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Hill: ‘Pat McAfee Show’ and its Knights superfans facing backlash

Golden Knights fans have often complained about the rest of the league and the national media lining up to root against them.

That certainly can’t be said about what is quickly becoming one of the biggest programs in the sports world, “The Pat McAfee Show.”

Show mainstay Ty Schmit has been a fan since the team’s inception, and new addition Adam “Pacman” Jones has regularly joined him in wearing Knights jerseys on the air. Forwards Jack Eichel and Mark Stone have done lengthy interviews in recent weeks.

Schmit called Stone’s appearance a “dream come true,” and McAfee has put massive bounties out for multigoal efforts for individual Knights players, as well as a $250,000 donation to the charity of Stone’s choice should the team win the Stanley Cup.

Knights fans have to be thrilled with all the positive attention. But not everyone is so happy with the show right now, even among its devoted fan base.

‘Killing us out there’

There was quite a bit of unexpected anger expressed on social media this week when McAfee announced he had struck a deal to take his wildly popular YouTube show to ESPN.

Some of the show’s biggest fans have lashed out at the perception he “sold out.”

“I don’t think I expected that,” the 36-year-old former Indianapolis Colts punter said with a laugh during his Thursday show. “That was a miscalculation there. I feel like our people were the ones who were the most mad.”

For a host and a show so plugged in to what’s happening on the internet, that has made for a difficult few days.

“It’s been tough to go over the (social media) mentions,” he said. “Have I not earned any trust at all with the things we have done? Some of the things being said were very, very, very rude.

“People are (expletive) killing us out there.”

This tale is nothing new. It’s the same as the rabid fans of some independent musician who grow infuriated when said artist signs a major-label deal and announces an arena tour.

But it’s just silly. You don’t have to get so territorial about your favorite things. It’s OK for a wider audience to like them. And fans — full disclosure, I’m an everyday viewer — should be happy about all the opportunities a deal like this will afford all of the behind-the-scenes crew and support staff who help make the show special.

There’s also a broader reason to be excited for this deal for fans of the show and those who either haven’t discovered it or just don’t enjoy it, for whatever reason. This is a big step for sports television in general.

The show is just different. It veers strongly from the formulaic “embrace debate” daily programming that has grown so stale. The personalities on the show talk like real people who just happen to have a ton of expertise and inside knowledge.

Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they don’t. What a concept.

Will show change?

McAfee has said he wants to prove that discussing the positive side of sports and athletes can work just as well as tearing them down. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t criticisms when warranted. After all, Schmit is part of what’s referred to as the “Toxic Table.”

McAfee’s vision has worked, and now the biggest platform in sports programming is buying into it. McAfee and ESPN have said publicly there are no plans to change the show. If that’s true, it’s an excellent test case for what mainstream sports programming can be going forward. That should be good for everyone.

But that could be a big “if.” One of the reasons the show is so beloved is that there is no real structure, and perhaps more importantly, no arbitrary line the hosts are afraid to cross.

Language is one thing. Cursing less could make for less authentic conversations, but it’s not the end of the world. But some of the best moments have involved some very out-there and spontaneous conversations that can get quite graphic. Will some of that fly on a Disney-owned network?

One would have to believe the executives who were so intent on bringing the programming to their platform will stay out of the way of what has made it so successful. Why mess with what has worked so well? (Yes, I know. I am skeptical, too.)

This will be an interesting experiment. But there’s no reason to be mad before anything has even changed.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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