“Barstool Sports” started out in Boston as a free newspaper founded by guys seeking to be sports commentator disruptors. Smart marketing to the lowest common denominator paid off, and today they are a brand worth a small fortune. However, being worth a lot of money thanks to being sexist, insulting jackasses is not something for everyone.
Full disclosure. I take a measure of responsibility here, and I’m not happy about it. When I hosted the weeknightly live show “Sports Pulse” on the Comcast Network in New England, I was the first to put David Portnoy and his friends on the air. I was seeking out new and interesting takes from outside the mainstream, and in the first appearance thought them to be fun and interesting. However, by the third appearance, coupled with the sexist, gutter commentary in their paper and other forms of media, I dropped them like a hot stone.
The decision to give them media air to breathe is something I have regretted for many years, and have often dug deep within myself for some form of penance. My New England peers warned me about Portnoy and those he was connected with, and I failed to heed those warnings.
Portnoy and his merry band of bloviators have succeeded beyond likely even their wildest dreams, at least when it comes to money. However, from the angle of respect and dignity, they are little more than gutter dwellers. Portnoy was kicked out of Super Bowl 53 this year and, of course, it gave him all the spectacle he wanted for more publicity.
His audience ate it up, and it gave him more to talk about on the radio and in social media. But from the perspective of legitimate press and an outlet with commentary that could mildly be respected, Portnoy is a running joke, and a salesman of little more than verbal and textual effluent. It’s ilk such as he and his cohorts that help in giving legitimate, hard working sports reporters a bad name they haven’t earned.
“Barstool Sports” remains a sexist, racist, wise ass hidey hole for the lowest male denominator in sports media. Then again, that is what is also on display every single day on local sports talk radio in many markets. In these places and at these stations, airwaves are filled with examples of “guy talk”, where it’s all about how to be more outrageous and scream the loudest with wild-eyed comments and assertions that have little or no basis in fact or even a fraction of intelligence. Insults, sexist attacks, leering teenage assertions, thinly veiled racism and a heaping helping of seeking to find the most outrageous thing that can be quoted in the local legitimate press and on social media, those are their cornerstones.
It wasn’t that long ago ESPN was getting into business with “Barstool Sports”, until someone correctly pointed out how they had called a female ESPN staffer a “slut”, and made habit of demeaning women at every turn. The “shocking revelation” led ESPN to, of course, reconsider. But don’t tell me for a second the ESPN suits didn’t know the past of these reprehensible bullies. This was all about cashing in, and were it not for those who made a righteous stink, ESPN would have gladly counted money with Portnoy and his freak show.
Thankfully, the genre is fading fast. The ratings for such puerile “showmanship” have been fraying and tanking for years. The only thing keeping some stations afloat are the multi-million dollar deals they have with local franchises. In one major top 20 market where there are currently 5 AM radio stations doing sports talk, they fight over who can stay closest to a 1.0 rating, which in days of yore was considered nothing more than abject failure. Some of these shows and stations don’t even register in the ratings, yet they will all tout how they serve the “coveted” 18-45 male demographic.
Sad to note that the “Barstool Sports” mentality is allowed to spew globally thanks to SiriusXM, which carries a channel devoted to these cretins. I know a number of the people in management at SiriusXM, excellent and upstanding radio sports programmers I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. I can tell you two of them have told me how dismayed they are to have such trash on their airwaves, but the decision was made “way above my pay grade”, and done because Sirius XM is being paid handsomely for the air time. Again, it’s all about the cash, when it should be about something better. I’m a SiriusXM subscriber and avoid their channel like it was the Black Plague.
SiriusXM should choose a higher road and dump this audio trash can by the virtual wayside. The stain of Portnoy and his merry band of juvenile jerks is something they can do without, and I’m certain the bottom line won’t even feel the cancellation shock.
There are those who can complain I’m giving Portnoy and his fellow bile spitters the publicity they’re seeking. In a sense, guilty. However, it’s done to bring about a poser and perhaps, a lesson.
Many people want fame and fortune. Is this how you want to be recalled? Is this the public persona you would want displayed, reflecting on your reputation, your friends, your family?
It’s your choice, certainly. But such idiocy and nonsense is difficult to shake, and while it may pay off in the short run, long term you might just be remembered as little more than a bad actor than someone worthy of respect and employment.
“Mastering the Media” here is two-fold. From the listener standpoint, deciding if this is the type of “entertainment” you want to be identified with. Imagine telling someone how much you enjoy the commentary and opinions from a bunch of puerile adult men who profit making fun of women. From the participant standpoint and those who produce media for a living, is this how you want people to think of you and your personal brand?
In other words, if your idea of fame and fortune is being dragged out of a major event by security guards with the world watching, have at it. The clown nose fits perfectly.
You have one life, one reputation. Why would you not do whatever it takes to defend it and make it something to be proud of, instead of something you have to explain away.
Perhaps, just perhaps, you can strive for something more. Something more honorable and worthy, instead of being just another nickel and dime clown on a barstool.