Bill Simmons has been a staple in the sports personality world since the early 2000s and has a long and dedicated following. Barstool Sports is a brand that has been growing since the earlier 2000s as well and has been gaining more and more traction in the sports media. Each have their own hit podcast, Simmons with “The Bill Simmons Show,” while Barstool produces “Pardon My Take,” hosted by personalities Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFTCommenter, whose real name is not public information. In the iTunes podcast charts, “Pardon My Take,” or “PMT,” finds themselves atop the Sports & Recreation section while Simmons is third and the two have been consistently battling each other in the Top Five for several months. With the two trying to conquer similar demographics, we ask the question, which is better?
Matt Barresi: As a devout listener of PMT and a semi-regular listener of Simmons, this question jumped out at me. For me, no contest it’s “Pardon My Take.” They are incredibly funny, intelligent and creative. Literally the opposite of Simmons at the moment. Big Cat is one of the funniest personalities in all of sports media. PFT Commenter, rumored genius, is incredibly quick on his feet and can pull a Hitler reference out of thin air. Their producer, “Handsome” Hank Lockwood, also brings humor and charm to the show, although more from his trials and tribulations than anything else. They have ingenious segments like having whichever guest is on call “the most famous person” in their cell phone, “Jimbos” (mistakes made during the week, a tribute to former 49ers coach Jim Tomsula) and “Hey J.J.” (where they rip anything poor J.J. Watt does to shreds through satire). However, where they are arguably at their best is when they troll the mainstream sports media, which includes Simmons even though he thinks he’s a bad boy, as well as “First Take” or Colin Cowherd’s show, through topics such as “Hot Seat/Cool Throne,” “Who’s Back?” and “Mount Rushmore.” This is where their true genius shines as their outside-the-box thinking leads to comedic gold. All summer they did Mount Rushmores, but not of which athletes or teams are the best, but rather topics such as best sides at a barbeque, or cheap booze. When they do “Hot Seat” or “Who’s Back,” rarely does it take after ESPN as who played poorly, but rather it might be The Sun or another abstract answer. I will admit their bread and butter might be their countless inside jokes, meaning you have to listen for a while to get into it, but trust me it’s 100 percent worth it. They’ve earned their “capital J” the hard way and are clearly best in the business right now.
Kenneth Beardsley: Bill Simmons is a misunderstood, unfiltered voice that is needed in a sports world that has become way too political. Whether it is calling out ESPN talking heads or the commissioner of the NFL, he never fears reprehension for his thoughts. Now the owner of his own podcast network, The Ringer Podcast Network, he has no filter and the ability to speak on anything and everything he wants, however he wants. Simmons has always been known for his ability to blend sports, pop culture and politics together and that is just what he has done with his podcast network. Aside from his own show, “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” he has podcasts covering college football, NFL, NBA, MLB, Politics, Pop-Culture, TV and that’s just scratching the surface. He uses these personalities on his individual podcast to examine a diverse amount of content areas which is unmatched. With co-hosts such as Jon Favreau, who is Obama’s ex-speech writer, Cousin Sal, an expert gambler and longtime friend, Joe House, a writer on the Jimmy Fallon show, Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan, who are movie/TV critics of high esteem, Mike Lombardi, a well-known NFL reporter and even just his buddy Jack-O, the list goes on and on. With his ability to pull a diverse group of talent, each well-respected at their craft, Simmons has created a super group of talent to surround his genius. He himself provides an insightful analysis of sports through his uncommon methods, which attempt to make the viewer laugh until their sides split, but also contemplate sports and culture from different perspectives. Barstool provides quality content that is extremely creative but just does not compete with Simmons’s ability to acquire talented minds to help him. Some say Simmons is an old dog that cannot learn new tricks. I say he is an old dog, who creates his own tricks, with the help of a zoo of different animals.
Barresi: I like your last analogy. Simmons was once very creative. Was. However, he’s growing very stale. The key demographic in this industry, 18 to 35 year old males, seems to be trending away from him more and more. He came off as a clown in the promos for his show “Any Given Wednesday,” and the show flopped horribly, getting canceled after one season. He doesn’t write as much, and his new enterprise, The Ringer, doesn’t have the same feel, or following, that Grantland did. His podcast has become the same way. His podcast has become bland and boring recently, though maybe that will change now that he doesn’t have to worry about his TV show. The past couple months it’s been nothing but “Guess the Lines with Cousin Sal” and NFL talk with Michael Lombardi. Lombardi knows his stuff and Cousin Sal is a character, but the shows have been boring frankly. They’ve run their course and they’re getting repetitive, people just aren’t as interested. PMT keeps things fresh and has new guests consistently, and that’s why they’re trending upwards while it seems like Simmons is losing listeners. I think he needs to find some of his old voice that will rekindle the interest from his fan base and help acquire new listeners. His takes just aren’t as funny, insightful or even relatable as they once were. Barstool Sports’ motto is “By the Common Man, For The Common Man,” and Simmons first got popular with the same message, when he was just The Sports Guy from Boston. But if you’ve listened to his podcast recently, you definitely don’t get that vibe and that’s really what needs to change. But until then, “Pardon My Take” just brings a higher level of entertainment value and the numbers reflect that. Plus Hank is way better than Tate.
Beardsley: The idea that “Any Given Wednesday” was a flop is extremely unfair. HBO never really gave his show the shot it deserved. While it was running, he had to compete with an insane amount of competition each and every night it aired. During the same time slot Simmons was forced to battle several political debates from both Republican and Democratic parties, the MLB playoffs which included the Cubs winning the World Series, the ESPYS and the Olympics. The show wasn’t perfect but it deserved a shot to continue to grow and learn from its past blunders and misfortunes. I, for one am a huge fan of his website, The Ringer. It has an ability to blend topics from across the social media sphere into one place with witty writers whether they write about things that matter or don’t matter at all. People will always like the original project better than the new product. People will always say that Chance the Rapper’s “Acid Rap” is better than his Coloring Book, Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” is better than his “The Life of Pablo,” and that Grantland is better than The Ringer. Nothing ever compares to the past version of itself until the current version becomes the past version. With his show canceled, Simmons will now have more time to dedicate to where he grew his fan base, writing columns and making podcasts. It’s only been a little over a year since his firing and the eventual creation of his new brand; everyone needs to do what Aaron Rodgers once said and relax and give him time. Simmons’s celebrity is unmatched by the literal no-names at Barstool, and this allows him to get interviews on his show that they couldn’t. A little over one year ago, Bill Simmons was able to get an interview with GQ for who else but the President of the United States, Barack Obama. His ability to pull great interviews carries over to his current podcast, where he has been able to pull a cast of characters from around the world to be on his show such as Jimmy Kimmel, Tony Kornheiser, Michael Rapaport, Dr. James Andrews, Jimmy Butler, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and even Louis C.K. When Barstool can pull names like that, then I will believe they are for real. Instead they can keep making Harambe jokes while Bill keeps getting them checks.
These two shows seem to have a solid mix of listeners who either listen to both, or only listen to one steadfastly. In a lot of ways, they’re similar but in a lot of ways they’re different. And they’re both gunning for the same listeners, the same demographic and the same national recognition. Individually, it’s up to you to listen and decide.