The Bill Simmons Podcast is the most downloaded podcast within the sports category. That is quite the accomplishment for Simmons to pull off in an oversaturated podcasting landscape that is competing for fleeting and fickle attention spans.
Within minutes of listening to The Bill Simmons Podcast, it becomes evident to me why Bill and his prominent rotating crew of credentialed sports commentators have achieved such lofty heights in the world of podcasting.
And no, it has nothing to do with getting to hear my beloved Pearl Jam at the start of each show with Simmons having selected a live version of Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy” as his intro song for each episode.
Simmons and company have all the analytical sports chops to hang with the savviest minds surrounding all the pro sports but Simmons also pulls off one of the most difficult balancing acts in being a podcasting persona, and that is being equally relatable as a regular dude as he is a sharp sports thinker.
Being organically cool with a keen sense of humor on top of containing a common man’s humility is not such an easy feat. Beyond the vibe of the show itself, Simmons has an extraordinary work ethic which is as much a factor in his show’s success as any production or broadcasting qualities.
Countless sports broadcasters, columnist, and commentators have succumbed to smelling themselves way too early and often in their careers creating a distance and gap between themselves and everyone else consuming their content.
Bill Simmons has created a platform that lets the listener feel like they are sitting right beside Simmons and his guests. The listeners are just like one of the gang, getting lost in the casual yet heady free flow deep dive into the world of pro sports.
Pop culture is never far from reach or out of bounds on The Bill Simmons Podcast either, but it is tackled and referenced in a much more clever, palatable, and enjoyable manner than most sports broadcasts can ever muster up the whit to accomplish.
Pro sports pre-game shows like the NFL On Fox or highlight package shows like SportsCenter on ESPN tend to crowbar pop references into their content with little nuance or lots of cheeseball moments when they do.
Simmons and company are pop culture consumers just like the rest of us, so the Game Of Thrones commentary or a guest appearance by the hilarious Ben Stiller are all woven into the show seamlessly with the proper mix of reverence, fun, and subtle notes of humor.
Bill Simmons does not take himself too seriously and the self-deprecating humor on his show is supportive of this but the actual analysis of the current day’s pressing news from pro sports is as good as it gets in any format from any outlet.
The Storied Past
Bill Simmons made a name for himself and established his authority as an editorial voice to be reckoned with back in the salad days of the digital properties of ESPN. Being that I myself create content for an online platform that I am working to build out, I am in awe and highly respectful of Simmons for having had the vision and foresight to stake his career on such a forward-leaning concept as the internet back when he got started.
It is easy now to look back and see the trajectory of online content exploding over the past twenty years as it has, but back then in the early go of the internet, you had to have some qualities of a visionary to make that the professional path you pursued in life.
Bill Simmons did just that and made quite the go of it cranking out long-form articles online for ESPN and offering bursts of creativity in other areas for the mammoth network like helping to seed the idea for the highly heralded 30 For 30 documentary series.
The voice that Simmons had established for himself and the aforementioned rare mix of hipness, humor, and laser-sharp commentary landed him some rather special opportunities within sports and entertainment like a stint writing for The Jimmy Kimmel Show.
For a fascinating deep dive into Simmons ascent alongside the explosion of ESPN as a transcendent sports network, check out the conversation Simmons recently had with his prior boss from ESPN, John Skipper.
Since his time at ESPN ended back around 2015, Simmons went on and founded The Ringer, a website steeped in sports and pop culture along with having a podcasting network component featuring his current show The Bill Simmons Show as the flagship offering.
Sports Beyond The Game
Pro sports has evolved in our society to matter to us personally well beyond the competition and to count in our hearts far off the field of play. We are obsessed with our athletes, the games they play, and the impact they make on culture and how culture shapes sports in return as well.
There are no longer offseasons in pro sports, especially for football. The NFL, as most would argue as the alpha professional league, can be discussed year round and all day long. We are not grasping at toss away headlines either to serve as some form of filler conversation surrounding the league.
The big business of the NFL on and off the field is an evergreen soap opera with a non-stop carousel of headline-worthy stories, controversies, chaos, and heart-warming triumphs.
We the sports-obsessed public need a platform and outlet that is centered around long-form conversations with room to allow for nuance, dissenting opinions, and the brightest of constructive thinkers.
Neatly trimmed highlight packages with scripted talk synced up to the action serve a great purpose and will forever fill a need but the true sports thirst can only be quenched with tried and true discourse and debate.
We fans dwell in the glory of victory and agonize for days in the crush of defeat. We see our beloved organizations sign certain guys and jettison others. We see our stars make head-scratching life decisions or go against the grain of society on polarizing matters. We need long-form discussions delivered as a means to further revel in triumph or process emotional sports pain.
Bill Simmons has established this very critical sports platform and he has raised the ante on every other sports communicator by carrying himself with the humility of an everyman and the organic, comedic chops worthy of a Jimmy Kimmel crowd.
It is his proprietary mix of modesty and sharp sports commentary intersecting smartly with pop culture that has hooked in listeners for the long haul and garnered the most downloads ever of a sports podcast.
Local Versus National Sports Coverage
I know how we are here in my hometown of Philly and how I personally tend to engage with professional sports news, and that is a desire to have any and all coverage and communications be centered around our 4 professional sports teams of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers.
Admittedly, the pull of a national sports platform may not be as strong for me as a local and Philly centric outlet. My only personal exception to this way of thinking is with the NFL.
I am all in on league news across all 32 teams for the entire calendar year. While I can not get enough coverage of my beloved Birds, the Philadelphia Eagles, I can also easily get immersed in a discussion on the Browns versus Bengals and be content with any form of NFL programming.
I am curious about how sports fans across the rest of the country consume their sports content on a national versus local basis?
Bill Simmons has clearly created a lane and manner of sports coverage that appeals to a massive swath of sports-minded folk who love getting a continual beat on all pro sports on a national and societal level.
A Preeminent Podcaster
Simmons has cracked the code of appealing to a major swath of sports-minded listeners on a national basis by delivering the deep in the weeds analysis, constantly rotating big named guests, and wrapping it all up in a casual conversation that makes you feel like an active participant.
We are just one of the bros right alongside Simmons when the show gets rolling and Pearl Jam kicks into “Corduroy”. Whether you crave your sports talk to be of the hometown, local variety or you prefer the bigger picture, national spotlight, feeling like one of the dudes in a heady conversation drives home the ultimate feeling of fulfillment we can ever expect to receive from sports entertainment.
If you, like me, were late to the party in having the proper awareness of The Bill Simmons Podcast, do subscribe and jump into the conversation now as well. The world of professional sports on and off the field has never been as entertaining as it is right now.
How do you get your sports talk fix? Leave us a comment with your favorite sports centric shows.