By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
That wasn’t a group of frat brothers already half a keg into a tailgate party in the broadcast booth of Friday’s Arizona Bowl.
It was Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, and his team presenting this year’s season-capping college football game between the University of Wyoming Cowboys and Ohio University Bobcats.
For nearly four hours, the uncensored, off-the-wall and often crude commentary punctuated a close game, eventually won in overtime by OU, 30-27.
While many sports fans were unprepared for Barstool Sports’ Howard Stern-like shock humor, others found the change of pace smart and funny.
Count Tom Lacock of Cheyenne in that camp.
He said the antics and locker room humor – often accompanied by locker room language – didn’t bother him. Instead, it was brilliant marketing that brought more eyes to the game and the Barstool brand.
“I thought it was fun,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “If you look at it from a marketing perspective, Barstool has the market locked down on 18- to 34-year-old men.”
And that’s the sweet spot for college sports, which makes sponsoring the Arizona Bowl a good move, he said.
“They have a very loyal audience, a young male audience,” Lacock said. “I thought it was exposure you couldn’t buy … for them and Wyoming.”
During the game and after, the irreverent style of the broadcast sparked a storm on some Facebook threads. People either hated it or loved it, there seemed little middle ground.
“Great game … with the mute on,” reads one post on a thread about the broadcast on the Mid-American Conference Facebook page. “Congrats to the Bobcats. The announcers acting like frat boys calling the game from a kegger … just too much.”
Scott Winfield studied at UW and said he liked the humor.
“Enjoying your announcing of the game,” he posted. “Your (sic) killing me. Go Pokes.”
Josh Allen The Best Part
For Cheyenne City Councilman Jeff White, the only redeeming part of the Barstool Sports experience was a live interview with former UW quarterback and Buffalo Bills NFL Pro Bowler Josh Allen.
“I love seeing Josh in anything,” White said.
And Allen’s a fan, telling Portnoy that the Barstool team has “been electric. I love the broadcast. The color commentating has been spot-on.”
White, a UW grad, acknowledged the Barstool Sports audience is probably younger and that he would’ve liked a more traditional football broadcast.
“If it were me and my buddies sitting there in Laramie 30 years ago tapping a keg, we’d probably have loved it,” he said. “But I’m over 50 years old, so I’m not the demographic that website’s trying to reach.”
Instead, White said he muted the Barstool broadcast and watched the game with the radio on.
There seems to be plenty of people who share White’s opinion.
Antics like those from Jersey Jerry, an overweight man wearing a half-shirt who ran onto the field to retrieve the kickoff tee, are things Mandi Stewart of Baggs could do without.
“I just thought there were so many inappropriate jokes and cussing and stuff,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “The Josh Allen interview was cool, but it could’ve been timed differently.”
She also said it was frustrating that during the last five minutes of a close game that eventually went into overtime, the broadcast showed the announcers in the booth more than the action on the field.
And overtime was just one more opportunity for a final jiggling super close-up of Jersey Jerry’s gut.
“If I see that fat belly running across the field one more time, I think I’m going to puke,” Stewart said.
Antics aside, the Barstool Sports production put a positive spotlight on Wyoming and UW, Lacock said.
“Every time they laughed at somebody, they laughed at themselves,” he said. “They weren’t laughing at Wyoming or Ohio. “I thought it was exposure (for the state) was something many wouldn’t have seen before.”