Barstool Sports Has Mastered Turning Workplace Drama Into Reality Show-Worthy Content

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Dave Portnoy makes most of the headlines when it comes to Barstool Sports, but his creation, which he recently re-purchased for a dollar, is so much more than him in 2024. The Barstool Sports brand is made up of hundreds - maybe thousands? - of people writing blogs and doing videos and podcasts (and video podcasts) about various topics under the greater Barstool umbrella. And each person and program has the capacity to become the main character of the Barstool ecosystem at any given time.

Looking at a recent story that got some pickup by multiple outside entities, we dove headfirst into the web of blogs and pods and relationships affected by Dave Portnoy making the executive decision to cancel Barstool Radio over the weekend. It was a story covered by the Daily Mail, Awful Announcing, Barrett Sports Media, Men's Journal and the New York Post.

This is not a criticism of any of those publications. Barstool fans click on Barstool content. It's good business to write something like, "Dave Portnoy makes drastic Barstool Radio change, blames ‘delusional’ Kelly Keegs." But what if we follow the clicks down the rabbit hole? Have you ever wondered what kind of weirdness something like this could start? Or what kind of weirdness started it in the first place? If you haven't, thanks for going this far. If you have, read on.

Over the last week, two Barstool employees who don't seem to have ever met engaged in a public and published feud. From there, one Barstool radio show was canceled, and in the wake of this decision a domino effect of shot-taking has occurred between two other completely unrelated shows. And as all this drama has unfolded, it was all extremely well-documented on social media as Barstool employees seem to tirelessly turn workplace tension into content for the site's most die-hard fans.

This seems to have all started last week when the aforementioned Kelly Keegs said that she likes to work from home on Fridays. This did not sit well with Ohio's Tate who wrote a post about it. Here's what the Barstool Idol Season 2 Contestant had to say in a post titled, "I'm Sick And Tired Of Lazy Barstool Employees (@ Kelly Keegs)."

"I don’t know Kelly Keegs, never met her, and honestly don’t have one bad thing to say about her other than she is apparently extremely lazy, takes for granted a job that millions of people would cut their arm off for, and takes advantage of a man who has given a bunch of nobodies the luxurious life of fame and fortune. Am I hearing her correctly?"

As a response, Keegs wrote her own Barstool Sports blog post titled, "Who The Fuck Is "Ohio's Tate" And Why Is He Calling Me Lazy?" In this blog Keegs breaks down her Barstool Radio origin story, how much she does for the company, and by comparison, how little Barstool Tate has done for the company in her opinion. It's a fascinating historical artifact on its own and also a reminder of how hard it is for the online community to produce content on Fridays, which is something we understand here at The Big Lead.

Anyway, this all took place on Friday. It then simmered over the weekend and when Monday morning hit, Keegs ignored the drama and instead focused on other things during Barstool Radio. Somewhere in here she made a grave mistake. Via the New York Post:

Portnoy explained on the “Barstool Rundown” that he “had no choice but to cancel” Barstool Radio due to Keegs and Francis spending most of the episode talking about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, instead of discussing Keegs’ feud with fellow Barstool employee, Ohio’s Tate.

Portnoy later called Keegs delusional on Twitter.

And like that it was over. Barstool Radio is dead... long live Barstool Radio? Portnoy quickly announced there would be a new show and you basically got to watch how the Barstool sausage is made in real-time. To organize the new show, Portnoy called Barstool personality Kirk Minihane who was in the middle of recording his own show at the time. At this point it was like fans were sitting in on a production meeting as they hammered out the details.

There really is a lot going on here. First of all, it appears that no one at Barstool has any idea what time anything at Barstool airs. Portnoy calls, gets through, and then complains that the producer answered the phone. Minihane has already gotten former NHL player and current Barstool personality Ryan Whitney on board for the new show in a previous segment. The three of them are amenable to any day or time... except for Friday.

While they were trying to figure out a time slot, the Mark TItus show, "Mostly Sports," was brought up, with Whitney later texting Minihane to ask "What is Mostly Sports?" A text which was of course quickly read on-air and turned into a video for the @VivaLaStool feed. This, along with the possibility of having to change time slots, inspired Titus to go on a rant of his own and take a shot at another Barstool property called "Picks Central".

And from there it was time for the Picks Central crew to take shots back at Titus.

Eventually, they all got on a show together to talk it out.

All of this drama basically took place over a few hours on Monday. Two shows that had nothing to do with anything briefly sounded like they were gearing up for a physical altercation, but they ended up turning it into more podcast content instead.

And Portnoy remains the butterfly in the rainforest at the center of it all. When he flaps his wings storms brew on podcasts millions of miles away. He's simultaneously involved in everything without actually being involved at all in the smallest of office beefs. But then when things start to blow up he can either ignore them and let them die out on their own or he can stamp out the fire himself like he did with Barstool Radio. He saw content getting attention that he thought could be better and he acted, which itself was turned into more content for both Barstool and everyone else.

And that's the key thing to remember. This is all content. Barstool Sports has evolved into an entire ecosystem where they turn everything into breakout videos posted on Barstool's various social channels. It's like an entire cable channel's worth of reality programming, but anyone can address anyone on any show at any time. The only real issues appear to be who has to get up and record their podcast by 9 a.m. local time and that no one is working on Friday, but everyone is upset that everyone else isn't pulling their weight on Friday.

It's kind of brilliant. You have to wonder if Portnoy and Big Cat and former CEO Erika Nardini (and whatever investor might have been involved in big picture conversations) envisioned this with any accuracy. This is a self-sustaining content ecosystem. They don't need to worry about Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift because the people with Saturdays Are For The Boys flags in their bedrooms are just as interested and invested when Barstool Tad doesn't get his Chipotle order in, gets upset he missed lunch and then ends up appearing on multiple podcasts to explain why he's the hungriest boy this week.

It's a fascinating thing to watch, if it's your thing. If it's not you'll end up asking who is that over and over again, but maybe the success right now is to pretend everything matters when none of it matters and they've certainly got that figured out. Even if the only thing you know for sure they've figured out is that they won't be in on Friday.