Live sports are at a standstill as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but, as the world of sports content pivots as necessary, audio products continue to provide valuable information and entertainment in a number of different avenues. One source is sports podcasting, which can break down game content but also serves as an excellent way to catch up on news and transactions in breezy form, all with the capability of deeper dives into relevant topics of the past and present.
Commutes may not be rolling along as they used to be but, as many have hours to kill in their homes without games to flip on, sports podcasts are a fantastic resource. With that in mind, here is a look at the best podcasts available right now, each with their own value to specific audiences.
Note: Podcasts are listed in alphabetical order.
30 for 30
Many shows on this list are covering the ins and outs of specific sports in a present-day context but, much like the 30 for 30 television series, the podcast production is top-notch. The quality of the storytelling is elite and, even if some of the tales aren’t exactly mainstream, the presentation is fantastic to the point where listeners are captivated. At present, there are six seasons of content, including full-season looks at the Donald Sterling affair in the NBA and a deep dive into Bikram Yoga. In short, there is something for everyone.
Effectively Wild: A FanGraphs Baseball Podcast
As the title explains, Effectively Wild is a baseball-driven show, but it is much more than that. Hosts Ben Lindbergh (The Ringer), Sam Miller (ESPN), and Meg Rowley (FanGraphs) are fantastic in breaking down the everyday topics that make baseball great, from in-game analysis to overarching themes and advanced analytics. In addition, Effectively Wild is able to cover ground in off-the-wall fashion, with famously great mailbag segments tackling wild subjects to simulations, book reviews and much more. Listeners looking for a baseball podcast that covers just about everything should land here.
Many podcasts, in sports or otherwise, are centrally devoted to one subject matter, and that allows for extensive analysis in that particular lane. ESPN Daily doesn’t quite do that, but it brings the best of all other worlds. Mina Kimes hosts the program and, while she has a background in the NFL world specifically, she brings a fantastic element that leads to elevated discussion. She is joined by experts in various fields, from reporting to analysis, to glance at different sports subjects, and the format of a Monday through Friday, bite-sized product is perfect for many consumers.
ESPN On Ice with Wyshynski and Kaplan
Hockey podcasts aren’t quite as prevalent, at least in the wide pockets of the United States, as some other endeavors in this space, but this is a quality product. Greg Wyshynski is a fixture in the space (including another podcast venture in Puck Soup) and he is one of the best hockey personalities in the business. Emily Kaplan is also a strong voice in the hockey world, and the pairing works well to keep listeners up-to-date on the latest in the NHL, with room to maneuver beyond that.
Eye on College Basketball
For some, College basketball is a sport reserved for March but it’s a year-long endeavor on this particular podcast. Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander of CBS Sports co-host the show and they have a tremendous rapport on the air. That makes the show fun and, even beyond the various inside jokes and entertainment, the content is informative and consistent. Both have genuine expertise, experience in the field, and they can jump from analysis to big-picture topics and even recruiting. It’s a gold standard in a field that has many quality podcast options. Shout out to Devan Downey.
Fantasy Football Today
Like the Eye on College Basketball podcast, CBS Sports gets the nod here with a tremendous fantasy football show. Any avid sports podcast listener is likely familiar with the fact that there are almost endless options in the fantasy football space, but this show combines the best of many worlds. It could be argued that other shows have higher production value or segments that are more purely entertaining, but this is a quality show for die-hards and amateurs alike. Host Adam Aizer guides the proceedings, but the group of experts, headlined by Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard and Heath Cummings, brings real quality.
Sports podcasting has come a long way but, for more than a decade, these guys have been talking about the NBA in audio form. Originally dubbed The Basketball Jones, J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas were firing off quality podcast content as far back as the mid-2000’s and, after a stint at NBA TV under the name The Starters, the OG’s are back as No Dunks. This time, they are a part of The Athletic but, unlike some of their colleagues, this is a non-paywall operation. Skeets and Melas are joined by Trey Kerby, Leigh Ellis, and producer JD to bring wildly entertaining and informative NBA analysis just about any day. It’s a must for any basketball fan.
No Laying Up
It might be a surprise to some, but there are a number of golf podcasts and that area of the industry seems to be growing. No Laying Up brings a nice mix to the table, with things that should appeal to casual fans as entertainment, as well as the ability to lure some quality guests and get serious about the game. One’s preference in golf podcasts, like any sport, may vary, but this is a very good option that blends many tastes.
PAPN and Shutdown Fullcast
Unfortunately, furloughs from VOX Media have impacted this pair of Banner Society podcasts, with hosts on hiatus for months and real uncertainty surrounding both shows. Still, it would be fantastic if the shows returned and, with that in mind, they should be included under that hope. And regardless, it is hard to do a list about sports podcasts without these two, which are two of the best and most beloved among an entire generation of sports podcasting fans.
The original PAPN (aka Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody) was excellent, with Steven Godfrey and Bill Connelly mixing the machine-like qualities (Connelly) with reporter instincts (Godfrey) and everything in between on the college football side. Connelly moved on to ESPN, but Godfrey and company are more than capable of carrying the load. Richard Johnson was a staple of the franchise and, while this podcast is capable of discussing just about anything in the college football world, it is well-known for its propensity to go off the beaten path by throwing a bone or two to smaller programs.
Shutdown Fullcast had high-end talent with Jason Kirk, Ryan Nanni, and Holly Anderson and, while they weren’t always dedicated to extremely serious college football analysis, they had a great deal of fun. It may not be for everyone but, if a listener enjoys light-hearted sports talk and engaging personalities, it’s a great listen.
The Bill Barnwell Show
It shouldn’t be surprising to see this show here. The NFL is the biggest sports entity in the United States. ESPN is the largest sports media outlet in the world. Bill Barnwell is the most visible NFL writer that works for ESPN. More seriously, though, Barnwell is (very) smart and he brings informed guests in to discuss the pressing issues in the league. You might long for the Grantland NFL Show and Barnwell’s fruitful partnership with Robert Mays (now of The Ringer), but this is a good place to consume NFL content.
The Lowe Post
This is quite similar to the description of The Bill Barnwell Show in that Zach Lowe is perhaps the best sportswriter on the planet and he is also backed by the machine that is ESPN. There are seemingly a million NBA podcasts, but Lowe brings the combination of legitimate expertise, top-shelf guests and intelligent discussion without some of the nonsense on other platforms. Oh, and you can digest his trademark “WELCOME TO…” greeting to make you feel right at home.
The Press Box
It might be cheating to call The Press Box a “sports” podcast but, in the ever-interesting world of sports media coverage, it certainly qualifies and, if you want another example, Richard Deitsch of The Athletic hosts a very strong program in his own right. It’s fair to point out that Bryan Curtis and David Shoemaker don’t always stick to sports by any measure, but Curtis is one of the best evaluators of sports media in the country and Shoemaker has been around the block in his own right. The show is buoyed by their very clear friendship that has bloomed for decades, but both are smart enough to carry the day even without that, and you can also grab overall media coverage — including politics, writing and more — in the same space as your sports media intake.
Total Soccer Show
You should obviously never just a book by its cover, but in the case of this podcast, the title sums everything up here. Total Soccer Show, with main hosts Taylor Rockwell and Daryl Grove, is the best in-depth soccer podcast that you can listen to, if only because everything is on the table. If you want a detailed breakdown of major leagues around the world, you can find an episode about that. The same exists for breakdowns of various international squads — including, of course, America’s national teams — or Major League Soccer. There are interviews, there are breakdowns of Netflix series about footy, and just about everything else you could want in a podcast about a singular sport. And if you’re new to the game, the TSS crew are as good of an entry point as possible.