By Brian Olson, guest columnist
Olson served as News Director for KGWN-TV in Cheyenne from 1986 – 1994. He went on to serve as Executive Producer for DISH Network.
Just a few days ago I’d never heard of Barstool Sports. I did know about bar stools but that’s a different story.
Retired now in Georgia, I started my television news career as News Director of KGWN in Cheyenne from 1986-1994. When local coverage includes State Government, National Defense, Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Wyoming Cowboys you learn things fast. It was fun covering the ‘Pokes especially with Larry Birleffi!
One of my daughters got her undergraduate degree from Wyoming so we remain fans to this day. Another daughter is a UT-Austin grad and a son-in-law is an Auburn Grad. The latter two big-time programs, but trust me when I say the sense of tradition you feel at a Cowboy Home Game is just as good as you experience in Austin or Auburn.
As my career progressed after Cheyenne I got to cover Super Bowls and Major College Bowl Games. As Executive Producer for DISH Network I got to see first-hand how the technology of how we watched TV changed. We have come a long way from Rabbit Ears on the TV to games on our tablets and smart phones.
Living in the Eastern Time Zone presents challenges for watching the Pokes. Those 8 and 9pm Mtn starts translate into late watching here in the Eastern Time Zone. And let’s face it, TV coverage of the Mountain West can be hard to find. Today money rules in sports, including college football. The “Power Five” rules. Not conferences like the Mountain West. It’s why we’ve never seen ESPN’s “College Game Day” originate from Laramie.
The Arizona Bowl wasn’t on any of the traditional networks or ESPN. I found out the Arizona Bowl was on Barstool TV. WHAT? Instead of the remote control on our TV, I tuned in the game, digitally on my iPad, then streamed the game to our big screen TV. So much for having to get out of my chair to change the channel like in the good old days.
Barstool play by play was right out of Saturday Night Live. Now I know why someone invented the word “irreverent” The announcers were using the same cuss words on air as let’s face it, we as fans use watching games. Talk about connecting with your audience. And the fat guy, running around with a bare beer belly was something I’d never seen on ESPN. But they also had Josh Allen in their coverage. An NFL superstar who appreciates the team in Laramie who gave him a shot when no one else would.
Based on what I’ve read online there were two main opinions of the coverage. Older fans hated it, young fans loved it. A generation that walks around in life looking at their smartphones. An audience that also wants to watch the Wyoming Cowboys.
Technology has indeed changed the way we watch sports. All the graphics boggle the mind. But one thing has been slow to change. Two guys in the booth doing play by play and color commentary. OK, on rare occasions a woman doing play by play. Usually their spot is as sideline reporters. And let’s not forget the Analysts. The folks who tell us about what we just watched and already know about.
But the times as Bob Dylan sings, are indeed a changin’ , one example the Georgia-Ohio State Game. Available on ESPN, ESPN2 and SEC Networks. The ESPN2 coverage looking way less traditional and more like Barstool TV. Speaking of ESPN, they were the brash new kids on the block when it launched decades ago. Looks like Barstool TV is the latest new kid on the block.
Barstool gave me the game I wanted to watch. Wyoming playing in the Arizona Bowl. Salty language and all.
Best way to describe Barstool TV? Rootin’ Tootin’ High Fallootin’ !