The Awfulies - Best Sports Radio and Podcast Awards

2023 was quite the year in a lot of ways, especially in the world of sports media. The industry saw seismic shifts due to ESPN layoffs and the LIV Golf/PGA Tour drama. We saw the rise of Pat McAfee and the demise of the Pac-12. The Kevin Brown suspension shook the baseball broadcaster world, while Charissa Thompson’s admission shocked her fellow reporters. The entire RSN system appeared to implode on itself while streaming services cemented themselves as legitimate players in the media rights ecosystem.

And that’s just the tip of the 2023 sports media iceberg.

This week, we’re celebrating the highs, the lows, the best, and the worst of the year with The Awfulies. We introduced our end-of-year awards last year, and we’ve expanded the categories even further this time, with the entire Awful Announcing staff voting for who they think should take home the coveted golden microphone. Keep an eye on category and winner reveals all week long. And be sure to let us know who your pick would have been for the winners.

We’ve already named the best-scripted sports TV show and docuseries; now, let’s find out about the best in sports radio and podcasts during 2023.

Best Sports Media Podcast of 2023

We’re a bit impartial to all the sports media podcasts out there because, let’s face it, they end up providing us with a lot of great content to work with. The line might be a little blurry on what qualifies as a “sports media” podcast versus a regular sports podcast, but such is the nature of sports media in general. Among the pods that made our list of nominees were SI Media with Jimmy Traina, Pablo Torre Finds Out, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, and The Ryen Russillo Podcast. However, there was one sports media resource that rose above the rest amongst our voters to claim the 2023 title (and, it appears, just in time).

Winner: The Marchand & Ourand Sports Media Podcast

The inaugural Awfulie for the Best Sports Media Podcast is a no-brainer. If you want to know what’s happening in sports and why, this is the most inside baseball you can listen to or watch. Marchand and Ourand have long been the sports media reporters executives, agents, and talent alike are most comfortable talking to. Only a small fraction of their knowledge comes out in their written work for obvious reasons. The weekly podcast is always topical, entertaining, and wide-ranging, but we mostly listen because the podcast is consistently where these two share a bit more freely about what they hear is going on behind the scenes. It’s a good format, the guests usually tie to a major story, and it’s a great cheat sheet for what’s going on in the industry. – Ben Koo

Best Sports Radio Show of 2023

Sports radio is in a pretty weird place, and the future remains a bit murky. But that doesn’t mean the form is dead just yet. Locally and nationally, there are sports talk radio shows that can still captivate an audience, excite their callers, impact the sports community around them, and make themselves part of the news cycle.

It was tough to narrow down our votes for the best sports radio show of 2023, but our finalists include The Rich Eisen Show, The Dan Patrick Show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, and Freddie and Harry. In the end, however, the winner was a program that had stood the test of time.

Winner: The Dan Patrick Show

In a year when Dan Patrick kicked off the longest sports media retirement tour of all time at the end of his latest contract extension with iHeartMedia and Peacock, his show remained the gold standard for sports radio. Debate and entertainment reign among Patrick’s competitors, while new formats threaten to blow up the traditional model entirely. But Patrick remains popular in the same way vinyl never died. The veteran host is a sports romantic with earned authority as the smartest fan in the room.

The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes this fall highlighted what continues to make The Dan Patrick Show vital for sports fans. Patrick trusted his audience and turned the MLB hot stove story into the 24/7 news it deserved to be. Where other shows ignored the modern Babe Ruth reshaping baseball power, Patrick questioned whether Ohtani would actually pitch again despite media consensus that he would; he criticized Ohtani’s no-leaks policy; he explained why the contract would not reset MLB economics. Patrick understands that within every sports fan, there is still a deep passion for the nuts and bolts of sports. And he has it, too.

You won’t find much media navel-gazing or social criticism on The DP Show, even if Patrick surely comes across as wise and curious beyond the stadium. The use of his crew of producers as characters is more efficient and utilitarian than other copycats. And Patrick is, as ever, the most patient and telepathic interviewer anywhere in sports media. In 2023, if sports is a part of who you are and what you are, The DP Show delivers better than anything on the airwaves. – Brendon Kleen

Best Sports Radio Personality of 2023

What makes a great sports talk radio personality? Is it likability? Is it experience and knowledge base? Is it a great interview style? Is it a gregarious nature? Is it the ability to yell the loudest? Perhaps it’s a mixture of some or all of those qualities.

The finalists for our best sports radio personality of the year all attack the space differently, but have found a way to entertain their audience (even if you might not personally find them entertaining). Our voting came down to Rich Eisen, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Dan Le Batard, Dan Patrick, Freddie Coleman, Colin Cowherd, and Jon “Stugotz” Weiner. In the end, we couldn’t break a tie between the two people at the top of the list.

Winner: Tie – Rich Eisen, Chris Russo

Rich Eisen, a wearer of many hats, may be at his best when hosting The Rich Eisen Show. Eisen’s charisma and wit are undeniable. He has a knack for injecting humor into his show, which makes it lighthearted and entertaining. And that’s largely thanks to his interview skills, as the former SportsCenter anchor can put athletes and celebrities alike at ease while drawing out interesting stories and perspectives while maintaining an engaging conversation. Eisen’s show has become a must-listen, as his deep sports knowledge and fandom — though 2023 was a challenging year for New York Jets fans — and his engaging personality and humor make him one of our choices as the best sports radio personality of 2023.

The other is Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, who gets better with age. No, Russo didn’t retire, nor did he walk around midtown New York in an Arizona Diamondbacks bikini wearing a dunce cap. However, he still has the same fastball that made him a radio personality mainstay when he was partnered with Mike Francesa. Russo, like Eisen, also wears many hats, appearing on MLB Network and ESPN. Still, his Sirius XM radio show is where he lets loose and even dabbles in conspiracy theories surrounding the death of JFK. All in all, Russo’s unmatched passion and energy and his willingness to lean into debate make him a compelling radio host. But perhaps what makes him one of the best sports radio personalities of 2023 is that “wild card factor,” in which you don’t have the damnedest clue what he might say next. – Sam Neumann

Biggest Sports Radio Moment of 2023

While it might not get the credit it deserves, the sports radio world can still generate huge headlines, even if it’s not always for the best of reasons. The breakup of Toucher & Rich, one of the most dominant local sports radio shows in the country, will have a huge impact on the Boston sports radio world. Bob Huggins’ crude and offensive radio interview in May effectively ended the Hall of Fame coach’s career. And there’s never a dull moment in the world of New York sports talk radio.

But in terms of the biggest sports radio moment of 2023, there was none bigger than the retirement shot heard ’round the world (and subsequently ignored).

Winner: Chris Russo vows to retire if D-Backs win NLCS Game 7, but doesn’t.

Had Chris “Mad Dog” Russo retired, it undoubtedly would have won The Awfulie for Biggest Sports Radio Moment of 2023. So naturally, Russo waging retirement on the MLB Playoffs while doubling and tripling down on the vow, only to shamelessly renege when it was time to pay up on his bet wins the award. Russo gets the attention game, and he played it like a fiddle this year when he promised to retire if the Arizona Diamondbacks advanced to the World Series. However, every play by Russo in the days after the Diamondbacks accomplished the feat was less melodious. Let’s be honest: Russo succumbing to the pressure of the calls for him to retire would have been epic in the moment, but social media (myself included) would have been lost without his cartoonish voice, unfiltered commentary, and ceaseless energy appearing on multiple sports media platforms every day. – Brandon Contes

Stay tuned for more 2023 Awfulies winners…