First off, let me say that I am not a blogger, a website analyst, or anyone qualified to write about anything really. I’m a Stoolie. But there are two things that I do know: 1) Nobody in the media wants to touch Barstool Sports with a pole the length of Ben Brady’s howitzer, and 2) Barstool has successfully cultivated one of the most loyal fanbases on the Internet.
Because of #1, nobody will ever write about #2. Which is a shame because, whether Portnoy and Co. set out to do it or not, Barstool has engaged and connected with its readers in a unique, powerful way that needs to be talked about. So here it goes. Viva la Stool.
Some humor websites see how close to the line they can go without stepping over it. Barstool Sports tries to sees how far over the line they can go without getting sued. And while they’re at it, they don’t mind bringing millions of people over the line with them.
For those who are not familiar, BarstoolSports.com, founded by David Portnoy (or El Pres), is the largest independently owned sports and humor blog on the Internet. The blog covers sports, girls, celebrities, and anything else you might talk about with your buddies drinking on a Friday night. It’s official tagline is “By the common man, for the common man”.
While it is unfortunate that no mainstream media sources want to do anything that may even indicate a positive relationship with the blog,it is not at all surprising or even unwarrented.
Barstool is totally unpredictable and unfiltered. It famously posted a picture of Tom Brady’s naked toddler son, commenting on his genitals, “Just swinging low like a boss. That’s what MVP QB’s do. They impregnate chicks and give birth to big dicked kids.” The picture got founder Portnoy banned from WEEI, a Boston sports radio station. Another blog he wrote about fat girls in skinny jeans sparked a ‘Knock Out Barstool’ feminist movement.
But just as there will always be outsiders ready to attack Barstool , there will also always be an army of loyal fans coming to its defense. They are armed with nasty tweets, belligerant emails, and an almost nationalistic devotion to the site. Their names? Stoolies.
“The best and worst moments on the blog are all the same. Bradygate, KO Barstool. Whenever people are hating on us and equal number of people are defending us. That’s the best.” — Founder David Portnoy in a Reddit AMA
Let’s give an example of Stoolie power. Last week, model Caitlin Wynters tweeted out “Dp pic” with a link to a picture. Feitelberg, a blogger for Barstool Boston, responded:
Caitlin, irritated, responded to the joke with “why the fuck would it be.”
If you didn’t get it, Feitelberg (and most of the world probably) thought that DP meant Double Penetration. Anyways, Stoolies procceed to destroy her. They attacked her lack of sense of humor, her looks, her profession — everything that you could imagine. She proceeded to go on a 10 tweet rant, blocked all Stoolies who were tweeting at her, and eventually deleted her Twitter. I’m not defending the Internet shaming of her, just using it to illustrate the power of the Stool.
This event was just business as usual in the Barstool world. It was blogged about and then forgotten.These thing happen monthly. Last month it was Jessica McCoy, a model that went viral for a day because of Barstool. She proceeded to thank The Chive, who posted her picture only after seeing it on Barstool, thus igniting the wrath of the Stoolies.
On the flip side of the coin, Stoolies also band together for good. They are the people who bought shirts to raise over $240K for the Boston Bombing victims. They have also recently raised over $7,000 for NFL player Greg Olson’s Charity Kickball tournament and have bought wheelchairs for Veterans in need.
So how has Barstool cultivated this army of readers that will do good, bad, and everything in between almost on command? It comes down the bloggers, who have built incredibly strong connections with their readers.
I regularly read Deadspin.com (or what Portnoy calls “Barstool Jr.”), and I have been doing so for as long as I have read Barstool. But if asked right now, I could honestly not name a single writer for Deadspin.(Sam… Sam something? Maybe.) I read their articles every day, but I do not know a single one of their names. I think I emailed a Deadspin writer once about the Manti Teo article, but that’s the most I’ve ever connected with them.
I don’t just know the names of every single blogger who writes for Barstool spanning the 5 individual sites. I know their 40-yard-dash times. I know their favorite foods. (Team Burrito, checking in). I know if they drink coffee in the morning, the names of their wives/girlfriends, and how much money they would have to be offered to put their newborn baby in a microwave for 3 seconds. I know if they’re a tits-guy or an ass-guy, and when they are asked a “Would You Rather” on KFC Radio, I can pretty accurately predict each bloggers answers. I email in tips almost weekly, I spent an obcene amount of time trying to design the next Barstool flag, and I tweet at bloggers more than I’m sure my 100 or so followers would like.
And I’m not the outlier. Anybody who regularly reads Barstool will know the bloggers — their characters, their senses of humor, their unique personalities.
A lot of the Barstool bloggers like to cultivate personas of drunken idiots who ramble thoughtlessly while sitting at home in their boxers… and there is probably some merit to that. But the Barstool bloggers are smarter than they let on, and, if nothing else, they know how to connect with readers. They include personal tidbits in articles, they show their personality on videos, they respond to tweets, emails, and voicemails. They make a concerted effort to connect with their Stoolies.
So when a model freaks out at Feitelberg (who is, in fact, probably the most hated blogger on the site), they are not just attacking a writer for a website people read. They are attacking a person that has built a relationship with its readers. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when these readers come to his defense.
If you read the comments section of Barstool, you would think that all the readers hated the bloggers. Again, I’m not digging through the past for screenshots like the ones below — they are all from the past week.
But being a Stoolie is like being a part of a family. I can hate on my brother as much as I want, but if you say something bad about him I’ll punch you in the mouth.
I would never buy a Deadspin shirt (are there even such things?). In fact, while I don’t hate Deadspin, I would honestly laugh if I saw anybody wearing any Deadspin apperal. Because Deadspin, and most other websites, are just places where people go for news or entertainment. People scan through headlines and pictures and maybe drop a comment or a “Like” here and there.
Barstool is more than a place to glance at headlines. It is a gathering place for Stoolies. I don’t just go to browse; I go to check in with writers who I know, who I have built connections with. And that’s why Barstool is so successful. Just like a relationship I build with someone in real life, the more time and energy I invest into these bloggers, the more I learn about them, and the harder it is to ever leave.
I currently own 3 Barstool shirts, a couple bumper stickers, and I will own a flag as soon as Pres picks a winner. And if I see someone walking down the street with a Barstool shirt, I won’t laugh. I’ll nod and say “Viva”. Because that’s all that really needs to be said.