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"The Barstool Sports Bowl" on ESPN Would've Been Something Else: TRAINA THOUGHTS


1. The contentious ESPN-Barstool Sports relationship has taken yet another turn.

Sports Business Journal reported on Monday that the enormously popular website was in talks to sponsor the bowl game that takes place in Mobile, Ala.

"We had looked at several naming conventions," Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini told this morning. "Everything from 'The Barstool Sports Bowl' to 'The Mobile, Alabama Bowl Presented by Barstool Sports.'"

However, the deal ended up getting nixed, according to SBJ, because the bowl felt pressure from the NCAA and ESPN, which will air the game.

Nardini claimed to that the NCAA was on board and it was ESPN alone who nixed the deal. The SBJ report said the NCAA was pressured to not partner up with Barstool.

"That was not our understanding," Nardini told "Our understanding was that the NCAA was fine with it, that this was good to go. To be fair, we flagged this during the process with them. Are you sure ESPN is gonna want to broadcast this? You should check on that. This is not something we were surprised by. We flagged it. We were obviously hopeful this could work, but we had anticipated this would perhaps be a bigger issue."

According to Nardini, the talks with the Mobile, Ala., bowl people were pretty far along.

"We were very excited about it," Nardini said. "We had a lot of ongoing conversations about being connected to the bowl, we were starting to think about how we can bring that to life on site, what kind of programming we can do around it. We're such a different animal in what we would've done around the activation that we were starting to have a lot of those conversations. 

"We're a little bit different than most sponsors or presenters in that we're less interested in slapping a logo on something. We're more interested in making it funny or relevant and compelling to a young, social and mobile audience. Basically, we were fairly far down the path. We were talking about numbers, activations, what we could and could not do on location. We were really excited to make it happen. Our understanding was that the NCAA was fine with it and then when the last bridge was to be crossed—the broadcast on ESPN and the commercial time that would come with the sponsorship—that's where ESPN really balked."

ESPN's contract with the bowl game states that another media company cannot be a sponsor, which seems totally reasonable. The real question here is why did the Mobile, Ala., bowl people even engage in talks with Barstool when there was no chance this deal could've happened. 

It was a genius move by Barstool to pursue the opportunity even if they had no shot. Can you imagine ESPN having to plug Barstool on their airwaves during an entire bowl game after the whole Barstool Van Talk fiasco? Now Barstool can put all the blame on ESPN for squashing its chance to sponsor a bowl and get a whole cycle of attention. 

Even Nardini said she wouldn't have done the deal if she were ESPN, but she said Barstool still plans on pursuing a bowl sponsorship.

"We're interested in it. We bring a couple of unique things to the table. We need to find the right opportunity."

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ESPN declined the chance to comment for this story.

So does this reignite the ESPN-Barstool feud?

"We don't spend that much time thinking about ESPN," Nardini said. "What we were excited about is to have a bowl game with our name on it and do great things at it."

When I asked, though, if it would've been giddy about ESPN mentioning Barstool for hours during a bowl, she said, "That would be a thrill."

2. Nearly 30 million people watched Sunday's Cowboys-Patriots game on FOX.

3. The Maui Invitational means one thing and one thing only: Amazing Bill Walton content.

4. Breaking News from the New York Post: Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is just like every other professional athlete on the planet.

5. Like I said on Sunday...

... the NFL comes in right on cue.

Honestly, the NFL needs to keep these apologies private. It just makes them look even worse every time this happens. And it happens a lot.

6. Cheap plug for my SI Media Podcast. New episode drops Wednesday morning with Katie Nolan, so subscribe now.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

7. RANDOM YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE DAY: This is still the best Thanksgiving Day NFL play ever. 

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.