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29) An Overdue Note From Our New Ombudsman Eric Sollenberger (Eric Sollenberger's Other Twin Brother)

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A Message from PFT Commenter: It’s incredible I just discovered that I have another twin named Eric Sollenberger. I guess his dad was like George Foreman except named all his kids Eric instead of George wow what a coincidence you lose one brother but you gain another one in the process. Sometimes life’s funny that way. Anyways here he is to deliver a Very Serious Take:

I’m writing this under my own byline and to be honest it’s way overdue- but in a way Deadspin did me a favor by publishing my name so I’m free to comment in different ways separately from the PFT Commenter character.

It’s been a pretty long-standing theme for me to not engage in serious discussion online about well, anything as PFT. I’ve steered away because whether or not I’m kidding about something can get lost in the satirical nature of the PFT Commenter character. Also there’s an old saying to not get into an argument with a fool because from a distance no one can tell you two apart, and I’d hate for someone I’m arguing with to end up looking like a dunce. Plus having very serious conversations on the internet never really appealed to me. I got into tweeting almost as an accident, which turned into blogging, which turned into a podcast, which turned into video work and somehow ending up on ESPN2 for a night I think. Never really thought about anything besides making people laugh with the exception of several pop-ins on the radio or taking a few moments out of PMT to speak my mind about things. But I figure better late than never so I’m going to open up a little bit about what’s been going on ’round these parts the last few days.

There’s a lot of great parts about working here at Barstool. Dave covered many of them in this blog yesterday. I get complete creative freedom with Dan, Hank, and Bubba to try new things and take what started as a skype podcast in unlimited directions. There are a ton of very talented, kind, funny people who work here creating a wide variety of undeniably hilarious shows like Mickstape, Zero Blog Thirty, Starting 9, everything that Caleb and Rone do, and the weekly absurd gambling show Barstool Sports Advisors among others. I would venture to say that we have some of the most entertaining and uniquely creative people working anywhere in media today and there is no better place to be allowed complete creative freedom than right here right now. We have a supportive CEO and amazing men and women in video/production/editing/sales/marketing. One other nice thing about Barstool is that if someone has an opinion about something in-house or outside these walls we’re encouraged to voice it. Everything we do here is authentic and I think people realize that. In that vein there are some things I haven’t done a good enough job of being authentic about and disagreeing with publicly. Namely the way we get into online exchanges with members of the media and especially female journalists. I’ve disagreed with them privately, or on a random pop-in on a radio show, but that isn’t the same as doing it here- openly. And although I’ve addressed it on Pardon My Take which reaches nearly twice as many people daily as my own twitter feed, having these disagreements publicly in different formats can maybe lead to improvement in some ways so here I am.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t like it when we get too deep in the mud in online arguments. Some of us love it, but I personally do not. I think it hurts others and it hurts us. It distracts from some of the content that people here have worked so hard to produce in a way that makes it take a back seat to whatever twitter beef we happen to be in at the moment. It also unfairly distracts from the good that readers and listeners do in our name (and there is a list of it so long it’s almost unbelievable.) Whether it’s raising a shit-ton of money for the victims of the Pulse Orlando Nightclub shooting, helping Pete Frates with the Ice Bucket Challenge, or ZBT and their listeners doing important work to help veterans dealing with mental health issues, a lot of this good unfortunately gets lost in the narrative that we participate in harassment campaigns. I’m not talking about using charity the way a fraternity does to excuse the partying (I wasn’t in a frat I played rugby by the way. Totally different things as I’ve explained- we paid dues and had events, parties, sang songs, and did mixers. Again- totally different from a frat.) I’m talking about stuff that we do because it’s part of who many of us are. In my opinion the harassment stuff is hurting the company as a whole, and us as individuals- not to mention the people who are at the receiving end of the pile-ons. So I’m asking you not to do it.

Dave always says he goes after men online more frequently than women- that is absolutely true. Dave and everyone at Barstool, fight back when they feel they have been attacked regardless of sex/race/etc. I also think it is absolutely true that there are different things to consider when publicly calling out a female journalist on twitter. In the field of sports and entertainment women have to deal with a lot of shit that guys don’t ever think about- that’s not an opinion that’s a fact. They are constantly second-guessed about their knowledge and how they got to their position in ways that men aren’t. They deal with a lot of talk not just from male competitors but fellow female journalists asking the same questions- doubting them and wondering how they got their job, who they slept with, and why they dress in certain ways. 

When someone on twitter wants to criticize them they frequently don’t call them an “idiot” or a “moron,” like they would a man- but rather they go straight to calling them a slut, or saying they’re ugly, or that they slept their way to the top. That type of stuff actually does take a toll psychologically in a way that it wouldn’t for a man. If you don’t believe me just go to your favorite two female sports personalities on instagram, pick ANY picture, and read the comments. In other words- it’s one thing to go after Roger Goodell or Michael Rapaport, and a different thing to attack Sam Ponder relentlessly. In that case we needed to defend ourselves against things that she said that were demonstrably false, but it’s another thing to take it to a level that would constitute harassment. And to anyone saying I’m writing this to angle for a job at ESPN or whatever bullshit you want to wrap around it that’s fine, but it’s garbage and it’s rubbish, and it’s not true shout out Danny Boy Cane.

Based on the reaction across the internet- from some people I respect, and others that I do not- to the numerous articles that have come out in the last year, it’s clear that there are a lot of people- especially women- who have felt harassed or threatened and it would be dumb to dismiss them all out of hand. There’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and harassing them, and the handful of people who harass are the ones I’m speaking to here- not the vast majority of you that I’ve met, interacted with, and heard from over the past year and a half. I loved what Liz wrote yesterday, and how Kayce stood up for herself and all the support they received. I loved what Nate did last year with Adam C. Best- one of the creepiest people on the internet getting performatively upset about Chaps’ blog about a pumpkin looking thicc as hell. I agreed with a lot of Dave’s blog. The parts I disagree with are when it comes to encouraging people either explicitly or implicitly to attack folks that might disagree with us. I think the vast majority of what we produce as a company is strong enough to stand on its own without putting people and especially women on an enemies list that can destroy their online lives- especially when they have to use the internet for their jobs.

In that vain I want to ask this minority of Stoolies/Award Winning Listeners/occasional readers to consider all this before piling on someone online in our/my name. I know for a fact that it is a small minority of listeners/readers who do it. The vast majority of you are awesome people and I love you guys. But there is a loud minority that can damage the rest. Right now the outside perception from people who have never listened to any of our podcasts or watched any of our shows is that Barstool is the harassment company- and that does a disservice to all of us and you guys too so I want to try and find a way to remedy that. It stops us from growing as big as we could be in my opinion. Step one is by saying this out loud that we can do better starting with me.

This is obviously something that Dave and I disagree on- and I’m sure he disagrees with some of the things I do as well but it’s an open environment where we’re free to speak our minds so that’s what I’m doing. To be totally fair to Dave, sometimes stuff gets misconstrued- for example when he tweeted out the reporters email and phone number it truly was an accident and he didn’t know that the email address and phone number were in the screenshot. I was with him backstage before the House Of Blues show when he was deleting the tweet. I don’t expect anyone to believe me just because I’m telling you, but that’s the truth. In fact, there was a point back in 2014 where Dave did the same thing to himself by accident, and then in the process of showing how many phone calls he was getting- put Big Cat’s cell phone number out on the internet by mistake. But there are other times when Dave asks the troops to swarm and it turns into a cycle of harassment, response, response to the harassment, and then it becomes part of the next critical article about us. And that is what I think we can do without. Dave’s the one who put his life into building this company, and while I’m in a high position here at the company, Dave’s still my boss and the best I can do is make him aware of my opinion and ask him to consider it.

As far as our site goes, humor is subjective and Barstool is always going to be a place that pushes the boundaries. Some folks will like it, some won’t and that’s fine. I don’t want that to change. I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder when I’m answering a guys on chicks question and I say dumb shit like Serena Williams is blood-doping in the Australian open because she’s 3 months pregnant which means no menstruation, which results in a higher concentration of red blood cells. (Turns out I was correct from a medical standpoint by accident not to brag.) And sometimes there are misfires when we’re trying to be edgy or whatever and that’s ok. That’s why I like working here because it gives us the the opportunity to screw up. Despite these good things, perception is reality sometimes. In our case, the reality is there are a lot of folks out there who feel threatened by, or scared of us because of negative experiences they’ve had online with people in our name and I think their experiences deserve to be heard out and considered.

When it comes to the hypocrisy from our critics- there is a ton of it coming from people who don’t like me or don’t like Barstool as a whole. There has been hypocrisy from people (not Barry) whom I’ve seen in their own media offices doing a ton of blow and hooking up with subordinates, who now have the balls to call us out. As we’ve been told, there is value in public shaming and pointing out hypocrisy can be good. But just because someone else is guilty of bad behavior doesn’t mean we can’t examine our own. That’s what I’m getting at here is that there’s room for improvement and I think we can improve.

So call me a cuck snowflake or say that I’m an enabler or whatever you want. One thing I’ve learned from this strange career where I’ve accidentally found myself in the public eye is that I’m not going to make everyone happy. So I’m gonna speak my truth and that’s what I’m doing (yass queen slay.)

Other people might not share this opinion but that’s mine and it’s important that I say it out loud.

Love you guys,
Eric (Eric’s twin)