When Anders Kelto listened to sports podcasts, what he usually heard was a couple of guys sitting around bantering with each other.
“There was no good audio sports journalism in the world, at least that I had been exposed to,” he says.
Anders is changing that. Today, the Traverse City native is out with his own podcast —it’s a sports documentary series.
There’s been a lot of sports film documentaries made over the years. Think about “Hoop Dreams," the story of a couple of teenagers growing up in inner-city Chicago and their dreams of playing professional basketball. More recently, ESPN Films has come out with popular sports documentaries called the "30 for 30" series.
But what Anders noticed was no one was doing anything like that in the audio world — and that gave him an idea.
“I wanted to find stories with a theme that is much bigger than just athletic competition," he explains. "And those themes are built into sports, you just don’t always see them. And they aren’t always extracted by sports talk radio or sports podcasts.”
Anders convinced Audible to carry a new audio sports documentary series called “Gamebreaker with Keith Olbermann”.
Olbermann acts as a host, setting up each episode before handing it off to a reporter. Anders is the executive producer of the series and reports in five of the stories.
One of the episodes is about a former soccer star named Josh Anderson, who played at Brown University. One day, Josh quit and no one seemed to know why.
Anders tracked him down and discovered the reason Josh quit soccer was because he struggled with bipolar disorder.
“I felt like I was going into a darker space," Josh says in the episode. "I kept coming back to this feeling of inadequacy and not knowing how to get past it.”
Mental health is just one of the cultural conversations Anders hopes "Gamebreaker" will engage listeners in.
“Mental health is a taboo issue in America and the world, and we wanted to use a great sports story built around this athlete to kind of break down that taboo and understand … what is the experience of someone struggling with bipolar disorder when they’re an athlete?" says Anders. "What does his story reveal about how we as a society view mental illness? And sports is just one of many ways you can tackle a big issue like that.”
Anders Kelto grew up in Traverse City and he still comes to the area to host a youth soccer camp in the summers. He played soccer professionally before a heart condition ended his career. Then he got into journalism and did some health reporting for NPR. Anders says "Gamebreaker" is a fusion of his two passions.
“The idea was, for me personally, to marry my two career paths,” he says.
The first season of "Gamebreaker" features all sorts of different sports.
In one episode we hear about Anthony Ervin, a swimmer who used some really unconventional training to win the 50 meter freestyle race at the 2016 Olympics. Anthony was 35 years old and became the oldest swimmer to win an individual gold medal.
In another episode, we hear the story of John Scott, a retired NHL hockey player who now lives in Traverse City. John is 6 feet 8 inches tall and he eventually became an enforcer, someone who fights players from the other team. Enforcers weren’t the best skaters or scorers, but were basically on the team to protect teammates, and intimidate opponents.
“In 2008, when John Scott first joined the NHL, there were a lot of enforcers in the league," Anders explains in the episode. "But by 2016, there were almost none. During that time, John bounced around, playing for six different NHL teams, and ending up in Arizona. And even though he hadn’t set out to be an enforcer, he was one of the last members of this dying breed.”
That’s when things take a really weird twist in the episode — you’ll have to listen to hear what happened.
Anders Kelto is really picky about the stories he chooses for "Gamebreaker". He says his team of producers scours over obscure sports blogs, old magazines and books from the library.
And that’s because they want to tell more than just a cliche sports story aimed at sports junkies.
“I think what we’re doing that allows us to cross over into the mainstream is that we find these powerful human dramas, these narratives that are bigger than just sports,” he says.
“Gamebreaker with Keith Olbermann” is a new sports audio series that is now available exclusively from Audible.