To be a morally sensitive sports fan is to be a pretzel. On the one hand, you have in mind all the reasons that should keep you from feeling so vocal about professional sport: that it’s trivial in nature, that many, if not all, modern sporting structures are built on truly awful systems, and nearly all varieties of professional sports (at their best) are often exceptionally depressing expressions of extreme wealth inequality. On the other hand, your heart beats for the game.
The next two months will magnify this dilemma for sports fans. The 2022 World Cup is two Sundays away which means another week and change to wonder if you will actually tune in given the moral and ethical weight attached to hosting the tournament in Qatar: the whole he event became a soft-power battleground within a larger context of dark and shady geopolitics, and thousands of migrant workers died as part of the labor pool building stadium infrastructure during the last decade. It is a sin and a tragedy so immense that it is difficult to comprehend.
Here in podcastland, you can see the challenge of ethically-sourced sports fandom appearing most directly as the subject of corrupted worlda collaboration between Crooked Media and Men in Blazers (distributed by the first Save the world caption feed), which features hosts Tommy Vietor and Roger Bennett discussing the circumstances surrounding Qatar’s victory in the World Cup bid, the wider political phenomenon of “sportswashing” and the growing unease of being a sports fan in general. It’s hard to see this as a mind-changing project – alas, such are the challenges of persuasion in the modern on-demand media paradigm – but see it as an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the issues into play for those already predisposed to a skeptical view of sport.
Similar meditations on the complications of modern football fandom are set to appear in The last cut/La última copa, a docuseries from Futuro Studios and NPR about Argentinian GOAT Lionel Messi. The podcast, out tomorrow, dives deep into the meaning and identity of Messi, who has a thorny relationship with Argentina given his family background. There is an element of memory in this project: Jasmine Garsd, who hosts the series, wraps her own personal story around the narrative, drawing from her experience as an Argentine migrant in the United States, and she sees meaning in the arc and the symbol of Messi. Like many other Futuro Studio projects, The last cut is produced as a bilingual project in the sense that two simultaneous versions – one in English, one in Spanish – have been built in parallel instead of one being a mere translation of the other.
No matter how dark the systems behind professional sports become, there will always be juice in the belief in sports as the source of stories of hope. On Friday, ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcasts will be released pink cardhosted by Shima Oliaee (Dolly Parton’s America), which hooks the wider interest around the World Cup to a story about a 40-year-old movement in Iran to overturn a ban preventing women from attending football matches. A bit like with Garsd in The last cutOliaee’s personal story is taken into account in this project’s narrative as she explores how football fandom served as a common thread connecting her immigrant family in the United States to their Iranian homeland.
And for those who’ve done their moral weighing and made the decision to tune in after all, there’s certainly no shortage of football podcasts to layer the experience, so just search on your favorite podcast app and pick your atmosphere. American and American-inclined listeners would likely get something out of this project by The Athletic (a division of New York Time), which charted the United States men’s national soccer team’s journey to the World Cup after its embarrassing failure to qualify in 2018. This year’s squad is said to be young and quite talented, but since this is the USA men’s team we’re talking about here, he’ll almost certainly come out of the group stages – or, at best, make a gallant run to the quarter-finals.
Am I going to watch the 2022 World Cup? I’ll twist, turn, hem, haw, but yeah, probably. It’s me. Hi! I am the problem. It’s me.
➽ Caution: Unlicensedthe new audio drama from the brave people behind Welcome to Night Vale, falls tomorrow on Audible. Set in the grungiest corners of Greater Los Angeles, the series follows a private detective and an assistant out to solve cases so bizarre no one else wants to touch them.
➽ Is Michael Hobbes the most interesting independent operator when it comes to podcasting? There’s something to be said for his recent activities in the open ecosystem: Last week, Hobbes, in collaboration with 5-4by Peter Shamshiri, launched a new show called If books could kill. The conversational podcast instantly shot up the charts. The series is about popular bestseller ideas that may or may not have ruined our minds. The first objective: Freakonomics, which, of course, is a popular podcast and audio editor. Meanwhile, Maintenance phase continue at high speed. (This is probably an appropriate time to reconnect with my interview with Shamshiri about his recent adventures in corporate employment as well as my conversation with Hobbes last year after he left You are wrong about.)
➽ Speaking of You are wrong aboutI was catching up with the show the other day and wanted to point out two recent episodes: “Your Abortion Stories”, which saw the show bring together the voices of its community in a rather Death, sex and money–like fashion (presenting a truly compelling version of a possible future for the show in the process) and the subscription-only bonus episode “A Tiny Concert, Just For You”, which saw host Sarah Marshall throw a little shine on Carolyn Kendrick – her producer and a talented musician.
➽ Marc Smerling and truth.media twisted city barely finished its first season in Youngstown, Ohio when it released the show’s sequel earlier this week, The Emerald Triangle. The sophomore effort revolves around journalist Sam Anderson falling down the rabbit hole after learning that a high school friend has been charged with murder in California. It’s a journey that brings him to the titular Emerald Triangle – an area of Northern California known for its importance in the marijuana trade. The season marks a fairly notable departure from the Crimetown– downward sensation of twisted cityis the first season, and there’s a reason for that: The Emerald Triangle was originally planned to be released as a standalone stream, but was eventually integrated into twisted city. (Novel, studio of The superhero complex and Deliver us from Ervilis attached to the project.)
➽ There’s quite a bit of corporate drama going on between Apple and Spotify right now over the latter’s attempt to set up an audiobook business – Is it really on audiobooks, though? – which may or may not resolve soon. Either way, keep an eye out for what’s going on at the publisher level and especially Pushkin Industries who strive to be the supplier of audiobook products on top of everything they produce with the audio sector. This month, the company released a draft of Lake Bell, Inside Voice: my obsession with the way we soundand he’ll soon be releasing an audiobook containing the full, unabridged recordings of the January 6 hearing — a decent digital gift for certain types of people in your life.
➽ For several reasons, I will end up watching wakanda forever pretty late (maybe early December?), so I’ll stick with the official Marvel podcast about the movie, hosted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, in the meantime.