Dan Katz, better known to the Barstool audience as Big Cat, was not shy about airing his grievances with company brass on Friday morning. On his SiriusXM show The Yak, Big Cat took Dave Portnoy and Erika Nardini to task over not consulting him about the opportunity for Portnoy to interview President Trump. He went so far as to say the interview betrayed the foundation on which Barstool was built.
If you haven’t already watched the ten minute rant, you should. Actually, calling it a “rant” isn’t exactly fair. Yes, the guy is speaking from a place of emotion, but Katz isn’t unhinged. He makes valuable points that hosts and programmers should take to heart.
Let’s start with the big question. Is interviewing the President of the United States in the White House Rose Garden, mere months before an election, a betrayal of the Barstool brand’s identity?
Katz repeated the phrase “we can’t pretend now that we don’t do politics” multiple times during the segment. He said that when he first signed on with Barstool he was told that the brand wasn’t going to get into politics, that Dave Portnoy was only focused on comedy. Joe Biden’s campaign reached out to Barstool to have the former Vice President appear on Pardon My Take earlier this year, but Katz passed because he says he and co-host PFT Commenter always viewed their show and the Barstool brand as a place where people come to escape from those kinds of subjects.
Portnoy’s interview with Trump might change the way Barstool is viewed in the short term by some. Barstool’s founder and president definitely came off as very chummy with the President of the United States. Even without explicitly saying so, it does give the appearance of a tacit endorsement from the brand. That matters when a brand has built itself around the fierce loyalty of its fans.
As for longterm repercussions, that is kind of hard to say. Barstool is not Outkick. Even if there is a segment of the Barstool fanbase that wants to “own the libs,” it isn’t the brand’s entire identity.
The mistake Barstool made is allowing this to be in the Trump campaign’s hands now. If the President invokes Portnoy’s or Barstool’s name in speeches or ads, that is going to fundamentally change what Barstool is in the eyes of a lot of people. Forget that scenario. Let’s say Katz and PFT decide there are no restrictions anymore, and they schedule Joe Biden on Pardon My Take after all, that changes the perception of Barstool too. Rather than simply being “Stoolies,” some fans will feel the need to pick a side in a war of escalating internal political tension.
Big Cat also took Portnoy to task for not doing a tougher interview. “Politics are serious, man. You can’t do a political interview and not be serious,” he said.
To a certain extent that is true. If you’re John Oliver or Trevor Noah, you better be able to prove that you have the chops to keep up in a serious conversation about the subject you have built a career telling jokes about. But I don’t know that I entirely agree that politics is a subject that has to be approached the same way by a comedian as it does by Wolf Blitzer.
Look, while I have never had a sitting president on my show before, I did ask John McCain in 2012 if he thought he could medal in Olympic fencing if I gave him a year to do nothing but train. When he was making the rounds as a surrogate for Hillary in 2008, I did tell Bill Clinton that the first time I remembered hearing him speak was when I was 11. He showed up to the Alabama/Arkansas game in 1992 and was interviewed at halftime. My question to the former president was “Did you know that Alabama team was good enough to win a national championship?”.
If you aren’t someone that lives in the political world, not only is there room for humor and friendliness in these interviews, but I would argue not using those tools at all is a bigger betrayal to your audience than failing to demand answers for detention centers at the US/Mexico border. Those are horrible and do demand answers, but maybe Dave Portnoy is smart enough to know he’s not the one that is going to get them.
The final question I think is worth addressing is how does Big Cat move forward as a part of Barstool from here? In his rant, Katz made it clear that he was personally offended by having to learn of Portnoy’s visit to the White House on Twitter like the rest of the world. He said this is not how he ever expected the company to treat him after so many of the power players involved told him how valuable he was to the Barstool brand and promised that he was a partner in the decision making process. He shared that with Barstool fans, a group he is every bit as synonymous with as Portnoy.
As Big Cat sees it, there are only two explanations as for why Portnoy and Barstool CEO Erika Nardini didn’t consult him on the decision to interview President Trump, and both of them mean the same thing.
“One is they didn’t want to talk to me because I would probably be the only dissenting view, which means that when there’s tough decisions to be made and Dan might disagree, we just won’t ask him so we don’t have to hear his view. That means my opinion doesn’t matter. Or two, they just said straight up ‘his opinion doesn’t matter.’ Either way, my opinion does not matter at this company the way I thought it did 12 hours ago, and that’s the part I’m struggling with.”
At some point, everyone in this business questions where they stand with their employer. It’s why hosts and PDs leave for new jobs in new markets. It’s why GM’s leave to start advertising agencies. The equity and goodwill your company has built with you is only as good as how you are treated tomorrow.
I can’t say I know enough about what Barstool thinks of Dan Katz. I would assume as one of their most popular personalities, he is viewed as a valuable commodity. The Coach Duggs phenomenon should prove to any doubters, in or outside the company, that Katz’s audience will support virtually anything he does. But does Barstool believe it owes him more than anyone else on its roster? I don’t think that is a question with an obvious answer.
Long ago, when I was 15-years-old, I worked for Oldies 106.5 in Mobile, Alabama. My first program director was a British guy named Tim Rose. He told me a truth about radio that hits you like a ton of bricks at some point. Our job isn’t to play music or entertain the audience. Our job is to make sure they stick around long enough to hear the Kia commercial that plays at the bottom of the next stop set.
Barstool operates in the same way. It may be classified as a media company, but what it actually is is a marketing machine. Dave Portnoy and Erika Nardini don’t care what the content is exactly. All they care about is that it is good enough to engender a legion of Stoolies to buy t-shirts and drink mix and spend their money at Penn National casinos.
Given his own personal popularity and the juggernaut that is Pardon My Take, Dan Katz would be justified to think he is indispensable. It would make total sense for Stoolies to not think they ever have to picture a Barstool without Big Cat. But what if Barstool doesn’t see it that way?
It is totally feasible that the company may see its brand as well-established enough to survive the hit of losing its most popular content creator.
It is a bitter reality of this industry. As you build your own brand, you are also building the brand of your platform. Some talent outgrow their parent company, but not everyone does and sometimes the ones that don’t will surprise you.
So many of the criticisms that Dan Katz levied at Dave Portnoy and Barstool are fair. Portnoy’s interview with Donald Trump does fly in the face of what Barstool was founded on. It does compromise the image of the brand. Barstool is being used as a political pawn. The bosses do owe their most popular personality an explanation of what is about to happen before he has to read about it on Twitter. All of that can be true, but if enough MAGA types show up to buy Barstool t-shirts all because of one interview, the company doesn’t necessarily have to care.
Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call
“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”
I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.
The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.
Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.
Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.
We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.
I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.
You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.
People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.
How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.
Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.
If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.
In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.
Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.
What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.
Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!
“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”
Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?
Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.
To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:
#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?
#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?
#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?
If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!
Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.
Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:
#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.
#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.
#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.
#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.
#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.
Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!
Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas
“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”
Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?
Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!
One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.
Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.
There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.
Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.
I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.
Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.
It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?
Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.
If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.
Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.
A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.
“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.
We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.
As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.
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