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Sports Media Musings: WEEI Bans Barstool’s David Portnoy in Brady Baby Fallout

David Portnoy (Image from Boston Magazine Photoshoot)

WEEI Wages War Against Barstool Sports

All the rage is Boston Barstool Sports’ controversial posting of Tom Brady’s naked baby and the subsequent caption. Being the media guy here at SoB, I thought it would be appropriate to write about it. I took my time, though, because I didn’t want to give a fickle response that I’d later regret. So after vacillating about the merits of the whole incident, I have come to the conclusion that I’m confused. I’m utterly confused where this is going to take us.

I need to address the big picture first. Looking at the situation through the prism of a newspaper (read: OLD MEDIA) is interesting. David Portnoy, otherwise known as “El Presidente,”  is a beloved figure here in Boston. And the blogging community has come so far since the infamous Will Leitch-Buzz Bissinger confrontation that ESPN actually gives credit to Deadspin when the site breaks news.

I can see it now though, newspaper executives collectively shaking their head and saying, “I told you so! There needs to be accountability!” at Portnoy’s brash decision to publish what he, uh, published. That’s the end game. It’s a black eye. It makes Ian Rapoport’s questionable “Twitter Incident” look miniscule. WEEI’s Jason Wolfe already denounced Portnoy saying he would no longer be appearing on WEEI. Bruce Allen of BSMW had a refreshing take on a possible WEEI alterior motive.

Back to the issue at hand for a moment…

I have never been a “Stoolie”. Though, I’m not afraid to admit I’ve enjoyed a few “Guess That Ass?” features. And I do know Barstool, by nature, is a profane site. They take the desecrated, and desecrate it a little more. That’s what most blogs do, actually. Barstool does it better than most. They hit more than they miss, and that is evidenced by the advertising dollars they have obtained over the years.

Brett Farve shows his penis to some vixen and he gets exposed. In my eyes, whatever, this is okay. When the grass is cut the snakes will show. But this wasn’t a fame-seeking broad looking for retribution over a pervey QB. This was a serene toddler.

Defending Barstool?

There is a movement defending Portnoy. The basis seems to be that Brady should have not had his child exposed, and Portnoy simply re-posted a picture that was already readily available on the Internet. I can’t buy into this. Athletes, especially superstars like Tom Brady and his super-model wife, live in a different world we do. Think about it. This is the same guy who was chastised for the WAY HE WENT DOWN A WATERSLIDE. Every moment is an opportunity for someone to capitalize. Futhermore, I get that the actual picture isn’t “egregious.” As I pointed out in the orignal thread, toddlers being naked is something that – as a society – we are desensitized to. One of the most popular albums of all-time features a naked baby yearning  a dollar bill on the cover (Nirvana’s Nevermind). On top of that, 2-year olds running around naked isn’t exactly obscure. It happens. They aren’t potty-trained. Accidents happen, and parents have to change them at the beach.

HOWEVER. The comments made were weird and creepy, even though they were in jest. I don’t think Portnoy will face any legal trouble. I also don’t think he is “sick.” I DO think he is stubborn for vociferously defending the post. He is going to play the “politcally-correct centric society is just over-reacting” card. And that sucks, mainly because he is right that PC people are onerous at times — but he’s wrong that this is one of those times.

The Internet doesn’t have house rules. We’re learning about ways to use it more everyday. So lets apply real life to fake life. Hypothetically, if I see a 2-year-old naked running around on the beach, I wouldn’t be taken back. In fact, I would probably just sip on my beer and enjoy the rays without further thought. BUT, if I hear some teenager (because that was how Portnoy was acting), making a disgusting comment – I would probably retort telling him to watch his mouth. It would stay between us, of course. And I would recall the incident in front of family and friends at dinner later; while he or she would be embarrassed in front their peers the rest of the day.

Portnoy did what the said-teen did, except with a megaphone reaching hundreds of thousands of people. That’s the reach of Barstool Sports. With that reach comes responsibility. Portnoy lost sight of that. There will be backlash. Then backlash of the backlash. Then backlash that there was even backlash in the first place (amazingly, this is already happening).

That is how the Internet works. LeBron James still gets killed for “taking his talents to South Beach.” It’s relentless. Therefore, expect that Portnoy will play the aggressor. He will be (more) offensive because he has to. It’s the only reasonable play. Unless he wants to admit fault, which would seem out-of-character.

The severed relationship between WEEI and Barstool is runoff media on media hate that will be monitored by yours truly. Apparently, Portnoy already is taking to a UStream show to address Wolfe’s stance. It could get will be ugly.

My friend last night said, “In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?” The answer to that question is, “No.” Because there will always be something. This week it was baby-gate. Next week it will be an athlete or coach making some other comment. That is the way it goes in our world today. A weird balance is finding lurid or contreversial issues like this and figuring out when to take a stand and when to brush it off.

About Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is the author of the weekly Sports Media Musings column at Sports Of Boston. Hadfield is known as one of the top sports media critics in Boston. He also contributes to Boston Sports Media Watch. In November 2011, Hadfield helped launch the new SoB Point Taken blog featuring his podcasts & musings on sports, media and culture. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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Discussion

3 comments for “Sports Media Musings: WEEI Bans Barstool’s David Portnoy in Brady Baby Fallout”

  1. Completely agree with your response. Kids will be kids and one on the beach should be a big deal… It was Portnoys commentary that crossed the line and was just uncomfortable to read. Afterall, despite who Tom & Gisele are professionally, they are parents and that role and their children need to be protected.

    Posted by Diana | August 13, 2011, 9:43 pm
  2. Not going to lie… I don’t think his commentary was that uncomfortable. The guy was just joking around and everyone is freaking out about it. Sure his comments were absurd and vulgar but that’s what gets people to keep coming back to Barstool. Portnoy has been using that same commentary to react to every news story let alone this one. I think this story is way too overblown because when I read the article I just thought to myself “typical el pres response…guy is a clown.”

    People need to find better things to make a fuss about because El Pres is always going to be a staple in the city and WEEI is upset that nobody even listens to them anymore.

    Posted by Mike | August 14, 2011, 1:27 am
  3. Perfect summation to this whole stupid affair. Portnoy is not a pedophile, but he should realize he made a mistake. The LeBron comparison is spot on.

    Posted by Frank | August 19, 2011, 10:25 am

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