The Depth of a Sports Show

Pat Mcafee, speaking on Russell Wilson’s saga with the Seattle Seahawks [emphasis mine]:

If you ever go through something with somebody and it gets bad, you know like back in the day for instance, you potentially would have a scrap right there, maybe a wrestle, maybe something like that. You get your emotions out. You do your whole thing.

Afterwards, what you learn from [that] is that your relationship has now matured a bit. It has now gone through some things. Instead of maybe being built on sand, now there is a little bit of a foundation. There is some things you’ve gone through. There’s some things you’ve had to work through together. There’s conversations that you were forced to have because you potentially got to the point where you had to have them. That happens, I think, personally, professionally, that happens in a lot of people’s lives — with themselves even.

I watch more of The Pat Mcafee Show than most, and I do so for two reasons. The first is the obvious NFL content that absolutely crushes mainstream networks like ESPN and FS1. The second is that every so often Pat reveals just how much of a deep thinker he really is. He brands himself as a guy who just bullshits with his buddies for three-plus hours a day, but the truth of the show — and why it works so well — is that it’s real.

Essentially, it’s the opposite of what places like ESPN and FS1 put forward: they attempt to showcase how serious and professional they are, but the majority of the time they are completely vapid. They parade a bunch of personalities around and pretend like they all get along while they are on camera. But when you have to force chemistry, and you have to force being “real,” what you end up with are a bunch of empty suits offering little in honesty and originality.

Pat Mcafee wins because his show cuts through that noise. All the “personalities” on his show are his friends. Their “chemistry” doesn’t require any effort. Yet in the middle of being the opposite of professional, and the opposite of serious, they arrive at a symbiosis where the truth can reveal itself. There aren’t many shows — let alone sports shows — that can accomplish that.

Admittedly I didn’t become a regular viewer until the 2020 football season, mostly because I had this preconceived notion that it was another typical white bro program a la something you would see on Barstool Sports. (Unironically, The Pat Mcafee Show was signed to Bartstool after he retired from the NFL in 2016, but he left in 2018 according to Wikipedia due to “a lack of transparency with the business operations.”)

At any rate, I believe it to be the smartest show on the Internet. Pat Mcafee kind of goes out of his way to appear dumb, always deflecting when people call in to say the show is “smart” or “great.” He regularly mispronounces and misuses words seemingly because he doesn’t know any better, but he more than makes up for it with charisma and authenticity. Long ago he and his buddies could have sold out to have a multi-year, multimillion dollar deal on one of the major networks. By remaining independent over the last few years he has placed a substantial bet on himself, and it probably won’t be very much longer before we see the dividends that pays.

In an era where sports shows want to remain as down the middle as possible so as not to offend anyone, Mcafee is a throwback to the glory days of ESPN where the personalities had a point of view. I have written before about why I would have never made it as a journalist — or a good journalist — for the same reason. Because whereas being proper and maintaining objectivity are virtues in the journalism game, they tend to make for boring content. In the 1990’s ESPN was the benchmark for success specifically due to the fact that their personalities were the content; it didn’t matter what sport or what player they were talking about, because it was the talent on-screen that kept it interesting.

The Worldwide Leader made the decision long ago to move away from the Dan Patrick’s and Keith Olberman’s since the talent was getting bigger than the brand. A lot like how the NFL became the No Fun League for a while — not wanting the players to become bigger than the sport itself — ESPN decided to exchange the best anchors with a diverse array of people with no personality, who don’t take positions such that they won’t offend anyone, and it left viewers wondering if any of them even like or care about sports in the first place.

The Pat Mcafee Show realizes that a love for sports is enough. Rather than doing what’s in vogue, just throwing two people on a set and letting them “debate” for hours on end, Mcafee has real conversations with real people. One of the most underrated aspects to his game is how he is able to transcend the normal cliches you see on television and break people down to just being their honest selves. Guests don’t come on merely to sell products. They know they are signing up to go deeper than that.

I don’t know if the day is coming soon where I won’t watch it anymore. I don’t know if I’ll get sick of him and think he’s a huge tool when he inevitably sells out for $100 million somewhere. But the biggest compliment I can give is that I come to The Pat Mcafee Show for the sports, and I stay because, on occasion, I learn things about myself and the way I come across to the world. That doesn’t count for a whole lot, but as an avid viewer of sports and sports content there just isn’t anything else out there that affects me the same way.