There are a whole lot of podcasts out there (as per Podcast Insights, an estimated more than two million as of April 2021), but longevity in that medium is hard. That piece also estimates 48 million episodes, which would be 24 episodes per podcast if split evenly; in reality, there are a whole lot of shows that do one or two episodes and nothing more, and a much smaller number of shows that manage to keep going for hundreds and hundreds of episodes. One of the latter is Steve Bennett’s The Sports-Casters, which hit 333 episodes and 10 years of existence last month; that’s a remarkable ride.
Throughout that run, Bennett has posted episodes of interviews with notable sports broadcasters, writers, and other media figures almost every week during that time. (And some not-so-notable ones, too; I was on one episode five years ago.) It served as an introduction to podcasting for now prominent podcast figures like Peter King, and has featured all sorts of major names, from Joe Buck to Mike Tirico to Frank Deford to Lee Jenkins (who has made a record 20 appearances on the podcast so far). Bennett spoke to SI’s Jon Wertheim for a piece published this week about the podcast, and he had some interesting things to say about what this show has meant to him.
In that piece, Bennett said he started the podcast after health issues (specifically, a ruptured appendix and Crohn’s disease, plus ensuing gastrointestinal complications) meant he had to leave his full-time job as a teacher at age 30 and go on social security disability insurance. He told Wertheim that throughout his health issues, which included six weeks in the hospital in 2013 and three different major surgeries in 2019, the podcast has been a key motivator for him, and something that keeps him fulfilled.
But then Bennett was asked what the podcast has meant to him and his voice caught. “It’s given me purpose—and there were times when I felt like I didn’t have one,” he says. “And it’s made people I care about proud of me, you know? I grind through. With my health I don’t want to concern people. People have their own s—. I’m always like, ‘I’m O.K. I’m O.K. I’m O.K.’ And sometimes I’m not. And this has been here, you know?”
The Sports-Casters is interesting because it’s a project Bennett is so passionate about, and one he puts a ton of effort into. As Wertheim notes, Bennett does his homework on his guests and asks good questions, and that’s often led to some pretty notable revelations there. Some of those include then-Washington receiver Malcolm Kelly (a rare pro athlete guest)”s criticisms of the team’s training staff in 2013, then-Monday Night Football announcer Sean McDonough’s “bunch of nonsense” line on ESPN supposedly pushing staffers to offer left-wing political commentary in 2017, and then-MNF announcer Joe Tessitore’s 2019 discussion of the “juggling act” that was the 2018 Monday Night Football “two and a half booth figures” approach. But there have been a whole lot more over the years.
The other remarkable thing with The Sports-Casters is how constant it’s been in an ever-changing sports media world. That first episode in 2011 was with Jeff Passan, then of Yahoo, now of ESPN. One a month later was with Joe Posnanski, then of SI, now of The Athletic, an outlet which wasn’t even on the scene until 2016 (and then only in Chicago at first). The national sports landscape has dramatically shifted in a number of ways in that decade, where things that weren’t even on the radar for most (say, each broadcast network having their own associated direct-to-consumer streaming service) are now commonplace. Throughout that, Bennett has kept on keeping on, and done so despite a number of tough health battles. And it’s great to hear that the podcast has given him purpose, and that he’s still excited about this. Here’s to many more The Sports-Casters episodes in the years ahead.