(courtesy of David Shankbone)
I have been reading a lot of year-end awards on various sites that I hit, so I figured I’d join in the fun. Here are my favorite podcasts. I have been listening to some of them for longer than a year, so this more of a Podcast Hall of Fame. I look for three things in a podcast: information, humor, and enthusiasm. There are way too many podcasts that take sports too seriously, so I end up getting bored and stop listening. You’ll notice that there aren’t any college basketball podcasts on the list. I liked ESPN’s podcast last year with Doug Gottlieb, but he moved on to CBS. I don’t care for the CBS college basketball podcast because they spend too much time talking about the weather and traffic (and other stuff I have no interest in). I have hopes for the Rush the Court podcast, but it is a little bit too dry. I have also tried listening to comedians' podcasts, but they often are about comedians' lives, which are not all that interesting. If you have a podcast or two that you think I should listen to, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com or Tweet at me @PerryMissner (Ed. Note: or even better, mention it in our comment section below so all readers can check it out). I also tweet reviews of every podcast I listen to.
The Sports Wing
B.S. Report – For me, Bill Simmons is like the godfather of podcasting. I have been listening to his podcast for over five years and have been reading his column on ESPN.com for much longer than that. I have my differences with Simmons (which I may examine in a future Manifesto), but I find him consistently entertaining. He has great guests, including Cousin Sal from the Jimmy Kimmel Show, Zach Lowe from his own Grantland, Mike Lombardi from NFL Network, and his cast of friends from college. Simmons tends to repeat himself on some topics (LeBron should have gone to the Knicks, the Thunder should not have traded James Harden) and he is not great with more than one guest, but any Podcast Hall of Fame has to include him for being funny and enthusiastic about sports.
Fantasy Baseball from Fantasy Pros 911 – I didn’t think a three-man podcast could work until I heard this fantasy baseball podcast, which was introduced to me after Tim McLeod (one of the analysts) won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Industry Insiders’ Baseball League (which I commish). Rich Wilson is the best host of any podcast. He is both knowledgeable and funny, and keeps the conversation flowing (and generally on-topic). The usual panelists are McLeod and Tony Cincotta. It would be easy to pigeonhole Cincotta as the funny one (he is a professional comedian) and McLeod as the baseball guy, but Cincotta is also extremely knowledgeable and McLeod is funny. The three (and sometimes Cincotta is replaced by Markus Potter, another excellent panelist) have great camaraderie that makes for excellent listening both in-season and during the offseason.
The Basketball Jones – This podcast came to my attention last year when their Friday shows (The Overdose) were on the Grantland network. This year, I have been listening to them daily (The Fix) and have made the Jones part of my daily routine. There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the NBA between J.E. Skeets, Tas Melas, and Trey Kirby. They can also be very silly, which is a major bonus. While Skeets and Melas are Raptor fans, they don’t let their fandom get in the way of broad coverage of professional basketball. Another major plus for this podcast is the production value. It always sounds good and the on-air producers provide continual drops to break up the conversation.
The Trenches – Coming from the Grantland network, this is my newest podcast. It features Grantland staffer Robert Mays and long-time offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam, who is easily the breakout star of the year in podcast-land. I wrote about offensive lines from 2010 to 2011 for the Fantasy Football Oasis and Salaam has confirmed many of the things that I kind of figured out while concentrating on “the trenches,” while watching football. I think many former players are somewhat afraid to break the code and talk about what happens in NFL locker rooms. Salaam has no such qualms and the results are both enlightening and scary.
Real Talk with Jason Whitlock – I am a long-time fan of Whitlock from his days on ESPN’s Sports Reporters. I no longer watch that show and Whitlock no longer works for ESPN, but I have followed him over to Fox Sports. The best thing about Whitlock is that he really cares about journalism. He is sad that newspapers are failing and is somewhat suspicious of the amount of control ESPN has. He is also interested in a wide variety of topics and is not afraid to get involved in stories (see his recent tiff with Bill O’Reilly, which started on the topic of gun control). This might seem hypocritical on my part, but I love Whitlock’s attacks on the NCAA.
The Non-Sports Wing
The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show – As we move into the non-sports wing of the Hall of Fame, I can’t give enough of a recommendation to the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show. The writer from College Humor delights in what I guess would be referred to as nerd culture: video games, science fiction movies, comic books, and other things “I didn’t know I was interested in.” Jeff brings incredible enthusiasm to each topic, but what sets him apart is his ability to listen to answers and ask questions to better understand what his guest is talking about. The episode on Action Park, a crazily dangerous waterpark in New Jersey (now closed) was particularly good.
Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me – Once I tell you that this podcast comes from NPR, you may lose interest. As someone who ironically wore Wisconsin Public Radio t-shirts throughout high school (I never listened to it), your reaction wouldn’t surprise me. However, this show is hilarious. It is a quiz show on current events hosted by and filled with great comedians. Host Peter Sagal is irreverent and funny and he gets to talk to a top notch list of panelists. My favorites include Roy Blount Jr., Paul Poundstone, Brian Babylon, Mo Rocca, and Alonzo Bodden. I often listen to his while running on the weekend and it makes me laugh when I absolutely do not feel like laughing.
All Songs Considered – This is another NPR podcast. While you may think that NPR only plays dull classical music, the hosts of this podcast – Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton – are constantly looking for new and excellent tunes. This is basically my conduit to new music these days. I have learned about Andrew Bird (among my favorite musicians), Regina Spektor, and Rodrigo y Gabriela (my typing music) via All Songs. This is another good podcast for exercise.
The Nepotism Wing
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two podcasts that have allowed my squeaky voice to be heard.
Fantasy Nomad Show – Michael Pichan, the Fantasy Nomad, is sincerely interested in all types of fantasy sports. This is the reason he has had me on the podcast a few times to discuss college basketball. He brings in-depth knowledge to fantasy baseball, football, and basketball. Pichan’s sly sense of humor helps move things along and it is sometimes funny when his guests don’t pick up the fact that he is joking. I think pulling off a one-man soliloquy is difficult, but Pichan can rattle on about stats.
Cheers – This is the strangest podcast on the list. Chris Morgan, a longtime FSWA member and fellow writer at RotoWire, hosts and the show is about whatever pops into his head. Fortunately, Morgan’s head is a pretty interesting place to inhabit for 45 minutes a week. His co-host is usually his brother Jeff. When it is the two brothers Morgan, Chris does 95% of the talking. Morgan is a cinephile (but not at the theater), a lover of the Simpsons, and enjoys reading lists off of Wikipedia. I’ve been on the show twice (once as a replacement co-host, so I tried not to say too much) and found it a very pleasing experience.
Perry Missner is a college basketball enthusiast who writes for RotoWire along with several other fantasy outlets. He welcomes your comments on Twitter at @PerryMissner or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org