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Mighty Joe Rogan

Potty-mouthed podcaster inks record deal

Joe Rogan Associated Press/Photo by Gregory Payan (file)

Mighty Joe Rogan

One of the biggest deals in podcasting’s relatively short history underscores the success of the medium and the enduring appeal of say-anything shock jocks. The streaming platform Spotify announced two weeks ago it had struck a deal for exclusive rights to the popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. Spotify did not disclose the amount on the price tag, but The Wall Street Journal reported it was in the neighborhood of $100 million.

Rogan is a standup comedian and commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts league. His resumé includes being a taekwondo champion, film actor, and reality television host. His talk show “has long been the most-searched-for podcast on Spotify and is the leading show on practically every other podcasting platform,” Spotify said in its announcement of the deal. The Joe Rogan Experience has sometimes hourslong episodes in which Rogan and his guests relate their obscenity-laced opinions about news, sports, and life in general. He has kvetched with Robert Downey Jr., Elon Musk, and Edward Snowden. The show gives guests an unfiltered platform, and fans praise Rogan’s willingness to abandon political correctness and address topics traditional news media won’t touch.

His critics, though, accuse him of catering to an audience of uninformed reactionaries. Others disapprove of his jokes about serious problems and say he talks about things he doesn’t really understand. But they cannot question Rogan’s influence. In 2019, presidential candidate Andrew Yang got a six-figure fundraising bump after appearing on the show. “That was key,” Yang campaign manager Zach Graumann told The Daily Beast. “That was the moment.”

Even before the deal, Forbes listed Rogan as the highest-paid podcaster in the United States. That’s a considerable feat among about 1 million podcasts available to the public. Podcasting has “done to entertainment, news, and information what cable TV did to network television,” said Brad Cooper, a podcaster whose program about health and wellness coaching users have downloaded about 70,000 times.

Cooper explained podcasts have no filter or restrictions because of the medium’s low barrier to entry. But the problem with them, he said, “is that the junk, the ‘candy,’ may get a lot of the listens instead of the stuff that can actually make our lives better.”

Furman University basketball players

Furman University basketball players Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Kmonicek (file)

COVID-19’s college game drain

The economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic may suck the school spirit out of smaller college campuses. Four-year colleges have cut about 100 sports teams to save money as a direct result of coronavirus shutdowns. NCAA Division II, III, and the NAIA lost 78 teams as of last week.

Campus officials deciding whether to scale back sports in higher education must weigh several unknown factors. If classes remain online next year, what happens to teams and funding? Will alumni giving go down because of unemployment?

Furman University in Greenville, S.C., already planned to scale back its athletic program, President Elizabeth Davis said. But the pandemic accelerated the changes. Furman officials decided to cut baseball and men’s lacrosse in the fall and reduce the number of athletic scholarships it offers over the next five years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust us into a global crisis we could not have imagined six months ago,” Davis said. “None of these decisions was easy or made lightly.”

David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports business at Ohio University, said abolishing nonrevenue sports might hurt universities in the long run. In the 2018-2019 school year, almost 150,000 Division I athletes paid about $3.6 billion in college tuition and fees.

“Dropping these sports, you’re likely losing bodies, and that counts against your overall enrollment,” Ridpath told USA Today, adding that colleges should instead trim budgets from more expensive programs like football and basketball.

For example, he suggested ending the traditional hotel stay for football teams the night before a game and cutting pay for coaches and staff: “There’s a lot of fat that can be cut before sports being dropped.” —Sharon Dierberger

Furman University basketball players

Furman University basketball players Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Kmonicek (file)

Pandemic pastime

Looking across the chessboard at an opponent means looking into a webcam since the outbreak of the COVID-19. The disease pushed chess websites to create multiple online tournaments. From Chess24’s Magnus Carlsen Invitational to the FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup, tournaments keep popping onto the schedule as the game continues to grow online.

The pandemic cut the biannual FIDE Candidates tournament short in March, stopping it at the halfway point. The Candidates winner usually takes on the chess world champion for the title later in the year, but without finishing the tournament, Magnus Carlsen, the world champion since 2013, will go unchallenged.

Though the Candidates ended abruptly, chess continues. American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura streams chess matches and commentary for more than six hours almost daily, often amassing an online audience of more than 15,000 viewers. Chess.com gained 1.5 million members in April compared to nearly half that number in January, and the website may complete five years’ worth of growth in three months, The New York Times reported.

The Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge launched into its final round on Tuesday. It marked the second of five tournaments that form the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, which culminates in August with the $300,000 Grand Final. —Seth Johnson

Furman University basketball players

Furman University basketball players Associated Press/Photo by Kathy Kmonicek (file)

Make new friends, and keep the old

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh claimed never to have interviewed a guest from the other side of the political aisle in 31 years of broadcasting. That changed on Monday when he aired a special 30-minute segment with the hosts of the nationally syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club.

As unusual as it was for Limbaugh to invite Charlemagne tha God, Angela Yee, and DJ Envy to appear on his program, it was equally surprising to many that they accepted. The trio has leftist views and serves as a platform for Democratic political candidates. For instance, former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee, made his recent controversial comments about black voters on their show.

Limbaugh said he “wanted to reach out to some people that reach a large segment of the African American community and have a conversation about [George Floyd],” the Minneapolis man whose death during an attempted arrest last week has sparked protests and riots.

The group respectfully debated the existence of white privilege and whether the United States is an endemically racist nation, but all agreed Floyd’s death was a “sickening” injustice. All four also expressed the hope they could have similar conversations in the future. —Megan Basham

Ali Booth Ali is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute student course.


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