Even after months of postponed seasons and canceled events, sports leagues continue to struggle to rebound (at least, in the United States). For fans, this means that 2020 will most likely be a year with fewer games and without any in-person games. Fortunately, there’s a raft of podcasts that can give seasoned fans some content to fill that void — and these four shows are so entertaining and enlightening that even the most sports-disinterested person will probably enjoy tuning in. Find them in your listening app of choice.
Wonder what life is like inside “the bubble,” the campus in Florida where all W.N.B.A. players areliving in order to play their abbreviated season? Thanks to two of the league’s players, A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces and Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx, you can gaze into the bubble, but also into their pro-level camaraderie. In the first episode, which debuted last month, Wilson, the No. 1 draft pick in 2018 and Collier, 2019’s rookie of the year, make each other laugh as they share their friendship’s origin story and reminisce about their college athletic careers. Every week for a half-hour, the pair promise to peel back the curtain on what it’s like to play in this unprecedentedly weird season of pro sports, addressing everything from the dearth of hair dressers in the bubble to the league’s Black Lives Matter activism.
There’s a style of history podcast, with just a single narrator and evocative sound design, that can be almost mesmerizing, even as it delivers “edu-tainment.” Joining the likes of such shows is “Sideline Tackle” — a short but rich dive into different moments in soccer history. In less than 15 minutes per episode, the host Leslie Gideon charts a journey to pitches past, going back to, say, 2001, when Southampton F.C. hired a pagan witch to reverse its bad luck in its new home stadium, or to 1994, when the United States hosted the World Cup and the men’s national team showed off its Americana-inspired denim uniforms. Gideon’s well-written narration is enhanced by deftly applied ambient sounds that serve as an immersive backdrop to the story, making you feel as if you’re right there on the field. The result is a bite-size step into a time machine of soccer history.
Who doesn’t love a good prank? Each week on iHeartRadio’s “Trickeration,” the host Matt Waxman goes right to the source of some of the boldest cheats, practical jokes and hoodwinks in sports history. Through interviews with the pranksters and schemers alike, Waxman gets the firsthand accounts from people like Matt McGough, a former Yankees batboy who was punked by the team’s captain, Don Mattingly, on his first day, and Trevor Kraus, who wrote a book on how to sneak into the Super Bowl.
Hosted by the podcaster Mike Schubert and the comedian Adam Mamawala, this goofy basketball podcast promises to cover everything about basketball “except for the wins and losses.” Where many sideline chat shows can quickly get lost in the weeds, “Horse” is a structured comedy that requires no prior knowledge of the N.B.A. The hourlong episodes, which come out twice a month, ground the laughter in regular segments like “Full Court Press” (“get it, like, the news?”), a discussion of the latest in basketball news, broken down for the uninitiated; “That Actually Happened,” wherein the hosts share a different wacky anecdote of the sports history; and “3 on 3,” a ranking of bests and worsts of things like 3-point celebrations. With a back catalog of 55 episodes and counting, “Horse” might be the least intimidating, most celebratory approach to the culture around the game itself.
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