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PFT Commenter is Disrupting Sports Media One “Taek” at a Time

PFT Commenter (right) alongside his co-host of the Pardon My Take podcast, Big Cat (Dan Katz).

PFT Commenter rose to fame in early 2012 thanks to his unbelievably creative, controversial, and funny comments on sports. While his comments go right past many fans, those familiar with his “taeks” (the intentionally misspelled version of “takes”) know that his opinion on football and other sports are not done seriously but rather satirically. From football to politics to the “sexual tension” between the Pope and Sister Jean from Loyola-Chicago, PFT creates a semi-serious and semi-ridiculous combination that the rigid world of sports media has been dying for.

The idea of sports “takes” evolved from the ESPN show, “First Take,” in which Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless argue over various sports topics providing their own controversial opinions, or “takes.” To many sports fans, the show is obnoxious and and often a clear example of baiting the opposing host and watchers to disagree with their wild opinions, such as that Johnny Manziel will be more influential on the city of Cleveland than LeBron James will be. Obviously the show has a very specific demographic, as does PFT Commenter. Best described as a sarcastic antagonist, he targets sports fans who ignorantly take sports seriously to the point that they must argue vehemently against any and all takes they disagree with, even blatant jokes misunderstood as a serious take.

PFT Commenter is a character, always wearing sunglasses and often intentionally misspelling words just to further annoy his audience. “His name stands for ‘Pro Football Talk Commenter,’ a reference to ProFootballTalk, a website whose comments sections are notorious wastelands of macho posturing and racism. He is a parodic manifestation of the worst impulses of hype and inhumanity that surround the National Football League.” 1 PFT’s real identity remains hidden, despite his jump to fame from an unimportant website commenter to one of the most successful podcast hosts in the world. Many compare his on-air personality to that of Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report – mimicking real sports show hosts and the contrived nature of sports commentary. Just as to  many Republicans it appears that Colbert is genuine, many unaware sports fans believe PFT Commenter is serious when making obviously ridiculous claims or jokes. His rhetoric is designed to naturally blend in with the comments of actual analysts, and those refuting his assertions or pointing out the constant typos are exactly the intended audience, missing his sarcasm and intentions.

PFT Commenter’s influence is much greater than just sports however. He notoriously posed the question “Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback?” to mock the quick-to-argue culture that exists within the NFL and the constant question fueled by ESPN and other sports networks surrounding who is the best quarterback. Joe Flacco, although a professional athlete and franchise quarterback for the Ravens for the last ten seasons, including a Super Bowl victory in 2013, has consistently been ranked as a mid-tier quarterback among his colleagues. PFT’s satirical campaign to answer “Is Joe Flacco elite” has gone so far as to creating a debate among unknowing sports fans who do not recognize the fact that it is a meme to make fun of the exact people debating it. Included in the unknowing sports fans is none other than Donald Trump, who actually gave his “take” on the debate during his 2016 presidential campaign during an #AskTrump session open to his supporters:

The majority of PFT Commenter’s jokes are often missed by people like Donald Trump because he relies on double entendres, puns, and inside jokes that to inconsistent followers of his content would not make sense. According to Elliott Oring in Joking Asides, “Understanding how a joke works depends upon scrutiny of the joke. It involves going serially through the joke, noting where incongruities arise and how they are made appropriate.” 2 The majority of PFT’s content is filled with incongruities that people will miss unless they are familiar with both of the references in his single joke. For example, in 2014, PFT tweeted:

He’s directly comparing RG3 to Hitler via their uses of a logo to represent themselves. In reality, hundreds of athletes and others have had their own logos to represent them and their brand – Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, etc. By using Hitler as the counterexample rather than any of the aforementioned athletes, PFT is jokingly comparing Robert Griffin III, an average quarterback whose career has been highlighted by injuries and a breakout rookie season followed by mediocrity since then, to Adolf Hitler, a man whose legacy has nothing to do with football and is significantly more controversial than RG3 could possibly be by having his own logo. PFT is obviously joking in comparing the two, but that did not stop many of his readers and followers to immediately defend RG3 and unwittingly criticize the comparison:

Many of PFT’s comments are done with the intention of riling people up over an unrealistic comparison or hypothetical, because as nonconsequential as his comment is, people, especially NFL fans, love to be offended by anything and everything. PFT began covering the 2016 presidential election on his website, and notably asked Ben Carson after the fourth Republican Debate, “Mr. Carson as perhaps the most anti-Hitler but also as perhaps the most anti-abortion candidate, would you be in favor of aborting baby Hitler?” The question’s sole purpose is to bait a controversial response regardless of if the answer is yes or no. When Ben responded “I’m not in favor of aborting anybody,” PFT responded, “Not even Hitler … okay…pro-Hitler,” and media outlets immediately took the chance to publish that Ben Carson likes Hitler. After the incident, PFT said “That actually gave me really good insight into what modern day journalism is about because within maybe 30 or 45 minutes of putting that out, there was an article on the front page of CNN.com saying, ‘Ben Carson would not abort Baby Hitler’”. 3 His power to create a false narrative with a completely nonconsequential and ridiculous question almost ruined Ben Carson’s presidential campaign in a matter of fifteen seconds, proving his point that people love to argue over even the most trivial things.

PFT utilizes a number of comedy devices to maximize the effect of his hot takes. In yet another form of satire, PFT has become famous for his weekly MMBM (the Monday Morning Bowel Movement) – a spin off of Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback reacting to the previous week’s notable events in sports. PFT typically takes events that actually occurred and gives his opinions, takes, and own comparisons to such events, using double entendres, puns, and inside jokes that would only occur to recurrent readers. For example, PFT writes last week about the NHL playoff series between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals that,

From a historical standpoint, this woudnt be the first time Columbus conquered the Atlantic even though the Capitals are the ones going to the ends of the earth to dissappoint there fans. The Blue Jackets are marching on Washington like its 1863 again, and after the extended replay review ended last nights game the net result is the same: wether its Ovechkin or Abraham Lincoln- a call to the Booth effectivley neutralized a left winger.

He immediately begins with a pun and double entendre to incongruously understanding “two meanings … from the same utterance” that Christopher Columbus conquered the Atlantic Ocean in 1492 by crossing it with his crew and at the same time explain that the Columbus Blue Jackets won the Atlantic Division this past regular season. 4 He follows up the double meaning with the idea that (Christopher) Columbus went to the supposed ends of the earth to disprove popular theory that the world was flat, just as the “Capitals are … going to the ends of the earth to dissappoint there fans.” In a single sentence he tackles multiple angles with the same idea. He continues by referencing the history behind the “Blue Jackets” team name as a nickname for the Union army during the Civil War. The game between the Caps and Blue Jackets ended the same as the Civil War did according to PFT, with “a call to the Booth.” In real life, the Blue Jackets won after a controversial goal and offside review by the officials in the “review booth,” a dueling meaning to the reference made by PFT, in which John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln. He mentions Alexander Ovechkin – the captain and best player on the Capitals – to parallel Lincoln’s position as president and his ultimate demise coming from a “Booth.” As ridiculous as comparing Game 1 of an NHL playoff series to the events of the Civil War, PFT does so in a manner unlike any other. He plays up the character of a typo-making, beer-drinking, stupid sports fan so well that when he provides ingenious parallels and comedic references; people truly appreciate his art as a professional internet troll.

PFT Commenter is a unique gem in an industry full of angry, argumentative analysts competing for who’s the best by arguing about who’s the best. PFT’s mocking and trolling style content utilizes various devices to confuse uninformed and unsuspecting readers alike. As controversial as he can be, everything he does is intentionally carried out with the goal of making people laugh and having others make fools of themselves for “falling” for his trolls.

Some of PFT’s best tweets

 

  1. http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2014/09/pftcommenter_what_stephen_colbert_is_to_dumb_infuriating_politicians_this.html
  2. Oring, Elliott. Joking Asides the Theory, Analysis, and Aesthetics of Humor. Utah State University Press, 2016.
  3. http://awfulannouncing.com/online-outlets/mystery-man-legend-pft-commenter.html
  4. Ross, Alison. The Language of Humour. Routledge, 1998.
Connor Dolan
Connor is co-founder of First And Fan and head of all website operations. He's a die hard Boston sports fan with a passion for sports, media, and all things David Ortiz.
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