The NFL, especially over the last several years, has lived up to the No Fun League reputation it is frequently pinned with online, and a no-call that both ignored a dangerous hit and also would’ve sent the Saints to the Super Bowl, only brought that feeling rushing back at the end of what was otherwise a somewhat return-to-form season. Concussions, political drama, and domestic violence issues have made the league a difficult thing to morally support in recent times. And admittedly, if you look across the wider spectrum of sports, especially the NBA, it’s hard not to see other sports genuinely having more “fun” online and be disconcerted about the future of the game.
But enter Mina Kimes, one of the few people on social media who has found a way to understand, acknowledge, and cover the problematic issues that plague the league while also having fun watching the sport, and in turn, bringing that fun to the world of social media. While Twitter and Facebook salivate over NBA trade rumors, Kimes is busy making watercolors of Phillip Rivers and fixating on John Harbaugh’s inexplicably middle-aligned monogram hoodie (like, why though, for real).
Admittedly, and I’m sure she’d be the first to agree, Kimes’ rise through ESPN’s ranks is somewhat unexpected even though this is becoming less and less true, being a great journalist doesn’t necessarily translate to being a great media personality (and make no mistake, Kimes is a world class journalist, just give her profile of Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey a read). But since joining ESPN in 2014 as a Senior Writer / Columnist, she’s slowly been utilized as a regular on network staples like AROUND THE HORN and HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE, and the quirky enthusiasm she shows for the NFL on Sundays (and pretty much every other day of the year) is refreshing in an online landscape that’s frequently (and rightfully) hostile towards the sport.
An inevitability for anyone who works at the Worldwide Leader, it seems, ESPN has finally gotten around to giving Kimes a podcast, THE MINA KIMES SHOW FEATURING LENNY, which debuted at the beginning of the season. It’s a show that does indeed “feature” her dog Lenny, but is the kind of perfect platform for Kimes, who is able to talk all football all the time, and really get into the literal Xs and Os of the game while also nerding out over her love of the sport (and her tragic love of the Seahawks—Go Cards).
While it’s unclear how the podcast will look and sound, and how often it will be delivered in the off-season, Kimes’ banter with her various guests, from former players like Domonique Foxworth or Matt Hasselbeck, to other sports writers like Bill Barnwell, is a perfect mix of accessible and thorough. The production quality of the podcast is cheekily sparse (Kimes’ questionable voice work as both former QB Jay Cutler and her dog is very funny), but its greatest strength is Kimes’ ability to go deep with guests on the actual teams and match-ups while acknowledging the silliness that the sport could honestly use more of. The last thing the world needs is more football podcasts, or football analysis in general probably, but Kimes rides a fine line between appreciating and conducting conversations that explore the highly technical and headier aspects of the game, while also surrounding discussions of DVOA, passing efficiency, and yards after catch with a pop cultural sensibility—for every “How good is Aaron Donald?” conversation, there’s one with Fantasy Football guru Matthew Berry discussing movies. In that way the podcast fits somewhere between the technical and straight-laced GM STREET with Mike Lombardi, and the rambunctious goofiness of network mate Katie Nolan and her podcast SPORTS?.
THE MINA KIMES SHOW FEATURING LENNY is obviously from a football fan and for football fans, thus capping its audience somewhat. But for a sport whose 365-day news cycle is more tiring than it is exciting these days, it’ll be interesting to hear Kimes steer her podcast out of the day-to-day of the regular and postseason and into the off-season where storylines and commentaries are speculative, at best. Give her a follow on Twitter for the Lenny and (sigh) Seahawks content, but subscribe to the pod for thoughtful conversations and don’t forget to leave a review (but make it nice, her mom is reading them).