Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


December 11, 2012

A Sports Journalist with a Fanboy Side

Grantland's Bryan Curtis is passionate about college football...among other things.

Andrew Kahn

You probably know Bryan Curtis as a college football writer, but his interests go well beyond the football field. "I'm here to talk about a rarer specimen: the Jurassic Park fanboy," he wrote for a Grantland story in October of last year. "We—yup, we—are out there. We have a tender-verging-on-deranged love for Steven Spielberg's dinosaur epic."

Bryan Curtis
"I started to meet all these very nice people who were trying to process the idea of a piggybacking man in their midst."

Bryan Curtis

His twitter profile page includes a photo of a dinosaur and a reference to paleobotany, as well as a photo of the grave of David W. Ferrie, who some conspiracy theorists believe was involved in the JFK assassination. "The Jurassic Park stuff is pure fanboy. Ferrie is also fanboy, or whatever you call interest in the Kennedy assassination. When I was in New Orleans with my wife this fall, I convinced her that after the beignets and stuff we needed to see Ferrie's grave."

Although he was able to learn the location of the cemetery fairly easily, he needed help finding the exact spot Ferrie was buried. "I was wearing a crappy t-shirt that day, so I sent my wife into the funeral home to ask. What we didn't grasp was that my wife was (a) very pregnant and (b) wearing all black. She walks in like grieving widow and a man rushes up to her and says, 'We'll be right with you, ma'am!'"

Gelf interviewed Curtis, who has written for Slate, GQ, The Daily Beast, and Texas Monthly, and is now a full-time staff writer for Grantland, about some of his recent feature stories, what it's like working at Grantland, and his thoughts on the state of college football. The following interview was conducted by email and has been edited for length and clarity.

Gelf Magazine: I've got to ask you about what you'll be reading from at the event, a transcript from a guy claiming to have killed Bigfoot. How did you come across that?

Bryan Curtis: I bought a subscription to the archives of Coast to Coast AM, a radio show that has run in the middle of the night for years and is listened to by long-haul truckers and insomniacs. Best money I ever spent.

Gelf Magazine: You wrote a profile on Bill Simmons for Slate in 2005. Did you spend any time with him or talk to him much for that story? If so, was that when you first got on Bill's radar? He said at the time of your full-time Grantland hiring that you had been on his original wish list of writers.

Bryan Curtis: I think I emailed Bill a list of questions the night before my deadline. I'm really glad he didn't hold it against me.

Gelf Magazine: Your recent story on Marv Albert had some fantastic details from his childhood. How did you dig up those old stories?

Bryan Curtis: High-school newspapers are the Rosetta Stone of any journalist or broadcaster—even in Marv's case. We spell a lot better and write a lot better, but our DNA is essentially there at 18.

Gelf Magazine: You wrote a long feature for Grantland on the "Piggyback Bandit" in July that involved a ton of research and a lot of travel. What made you interested in that story?

Bryan Curtis: At first, just the obvious question: Why is this guy doing this? But then I started to meet all these very nice people from North Dakota and Montana and Minnesota who were trying to process the idea of a piggybacking man in their midst. They reminded me of the nice folks in Fargo.

Gelf Magazine: What's the best part about your job?

Bryan Curtis: Talking to someone in Fargo about a piggybacker. That is the best part.

Gelf Magazine: Do you prefer writing long features or shorter, more reactionary pieces for Grantland's blog, "The Triangle"?

Bryan Curtis: Reactionary! I feel there's a noble tradition of reactionary sportswriting. The longer stories are more fun but take a lot of time and offer more chances for me to feel I'm a complete failure.

Gelf Magazine: Do you have any interaction with other Grantland writers? What's it like to be a part of a staff with so many other talented writers?

Bryan Curtis: I actually went to high school in Texas with David Shoemaker, aka Grantland's the Masked Man. In New York, we were roommates until I moved out to find the love of my life (the news broken to David in drunken, bro-ish conversations: "Dude, I'm sorry." "No, no, dude, I'm so happy for you"). So it's less an "interaction" than a terrific friendship. I feel we've been having an insane, open-ended sports conversation that is now being published.

Gelf Magazine: What are your thoughts on conference realignment?

Bryan Curtis: I got realigned my freshman year at Texas. So I'm okay with it. I miss playing Texas A&M.

Gelf Magazine: Will a four-team playoff solve anything or is a bigger field of teams inevitable?

Bryan Curtis: Here's the plan: College football will offer no guidance on what constitutes the "best" teams in the nation. Well-meaning people will try to choose in any case. Writers will declare their choices woefully misguided and—rather than find a better way to choose teams—will demand more teams. The playoff will expand. Keep this between us.

Gelf Magazine: College football has a lot of flaws and, in a way, more money pouring into the sport is creating new ones. And yet the sport is growing in popularity. Do you see that ever changing? Will fans ever turn on the sport?

Bryan Curtis: A lot of us hate the NCAA because we don't believe in amateurism. But people I find on message boards hate the NCAA because the NCAA doesn't enforce its amateur rules strictly enough. Weird, huh? We both came to the same conclusion but basically have conflicting theories of the case.

Gelf Magazine: Who you got in the national championship game: Alabama or Notre Dame?

Bryan Curtis: Notre Dame.

Andrew Kahn

Andrew Kahn is a freelance sportswriter who maintains his own blog.

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Article by Andrew Kahn

Andrew Kahn is a freelance sportswriter who maintains his own blog.

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