A YouTube video from Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy went viral this past week. It was from one of his famous “One Bite” pizza reviews. In this video, Dave visits a pizza shop in Massachusetts and is confronted by the owner, who is unhappy with the platform that Dave uses to do his pizza reviews. What ensues is a profanity-laced argument involving the two principals. Many praised Dave for being a hero, but as I watched this video, I couldn’t help but think that there is a double standard when it comes to cigar media. Dave has been portrayed as a hero for what he does, yet if cigar media engaged in such a conflict, they would be tarred and feathered.

First, the purpose of this article is not to judge Dave Portnoy or the owner of the pizza establishment, Charlie Redd. There is fault to go around with both of them. However, it’s important to compare the actions to how cigar media interacts with manufacturers and retailers.

If you missed the blow-by-blow, here is the video and a transcript of a portion of it (Note: Due to age restrictions, you will need to click on Watch on YouTube)

Charlie: Dave, enjoy your pizza as any customer, but I don’t appreciate what you do coming in and judging a business with one bite.
Dave: Well we do more. Is this your spot?
Charlie: This is my spot. I hope you enjoy your pizza, but I don’t appreciate what you do to small businesses.
Dave: Well I help them…
Charlie: I don’t see it that way.
(Charlie walks into the store.)
Dave: Like, I actually helped so many small businesses. Now I can say peacefully this pizza is trash.

About a minute later, Charlie comes back out:

Charlie: Let me be a little clearer. Move on; don’t stand in front of my business
Dave: Let me be clear, fuck you!
Charlie: Let me be clear, get the fuck out of the front of my business!”
Dave: Fuck you! Fuck you. It’s a public street motherfucker. (As Dave holds up a middle finger)
Charlie: But this is my business
Dave: This ain’t your business (pointing to the street) Fuck you! Fuck you! (with a finger gesture)
Charlie: …I’m calling the fuckin police.
Dave: He’s right across the street, go get him. What are you going to do, tattle me on – for standing on a public street?
Charlie: Just for being a fucking bitch.
Dave: Your shirt is six sizes too small, fatso
Charlie: Just go fuck yourself and the whole fucking platform.
Dave: Oh, you don’t like the platform
Charlie: You’re a joke to me, dude
Dave: You know what, you are making it a joke.
Charlie: Take your fucking show and fucking game and go somewhere else.
Dave: Blah blah blah (with another finger gesture), by the way, I raised 50 million dollars for small business.
Charlie: You’re all talk, dude, you’re all talk.
Dave: Was that all talk?
Charlie: Yeah, kinda like that New York Times article.
Dave: Here we go, here we go. Your shirt is six sizes too small.
Charlie: I don’t care.
Dave: Lose some weight.
Charlie: You’re a fuckin joke.
Dave: You work hard? (As Charlie talks, Dave mocks him).
Charlie: You’re so full of shit dude.
Dave: How? Tell me how?
Charlie: You’re a fuckin clown.
Dave: How?
Charlie: I run a business; I work hard.
Dave: I sold my business twice, 100 million, 400 million, bought it back for a buck – that’s a clown?
Charlie: Everything since I got in this business that you represent is an embarrassment to this business.
Dave: Like what? Raising 50 million for small business?
Charlie: Everything.
Dave: Name it.
Charlie: Everything.
Dave: You haven’t named one thing.
Charlie: I make pizza. It’s great.
Dave: It sucks.
Charlie: You’re a fucking joke.
Dave: Name one thing, name one thing, asshole.
Charlie: I’ve given up too much of my time.
Dave: All you said is everything, everything. Name one thing.
Charlie: You’re a fuckin joke to me.
Dave: Name one thing – clown.
(Charlie goes back into the establishment, and comes back out, and takes a selfie with the middle finger.)
Charlie: This is me posting you telling you to fuck yourself

From an informal court of opinion from those I heard from or talked to in the cigar industry and consumers, I can tell you that the majority thought Dave Portnoy was right and Charlie Redd was out of line. Several even told me they felt Dave was a true professional.

I posted the Dave Portnoy-Charlie Redd confrontation on social media yesterday. In the comments, I posed the question, “Dave is a hero when it comes to pizza reviews, yet it’s a very different story for most cigar media with cigar reviews. Go figure.”  While the confrontation as a whole got plenty of comments, nobody pushed back on that statement. It led me to look at this confrontation a little differently.

Look at the dialog above, and then, instead of Dave’s name, insert your favorite cigar media person. In place of Charlie’s name, use a manufacturer or even a retailer. Now imagine a confrontation between a cigar media person and a manufacturer or retailer similar to what Dave and Charlie had. I guarantee you one thing – the cigar media people wouldn’t be called “true professionals.”

This led me to ask some further questions if my scenario did happen:

  1. If the cigar owner or retailer were to confront the cigar media person, how would that be received? Dave Portnoy was given every benefit of the doubt. I believe the public opinion court would be against the cigar media person here.
  2. Many in the cigar industry have gone out of their way to thank cigar media for their contributions. However, I never heard cigar media brag about “what they do for small business.” Dave was praised for reminding people of all he does for small businesses. If cigar media made that comment, I guarantee it would not be received the same way. Instead, cigar media would be criticized for self-promoting.
  3. Charlie’s criticism of Dave was over the validity of his platform. Don’t get me wrong, I think the approach Charlie took with Dave provoked confrontation and rallied Dave’s supporters behind him. The irony is when a manufacturer or retailer questions the cigar media’s platform, there isn’t that rallying of support for the cigar media.
  4. Somehow, many justified the use of profanity by Dave. I’m a little less neutral on this position. I heard many call Dave “a true professional,” yet this unprofessional behavior was somehow justified. Now, put a cigar media person in this position, and would they get the same support? How about the name-calling – namely, when Dave turned the argument into a discussion on Charlie’s shirt size?

There are three additional ironies when it comes to “One Bite” pizza reviews and the cigar industry. First, Portnoy is praised for his “one bite, everybody knows the rules” scoring system. Dave Portnoy takes one to three bites of a slice of pizza and assesses it based on that experience. If a cigar reviewer would take that approach, they would be highly criticized. Before you say it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, I would say that’s wrong. To fairly assess whether a pizza or a cigar performs, you have to evaluate the whole experience.

The second irony is Dave Portnoy has been praised for his ten-point system. It’s a ten-point system where he essentially “shoots from the hip” and delivers a score. Developing Palates uses a similar system for cigar scoring but uses a more quantitative approach as opposed to “shooting from the hip.” They have been widely criticized for such a system. Many say “they don’t understand” the Developing Palates system, yet embrace what Dave Portnoy does – which makes no sense to me. Before you say it’s not apples to apples, I will tell you that, too, is wrong. In both cases, you are assessing the product 1 to 10 – making full use of the 1 to 10 range.

Finally, some people I talked to criticized Charlie Redd for self-promoting the incident. Why is it that when a cigar manufacturer gets a bad score, we see some cigar companies take to social media promoting the bad score and try to garner sympathy? How often have we seen, “Thank you to media ABC for the Score of XX, we think this a great cigar. What do you think?” So it’s not okay for Charlie Redd to do it, but it’s okay for the cigar industry to do it?

Let me say this, cigar media is not blameless here. Sometimes, I scratch my head at the actions of my colleagues in this industry (and probably they do the same of me), and those actions can create a bad impression of cigar media. But it’s also clear that a double standard against cigar media exists.