Lindsay Czarniak remains busy. Czarniak has been doing lots of work for Fox Sports, including on the NFL on Fox, and she’s also had plenty of broadcasting work elsewhere, including on NBC Olympic coverage and CBS SRX coverage last year. Now, she has a new podcast, and it’s with famed gymnast Shawn Johnson’s Family Made company. Czarniak (seen at left above) released the first episode of that “Lunch with Lindsay” podcast last week, featuring a conversation with NASCAR driver Chase Elliott (seen at right above) and country music star Eric Church (seen at center above):
Czarniak spoke to AA about this new venture via email, and said the first episode was particularly notable for Church and Elliott both being up for opening up about recent winter sports injuries they and their family members had suffered:
“I was shocked, after two injuries in the weeks after we planned the sit down, that we were still able to do it when we did. But I loved that the ‘real life’ aspect of what had happened was part of the story. I was grateful Eric and Chase were willing to be open about it, and I felt it added a valuable storyline giving people a look into their lives away from the track and the stage. The seriousness of Eric’s story with his son struck me, so I’m really appreciative he was willing to share the details he did.”
Czarniak said there’s a significant overlap between athletes and musicians in terms of getting away from their high-profile performance arenas.
“We all need to ‘escape the noise.’ And sitting with Eric and Chase, I was really interested in the connection they highlighted about the need to do that, especially when you have a high-performance, high-pressure, highly-visible career. I respect the notion that they should be able to find an outlet that helps with the balance of it all. I know people can relate to the need to escape the pressures of whatever their life circumstances are at the time.”
Czarniak previously explored some music and sports crossover in the The Artist and the Athlete podcast she launched with Sony Music Entertainment in 2021. She told AA she continues to think there are notable connections there, and also connections to those in the sports media.
“I think we learn more about ourselves and give ourselves the freedom to breathe when you realize others, even those that have a village behind them and are in the spotlight, deal with the same things,” she said. “I love seeing the connections an artist or an athlete have that come out of nowhere. One of my favorite things during these specific types of conversations is when one of the guests jumps in and begins asking questions like Eric did. I love discovering what they ‘really’ want to know from the other.”
She said the ideal setup on a dual interview is when it’s artists and athletes who have a connection to each other.
“These pairings really work best when there is a genuine appreciation on both sides. And in this case, Chase has grown up listening to Eric’s music and being a fan for a long time.”
Czarniak said one notable change here from past podcasts she’s done is her increased focus on what works for the video side, a growing area of importance for podcasts in general.
“One thing that’s different about the approach is I want folks to ‘see’ these conversations. I’m putting a bigger emphasis on doing these in person when possible and sharing the conversations on YouTube. I also will be talking to each guest about ‘the toughest thing’ they’ve overcome. The answers I’ve gotten so far have been eye-opening.”
She said another focus here for her is exploring how athletes and other celebrities aren’t that different from the rest of the world.
“I’m really interested in getting to the core of what makes us all human. The emotions, the concerns, the desires, the disappointments, the highs and lows. There’s real power in making connections with people that are willing to be open about their experiences. We oftentimes feel the same way and are looking for the same things: to be loved, to be seen, to know we matter. Drilling down on those things with a guest or with multiple guests usually leads to connections and themes that I never expected. There is so much value in discovering relatability with folks that on the outside seem to have it all together.”
The conversation with Church and Elliott hit on the challenges of fame, and Czarniak told AA that’s something she’s also grappled with over the years, from her 2005-2011 work at Washington, D.C. NBA affiliate WRC through her 2011-2017 work at ESPN through her 2017-present work for Fox.
“I struggled earlier in my career with the belief that if I didn’t meet the expectations of others, I had simply failed. I’ve started to get a lot more comfortable embracing failure, and I mean that in a positive, productive way. I’ve realized going for things and engaging in projects that I really believe in is important, and if you don’t get the gig or if your series doesn’t get renewed, it was a learning experience that matters.”
She said fame remains something she has a complicated relationship with.
“Fame is a funny thing. It’s insecurity wrapped up in a fancy designer coat. At this point, I would rather wear my favorite jean jacket with that I can dress up with some fancy accessories. In other words, the huge jobs I used to think I had to have to be ‘worth it,’ I don’t view the same way. I’m more excited about the ‘types’ of roles I want to do and fulfilling work that follows.”
Czarniak said that approach has proved liberating, but she still faces challenges. So it was notable for her to hear Church and Elliott comment on fame.
“It’s a strange feeling that can turn into a bit of a mind warp if you think about fame and expectations. There are some days I feel so excited about what I’m working on and other days when because of one conversation, I’m unsettled. Hearing Chase and Eric talk about ‘the toughest thing’ they experienced was perspective I found really interesting.”
An interesting part of this series is Czarniak doing it not with a traditional media company, but with Johnson and her new “Family Made” company. Czarniak said her connections with Johnson while covering the Olympics helped convince her this was a good fit.
“I was introduced to Family Made through a friend who raved about what they are doing growing their podcast network and YouTube presence,” she said. “I’ve covered Shawn at the Olympics and I’m a fan of what she and her husband Andrew are building with their company which is creating an online community that celebrates family. Their brand really aligns with what I believe in and also where I am in my life—balancing family and a career that requires a lot of travel, but is so fulfilling.”
She said Family Made felt like an excellent partner to work with.
“It also felt like such a right fit because of my career in sports because family and camaraderie are so key, both in individual players’ lives and also in successful franchises. There’s a lot I want to talk about from my travels covering sports, but also in my life trying to be the best parent, spouse I can be. None of that is easy, and I find sharing conversations with community leads to growth. ”
There are plenty of interesting things ahead for Lunch With Lindsay, including an interview with Mike Repole (owner of Kentucky Derby favorite Forte) that’s set to be released this Thursday. That’s one piece of Czarniak’s wider Derby connections, as she’ll be attending the race to watch horse Jace’s Road (who she has a stake in, alongside NFLN’s Ian Rapoport and Fox’s Joy Taylor, as part of the America’s Best Racing “A Stake In Stardom” program). She said she hopes to bring some of those experiences to the podcast.
“I want to give the audience a behind-the-scenes pass to follow along with me as I cover sporting events and balance life as a mom/wife. I’m grateful for the opportunities to be behind the scenes on the ground at the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500. I’m going to do a lot of recording while on the road, allowing me to bring the audience with me.”
Beyond that, though, she said she thinks the podcast has potential as a way to show new sides of her guests.
“First, I want to give guests the experience and opportunity to learn. I felt real magic in this first one because Chase was such a fan and Eric was so real and thoughtful. I want the audience to see a side of my guests they’ve never seen. At the same time, I want to explore topics that make me genuinely curious. I’ve been lucky to have great partners in the past, but this time I’m hoping I can lean in and not second guess what I think is relatable and important.”
One last point from Czarniak? She noted that auto racing, one of her passions, comes with a significant palindrome.
“Racecar spelled backwards is racecar.”
[Lunch with Lindsay on YouTube]