There are a lot of good podcasts out there. In fact, there are so many good ones that I have about 20 hours of episodes backed up on my “Podcast DVR” right now. Later this week we’ll take a look at the Starting IX of best podcasts out there, but as that list was being compiled, it was clear that Channel 33, the Bill Simmons podcast network at HBO, was going to dominate the list, so I decided to simply branch the network off into its own Starting IX. Sidenote: Leaving the “Bill Simmons Podcast” off this list since it’s technically its own branch, and it will star in the Starting IX of all podcasts later this week.
Just a reminder: Starting IX is a corny, baseball-themed way to simply make a “Top Nine” list. It uses the positions on the baseball diamond – starting pitcher through right field – and uses the ascending order of their position when scorekeeping. For those that have done baseball scorekeeping before, skip ahead, for those who haven’t, you could probably use those strong context clues you learned in fourth grade, but let’s spell it out: Starting pitcher (SP) = 1; catcher (C) = 2; first base (1B) = 3; second base (2B) = 4; third base (3B) = 5; shortstop (SS) = 6; left field (LF) = 7; center field (CF) = 8; right field (RF) = 9. Other than that, the only rule is no touching of the hair or face. (Of course.) And that’s it. Now let’s do this:
RF) Bachelor Party
This is one of Channel 33’a more niche podcasts, dealing with the ABC show, “The Bachelor.” So although Juliet Litman is one of the more talented podcast personalities at Channel 33 (more to come on her in a bit), as a non-viewer of “The Bachelor” myself, I was just lost. It’s actually impressive that the podcast held my attention for parts of three or four episodes before I jumped ship entirely.
Highlight: Bill Simmons’ wife, the Sports Gal, getting some run.
CF) The Andy Greenwald podcast
As much as I enjoy the rapport of Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald, when they branch off, Greenwald just doesn’t really do it for me. This is one where I have to be interested in who Greenwald is interviewing. Again, not bad, just not as much my cup of tea.
Highlight: The Michael Schur episode.
LF) The Pivot
It says a lot that we’re already at “The Pivot,” since this is a pod I thoroughly enjoyed listening to in the lead up to, and during, the NCAA tournament. It’s hosted by Ringer editor, Mallory Rubin, and podcast producer Tate Frazier. The biggest weakness of this pod is actually what is so great about Bill Simmons ideology in respect to his process. Fresh out of college (National Championship runner-up UNC, no less), Tate Frazier is definitely a bit raw at times. However, Simmons is willing to invest in Frazier, and the podcast has already improved noticeably through just the first six episodes.
Highlight: Somehow both hosts having their alma maters make the Final Four.
SS) Keepin’ it 1600
Another strong pod that seems to get better each week, “Keepin’ it 1600” is the Channel 33 political podcast. It is hosted by Jon Favreau, the former Director of Speechwriting for President Obama and Dan Pfeiffer, the former Senior Advisor to Obama for Strategy and Communications. The biggest knock against the pod is that there are simply so many awesome political podcasts out there that it can’t stand out as much.
Highlight: Tom Perez. Dude is awesome and was a great interview for “Keepin’ it 1600.”
3B) NFL Draft podcast
Robert Mays is back! Simmons has the offensive line savant and former co-host of the “Grantland NFL Podcast” (bets on how long it takes him to get Bill Barnwell back?) back on his team after Mays announced he was joining the Ringer team with an NFL Draft pod with the aforementioned, and exceptionally versatile, Mallory Rubin. The two have a solid rapport, and are a perfect ying and yang of ideas regarding college football and how these prospects will turn out in the draft. Only rated fifth for me personally because football just isn’t that great…
Highlight: Rubin naming Todd Heap her favorite player of her childhood. May or may not have matching Heap jerseys with my buddy that we may or may not have worn out on the town one night.
We’re getting into the top tier here, and really splitting hairs. Geoff Shackelford and Joe House talk golf, and Simmons was right when he introduced the podcast – there simply aren’t that many great golf podcasts out there. ShackHouse does a good job knowing that the majority of their listeners may not be watching 40 hours of golf a week, but also doesn’t talk down to the listener. Too bad I didn’t listen and grab Danny Willet in my Masters pool.
Highlight: When House describes anything as “tasty.” Food, betting lines, golf shots – doesn’t matter, it’s all great.
1B) Jam Session
Juliet Litman and Amanda Dobbins talk about pretty much whatever the eff they want. And it’s glorious. The pod features both talented podders (podcasters? podsters?) in their absolute element, and they (running theme alert) have a very natural rapport – not feeling like they have to agree constantly, but usually being on the same page. Excited that I have a few of these saved up to listen to. (Only haven’t listened yet because they aren’t as time-sensitive as some other podcasts on the “DVR.”)
Highlight: Their conversation regarding Jennifer Garner. Wasn’t a fan of Garner before; now am a big-time fan.
C) The Watch
When Grantland was shut down what I was most worried about was losing touch with pop culture. I read and watch enough sports that although there would never be another collection of sports writers like that, I could at least find some sort of facsimile for the sports coverage. (Simply googling each ex-Grantland writer every day has worked out well enough.) The pop culture coverage was going to be harder to keep up with. Enter “The Watch,” and Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald doing their thing once or twice a week. Order was restored.
Highlight: Dark Siiiiiiiide
SP) Sources Say
Litman and Ryan are the two best podders (yeah, maybe we should just call them hosts) at Channel 33, so it’s no surprise that when they combine it’s hard to top. Sure, it would be great to have the full NBA After Dark crew with them (RIP Sharp), but these two lock it down well, and I’m already excited for a tasty Jason Concepcion guest spot. As someone who loves the NBA minutiae as much as anything else in the world, this is basically the perfect pod. So many Instagram revelations and possibly true, probably false rumors.
Highlight: The sheer excitement in Chris and Juliet’s voices when they start each pod. Good stuff