ESPN has established an impressive stable of podcasts, including the popular 30 for 30 Podcast. Adding to their lineup, ESPN has introduced a new podcast, ESPN Investigates, which comes out of the gates with a three-part first season titled “Bloodlines.”
“Bloodlines,” which is hosted by ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson, takes a deep dive into the history and current status of the sport and industry of horse racing. The three episodes stem from the deaths of horses at Santa Anita racetrack in Southern California and trace those deaths back to sport’s history and discuss what they might mean for the sport’s future.
There are two things about this new podcast that jump out as soon as you start listening. The first is the seriousness and macabre nature of the topic of this story. It’s certainly not a lighthearted listen. If you’re looking for fun sports stories that will entertain and lift your spirits, this is not the podcast for you.
The second thing about the podcast that jumps out immediately is the voice of its host. Thompson has the exact voice you would expect to hear in a podcast about horse racing. His deep, slightly raspy tones and southern twang fit the story perfectly and are almost soothing, despite the dark content of the story he’s telling.
Aside from focus of this podcast being so dark, it is a very interesting story. The first of the three episodes introduces the idea of this potentially dangerous race track and the animal rights activists calling for its closure. The second episode traces the bigger issues of the sport back to two families who helped usher in the sport’s popularity in America. The third and final episode looks into the breeding of these horses and how the money behind this industry has led to more dangerous practices for the horses.
The story may be interesting to many, but it is also told in a somewhat unorthodox way. Rather than starting at the beginning, we get introduced to the story in present day before jumping back into the history behind it. The podcast then ends somewhere in between those two points, looking into the issues that have connected them. It jumps around a bit, not to a point where it’s confusing, but it feels as though the story could have been told in a more linear fashion.
There are also a fair amount of interviews with experts from within the industry, which in most cases add a great deal of context to the story. However, in many cases, it feels like there is a visual component missing. Many of these interviews and other soundbites feel as though they were ripped from videos and just feel out of place in a podcast. Meanwhile, some of the others are likely things you would hope to never see, so it’s not always bad.
When it comes to ESPN podcasts, the bar is very high. “Bloodlines” comes up a bit short of that previously established standard. It is an interesting story, but it’s not one that is very fun to listen to. Still, Thompson is a great host and anyone who would consider themself a fan of horse racing would certainly be interested in the content.
Mike is a writer that has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed “nerd.”