Welcome to Should I Listen To This?, where we deep-dive into a podcast to find out what it’s about, what works, what doesn’t, and whether or not you need to make the all-important decision to hit subscribe and add it to your rotation.
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Network: ESPN Audio
What Is It?: It’s the podcast of ESPN Radio’s national midday show. Aside from the three national hours (10 a.m.-1 p.m.), the podcast feed also includes a local hour and the “best of” podcast.
Who’s The Host?: The show’s title gives away its hosts, as Dan Le Batard plays ringleader with help from Jon Weiner, known by his nickname of Stugotz.
Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote co-hosts on Tuesdays.
What’s a Normal Episode Like?: This is particularly difficult for me to answer because there’s so much content pushed out every day, with over three-and-a-half hours of content coming to my phone. While I am all for both quality and quantity, this might be too much to have on the same feed. ESPN used to have separate feeds for “best of” shows, such as “Best of Mike & Mike,” but that feed doesn’t exist on iTunes. PodcastOne gives its popular sports talk shows separate “best of” feeds with the DP Daily Download and the Eisen Extra; apparently ESPN would rather have people sift through everything on their app.
In all, I am surprised how much of a leash Le Batard has for talking about things other than sports. On Friday, there was a guest promoting his book on the un-extinction of the woolly mammoth and the talk leaned more toward viral videos than any sort of legitimate sports topics. On Monday, the show focused more time on other ESPN personalities than previewing the NCAA Tournament. And Tuesday had Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill answering animal questions from callers. I am not a “stick to sports” hard-liner, but I do think it’s a 180 for ESPN Radio, who used to force hosts like Dan Patrick to really put the sports in sports talk.
While I, as a Clevelander, may not always agree with Le Batard, I respect most of his opinions because I think he has perspective. He tries to have lighthearted fun with segments, though this comes at the expense of actual sports talk. I can only handle so much of Stugotz’s vacation recap, or animal talk with Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill, when the World Baseball Classic, NCAA Tournament, NBA season, NFL free agency, and MLB spring training are all going on.
The “best of” show is cut rather oddly. In the 90-minute show from last Friday, the “best of” included two SportsCenter updates in the first half-hour and two more later on, along with what felt like a ton of live reads and a handful of ad breaks. Also, it isn’t much of a “best of” as it is a compilation of the three national hours, cut together with only a few minutes of poll talk taken out. At that point, I might as well listen to the three separate national hours and not miss any moments.
Who Is It For?: The local hour is for a Miami-area audience, not a national one, which makes it tougher to draw me in. The show was local-only from 2004 until it went national in 2013, so this hour is meant for the most loyal of listeners. It feels like fan service and should be treated as its own podcast, especially with how much the producers talk on-air.
After that, the three national hours are for typical sports fans. The hosts will fill you in on the major stories without getting into the nitty-gritty or trying to explicate the news into anything it’s not. Le Batard and Stugotz almost have an apathy toward making listeners smarter, which means little-to-no NCAA Tournament preview. In fact, the show poked fun at other hosts possibly faking it because they can’t possibly follow this much college basketball all season. So they’ll focus on reacting instead of prognosticating, which is one option, but maybe not the most fitting for the late morning/mid-day timeslot.
The show is also for listeners who want to feel like they have a community. It has more polls than a strip club. On Monday, @LeBatardShow tweeted out 13 polls, which is a ton more than most other sports talk shows. The account tweeted out another dozen or so polls on Tuesday. Aside from tweeting out dissenter’s profile pictures, polls comprise a majority of the account’s posts.
Who Is It Not For?: The pace is slow. I find the 1.5x- and double-speed features on my iPhone’s podcasts app get a lot of work during this show because of how slowly the hosts talk and how long the pauses can be. It’s a good pace in the background while doing desk work, which fits its timeslot since most people on the east coast and midwest are starting the workday.
Le Batard also has his share of controversy with the show, and I know plenty of Cleveland fans who want to put duct tape over his mouth and never remove it. That it has any controversy is surprising, however, because Le Batard and co. never seem to spend much time on difficult topics that could get a host in hot water.
If you like the radio show’s music, you’re gonna be out of luck, as the podcast is not allowed to use it. The hosts addressed the issue on Monday’s show.
Can I Jump Right In?: Yes and no. Sure, the show is three national hours every weekday, so there’s plenty of new content to prevent anything recent from getting stale. But inside jokes, gags, and acclimatizing to the hosts’ personalities takes some getting used to.
What’s Not Great?: Most of this show is really good. For a national radio show, it doesn’t feel like it panders to Boston/New York/Los Angeles teams, which makes sense since it is based in Miami.
Personally, I highly respect Le Batard as a writer and read his columns relatively often considering they don’t overlap with the teams I follow. I also think Highly Questionable is among the most palatable of “embrace debate” studio shows.
That said, I am having my time wasted in this format. Why do I need multiple hours for Le Batard’s takes when I can get them on his 22-minute TV show and in his writing? (Note: Le Batard hasn’t written any new columns since the passing of José Fernández in September, but some of his work is worth a read whenever.)
Stugotz and the producers are a wild card, but they give me little reason to get this much more Le Batard, a side of him that doesn’t interest me a ton compared to his writing and television work.
Lastly, the podcast feed format sucks. I said it before: having the local hour, the three national hours, and the “best of” show on the same feed is redundant. Separate the three into separate feeds so subscribers can pick and choose what they want to hear instead of getting all or nothing.
So, Should I Listen To This?: For those who want a new national sports talk show to listen to, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz is a compelling option. The hosts give listeners at work a chance to respond to polls and tweet into the show, and they have fun, a missing piece of many sports programming.
The issue is how much of Le Batard you can handle. I like him, but not enough to digest what amounts to three-and-a-half hours of podcasts, especially when I am satisfied with 22 minutes of Highly Questionable. At double speed, I can burn through the “best of” show in about 45 minutes, which could work for those with a longer commute. Should Le Batard and ESPN choose to split the show into three separate feeds, I would be more inclined to recommend each of them to different audiences.
If you’re still reading this review, you’re probably just scrolling to the comments section to tell me I’m off base with any criticisms of the show. Not only is The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz reportedly the most popular podcast from ESPN, it’s also the most requested podcast Awful Announcing readers have wanted me to review. So I know how vocal this fan base can be.
In an era of so many sports talk podcasts, Le Batard is engaging and funny. As good as it is, the show is a notch below the transcendence necessary for me to urge you to subscribe. That is mostly due to the sheer amount of content pushed out on the feed every day, but it’s also because the show seems to lack a truly serious side for discussing hard issues at extended length.
Bottom Line – TL;DR: If you need to fill a daily sports talk void, The Le Batard Show with Stugotz is a strong option because of its light-hearted irreverence.