Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Listen So You Don't Have To: The Gist w/Daivari

Daivari was a guest on a Slate podcast last week
Photo Credit: WWE.com
If you're new, here's the rundown: I listen to a handful of wrestling podcasts each week. Too many, probably, though certainly not all of them. In the interest of saving you time — in case you have the restraint to skip certain episodes — the plan is to give the bare bones of a given show and let you decide if it’s worth investing the time to hear the whole thing. There are better wrestling podcasts out there, of course, but these are the ones in my regular rotation that I feel best fit the category of hit or miss. If I can save other folks some time, I'm happy to do so.

Show: Slate’s The Gist
Episode: “Did You See Obama Pull a John Wayne?” Sept. 11, 2014
Run Time: 29:48
Guest: Josh King of PoliOptics (at 3:24), Shawn Daivari (14:18)

Summary: If you’re not a regular listener of Mike Pesca’s The Gist, a newer player in the podcast game that instantly became one of my favorites, the format is the same every day (monologue, guest, other guest, closing rant, credits). However, Pesca — who I came to know via Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen, but who before that had a distinguished NPR career — possesses such vast range and breadth of knowledge that any of those segments can be anything from gravely serious to sublimely absurd. The Daivari interview specifically is about how his Arab heritage changed the direction of his wrestling career vis-√†-vis Sept. 11, 2001, with a little bit of talk about his path to the profession.

Quote of the week: “…any foreigner who was just hated because he was a foreigner. I think ’99 when I started, that was kind of pass√©. There was no more thinking of that, it was like ‘80s wrestling. We thought we were cutting edge, we were like the new reality TV, we were like the early 2000s wrestling. But yeah, as soon as 9/11 happened, every promoter was begging me, like, ‘Oh, can you wear a turban, can you wear these genie pants and the pointy-toed boots and come out to that sitar music?’ and all that crap.”

Why you should listen: With new episodes five days a week, each Gist episode lasts no more than 30 minutes. It is the voice of Pesca, not Slate, and it will make you think and challenge your perceptions about how the world works. With regards to wrestling, the seven-minute chat with Daivari is something of an Art Of Wrestling show at hyperspeed — and that’s a good thing. Pesca treats wrestling with respect and wastes little time worrying if his audience does the same. His questions are insightful, Daivari is up to the challenge of speaking to a skilled reporter and you begin to wonder why it takes guys like Colt Cabana and Jim Ross 60 to 90 minutes to elicit anything of depth from their subjects, if they can at all, especially given the advantages they should have based on common experiences and backgrounds.

Why you should skip it: With all that said, chances are most wrestling fans know Daivari’s story. He doesn’t really get to add anything new to the narrative, so unless you listen to the entire show (which includes a fascinating breakdown of how presidential speeches are staged for television and also a damning conviction of Roger Goodell in regards to football players and domestic violence), you’re not actually gaining knowledge.

Final thoughts: Perhaps I just wrote this post as a chance to evangelize for The Gist. So sue me (it’s what any WWE babyface would do). But beyond that, this quick segment is an exercise in thinking about podcasts, interviewing and journalism. We don’t have any right to demand more from the podcasters who put their shows out for free, but we do have the ability to weigh the value of our own time vs. the entertainment and information a typical podcast delivers. If anyone listens to this, I would hope it’s the team at Podcast One. That outfit has distribution and promotion down to a science, but it is leaps and bounds behind Slate with regards to production, direction and professionalism.