What's the sports moment that sent you on an epic rant? Email the details - the game or event, the year, what set you off, and the extent of your venting - to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then take a few deep breaths!
Let’s get right to the point that will offend countless Philadelphians: Dan Bagelle says he’s “a big, big, humongous Dallas fan.”
As in Cowboys. The football team of legendary cornerback Deion Sanders, whose jersey Bagelle was wearing when he got his picture taken for this article.
Does that get your blood boiling, Eagles fans? Does it bring back painful memories of that playoffs-killing December 2014 loss to the Cowboys, when both teams came into Lincoln Financial Field with a 9-4 record and the Eagles were favored to win?
Did you call sports-talk radio and rant? Punch something? Get drunk?
Fandom is a place of suffering. And Bagelle and two friends since middle school, Jeff Phillips and Tim Wozniak, are hoping to cash in on it with their SportsVenting app, focused on fans’ frustrations and the teams they hate.
With a free app launched Feb. 1 in the Google Play store, you can post pictures and videos of yourself in full meltdown. You can list not only the teams you adore, but those you despise. SportsVenting’s principals are now trying to raise $30,000 on Kickstarter to offer a version for iPhones.
Aspiring to become a nationally recognized brand and a radio show on Sirius XM within five years, the start-up also is looking for seed investors — including you, Mark Cuban, Shark Tank star and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
"He would be the perfect guy," Phillips said. "He gets fined all the time for venting and criticizing the refs."
As a lead-in on SportsVenting’s Kickstarter page, the announcer (Wozniak) asks a series of agitating questions:
“Remember the times your team let you down?”
“Or when that stupid fan interfered with the game?”
“Or when that darned ref cost your team a victory?”
SportsVenting allows you to share your dyspeptic posts on a variety of social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and to create groups limited to a particular team, game or player, for instance.
It's the world in which Phillips, 45, Wozniak, 46, and Bagelle, 46 – Philadelphia natives and graduates of Northeast High School and Temple University — anguish, often from a couch in front of a flat-screen TV in Wozniak’s basement “man cave” in Huntingdon Valley.
They figure they have plenty of company.
“Every single game has a loser,” said Phillips, who lives in Jamison, Bucks County, and is SportsVenting’s founder and president.
A radio/television/film major at Temple with a plan to become a sports broadcaster — his sports devotion is apparent in his email address, email@example.com — Phillips instead went into medical sales, a job that served him well until he lost it in summer 2015. In the two months before he got another one, Phillips heeded advice from his wife of 19 years, Kristin.
“My wife says, ‘Why don’t you do something you’re passionate about,’ ” Phillips recalled. “One night, in the middle of the night, I thought of SportsVenting. At 4 a.m., I reached for my phone and texted that to myself.” Later that day, he bought the domain name for $16.99.
The tag line for the company – Blow Off Some Steam — came to him in the shower, along with a character to serve as the logo, a guy with clenched teeth and fists with steam coming out of his ears.
“Living in Philadelphia, I’ve been that my whole life – frustrated, a frustrated sports fan,” Phillips said. Playing off his last name and the hometown teams he roots for and agonizes over, his wife came up with the character’s name: Frustrated Phil.
With $2,000 from his brother, Mike, he got design help for the logo. App development started a year later, in July 2016, after $53,000 was raised from family and friends. That work, which took seven months, was done by a firm in Peru charging $35 an hour vs. the $100-plus that U.S. companies were routinely asking for, Phillips said.
App development left no money for marketing. That was being handled early on through social media by Wozniak, a finance major at Temple who, after 21 years working in financial services with a private investment firm, went back to school to get a master’s degree in education and is now a substitute teacher in the Abington School District. He joined the SportsVenting effort in June 2016 as director of operations, helping Phillips plan the app features.
What was so appealing about the opportunity?
“People get passionate about their sports teams, and they’re always venting," said Wozniak, who describes himself as a lifelong Chicago fan. "Even if your team is winning, you’re always venting about something, something they could have done better.”
Bagelle, who lives in Mount Laurel and works for a collections agency, is SportsVenting’s director of promotions, trying to generate buzz for the app with videos on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and toting their eight-foot banner and promotional materials to sporting events and venues where sports fans are likely to be, such as this year's Wing Bowl and a 94WIP Birds Town Hall at Chickie's & Pete’s.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Bagelle said of the business plan, which counts on revenue from selling advertising on the app. “It’s sports, and we vent all our lives about sports.”
There are many reasons why, said Allen R. McConnell, a psychology professor at Miami University in Ohio, who authored a Psychology Today article in July 2015 titled "The Psychology of Sports Fandom."
One is BIRGing, or Basking in Reflected Glory, he said. In other words, enjoying being associated with winning teams, whether it's watching them on TV or wearing their jerseys.
“There’s a real self-esteem function that is served by being a fan,” McConnell said. And because most fans, especially of professional sports teams, have no personal relationship with any of the players, they need an outlet to express their frustration when game results are disappointing.
“If you can’t directly respond to people who are causing your frustration, a social app would be one way to do that,” McConnell said.
Or, in his case, recently over dinner in Las Vegas. McConnell and three of his best friends spent last weekend in Sin City, watching first-round action in the NCAA basketball tournament.
McConnell, a University of Cincinnati alum and a former professor at Michigan State, was rooting for both schools. Both lost.
“There was an awful lot of venting going on,” he said. Because he was with friends, “I didn’t need an app.”
Instead, they tore up betting tickets and dissected the games at dinner, “going through the games play by play. Asking, ‘Why didn’t they call a time out? Why didn’t they switch to a zone defense?’ ” McConnell recalled from the airport Monday, waiting for his flight back to Ohio. “When our teams disappoint us, one of the things we have to do is make sense of it.”
And, sometimes, behave less than ideally.
“I put my fist through the bathroom door,” Wozniak said, confessing his worst sports vent.
It came in 2003, when Steve Bartman, the fan Chicagoans still rue, interfered with an arguably playable foul ball in Game 6 of the National League championship game between the Cubs and the Florida Marlins, when the Cubs were just five outs away from their first World Series appearance since 1945. The Marlins went on to score eight runs in that eighth inning and win the game. They also took Game 7 — advancing to the World Series.
“I don’t think I ate for two days,” Wozniak said, describing his overall condition as "just this utter disgust and not wanting to talk to anyone, look at anyone.”
With the SportsVenting app, he said, “That’s what we wanted to tap into.”
As the Kickstarter video urges: "Don't break your television in anger. Don't take your frustrations out on each other. Just vent instead."