Talking Style with The Sports Nerds
(Above: Connor Lees of Blank Label Denver with Dr. Sam Jay)
BL: What makes Sports Nerds different from your average sports podcast?
Sam: We try to talk about sports in smart ways. We go deep and talk about the cultural, political and social significance of sports. Our goal has always been to make sports fans smarter, and also to attract people who may not even like sports.
BL: And you are each professors?
Sam: That is correct. I teach rhetoric and media studies at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Brian: I teach debate, argumentation and rhetoric classes at the University of Michigan, Flint.
BL: Where did the idea come from to start your podcast?
Sam: Brian and I have been buddies for a while, and we do a lot of research together. We went to the same grad school, the University of Denver. We’ve always had the same view of sports. We’re fans of one particular scholar, Michel Foucault, and that opened our eyes to how sports are used to influence people. I started the podcast with some students as an experiment. Not long after I got started, I just decided to make Brian the “main guest.” We co-host it.
BL: What are some of the more interesting, notable things you’ve explored as topics in the podcast?
Brian: We’ve talked about issues of race and racism inside sports from Colin Kaepernick to offensive logos or mascots. We’ve talked about gender and sexuality in sports. We’ve had Michael Sam, who was one of the first openly gay NFL players, on the podcast. We’ve talked about new media and sports, and what the landscape is going to look like as we have more streaming. It’s not about particular games or scores, or even particular players. It’s more about the controversies that we see inside of sports that need critical attention.
THE FASHION OF SPORTS
BL: Are there any figures, past or present, from the sports world that you feel are notable for their style?
Brian: I think the NBA is the most stylish. Did it start with Oklahoma City? Westbrook began wearing all sorts of interesting, post-game stuff.
BL: In the past, you’d see players wearing these huge, four-button suits. In the last few years, draft picks are showing up in incredible suits that are meticulously tailored but also pushing the envelope. Do you have any insight into how the NBA evolved this way?
Sam: The NBA passed a rule, it was actually controversial. They basically said you can’t wear gym clothes, sweatpants or tracksuits before or after games. The rule is you have to show up in business or business casual. And there was a lot of pushback. There were people who thought it was kind of racist, that they were trying to get rid of a particular “vibe” of clothing that the players were wearing. I think the style thing started as a pushback by the players to say “We’re going to do it, but we’re not going to conform. We’ll wear suits and ties but we’ll do it with our own sense of style.” I think that’s the pushing-the-envelope stuff you were talking about.
BL: I think that’s fascinating because they don’t come out dressing like they’re going to stump in Iowa. it’s great stuff, and there’s a lot of swagger.
Sam: I think that becomes attractive to people our age. They’re drawn to that, being able to show your personality and your style.
BL: In the NFL, Tom Brady feels like more of an outlier than a standard. Do you see more of that NBA style coming into the NFL in terms of dressing outside of play?
Brian: I definitely do, I think the NFL has the same expectation that after games you should put on nice clothes if you’re going to go to press conferences. But it’s not very edgy—I think the NBA does have a monopoly on that.