Barstool: Sports for Fans of…Sports
By Moe Townes

In a media world where sports coverage is increasingly politicized, Barstool Sports has succeeded big time by breaking the mold. It sticks to sports.

Barstool: Sports for Fans of…Sports

Photo by: Barstool Sports


Barstool Sports’ site is exactly what the name promises—no politics, just sports. That makes it unique in today’s media world.

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times and ESPN, it’s like they’ve given up on serious, sports coverage.

Why do some sportscasters think they’re experts on voting laws—because they voted for an MVP once?

Everything on Barstool is served up with zero nuance—intentionally. It’s rough, funny and self-deprecating.

Go to the Barstool Sports site—it’s exactly what their name promises. Lots of blogging, talking, podcasting, posting, vlogging about sports. Tack on a little about pizza, day-trading, golfing, movies and pictures of very-fit girls who feel the need to adjust their t-shirts after strenuous, aerobic workouts in their bedrooms. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for guys who love sports. Don’t forget the people who spend three hours discussing a game that took 50 minutes to play, have heated exchanges about who’s responsible for a team sucking and predict upcoming game outcomes with absolute certainty. All the reporters are amateurs. The only “qualifications” most have is enthusiasm and a desire to entertain. Which makes them better than the so-called pros. Visit Barstool’s site—what you want is what you see and get.

At The New York Times, it’s like they’ve given up on serious sports coverage.

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times, it’s like they’ve given up on serious sports coverage. I get two articles about the All Star game moving, one an opinion piece saying MLB is moving in the direction it “should,” an article about a kid making basketball jerseys with shooting victims’ names on them—no mention of whether he’s worked out the copyright-infringement issues. (“Sports” and “Business” share one meager section, so why not?) There’s also the 22 massage therapists who’ve accused DeShaun Watson of alleged assault. (This guy must have a very large number of aches and pains.) Then some scores and trading news.

There’s the same confusion at ESPN. It doesn’t lead with scores. Its site instead highlights the All Star game, Watson’s troubles, a Tampa Bay Buccaneer who thought “gook” meant “lame”—the big news on ESPN is that an NFL team hired a Latina as a coordinator of social media. All of the above (and then some) might explain why ESPN’s audience has cratered and why people only read the first section of the New York Times before reaching for the NY Post.

Where the fuck are the in-depth pieces about draft strategy, who’s out for the season and how a second-string cornerback from Arkansas is about to be the next big thing? Something made media people think they should get out of their lanes and start weighing in on stuff they know nothing about. Why? In a tortuously circuitous way, it could be Trump-related — work with me here — a guy who’s barely qualified to even talk about his chosen field (real estate), holds forth on any topic that comes to mind. Networks and newspapers show or print every word. Most television and print journalists oddly hate him, but they choose to copy him.

The result? People are inundated with a shit ton of answers to questions they never asked—from people they’d never ask questions of. It’s like a twisted bait-and-switch or like buying tickets to see Gilbert Gottfried do two hours of dirty jokes but he instead comes out and reads Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan—for two hours. (Waiter: The two-drink minimum still applies, Sir. Me: Okay, I’ll have hemlock. A double. Neat.) Or going to church, hoping for a loud, fire-and-brimstone, spittle-hitting-the-congregant-in-the-front-row sermon. But after a couple of hymns and some praying, the minister pulls a baseball, axe and cantaloupe from under his robes and starts juggling, telling jokes about making Macedonian salad—not what you hoped or asked for. The guy got out of his lane.

Why do some sportscasters think they’re experts on voting laws? Because they voted once? I’d consider listening if maybe if ESPN’s Marv Albert did 15 minutes on Holiday Inn Express being a better value than a Ramada for a one-hour, sado-masochistic orgy—something Albert knows. Or why do legal reporters think they’re experts on human behavior? A worthwhile read would be if Jeffrey Toobin did a weekly column for The New Yorker on the best lubricants to use while stroking the rope during a Zoom call. Anway, you know Barstool’s lane instantly and that it drives in it (at the speed limit) permanently. All this typing, texting, posting, dissing and trash talking is catnip for sports fans—not politics, race relations, climate change and income inequality.

Even Barstool’s other content stays in the same lane—e.g., the can-you-top-this stories about things that happened when they got high. It’s so basic it’s almost funny. The pizza-reviews segment is actually called what it is. Barstool Founder and Pizza Reviews Host Dave Portnoy simply buys a pizza slice, carries it out onto the street and reviews it while eating it—takes two minutes, doesn’t comment on who’s inside, doesn’t note the pizza joint’s décor, ethnicity or the neighborhood he’s in. Portnoy just tells you what he thinks of the pizza (and totally stays in his lane).

Part of this lane is tone and delivery. Everything on Barstool is served up with zero nuance—intentionally. It’s rough, funny and self-deprecating. If a co-host or a caller disagrees, that person is often labeled a know-nothing douchebag. This word is spoken (and understood) as a term of affection. Everyone’s just happy to be able to speak their minds. It’s a bizarre version of a “safe space.” No one cares if you’re called a douchebag—it’s cool. You’ll never be called anything that ends in “–ist.” No one will ever say your choice of words clearly means you don’t like transgender athletes, midgets or Lizzo. You’re just a “douchebag,” and you’re good with that.


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