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2016 Man of the Year: Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy

Dave Portnoy
Image via screenshot from video
• January 2, 2017 11:00 am

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If you ever wanted to know where the Washington Free Beacon becomes first aware of so many of our Man of the Year finalists, a good place to look is at the Barstool Sports website.

In an unorthodox January press conference, shot in a frigid Times Square, David Portnoy, aka El Presidente and the founder of BarstoolSports.com, announced that he sold a controlling interest in his company to The Chernin Group in a multi-million dollar deal, thus taking his hilarious brand of sports news aggregation and comedy to the next level.

This sale represented a stunning achievement for a man who began publishing what was then the Barstool Sports newsletter in the early 2000s and distributing it by personally handing out hard copies on the streets of Boston.

Portnoy has organically grown Barstool into an ubiquitous pop-culture brand. The site's famous t-shirts are seen on virtually every college campus in the country and signs with Barstool memes populate ESPN's College Gameday football broadcasts (or pollute them if you happen to work for ESPN).

The site is further owed a great deal of credit for fueling the popular rise of "people's champion" athletes such as MLB pitcher Bartolo "Big Sexy" Colon, and the NFL's Rob Gronkowski—both of whom are known to wear Barstool gear in public. In short, during 2016, Barstool Sports with its newfound valuation and surging audience numbers, dominated the internet.

Barstool Sports is unique in that it has achieved its success all the while eschewing the embrace of the politically correct/social justice warrior ethos of the traditionally dominant names in online sports media—ESPN, Bleacher Report (owned by Time-Warner), SB Nation (founded by Daily Kos creator Markos Moulitsas), and Gawker's Univision's Deadspin.

Since its inception, Barstool has built a core audience of several million self-proclaimed "cube monkeys" who work generic 9-5 office jobs and are fully loyal to the site, which has rarely deviated from its mission statement of being a site "by the common man, for the common man."

From Portnoy and his "gigantic brain" Barstool has spawned a multitude of highly successful podcasts, Facebook Live broadcasts, and apparel. Part of the fun of reading Barstool or being an active "Stoolie" as the site's fans are termed is watching Pres's team experiment with new ideas in real time.

Some of these experiments like the "One Bite, (Everybody Knows The Rules)" pizza reviews, and the "Electric Chair" (A Facebook Live feed of one of the Barstool personalities watching their favorite team usually lose a pivotal game in real time) are wildly fun. Barstool's podcasts Pardon My Take and KFC Radio are consistently ranked in the top 25 on the iTunes charts.

Others—such as the ill-fated, one and done, podcast Nate At Night spectacularly flamed out in real time—which yield a next-day brutalizing by the site's commenters, writers, and usually Portnoy himself.

In an age of the tiresome narrative of dying print media (the print version of Barstool was killed over a decade ago) Portnoy's happy band of pirates are fully invested in redefining what the modern web-based media company looks like and profits from.

So here's to 2016's most influential Internet millionaire and part-time Nantucket resident, Dave Portnoy, a Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

Published under: Men of the Year