Steve Linkowski uploaded a video to his YouTube channel, “UrinatingTree,” titled “The Haters Guide to the 2017 NFL Playoffs,” on Jan. 2, 2017. At the time, his subscriber count was somewhere between 550 to 650. The next day, he had a hundred more.
“I’m just sitting there like, ‘What? Wait, what,’” he said. “And I thought I was just like, I was losing my mind or maybe there was a typo on the computer.”
The view count, he added, was around 10 to 15,000; at a time when his videos only got hundreds of views.
Thinking it was a fluke, he uploaded a follow up, titled “The Haters Guide to Super Bowl 51.”
“That ends up getting even more,” he said. “And I’m just sitting there like, ‘OK, I think I’ve drunkenly stumbled on to something (and) I have to keep going.’ And that’s when I made the decision, ‘OK, I should focus on this.’”
At that moment, Linkowski committed the direction of his channel, “UrinatingTree,” to shitposting about sports.
It’s a huge turn from his original plans.
While in high school, he dreamed of a career as an anchor on TV.
“Doing the morning announcements (I was) like, ‘I like doing this,’” he said. “‘You know what? Maybe I can do this as a career.”
Thus, he went to college to pursue a career in broadcasting.
While there, he reviewed video games to supplement his training.
“I was just trying to experiment with a bunch of different things at the time,” he said. “I used to yell at old Sega Genesis games, but that was back when I was in college. I just needed a creative release.”
The first video Linkowski uploaded to his channel, at the time named “ESchlasser,” was a review of “Superman 64,” a game for the Nintendo 64 console.
Sometime, afterwards, he changed the name of the channel to “UrinatingTree,” which he’s better known as than his real name (he’s not publicly revealed it, yet, but tells it to anyone who asks).
The early days of UrinatingTree
If you watched any of his earliest videos, you’d think you’ve discovered an ancient civilization. And that’s not lost on him.
“It is completely different,” he said. “That was just like throwing shit at the wall. I didn’t even care about views. I did not expect to be doing this. So back in the time, it’s just like, ‘What the hell did I stumble into? This is like a different channel.’”
One aspect that’s carried over from his early days, however, is his sense of self-deprecation. Though he’s not sure from where he got it.
UrinatingTree’s hiatus and return
In 2012, after he uploaded “Half-Assed Theater: The Great Debate,” he stopped uploading for four years.
Linkowski returned to YouTube in 2016, because of the presidential election.
“What ended up happening was I got pissed off and I’m just thinking like, ‘OK, this is bullshit,’” he said. “‘I just want to ramble on about it for a couple of minutes.’ So, I’m like, ‘You know what? Let’s do a YouTube video about it.’”
He thought the video would get a few views and he’d move on with his life.
To date, the video, “The Mainstream Media Needs To Die,” has around 139,000 views.
In terms of quality, “it was bad,” and he wishes it hadn’t aged well (in terms of content). However, it “felt good” to have that creative release, again.
“I mean, just getting fucked over for promotions and felt like I was in a dead end situation,” he said. “So I was just like, ‘OK, I’ll just use this as like a creative release.’”
UrinatingTree’s pivot to sports
The catalyst for his pivot to sports came in late 2016, after he watched a video, titled “Only in Cleveland: The Cleveland Browns since their return to the NFL.” While he thought it was fantastic, he disliked that it only went to the beginning of Jimmy Haslam’s ownership of the Browns.
“As anyone who follows the Browns can attest,” he said, “the Haslam era has been a fucking shit show.”
As a result, Linkowski got the idea to bridge that video with the current era, when the Browns were on the verge of a possible 0-16 season (they went 1-15 in 2016, then 0-16 in 2017).
“I don’t know if I did that well in that regard,” he said, “but that was what my goal was.”
To date, it’s his sixth-most watched video.
A few weeks later, he made a similar video on the Jacksonville Jaguars, which just went 2-14, fired head coach Gus Bradley and their franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles, played terribly.
“So I’m just sitting there like, ‘Man, this is bullshit,’” he said. “‘This team’s terrible.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? Let’s just make a video about it.’ So it became like three minutes of just me rambling about Jacksonville.”
Combined with the aforementioned videos on the 2017 NFL playoffs and Super Bowl 51, he committed himself to sports videos.
Meet the Mets
While most of Linkowski’s videos are one-offs, with the occasional “Revisiting *insert team*” video, his July 1 videos about the New York Mets turned into an annual tradition.
He uploaded the first one in late June 2017, a few days before “Bobby Bonilla Day” on July 1 (commemorating the day Bonilla’s paid $1.19 million by the Mets).
“At the time, I just thought like, ‘Oh, it’s just a match.’ But then end up, everyone’s getting injured, the bullpen’s a fucking mess, Sandy Alderson’s not really doing anything. The Wilpon’s (former team owners). So, the problem is like every consecutive year, they turn into this massive shit show, despite their expectations.”
Though this tradition might end, because the Wilpon’s sold the team to Steve Cohen.
UrinatingTree’s love/hate relationship with Pittsburgh sports
As a native of Pittsburgh, Linkowski’s a die-hard fan of the steel city’s professional sports teams. With that said, however, he’s not afraid to chuck those teams into the fire, when they deserve it. His eight-most viewed video is his first video on the city’s NFL team, titled “The Pittsburgh Steelers: Professional Football’s Pharisee.”
Unlike his other lolcow videos, however, he wanted a challenge, and not just another terrible team to mock. It came down to either the Steelers or the Green Bay Packers, because of their management issues, inactivity in free agency and wasting the talents of Aaron Rodgers.
Ultimately, he chose the Steelers, because he “marinated in this shit for years.”
“It’s like you want one that has a different angle to it,” he said. “And the Steelers have been kind of getting on my nerves for a good bit and on the terms of that regard.
“And I think that’s what makes it technically a better video, instead of like, ‘Oh, this guy’s dispassionate.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, this guy has followed this team since he was a kid.’”
At the same time, Linkowski began another experimental video series, titled “This Week in Sportsball.” In these, he recapped the previous week’s NFL games in a similar manner to shows like ESPN’s NFL Primetime, but with a comedic and lighthearted tone.
At first, he didn’t plan on doing it every week, but rather every two weeks. But outside forces convinced him to make it a weekly series.
“I remember my first year, the time I noticed I had to do them every week was once Donald Trump started bitching about players kneeling,” he said. “And I’m like, ‘OK, we’ll have to do this every week because this is a fucking shit show.’”
Halfway through the season, however, he felt that he hit a wall with it. In his Week 17 recap, he said he wasn’t sure if he’d do this again in 2018.
While he continued weekly NFL recaps in 2018, he posted recaps of the AAF and XFL on a bi-weekly basis. For the AAF, it was because there were four games a week — compared to 12 to 16 NFL games, most weeks — and his disillusionment with the league, because of its financial perils. For the XFL, he feared that it would shut down halfway through, just like the AAF.
Sprinkled in between all his videos are “Congrats, *insert team*” videos, which he uploads when, ironically, a team absolutely drops the ball in a playoff series.
“Sometimes it’s just a random idea I have,” he said. “Sometimes just as long prepared. It varies on what it is. Sometimes I feel like a spectacular moment needs that sort of thing.”
Though some aren’t ironically named. Such as his 2019 video on the St. Louis Blues, which won the Stanley Cup.
Sometimes, the videos aren’t lighthearted and comedic. Some are Linkowski blowing off steam, like he did with the Steelers, after they lost to the Jaguars in the 2018 AFC Divisional Round; a loss he “saw that coming from a mile away.”
“If you looked at (the Steelers) games from 2017, they followed the same formula,” he said. “They would play like shit for most of the game. They’d have huge flaws against really bad teams. They didn’t even play a legit starting quarterback. Like (the) Packers didn’t have Aaron Rogers. The Texans didn’t have Deshaun Watson. And then they’d follow the same formula, like Antonio Brown would make this great catch. Ben would make a spectacular play. Le’Veon Bell would make these great moves. And then Chris Boswell would kick this 50 to 55-yard field goal right in the middle. Steelers would win, end of the game.
“And I’m just sitting there like, ‘You can’t survive like this.’”
And survive, they didn’t.
Despite a second-half rally from a 14-point deficit, the Steelers lost to the Jaguars 45-42; the same Jaguars team that beat them 30-9 in Week 5.
And Linkowski was dumbfounded, because the Steelers validated his pessimism.
“They weren’t doing nothing but talk shit the whole past week,” he said. “And that one was just like, ‘OK, I got to get this shit off.’”
The Dumpster Fire
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tucker White has given money to UrinatingTree, via superchats, on his podcast, “The Dumpster Fire.” While Steve Linkowski said this had no bearing on him taking part in his interview with White, we noted it for the sake of transparency.
Around this time, Linkowski started a sports podcast with Adam of the channel, “FivePointsVids.” This podcast eventually became “The Dumpster Fire.”
“He had the idea,” Linkowski said. “He just figured it was like, ‘Hey, let’s start a podcast.’ (I’m) Like, ‘OK.’”
Days of our Steelers
Fast forward to 2018, he gives the weekly NFL recaps a second go. This time, he found his form and the 2018 season had “just enough craziness” to give him fodder.
In particular, he found a source of content with his beloved Steelers, which was a drama-laden mess in 2018. At first, it wasn’t more than an extra two minutes to the recaps of the Steelers’ games. But by Week 3, it got so long that he split it off into its own video.
“They nearly blew a 20-point lead to Tampa Bay,” he said. “And I’m just sitting there like, ‘Oh God, I got to split this off. Hopefully I’ll never do this again.’ And then Week 4 happened, and Week 5 happened, and it just keeps going, off the field drama.”
“By like Week 17 and the beginning of the playoffs, I’m just like, ‘Please stop,’” he said. “‘Please stop. For the love of God, I’m tired of doing this.’
“And then Antonio Brown keeps (it) going into the off season. It’s like, ‘Jesus Christ. I’m not done? Fuck you!’”
The Steelers gave him an hour and 48 minutes of content for the 2018 season.
These reasons for splitting off games into their own videos apply for his other series, too, such as “Dallas,” “Sacksonville Abbey” and “The Greatest Game.”
In which all optimism dies
Linkowski isn’t above taking shots at himself. During an NHL trade deadline stream in 2019, he flipped out over the Pittsburgh Penguins acquiring defenseman Erik Gudbranson. The next day, he uploaded the snippet from the stream to his channel, titled it “In Which All Optimism Dies.”
Though his most famous video of this series is titled “In Which All Optimism Dies…Again.” This one featured his podcast co-host, FivePointsVids, and his reaction to his New York Giants drafting Daniel Jones, with the sixth overall pick, in the 2019 NFL Draft.
To date, Linkowski’s uploaded five videos of this series. Three of them feature FPV’s reactions.
Like many other sports YouTubers, Linkowski was affected by COVID-19 shutting down the sports world on a scale not seen since the 9/11 attacks. Though he waded through it better than others, because it let him work on long-term projects that he previously didn’t have time to do.
One of those was “The Toronto Maple Leafs: A Half-Century of Failure,” his longest video to date.
“I’ve wanted to make that for a long time,” he said. “It was another bucket list vid of mine, for at least a couple of years, and I knew it was going to be at least 30 minutes.”
What drew him to it was the tenure of former team owner, Harold Ballard.
“The dude was like a massive sexist,” he said, “a racist, like just that, (a) xenophobe, and not even by 2020 standards. This is by 1920 standards. He was bad and it just comes off, it’s just like… Seriously look up any of his stuff. It’s just like it doesn’t seem real. Like trading a good player and the best friend of the captain, because you think he’s gaining too much power in terms of labor negotiations, to try and one up him. And eventually break him to the point where you trade him for pennies on the dollar. Dave Keon, legitimately fucking him over for years to prevent him from going back to the NHL.”
When the credits roll
Years from now, when Linkowski sits on his rocking chair, reminisces about the “good ole days,” he wants everyone to remember him “just as a shitposter.”
“At the end of the day, I’m just a dude,” he said. “I’m nothing that special. I just like, I shitpost on the internet. At the end of the day, it is what it is. It’s not like I’m trying to create this great legacy of me being a legend or anything like that. I feel like what I want to do is produce vids that don’t suck. I want to produce something that people want to watch, and that’s how it should be.
“At the end of the day, it’s just videos on the internet. It’s not like I’m reinventing the wheel or anything like that. I just, I shitpost about sports. And at the end of the day, it’s not really that serious. I hope it’s not that serious, because there’s far more important shit going on in the world, man.”
SEE ALSO: Interview with the man behind UrinatingTree, Steve Linkowski (full interview)
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