestra accompanies drunken fans screaming at him that he sucks, Philadelphia was the place to be Friday."

    This might be the funniest sentence I have ever read. Thanks for all your work at Grantland.

    ESPN... SUCKS!

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  58. Cory Cross Hall of FameNovember 5, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    DGB, I've been reading your stuff since the beginning and will continue wherever you go next. Thanks for everything.

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  59. Any chance for a Grab Bag today?

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  60. Sean, I'm so sorry. I'm sure you need some time but, no matter where you end up, I'll be following. Not literally - so you can put down the mace - but as a longtime fan of your consistently excellent writing. There is no one I'd rather read for my hockey and humor (and/or humour) fix. I almost wish I was a Leafs fan so I could handle this soul crushingly bad news better. Well, not really. But, as a Caps fan, this feels like every first round. Seriously, though, please keep writing - you're the best!

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  61. Maybe the Bake Shop and Grab Bag should just open a Hockey Lunch Counter and continue to serve up Grantland's best. Disappointed in ESPN's move to move on.

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  62. I loved the piece your wrote after the Leafs blew game 7 against the Bruins. It captured all the emotions.

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  63. Love your writing, Sean. I like watching hockey but was never really deep enough into the game to seriously read about it a lot. I ended up constantly checking Grantland to see if you had posted something new. Hockey should be fun and I thought your articles reflected that. Please keep doing what you do.

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