The quote could have come from anyone, but it was notable for its time and its place.
That was Dan LeBatard, who now makes his living talking about sports in Miami. He said it at a time when new competitors have emerged to grab listeners who feel the same way. And he said it in a long-form interview that qualifies as one of those competitors: the On the DL podcast.
Sports podcasts are such a new phenomenon that they didn't exist in a world without the Boston Red Sox as perennial World Series champions. Since late 2004, the idea of a digital delivery option for sports talk has grown from fanboy trash talk to well-produced audio programming, all available with ease through an RSS feed or the iTunes store. And for the sports fan who might not get a chance to sit down for a SportsCenter or hunker down with a beer for a half-hour of sports talk radio, the medium allows for indulged passions without time wasted.
As with any advancement in sports media, one must look to ESPN as a barometer of the podcast's prominence. The channel's devoted more and more Web presence and workforce to an array of podcasts, both compiling ESPN Radio programming and creating all-new material only available online. Marc Horine, a VP for ESPN Digital Media, went so far to call it "one of the most amazing growth areas" for the network.
According to Horine, it began with a daily podcast of highlights and interviews in July of 2005 and within a year grew into PodCenter, which offered 10 different shows covering various topics. That number has grown to include such original content as boxing, fantasy sports and such singular-focus shows as Baseball Today. On a random day in October, ESPN produced 11 of the top 15 most popular sports podcasts on iTunes.
Developments in podcast programming have trended toward three categories, each with its charms: original programming, the brand extension and the hybrid.
You can excuse Dan Levy for, every so often, telling his listeners how he can't believe how much has changed in one year's time.
And it's not in reference to his Philadelphia Phillies—who've gone from first-round sweep victims to possible World Series participants. Last year, Levy and former co-worker Nick Tarnowski turned their office banter into On the DL, a Philadelphia-centric sports podcast. The show has since morphed into an informative, behind-the-scenes analysis for anyone who wondered how prominent members of the sports media turned out the way they have.
"My brain was always on the media side more than the fan side," Levy says. "Now what we've become is more of a media show." A who's who of guests has included ESPN's Mike Greenberg, prominent authors of the sports blogosphere and Levy's sportscasting idol, Tony Kornheiser. "Talk radio is talking at you," said Levy. "Podcasts allow people to talk with them, letting them into the conversation."
Levy originally set a goal of 10,000 consistent listeners, but the show has far surpassed those expectations. He attributes that growth to links by bloggers, who he refers to as "the most important people in my professional life." On the DL offers up text summaries of the interviews, segment audio clips (an full show runs about 40 minutes) and especially enticing pull-quotes culled from the interviews.
While talk show hosts in major metropolitan markets can bring home startling salaries for proven personalities, mosts online entrepreneurs like Levy still struggle with the revenue-generating possibilities of a podcast. Shows like ESPN's Fantasy Focus Football podcast come with a prexisting corporate sales team offering sponsorship deals to the producers of movies like Eagle Eye and companies like Charles Schwab. Levy said he has measured his new venture's success in other ways, such as the opportunity to write on sports blogs like The700level.com and the Washington Post's football blog. "I'd rather wait and get $500 a show than get $5 a show," said Levy. "I'm just going to let it happen."