This week: a one-year anniversary, Daft Punk, and vaccine FOMO.
30 For 30 Podcasts: “March 11, 2020”
Last Thursday marked one whole year since this horrible, exacting COVID-19 disaster was formally declared a pandemic, and while I’m still mentally bunkered down enough to not feel moved to contemplate the anniversary myself, I was fairly touched by many of the one-year reflections that popped up on social media and various outlets.
There was some of that in podcast land, though the one I found the most interesting is an episode that’s already a few months old. “March 11, 2020,” from ESPN’s 30 for 30 Podcast team, originally dropped in December, just a little before Christmas, and, frankly, it made for some strange holiday listening. The one-year mark is a much better time peg for the piece, not just because of the anniversary, but also because the United States (and perhaps soon the world at large) is swinging toward a stronger vaccination position, suggesting some semblance of light at the end of the tunnel.
“March 11, 2020” assembles a whole hour of recollections of the day that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had contracted the virus, and the NBA became the first sports league to shut down, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was found to have tested positive for the coronavirus. The episode largely sticks to the standard talking-head format — drawing on athletes, various sports figures and reporters, and ESPN personalities on duty that day — mixed in with a mish-mash of news clips from radio and television to fill in the bigger picture. It is, for the most part, very effective in re-creating the sense of society coming to a screeching halt in a matter of hours and evoking the feelings of chaos and surreality that followed.
That said, one major point of annoyance I have with the episode comes near the very end, where you get some customary talking-head bloviation about the importance of sports in society and how the NBA, in particular, exhibited strong leadership in making the decision to shut down. To be fair, the league’s decision was important, as it set a precedent for other sports leagues and institutions to follow… and listen, I’m a huge sports nut, so you’re generally not going to get much of a counterargument against the importance of sports from me. But the sentiment does feel a little hollow in the face of the NBA’s decision, this year, to plow ahead with a (mostly) regular season and all the travel that it requires — this, after taking so much well-publicized care with the bubble — not to mention the messiness of the MLB and NFL seasons before it. (Let’s not even talk about the deep moral compromise of March Madness this month.)
But the institutions of sports are nevertheless a cornerstone of American and global life and, as such, a fitting prism through which to reexperience the shutting down of the world. “March 11, 2020” might be a tough listen even for now, but it’s still a formidable historical document to be revisited down the line.
Guest Pick: “Daft Punk — Giorgio by Moroder”
Here’s something a little different.
Daft Punk released this nine-minute track as part of their 2013 album, Random Access Memories, which features a monologue by the Italian musician Giorgio Moroder — a.k.a the “Godfather of Disco,” known for, among many other things, producing Donna Summer and scoring films like The NeverEnding Story, Superman III, and Scarface — about his life and artistic career played over a bed of the French electronic duo’s beats.
The way they recorded it was dope. Anytime Giorgio talked about the ’50s, they would have him talk in a mic that was from that era. Same thing for the ’60s and ’70s. When he talked about the future, they used a whole new microphone as well. Not sure if they built that one themselves, but Giorgio was apparently like, “WTF is this?”
I’m not sure if many people could hear the difference … but Daft Punk could hear the difference.
Daft Punk, sadly, officially disbanded earlier this year, but we’ll always have Random Access Memories.
• Quick shout-out to a recent episode of the Nerdette podcast, which had a segment that brought together the author Saeed Jones and Embedded’s Kelly McEvers to discuss, among other things, vaccine FOMO, which, I gotta say, I totally get.
• Still Processing, the New York Times podcast with Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, returns with a new season this Thursday.
• Also launching this week: Crooked Media’s Takeline, a new politics-inflected sports podcast that features Jason Concepcion — his first podcast project since leaving The Ringer — paired up with Renee Montgomery, the retired WNBA star, activist, and newly minted part co-owner of the Atlanta Dream.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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