It's hard to believe tomorrow will be the 10th anniversary of ESPN's Page 2, a subsection of the world's biggest sports site that revolutionized a type of casual online sportswriting, and just as quickly disappeared off the face of the earth.
It's easy to forget now how unique it was when it launched, the day before Bush vs. Gore. The web was still finding its way, and ESPNet.SportsZone.com (really) was the go-to place for sports. But to do it with humor, to give talented writers a sandbox where they wouldn't be beholden to typical rules was something new. Remember, at this point, a web site was seen as a newspaper on a computer.
It's not a stretch to say Page 2 was a muse for a generation of sports bloggers, unconstrained by the need to write a nutgraph, or even about sports at all. It was a template of irreverence. There's no Wake Up Deadspin or equivalent morning roundup on other sites without the Daily Quickie.
And that lineup! Hunter S. Thompson, Jason Whitlock, Ralph Wiley, Dan Shanoff, Scoop Jackson, Bill Simmons, David Halberstam. Some were legitimate superstars slumming it; others like Simmons and Whitlock made their names. It was a must-read every day. Shanoff recounts the excitement of those early years.
And then: time passed. Wiley died; then Thompson; then Halberstam. Others departed. More importantly, the Internet exploded with a plethora of other people doing the same sort of thing Page 2 had done, without the corporate shackles preventing certain jokes and targets. Others did it, and they did it better.
Page 2 is a shell of its former self. The Simmons brand eclipsed it completely, and he's nominally counted among Page 2's columnists for his cachet. DJ Gallo is (and more importantly, is allowed to be) funnier at SportsPickle. David Fleming should be doing more magazine-length pieces, like this gem. Jim Caple is still doing whatever it is Jim Caple does. Lynn Hoppes is there.
Really, the biggest name is Gregg Easterbook.
We come to bury Page 2, not to praise it.
[Image by Kurt Snibbe, there since the beginning]