This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Maeve Duggan, the host and sports junkie behind the fantastic podcast 'Not Your Boyfriend's Sports Show.' Each episode tackles a different social issue related to sports, features a guest with an interesting perspective on gender and sports, or highlights what women are building in the sports world. Every podcast with Maeve is fun and spirited, so it's no surprise that her answers to our Q and A were just as entertaining.
Q: You are the host of NYBF Sports Show, a podcast talking about women's sports and issues in sports that are particularly relevant to women. What made you want to start the show and what do you think sets it apart from other sports podcasts?
A: I started this show with my co-host and former roommate, Brynn. We are both avid sports fans, but got sick of the same highlight reels and storylines on repeat. We would have such compelling conversations about sports and women, and we figured we weren’t the only ones who were interested in a different kind of sports talk. So we decided to do it ourselves! We wanted it to be very conversational, but still highly-informed and quick-witted. The biggest compliment we received was when people said it felt like hanging out with us.
After a few months Brynn had the opportunity to move to Africa for a fellowship, but she gave me her blessing to continue the show. Since then I’ve changed the format to feature a new guest every episode. I still try to keep the tone light and conversational, and to play to the strengths of my guests. It’s brought new perspectives to the show and allows me to learn along with my listeners and let the guest be the expert.
Overall I think the content stays very true to our original intentions. To me, there’s so much more to sports beyond X’s and O’s. My goal every episode is to explore how sports reflect us as a society – both the accomplishments and shortcomings.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in starting your own podcast?
A: The ongoing challenge is to build an audience listener by listener. Being a one-woman operation allows me a lot of latitude to try new things, but experimentation can also be time-consuming. So it’s finding a balance between producing quality content and everything else – networking, social media, website updates, newsletter releases – that can expose the show to new listeners.
Q: You conduct a number of interviews on your show. Who are the types of interviewees you try to have on your show? What is your process for preparing for an interview?
A: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from doing this podcast is what people will do for you if you just ask! Many of my guests are friends of a friend of a friend, but I’m also not shy to email someone out of the blue. Otherwise I don’t have too much criteria –does this person interest me? Do they have a unique perspective or experience? If I’m reading or watching something and immediately start coming up with questions, I know I’m on the right track.
Q: Through hosting the show, who is someone that you have been excited to meet? How was that interaction?
A: Back in March, I got to meet Katie Nolan! For those who may not be familiar, she hosts a show on Fox Sports 1 called “Garbage Time with Katie Nolan”. The best way I can describe it is like “The Daily Show” but centered on sports – it’s funny, but you learn something along the way. Her show is incredibly smart and quick-witted.
She was hosting a panel at SXSW called “Do Great Athletes Have To Be Good People?” I asked a question about female athletes – when they behave badly, it doesn’t seem to have the same impact on their career or reputation. Is this the one instance where the relative lack of attention on women’s sports plays to their favor? Afterwards, I got to meet her and she was just as charming and personable as you would imagine. I thanked her and told her how much I admire her and the rest is kind of a blur!
Q: You are clearly an avid sports fan, how did this love affair start?
A: Probably like most people! I played sports growing up (mainly soccer and softball) and my family always put a big emphasis on sports. It’s how we spent a lot of time together. I’m from the Boston area, which is obviously such a huge sports town. Besides the men’s teams, we also had the Boston Breakers when I was growing up. So having a local women’s professional soccer team (and the 1999 Women’s World Cup run in general) definitely shaped my young “girl power” attitude. I think I even had a shirt that said “Play like a girl…IF YOU CAN!” My mom, dad, and brother are all smart, funny, charismatic people so my chutzpah to do all of this probably stems from our dinner table.
Q: What is your earliest/fondest memory of sports?
A: In 6th or 7th grade I started playing on a more competitive soccer team. So I met a whole new group of girls. Every single one of them was better than me and they were all already friends. So I remember working really hard that season because the best way to make new friends on a sports team is to be really good. I think it worked because we all kept playing together through high school. Today they are all magnificent people and playing soccer with them is some of the best stuff I did growing up.
Q: What has been your favorite storyline so far this year?
A: I’m loving the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) fight for wage equality and I can’t wait for their turn in the Olympics. They’re about to do what they do best on another international stage, and this time with even more to prove. They’ve made their demands. Should make for good soccer and even better social commentary.
Q: What is a rule that you would want to change in a sport today? Or what rule change have you appreciated?
A: The entire system whereby men’s college D1 football and basketball players are considered “amateurs” and remain unpaid needs to be thoroughly reexamined.
Q: If you could have a dinner with any athlete living or dead who would it be and where would you take them?
A: Serena Williams. Can we go to Beyoncé’s house?
Q: You are a big advocate for women's sports, why do you think that women's sports haven't caught on? In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about women's sports?
A: Men’s sports have a huge head start – not just historically, but from a media, technical, business, and data perspective. The tradition of men’s sports is so ingrained in our culture. I hear the argument a lot that if there were an audience for women’s sports, they’d be more popular. But that ignores the full-blown industries and structures that are invested in manufacturing and maintaining the popularity of men’s sports. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
I think a misconception about women’s sports is that they aren’t as “good” as men’s sports. They’re different games, often. Men’s sports may more easily rely on strength and speed, while the women’s game incorporates agility and finesse more heavily. It just takes a different appreciation. But they’re no less competitive. Women’s sports can be compelling in their own right. Just look at the USWNT, or the NCAA Women’s College World Series, or Olympic gymnastics and figure skating. The WNBA is in its 20th season. The National Women’s Hockey League started this year. Tennis, for goodness sake! People have an insatiable appetite for sports. Women can serve it up. I can’t wait to watch.