Welcome to OZY’s new weekly audio newsletter, where we’ll break down the latest news and best listens from the world of podcasts. It’s Jackie Robinson Day in the U.S. today — when the nation celebrates the Brooklyn Dodgers slugger who became the first Black athlete to play Major League Baseball in 1947. This week, enjoy a selection of our favorite sports stories in honor of Robinson, along with the latest news and events from the world of audio.
Sean Braswell, Head of Audio
pod of the week
The Summer That Changed Baseball Forever
If Jackie Robinson helped burnish Major League Baseball’s credentials as a force for positive change, then Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa nearly tarnished them irrevocably with their performance-enhanced pursuits of Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. In the new podcast Crushed, former Sports Illustrated staff writer Joan Niesen takes us back to that electrifying summer of 1998 and the home run chase that made our pulses race … before it broke our hearts.
captivating sports stories
1. The Decade When Basketball Players Kept Dying
“It was the 1980s. It sucked. Except for the basketball.” So proclaims former SNL head writer and Academy Award winner Adam McKay, who has taken his storytelling talents to the world of podcasting. In Death at the Wing, the man behindThe Big Short explores the dark underbelly beneath the glitzy Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson era of the ’80s NBA. Particularly, the tragic deaths of a series of talented young basketball players like Len Bias, Hank Gathers and Terry Furlow, and their broader connection to the changing social and economic landscape of Ronald Reagan’s America.
2. The Hidden Figures Behind the ‘99ers’
When Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after scoring the winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final, her iconic celebration marked the arrival of women’s soccer in America. The moment was decades in the making. In Season 5 of The Thread (think Serial meets six degrees of separation), OZY connects all of the unheralded female athletes and activists that made the ‘99ers’ triumph possible.
Acrobatic catches, effortless home runs and the trademark backward cap: There was a swagger to the way “the Kid” Ken Griffey Jr. played baseball. That is why many hailed the 13-time All Star and Hall of Famer as “the Michael Jordan of baseball” during the 1990s. Then, somewhere along the way, America forgot all about one of its most popular athletes. In the latest season of American Prodigy, Xola Malik and Alex Ward explore Griffey Jr.’s missing legacy and what happened to one of the sports world’s most misunderstood stars.
It’s time for #RealTalkRealChange. OZY and Chevrolet are teaming up for a discussion on racial disparities in America’s health care system, taking on one of the most urgent questions we face today. Hosted by OZY co-founder and Emmy Award–winning journalist Carlos Watson, who is joined by key leaders from across the country, we’re having pointed conversations to identify problems and equip you with solutions. Put aside the shouting matches and talking heads and be an ally: Join us now on YouTube for a real conversation you won’t want to miss.
1. The Detained Japanese Americans Who Found Football Anyway Glory
It sounds made up. A group of undersized Japanese American teenagers detained at internment camps in Wyoming during World War II turn their attention to a new game: football. And they eventually dominate the children of their captors, giving their community something to rally behind in unbelievably bleak times. In a recent Edge of Sports episode, author Bradford Pearson tells host Dave Zirin about his new book The Eagles of Heart Mountain and shares perhaps the most heartwarming football story you will ever hear. This needs to be a movie now.
2. How Bubba Wallace Went From NASCAR Driver to Activist
Whether you followed the drivers, cared about the sport or even knew what NASCAR was, odds are you looked up the name Bubba Wallace last June when NASCAR announced it would ban the Confederate flag at its events. After all, the 27-year-old Black driver was the catalyst for change. In an episode of The Carlos Watson Show, the NASCAR Cup Series driver talks about his experience as the circuit’s lone full-time Black athlete and shares the horrifying story of how he nearly killed his dad on the racetrack.
Pulling off sports comedy can be a challenge (See: Arliss). So can playing an in-character host on a podcast (See: The Ron Burgundy Podcast). But so far in The Jim Brockmire Podcast, actor Hank Azaria — who played the foul-mouthed, fictional broadcaster for four seasons on IFC’s Brockmire — deftly manages both challenges. He delivers a good-humored, systematic evisceration of his celebrity guests worthy of Between Two Ferns or The Colbert Report. In the first episode, Brockmire turns his fire on NBA legend Charles Barkley, offering him some new nicknames, plumbing the depths of his bizarre scandals and even coining a new term (the “cuckmire”).
Brimming with energy and good sports stories, Erin Andrews joins The Carlos Watson Show. The Fox Sports reporter shares the secret behind Brady’s success, explains Michael Strahan’s integral role in her love story, and gets real about her struggles with pregnancy and family planning. Don’t miss it! And for the full interview, check out the podcast cut.
College students, are you the next Steve Jobs, Billie Eilish or Amanda Gorman? Help us help you with the OZY Genius Awards. Apply today for a prize worth up to $10K or nominate the brilliant college student in your life.
Jackie Robinson’s Radio Shots
There may not have been podcasts in Jackie Robinson’s day, but the concept of one celebrity interviewing another was already well-established. In the brief three-minute syndicated radio program,Jackie Robinson’s Radio Shots, the Hall of Famer interviewed dozens of sports and entertainment figures. Within is ahidden gem of an interview with the man who gave him his big break, Brooklyn Dodgers GMBranch Rickey. It’s a side of the baseball legend you may not have seen before … or heard.
in audio news
1. State of the Medium
How has podcasting weathered the 2020 storm? Pretty well among American listeners. Edison Research’s annualInfinite Dialstudy is out and has some interesting insights about the growing U.S. podcast audience:
28 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are now habitual weekly podcast listeners, up from 24 percent the year before. These listeners now average eight podcast episodes per week, up from six.
41 percent of Americans can now be considered monthly podcast listeners, up from 37 percent.
78 percent of Americans are now familiar with podcasts, up from 75 percent. The U.S. podcast audience continues to grow more diverse by gender and ethnicity, with Hispanic listeners in particular growing.
2. Thriving in the Shadow of the BBC
It’s been nearly a century since the BBC’s first radio broadcast in November 1922, and the public broadcaster continues to dominate audio production in Great Britain. But thanks to a new influx of cash and investment, a growing armada of small British podcast companies like Broccoli Productions are producing hit shows, Eshe Nelson reports in The New York Times. They are helping to diversify a British podcast audience that now counts nearly a fifth of its adult population — more than 10 million people — as regular listeners.
3. Also in the Times: Student Podcast Contest Submissions
Is a teenager in your life already manning a mic? The New York Times is now running its fourth annual student contest, accepting submissions from teenagers wishing to submit original podcasts of five minutes or less. Deadline for entry is May 18. Enterhere.
4. Friend of the Pod
Have a favorite spy-related podcast that you love? Tell us about it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
Join OZY editors and writers today at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET for insights on the big news of the week, a chat about your favorite sections of the Whiskey in Your Coffee newsletter and more. Write to OZY reporter Joshua Eferighe below so we can pull you into the room, and follow him @Eferighe.