(WARNING: The following blog is a mix of self-masturbation, actual strategic analysis and breakdown, sappy comments about all involved, discussion of the drama and fallout with fans and co-workers after my win, and more self-masturbation. It took me two days to write this.)
I have completed my masterpiece. Love me. Hate me. Make fun of my fake spray tan. But you have to respect me and the game I played. That's all I ask.
I have talked my whole life about how I'd win Survivor. I've watched the show with my dad since I was four years old. As a kid, all I've ever dreamed about is winning, and I've visualized it countless times. Now, I do understand that I did not win actual Survivor. THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A TOTALLY DIFFERENT SHOW. But I won a Surviving Barstool competition *very loosely* based on my all time favorite show at the best company in the world. It was the best of both worlds. I went from writing Barstool Survivor fan-fiction to winning Surviving Barstool. So yeah it does mean a lot to me.
I loved proving everyone wrong who said I would be first out of this and had no shot of winning. I have plenty of screenshots. It fueled me. Now people are obviously moving the goal posts and saying I'd never last on real Survivor. That's fine. I proved you all wrong once, and if I get the opportunity, I'll do it again (cc: Jeff Probst).
I have no problem embracing the full heel and being the villain after this series. It's reality TV. I played the only game I could play. It was the only way I had any chance of winning the game. I lied. I backstabbed. I used real idols. I used fake idols (legal if you know the show). I couldn't play the nice guy and kiss ass. I had to play the game I played, and I don't regret any of it.
And for those asking, I would have played a completely different game if this was real Survivor. I laid out an exact blueprint of how I'd win that over the summer.
I did implement some of those strategies last week, but I switched it up too. Survivor is a game about people. You have to know your opponent and who you're facing off against. I knew I was playing against 7 people who had little to no idea about the strategy of this game. And that's not an insult, they just haven't spent their entire lives watching 40 seasons of this show and letting it consume their lives. So weird of them. But I used that to my advantage to play ABC Survivor. It wouldn't work against the "pros." But I wouldn't play that way against those pros. I'm a chameleon. I'll always adjust to competition whether it's Season 2 of Surviving Barstool or Season 43 of Survivor.
Anyhow, here is a strategic breakdown of my path to victory on Surviving Barstool.
I predicted it exactly on Day 1.
And this is how I made it happen.
The biggest thing for me pre-game involved two things: lowering my threat level and also making sure nobody else knew the game as well as me. For the latter, I basically told people not to watch Survivor. Keegs, Zah, and maybe someone else texted me to ask if watching real Survivor would help for this, and I said "No probably not worth it." (And it's a totally different show anyway so obviously I was right). But that was also strategic so nobody would have the knowledge or strategy I did when the week started.
Lowering my threat level was really the biggest thing I had to do. I am THE Survivor fan at Barstool. Everyone knows I watch the show religiously. I almost didn't even agree to do this because I thought I would so obviously be the first one voted out that it wouldn't even be worth it. But I realized that I couldn't possibly decline this opportunity after all the shit I've talked and I had to back things up. As the cast began to came out, I started to feel more and more confident. I acknowledge that my chances would've been worse if someone like Big Cat or KFC played who wanted to crush my dreams, but I looked at the hand of cards I was dealt and adjusted accordingly.
I walked around the office all week and said, "Nobody will ever vote for me to win. They should take me to the end. I'm not a threat. I'm Tommy!" In reality, I knew that if I got to the end with that ginormous sized target on my back, it would be one of the most impressive accomplishments in human history (half kidding, half serious). But I made sure nobody thought that. And I thought of everyone an individual level. I was more concerned about "allies" than "alliances" and wanted to be sure nobody wanted me out.
-Nick has become a very good friend of mine in real life. Nobody in the game or at home realized that. But we talk and hang out a good amount and had a "bigger than the game" understanding that we would never vote each other out.
-Kelly and Brianna are newer employees, and I knew that they knew me better than anyone else in the game. We formed a 3 person alliance before the game and pretty much stuck to it. I always envisioned the Final Four being us and Nick.
-Zah is a friend outside the game and we have the Team Portnoy connection. I knew I was going to ultimately have to backstab him because he's so likable and everyone would want him to win, but I also figured that as a competitor, he'd be able to respect my game in the end and wouldn't hold grudges.
-Donnie was a big threat. He's viewed as a "Survival" guy and is very likable. I tried to use a "meat shield" strategy with him, telling him that we were the two biggest threats in the game and that if one of us got voted out, the other would be next. It didn't matter if this was true as long as believed that it was. And I think he did.
-The two wild cards were Trysta and White Sox Dave. Before the game, I knew Trysta was reading tweets from Deke Zucker and others talking about what a threat I was. She was mentioning me as a snake around the office. Say what you want about her, but Trysta is a legit competitor. I knew that. That made her threat. That made her cautious of me. And that's why she needed to go. As for White Sox Dave, he told me on Day 1 that he didn't trust me. He's also a complete wild card. And I couldn't afford to have wild cards in my game.
So that's why how I assessed the competition coming into the game. My main concern was "Does this person have a reason to vote me out?" If the answer was "yes" then they had to go.
We all arrived on Sunday afternoon. Nobody really knew the game had started. But after watching 40 seasons of Survivor, I knew that there's always a clue for an idol at merge feasts. This wasn't a "merge feast" but it was the closest we'd get. So I looked through every piece of food and all over the bar for anything. I pretended to clean up and kept looking, eventually finding the rolled up paper scroll hidden with the paper utensils.
The clue mentioned the word "GOAT" so I instantly thought of Tom Brady. I looked through every Tom Brady painting and picture we had and eventually found another clue behind a picture of Brady and Belichick. That next clue mentioned the words "pile up" "slice" and "the big one." After a couple laps around the office, I saw the hood of our NASCAR car and it clicked. Wrecked in a pile up. One Bite car. And apparently the "Big One" referred to Talladega but I was dumb and assumed that was just because it was a big object. Regardless, it worked and I found the idol (last good at Final Five vote) within an hour of being there and planned to tell nobody. I tried to convince eveyrone else that the first night was just fun and relaxed so I could use that time to look for something nobody else knew existed. Everyone had a chance to watch a season and learn about the game though, so I don't feel like it was any sort of unfair advantage.
Trysta was the first target after isolating herself on Night 1. She genuinely had to work on her podcast, but the game had begun and that was an easy reason to put a target on someone. However, I did think that Cowboy was becoming a bigger threat. He was the life of a party, wearing a cowboy hat and telling romantic stories about waitresses. He stayed up late and was mingling with everyone. It was clear he could be a problem in the social game. He was also a wild card. He also didn't trust me. That was a recipe for him to go, especially after Trysta won the first challenge.
It didn't take some grand strategic plan to send WSD home. Everyone privately whispered to each other, "So it's Cowboy right?" and he didn't make any plans of his own. To be fair to Dave, he said this was gameplay to not look like a threat so people would take him to the end as a goat. But nobody wanted to be the first one to go, so Cowboy's existence made things easier for all of us.
Trysta was again on the hot seat heading into the challenge. She didn't win this one and was firmly on the chopping block. The night before, there was a stray vote on Kelly. I was pretty confident it was done by Donnie or Zah (it ended up being Donnie). But Kelly thought it might have been Trysta so I played that narrative up to stop any possibilities of an all girl alliance. Trysta made a good gameplay move the day before by taking Kelly to the NAV lounge, which made me realize she could be a strategic threat. I also wanted to plant the seed that maybe Trysta had the idol just so people would be less suspicious that I had it.
I also wanted to make sure that the backup plan wasn't on me. I never wanted the thought of voting me out to cross people's minds. I figured Trysta might target me, but I told Kelly that she should pitch the plan of voting Donnie out since he was a huge threat. They went along with it. Trysta then pitched me on the plan, which I agreed to before the infamous wink.
Trysta was blindsided at the vote and clearly upset, but that's the game. And she did realize that in the coming days and had no problem with us in person afterwards. She targeted me, so I targeted her. Come at the King, you best not miss. She missed.
This was the biggest vote of the game for me. Word was spreading that I might have the idol, as people started to realize, "Oh shit maybe Tommy actually knows what he's doing after watching this show for 40 seasons." I really wanted to win the challenge because I knew I could assure myself in the Final Four if I did, given that I had to last play my idol at Final Five. It was a memory challenge that should be right up my alley, but my brain broke at the end and Kelly was better, winning her first challenge.
The plan originally was Zah. We all knew what a threat he was to win. He was the odds on favorite from both the Viva La Stool odds and The Dave Portnoy Show. It's no secret that everyone loves Zah. If he got to the end, everyone would have voted unanimously to give him the $10,000. We also knew that Zah wouldn't hold any grudges over being voted out, so that made it an ever easier decision.
But things got messy. The chatter about me having an idol got louder, and reached a boiling point when Donnie went through my bag. I was recording The Short Porch Wednesday afternoon, and Donnie used that chance to go into the backpack I left at my desk. He opened it up and found my idol. Well, what he thought was my idol. It was actually the fake idol I made pre-game, tying a couple of mini NAV bottles around some twine to make a necklace. I figured it could come in handy at some point. I left it with my real idol just in case someone found it and would think I have two, which is exactly what happened. (You also can't steal an idol from someone which is why Donnie had to return it, thinking it was real. He could've actually kept the fake one).
And for anyone asking, making fake idols is perfectly legal and has been done on Survivor before. If you think I cheated by doing that, you're a fucking mouth breaking idiot.
Moving on, I realized that my bag was tampered with by its placement and zippers. I also noticed Jetski filming my bag at one point which made me even more suspicious. The whispers were starting that people (mainly Brianna) wanted my idol out but didn't want me out. They were considering putting some votes on me to force me play it, a smart move that showed everyone was learning the game. But I didn't want to waste my idol. So I knew had to make a mad scramble all afternoon.
This was the day that was the most fun/stressful and felt the most like I was really on Survivor. I met with every person individually. First Nick, then Donnie, then Zah, then the girls. I told everyone I had the idol. I wanted to make it look like I was being honest and trustworthy since they already knew the information. And I played the card, "Sorry I didn't tell you guys. I just wanted one thing on this show that made me look good since this is my dream. But I was never going to betray you. I'll just use it tonight and we'll all move forward." I convinced everyone else to keep their vote on Zah. I told Zah to vote for Brianna and I'd see if I could get us the votes to get her out.
I felt good from those conversations. I looked at every single person in the eyes, read their body language, and didn't feel lied to. A big part of this game is reading people, and I felt like I had a really good read on everyone. The conversations I had made me feel confident. At the vote, I felt even more confident after Kelly told Kevin that there was no group meeting today since everyone was busy. I knew that a group meeting was the only way they could have all schemed together to get me out. Once I heard there was none, I felt better. I brought the idol out too before the vote and assured everyone I was still playing it.
After the vote, I got up and asked everyone who they voted for. I didn't know if anyone would answer, but I just wanted to judge their reactions. Luckily, they did answer and say Zah. While they could have been lying to me, I felt confident enough between that and my conversations earlier that there was no reason for me to play my idol, and I was right. The only vote I got was from Zah because he thought I was playing it anyway and didn't want to make anyone else mad.
Some people claimed they lost trust in me, but at that point I didn't care. I knew I assured myself a spot in the Final Four and at that point, trust wouldn't matter too much.
This may have not come through much on the show, but Kelly was viewed as the biggest threat to win at this point. She had won a challenge and was playing an all around good game on strategic and social levels. If she lost the challenge, Donnie, Nick, and myself would vote her out. At that point, my goal changed and was now getting to the end with Nick and Donnie. I thought Kelly was the biggest threat to win. And while he was viewed as a threat originally, I didn't think Donnie was playing that good of a game and I felt comfortable sitting next to him in the end. Watching the show back, he was playing and understanding the game way better than I thought so I'm glad this didn't happen.
Kelly won a second straight challenge. While that soiled our plans, it wasn't the worst thing in the world. I had to play the idol so I knew I was safe anyway. And it made the target on her back even bigger, which I figured would help me at the Final Four. So the plan became Brianna or Donnie. I was originally the swing vote and I wanted the guys to vote Brianna out. My main concern was making sure Kelly didn't win the Final Four challenge, and I figured Donnie had a better chance of stopping her than Brianna (cold take in retrospect). But that's why I wanted Brianna out. I also thought it might be hard to get the girls to turn on each other at Final Four and didn't want them there together.
I told Kelly and Brianna I'd vote for Donnie as the big threat. So everyone thought they were safe. But then things took a turn with the infamous text message Donnie accidentally sent to me, Nick, and Jetski instead of Brianna.
I was confused at first. I thought it was maybe Donnie trying to sus out if I really had two idols. That actually made me want to keep Donnie even more. I knew my fake idol was going to come into play at Final Four, so having someone there that already believed it would only help. But this text worried an already nervous Nick, and I could tell. Earlier in the day, he was asking if I'd play my idol on him and I told him I would if I only felt he was 100% in trouble but that I didn't see that being the case. He stopped asking me for it later in the afternoon, so I figured he was conspiring with the girls to vote Donnie to further protect himself, a move that made sense.
Meanwhile, Donnie was also conspiring with the girls trying to get Nick out, using his secret alliance with Brianna. All of a sudden, the girls became the swing votes. I met with Brianna and she told me about her secret alliance with Donnie but that she was betraying it to vote him out. At that point, I was pretty confident the girls' real plan was to vote Donnie, but I tried to warn both him and Nick that it could be either of them to scare them into sticking with the Brianna plan.
I made one last ditch effort.
Those responses didn't exactly inspire confidence.
At the vote, I stuck with Brianna even though I was pretty sure it was going to be a throwaway vote. But I was just hoping that one of Nick or Donnie would listen to me and we could at least force a 2-2-1 tie. But they did not. It was the last time to play my idol, and I did consider giving it to Donnie. That would've made a 1-1 tie between Brianna and Nick, with myself, Donnie, and Kelly revoting. But I wasn't sure if Donnie would betray Nick again on the revote, and I didn't want to risk it. I just wanted to protect myself and I didn't care about saving Donnie THAT much. For anyone wondering why I played it, everyone knew that idol expired at Final Five and I didn't want to risk it just to have souvenir. I thought playing it was a flashy enough move for the jury to see and hopefully be impressed with, especially after what I did the night before faking everyone out.
So Donnie went home with a 3-1-1 vote. I was hoping Brianna wasn't mad I voted for her. But trust didn't matter much at that point. We were in the endgame. Plus she voted for me once, so she couldn't be too mad.
The Final Four was myself, Nick, Kelly, and Brianna - just as I predicted and always wanted. I really wanted to win the challenge to assure my safety - but I had two other backup plans. One was making sure everyone thought Kelly was the biggest threat to win the game, and the other was my aforementioned fake idol.
My roommate and I went to Michael's Art Store before the game and made it. I figured it would be NAV themed since they were the sponsor so I also took a couple nips from the office in preparation. Later in the week, I took a piece of the paper that they wrote challenge notes with, got a sharpie, and wrote a fake letter. I needed people to believe it was a special idol which is why it could be used later in the game.
Call it as cheesy as you want, but it was written very similar to how the first note was written. But I couldn't show anyone that because I hid all the notes from the week for challenges and whatnot so nobody could do handwriting analysis. I did ultimately forget about the note in the NAV Lounge.
The last challenge was awesome. A perfect final challenge with the nip balancing. I tried to stay focused and steady despite my Whoop probably registering a 140 heart rate. Nick and Kelly fell early. As soon as Kelly dropped, I was happy, but I still obviously wanted to win. And yes I did have a rule violation. I started the challenge off with my free arm touching my balancing arm, but that was before they said it was illegal. I then did it later in the challenge but it was a genuine mistake and just was natural instinct. But I quickly realized and put it on my side. I'm glad I wasn't thrown out of the challenge because of it but bottle don't lie and Brianna won anyway. Glad we avoided that controversy.
If you want to know when I think I might have won the game, it was in the hours right after this challenge. Earlier in the morning, I told everyone I had the second idol which is what Donnie found in my bag. I said we could talk about it more later on camera and I'd make a whole big thing out of it. I needed the seed planted in their heads. After the challenge, I immediately framed the afternoon as "Kelly or Nick." I told everyone about my special idol and said that Brianna and I were safe, so Nick and Kelly needed to make their pitches to us. I couldn't let them even think they were allowed to vote me out.
It may not have come through in the final edit, but that plan did work for hours. Kelly pitched us first, and I'm sorry Kelly, but you gave the worst final pitch ever. She basically said we should want to beat the best in the end and not take the "easy way out." As soon as she left the room, Brianna and I almost simultaneously said "Well that just really makes me want to vote Kelly out." Again I don't know if people picked up on it from watching, but the vibe during the week was very much that Kelly was playing a great game and would win in the end. She also had a great story. She's been a side character in the Barstool universe for years. She finally got the full time offer the week before the show started after months of unemployment. And in her first week full time, she was going to get a chance to win this thing? No fucking chance I was letting her pitch that story to the jury. Sorry Kelly. I also figured she was more likely to vote for me to win than Nick would be if I turned on him. I also couldn't turn on him in good conscious.
Then about an hour before the vote, people started to sniff about my idol. Nobody had even asked to see it up until then! But Brianna was suspicious and asked me privately to see it, and I think Kelly did some Googling and read about the infamous Bob Crowley fake idol and got suspicious. Perfectly legal and smart move by her and if more people did some more Googling all week, I might not be the winner, but alas, here we are. But I do hope that proves to people that it's not like Brianna and Kelly were just completely gullible all week and they did definitely understand the game.
So they asked to see the idol and where I found it. I told them I found it at 3 AM on Tuesday night when I couldn't sleep and that it was taped behind the green screen in the green screen room. My other thought was saying it was under Erika's couch (the one place Logan told us we couldn't sleep). But I thought the green screen room was more believable, and it did seem like a hard place to find.
They were definitely suspicious and the note made them more suspicious, but I maintained it was real. And I was like, "Well if it's fake then you guys saw through it so it's not like that's some grand winning move." Again, I muddied the waters just enough even though it didn't work out perfectly. It was a risky move, but one I needed to make. It kept the target off my back for hours that afternoon so nobody had the time to concoct a plan to vote me out.
And let me reiterate
Making fake idols is perfectly legal and has been done on Survivor before. If you think I cheated by doing that, you're a fucking mouth breaking idiot.
My plan then switched from convincing everyone the idol was real to convincing everyone that Kelly was the biggest threat to win, and it didn't matter if the idol was real or not. I kept the conversation on Nick or Kelly.
At the vote, I could see the wheels spinning in KFC's head where he was thinking "Wait, why are they not voting Tommy out if they think his idol is fake?" but thankfully he didn't outright say that, and anytime it came up, I managed to shift the conversation right back to "It can only be Nick or Kelly."
Ultimately, the girls turned on each other before the guys did. Kelly was sent home packing with a 3-1 vote. She had two challenge wins. Played well strategically and socially. And had a great personal story to pitch the jury. And that's why she needed to go.
This didn't make the cut, but my confessional as I cast my vote for her went something like, "Kelly, you're not the biggest threat to win this game. I am. But I hope I convinced everyone otherwise."
Just love being a villain.
After a long week, the Final 3 was down to Nick, Brianna, and myself. I figured all week that it would be a Final 3 instead of a Final 2 just based on math. Can't have a two person final with a jury of six and risk a tie with no way of breaking it. With a three person final, there's a way to break it (as we later saw).
This was really a dream come true day in some ways (even if that's not allowed to happen at Barstool according to some people). I've always dreamed about the Day 39 breakfast on Survivor, and this Italian food feast on Surviving Barstool was the next best thing.
I felt pretty confident going into the final vote, but I wasn't certain by any means. I knew that my plan needed to be going out there and owning my game. I lied. I backstabbed. I played hard. And I played the best. That's the game. I needed to make sure people voted like this was a competition and not a popularity contest. And that's what my speech focused on.
Nick gave a very good and funny opening speech. Brianna had a great story and showed everyone she was playing the game better than anyone realized. And I told everyone I played the best game, and I hoped they voted to honor this competition. Here was my read on the jury.
-White Sox Dave pulled a Big Tom on me. I knew that he could be mad at me for being a rat, but I tried to appeal to him as a competitor. I thought he would respect my game, but I knew he was Scuzz Bros with Nick and may have just wanted to fuck me over. I had genuinely no clue how he was voting, especially after he asked Donnie, "Do we vote for who played the best or who we want to fuck?" He meant "fuck over" but that led to some confusion and shock. He ultimately voted for Nick.
-Trysta and Nick I knew had a friendship outside the game, but I was also hoping she'd be mad at him for voting her out. I also knew she was a competitor and hoped she'd respect my game. All week on Twitter and over texts as the show aired, she praised my gameplay. So I actually thought she ended up voting for me. But she instead chose Brianna for being the only one who didn't lie to her. Not how I'd pick a winner, but that's her right as a juror to make her own decision. And I sure am glad that's the decision she made instead of Nick.
-Zah was a vote I felt pretty confident in. We are friends outside the game and blood brothers on Team Portnoy. He also was giving me looks on Friday in a, "I can't believe you pulled this off" type of way. I did get his vote. Thank you Zah. I owe you at least a lunch and probably more no matter how many times you turn it down.
-Donnie was another wild card. Thought he might vote for Nick being they're good friends and work together a lot. Thought he might vote for Brianna as a fellow Masshole and respect her for playing him. Thought he might vote for me for playing a solid game and not screwing him over. He was the vote I felt was most likely for Nick though, and that ended up being correct.
-Kelly Fucking Keegs. She put David Murphy and Spencer Bledsoe to shame with her speech on why I should win. Part of the reason I wanted her on the jury was because I knew she'd respect my game and maybe give me a vote, but I never expected THAT. Also what a fireworks between her and Brianna. Great TV. I owe you TWO lunches, Kelly.
We finished with our closing speeches and everyone voted. Afterwards, Nick and I looked at each other and both said at the same time, "I think I won." I was confident but Nick being so confident worried me. Ultimately, it was a tie so we were both right to be so confident. Nick and I just had two very different strategies throughout the game and with our final speeches. He wanted to be nice, honest, and likable. I wanted to lie, backstab, and outplay. He did what worked best for him, and I did what worked best for me. Nothing wrong with that. Both strategies have been done on Survivor before. Both have won. Both have lost.
I was very nervous coming into Thursday. I hardly slept that week, just nervously thinking at night about who won. The thought of a tie never crossed my mind.
-----------MINOR SURVIVOR SPOILER HERE----------------
There's been one tie in Survivor history. It was a three person finale and a jury of 10. Two of the finalists each got five votes, and one got zero. So the girl who got zero joined the jury and cast the deciding vote. But she did it on the island before they left, and not at the live reunion show. So I figured we would follow suit if that was the case and the tie-breaking vote would be cast before we left and the show aired. But since this show is new and different, so we put our own dramatic spin on it.
-----------END OF MINOR SURVIVOR SPOILER------------
The tie breaking vote could have either been Brianna or Trysta. I genuinely didn't know who it would be. There was no spare juror on that Survivor season who could change their vote like we had here with Trysta. But I hoped it was Brianna since she was more likely to vote for me. And it would also be more true to the show to let Brianna do it than have Trysta do it. Brianna lasted just as long as us, and when she only got one vote to win, she was technically "eliminated" and got to join the jury to cast the deciding vote.
It was an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable spot to put her in, but it was the only option.
It felt like she was in that room deciding for HOURS. I was somewhat confident she respected my game, but you never know. Ultimately, she voted for me for the reasons she explained in her blog yesterday. I am obviously glad she made the decision that she did. She was going to catch heat either way, and if you're going to spend time online calling her names and giving her shit for it then you should probably look in the mirror and re-evaluate some things about your pathetic existence. Brianna, I owe you THREE lunches.
She also got her voted validated by Russell Hantz, a Survivor legend who is plenty familiar with bitter juries.
(13-year-old me is absolutely squealing over those tweets. And so is 24-year-old me if we're being honest).
I thought that her voting after the episodes aired could have hurt me, but she knew that me talking in confessionals about everyone else being idiots wasn't me being a genuine dick, and that I was just playing it up for the cameras and trying to make this an even better real Survivor audition tape. I was never an asshole to anyone in the game (or ever in real life). And she understood that and respected the game I played.
And THAT is how I won Surviving Barstool.
Now to address some of the drama and fallout since I've been announced as the winner. I knew some people would be pissed I won. I played like a dick and acted like a dick. I embraced being the villain for a Reality TV show. But anyone who knows me in real life knows that I'm not actually like that (although I am probably way more confident than I should be but whatever, nothing wrong with that). There might be a perception among Stoolies out there that I'm not well-liked in the office, but perception does not meet reality on that one. I get along very well with all my co-workers, and even though I can be a little shit sometimes, I don't think there is anyone who would say they actually dislike me (besides maybe one or two now, but we'll get to that).
The fans were always going to be split over the decision. Nick is awesome. He is incredibly well-liked and might be the funniest person at the company. So I totally understand people rooting for him to win. He helped make the show incredibly entertaining. He was the hero. I was the villain. I think there is a split where a lot of people who don't watch Survivor just wanted Nick to win because they love him and people who do watch the show wanted me to win because they thought I played a better, flashier game. This is not taking away from Nick's game. I do think he played very well. But that's just how the online breakdown was always going to go. So I have no problem with people being upset that Nick didn't win and no problem with people cheering for him But I just ask that they respect the game I played and understand why I won. I played the show for one purpose: to win. And I didn't care how I came off along the way. Would've played the same exactly way if it was for $10,000 or $10. This was always about pride, proving others wrong, and proving myself right.
There was then some obvious fallout online with co-workers too. At the live show, some people were rooting for me (Ria, Jack Mac, Evan - thanks for Tommy chants), some people rooting for Nick (Kayce, Feits, Pat) and someone rooting for both thinking about funko pops (Jeff D Lowe). I'm sure I am missing some people, but overall I had no problem with people cheering for whoever they wanted.
I did take issue though when I felt genuinely disrespected, specifically Feits and Kayce booing every time I opened my mouth on the reunion show. I know I was the villain, that's fine, but I did eventually feel like a line was crossed. And I know people who were there agree with me. It felt like it went from cheering on a reality TV show to being personal, so guess what?
(Two comparisons to Michael Jordan in the same blog? I can't be stopped!)
I got back to my apartment that night and read a lot of Twitter. Some people congratulating me for winning. Some people saying I should die. This video particularly struck a chord with me.
I took issue with Feits saying people don't get to live out their dreams on Barstool and responded with this the next morning.
There's a million other examples too, but I ran out of characters. But this place is a fantasy factory where people always live out their dreams. Glenny Balls has a Hawaiian shirt line for God's sake! That's the beauty of it. I do understand the point he was trying to make and hold no personal grudge against him because of it. But I just wanted to respond and defend myself. Is winning a show like this the definition of dreaming big on the level of some other people? No. But it was/is my dream, and I have no problem admitting that, as pathetic as it might sound. I talked to Feits the next day and all was fine. I know he doesn't care enough about anything to be too upset over this. He did praise the game I played but says he wouldn't have voted based on that, so it is what it is. Difference of opinion.
I also took major and more issue with what Kayce said in that video. After admitting I played the best game, she said "Nick was by far the funniest part of this entire series. Nobody probably would have watched as hard as they did if not for Nick's one liners."
And that is why I responded the way I did.
To reiterate again, I love Nick. He was by far the funniest part of the series. Everyone knows that. But to say people wouldn't have watched if not for his one liners? That's disrespectful to the entire producing, filming and editing crew who busted their ass on this for two weeks. It's disrespectful to all the people who played and slept here for a week. Cowboy was an electric factory. Kelly was a great villain. People love Donnie and Zah. Trysta had her compelling moments. Brianna has a huge audience on her own. And if I have to suck my own dick, I'll say that even if you hated me, I think me lasting long and playing a strategic game helped keep the show interesting and made it appealing to the non-Barstool, Survivor crowd. And yes Nick was unbelievably hilarious and had incredible moments. But again, everyone had a part in making this series great.
So for me, that made it personal and that's why I responded likewise with a "personal" shot. Brandon and Big Cat were also rooting for Nick on Twitter. But I knew that was more pro-Nick and less anti-Tommy because of the Yak. Plus, they both sent me personal congratulatory texts and explained that. (Not that I needed it because I didn't want to become some martyr). But there was none of that from Kayce, over text or in person after the show when she still seemed personally offended that I won. And to be clear, I didn't need it. But don't be mad when I defend myself and my game with one single tweet after being shit on all night.
So Kayce, if you made it through these 7,000 words and would like to talk, you have my number and know where I work. I have no problem repeating the things I just said above.
But enough about confrontation! I will now get somewhat sappy. Getting to do this was a dream come true. Again I know that sounds pathetic. But Survivor is my favorite show in the world. And Barstool is my favorite company in the world. I wouldn't be where I am today if not for getting bored one night sophomore year and positing a Survivor: Barstool to the Barstool subreddit (which is why I can't completely hate the reddit page even if you guys are dicks and hate me, along with everyone else, sometimes).
I've always thought about a Surviving Barstool type series but never thought I could make it happen. I thought I'd have to be a Jeff Probst role (because I didn't think there was any way people would let me win… lol) but I didn't think it was feasible to do this with like 20 people given how busy everyone is.
This idea started about a month ago when Kevin asked me to come up with a Survivor like skit for the KFC Radio live show My plan was I would host and pick 7 contestants to play a mini series for a few days. It was going to be KFC, Feits, Kayce, Rone, Lil Sas, Nick, and Ria. I was going to text everyone a stupid challenge every day (who could give me the nicest compliment, send me the funniest meme, Venmo me the most money to @TommySmokes, etc). And then people would send me a selfie video of their vote and we'd do a tribal council over FaceTime or something. It would end up being like a small 10 minute video.
But KFC brought it to the powers that be and they took my small little idea and put it on a massive scale. Logan and MB were the spearheads of it, both big Survivor fans. With no NAV house this year for the Super Bowl, they realized this was the opportunity to do something huge. They met for four hours one night and hatched it all up. They both deserve a massive amount of credit for this. Logan ran the show all week, working tirelessly to make this happen, then working tirelessly to get it out, and he absolutely crushed it. Biggest superstar of the week behind the scenes. Show doesn't happen without him. Bottom line. But there's so many other people who deserve their due.
-MB as I said is a huge Survivor fan who helped come up with the whole thing and made it happen with New Amsterdam.
-Jeff D Lowe hasn't necessarily gotten the credit he deserves this week, but he was also instrumental in making this happen. He's another huge Survivor fan and was a vital counselor in all decisions about rules, challenges, and more. He also got to live out his dream of being Jeff D Lowebst and crushed it.
-Speaking of Jeff Probsts, KFC not only was instrumental in making the whole thing happen, but also did a great job in his first shot at being a reality TV host. He did a fantastic Jeff Probst role with his own Kevin Clancy spin. I personally got a lot of enjoyment watching him learn about the game as the week went along and realize what an awesome show Survivor is as he watched it all unfold. He'll be back and even better for Season 2.
-Shooting: Corey, Porter, Rob, Tom Mullens, Michael Angelo, Colin Cooper, Jetski, Max D. The filming never stopped, day or night. A special big ups to Corey who sat through all my confessionals and watched the ramblings of a mad man. (I still want that special Tommy confessional episode).
-Editing: Nick Koss, Blattman, Josh T - unheard of to take a week's worth of footage and turn it into a full show less than a week later
-Live Show: Nick Hamilton, Tech Guy Andrew, Frankie K
-Sponsorship: MB, Ian, Nick
-Erika for being the CEO of this ship and making everything happen
-Gaz for hiring me originally and being the captain of Team Tommy this week.
-And of course…. Dave Portnoy for giving me this life and letting me live out this dream life every single day. Happy to bring yet another W home for Team Portnoy.
I'm sure there's people I'm forgetting (my dad for making me watching Survivor when I was 4, mom, aunts, uncles, friends, fans for rooting me on), but this is getting too sappy and self-indulgent and it's not like I won a fucking Oscar so I can't list every single person in my life for winning a little reality show. But I did want to take time to appreciate this life and make sure everyone got the credit they deserve for somehow making an entire Reality TV series in two weeks.
And lastly to my fellow contestants….
-Cowboy is one of a kind. I didn't know him that well coming into this week and wasn't sure if he liked me or hated me. But after spending a lot of time with him, he's a genuinely good dude and is quite simply unlike anyone I've ever met in the best way possible. Hope you marry that waitress.
-Trysta gets a lot of shit. Some of it is deserved (Steve Nash blog). But some of it isn't. Great competitor and I leave the week knowing her better and I'm glad she didn't hold a grudge over getting voted out into real life.
-Zah is the man and one of my favorite people at the company. Don't think he needs much defense because everyone loves him already, as they should. Team Portnoy for life.
-Everyone loves Donnie too and I think it's obvious why. Hope you haven't lost too much sleep over that text.
-Kelly is getting some shit, but she was a great reality TV villain and played a way better game than people realize. And finally getting that full time offer after all these years is well deserved. Thanks again for that speech.
-I defended Brianna above, but again, she was put in an impossible spot and did what she could. She also probably started to understand the game better than anyone else as the week went along, and I don't think enough people realize that. Thanks again for the 10K.
-And lastly, I hope everyone already knew how funny Nick was coming into the series, but there are zero doubts now. Probably the funniest person I've ever met and a great friend who will continue to be that. He played a great game and made for great content. Can't believe you can really hold your shit in for two weeks. I'm glad it came down to us in the end. (And I'm more glad that I won. Hope I haven't been TOO insufferable about it).
So I think 8,000 words is about time to wrap this thing up. I'm going to continue this victory lap because I know the shame lap I would've taken if I lost would've lasted even longer. Deal with it. Buy a T-shirt.
Would love to hit double digits.
And by the way, if you loved Surviving Barstool, you'll love Survivor too. Give it a shot.
Oh and for the love of God and all things that are HOLY….
PUT ME ON SURVIVOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!