Podcasts are officially a thing now. Interest has skyrocketed over the past two years, partially because of the insane popularity of the Serial podcast, but also just because people are finally starting to realize that the ability to listen to a show about any subject you want, at any time you want, is actually pretty fucking cool. Plus, downloading a podcast is about as easy as turning on the radio, and when you leave your car you can bring it with you. So whether you have been listening to podcasts going on a decade or have never listened to one in your life, check out this list to make your commute/workout/busy work that much more enjoyable. Life is too short not to…
7. Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
Ok, we admit it: the first entry on this list is a bit of a lie. Alec Baldwin’s bi-weekly podcast isn’t really about sports. He may have the occasional guest from the sports world (see above), but he tends to interview actor/artist types. However, going on the assumption that you may have some interests beyond the world of sports, Here’s the Thing is well worth your time. Since Baldwin has a career outside the podcast and generally doesn’t seem to care very much whether people like him or not, he is free to ask blunter, more interesting questions than the average interviewer, and the answers he gets are often revealing. Even if you find Alec Baldwin to be a total narcissist with a very punchable face, you still may end up enjoying his podcast.
6. The Bill Simmons Podcast
You may or may not enjoy Simmons, but his skills as a podcast host are hard to ignore. He also routinely lines up a murderer’s row of guests. Do yourself a favor and tune in.
5. The Forward with Lance Armstrong
Once again, a la Alec Baldwin, you may want to punch Lance Armstrong in the face rather than listen to him wax poetic about the issues of the day. Try to set your preconceived notions aside though. Armstrong’s weekly podcast is stripped of all bells and whistles – there are no ads or breaks of any kind – and the resulting product is an adult conversation between a surprisingly open and honest Armstrong and an eclectic mix of guests. Lance still isn’t humble – don’t hold your breath on that one – but he is self-aware in a way that wasn’t apparent during his career, and that in turn allows him to connect with his guests in a deeper, more meaningful way.
4. The Lowe Post with Zach Lowe
We’ll keep this simple: if you follow the NBA you should listen to this podcast. ESPN NBA writer Zach Lowe records intermittently during the offseason and a couple times per week during the season. He gets the best guests and has the most high level discussions about the league, about everything from X’s and O’s to mascot rankings. Lowe is brilliant enough to one day end up as an NBA GM. Until that day, take advantage of this free look inside his brain.
3. The Vertical Podcast with JJ Redick
First of all, Redick is just really good as a podcast host. Some of it is preparation, but the rest is just natural talent. He is eloquent, interested, interesting, and totally willing to guilt trip his Clippers teammates and LA-based celebrity friends into appearing on the show. The combination of Redick’s basketball knowledge, his willingness to bring listeners behind the scenes (how shoe contracts really work, his worst spending mistakes, etc), and his eclectic guest list (James Corden, Bill Simmons, Chris Paul, Candace Parker) make this podcast a captivating listen. (Update: Unfortunately the show has been on hold during the 2016-17 season, but the archive is well worth exploring)
2. The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz
This entry on the list is different for a couple reasons. It isn’t a podcast per se, but an ESPN radio show that is just released as a daily podcast after it goes off the air. It is also three hours per day. That being said, it is well worth your time. Smart, funny, irreverent (the segment above is classic Le Batard) and chock full of talented guest hosts like Greg Cote, Bomani Jones, Pablo Torre and John Amaechi, the show manages to walk the tightrope of never taking itself too seriously while still making it a point to address the deepest issues in the sports world in a thoughtful way. Dan Le Batard himself is also a uniquely talented interviewer, while Stugotz is a perfect sidekick for him. You may have to invest a few hours of listening to “get” this show, but the payoff will be worth it come December when you are sitting in a traffic jam on your way home from work and it you aren’t even upset because you are too busy laughing your ass off.
1. The Tony Kornheiser Show
If you only try one podcast on this list, make it this one (hence the #1 ranking). It is the best carpool companion you will ever have: it shows up every morning at the same time at the touch of a button, doesn’t ask you for anything, and will always make you laugh. Here is the show website and here is the iTunes link!
Kornheiser (of PTI fame) has been a talented local (DC) and national radio host for more than two decades, but he recently saw the writing on the wall and turned his daily radio show into a podcast. It is the smartest, funniest, most self-aware show out there and in response, an incredibly loyal community of fans has built up around it. Full of inside jokes, yet accessible to first-time listeners, the show is a perfectly orchestrated blend of sports, news, local Washington DC traffic reports, and whatever happens to be going on in Mr. Tony’s head at any given moment. Kornheiser and his rotating cast of co-hosts (mostly current or former Washington Post employees) combine with his regular guests (Tim Kurkjian, Bob Ryan, Howard Fineman, Ann Hornaday, etc) to produce a consistently entertaining product that touches on everything from the absurd (monkeys and porn stars picking NFL games) to serious news stories. The best parts however are when Mr. Tony brings the listeners inside his life, describing in vivid detail (and with great humor) the intricacies of his day-to-day existence as a minor celebrity and full-time worrywart.