Sports Explains the World

Sports Explains the World

Sports Explains the World unveils some of the wildest and most surprising sports stories you’ve never heard. And they’re all true. From the unemployed history teacher turned CIA agent and Uganda national basketball coach, to the teenager who invented a mythical athlete…then watched him sign a million-dollar deal, these stories will amaze and move you at every turn. From award-winning journalists across the globe, Sports Explains the World reveals the human side of sports in provocative and unusual ways. Whether you’ve ever thrown a spiral or been in one, prepare to experience the action on and off the field from an unexpected – and sometimes shocking – vantage point. Listen to Sports Explains the World on the Wondery App or wherever you get your podcasts. You can listen to all episodes ad-free on Wondery+. Join Wondery+ in the Wondery App, Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Start your free trial by visiting wondery.com/links/sports-explains-the-world/ now.

Episodes

July 14, 2024 7 mins

Self-confessed sports geeks Elis James and Colin Murray are here to serve up the juiciest tales from the world of sports – think epic rivalries, scrappy underdogs, and the wildest comebacks and you’re in the right ballpark. Thought you knew the story? Think again. From top-secret training sessions to dressing room dust-ups, join Colin & Elis as they dive into the greatest sporting stories of all time (and probably get ...

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In a country obsessed with gossip, the great and the good fear one thing more than any other - scandal. British scandals change the course of history. They bring down governments, overthrow the rich and cause the mighty to fall. Some are about sex, others about money. In the end, they’re all about power. But often at the heart of a scandal, there are ordinary human stories. Stories of those caught up in the swirl of outrag...

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At the 2022 IFSC Climbing Asian Championships, Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi competed without a hijab, sending shockwaves through Iran's political establishment. Many Iranian athletes have been targeted by the country's "morality police," and driven from their homes to seek new lives, and new competition, elsewhere. Captivated by her mother’s stories of pre-revolution Iran, reporter Sanam Skelly has watched waves of her hom...

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Stanford University holds the record for most Division I NCAA titles -- which means its marching band has plenty to root for. The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band became a student-run organization in the midst of the turbulent 1960's. Decades of debauchery, irreverence, and protest ensued. The group now faces a crossroads in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the scrutiny of college hazing rituals. Can it s...

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Reporter Tommy Andres comes face-to-face with the intruder he saw in his living room. After Jermain Thompson is released from prison and agrees to sit down for an interview, Tommy begins to understand the tragic series of events that led the former wrestler on a downward trajectory and to break into the Andres' home.


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Two lives were forever changed one night in May of 2021, when an intruder broke into the home of reporter Tommy Andres while his wife and daughters lay sleeping. After the police were called and the broken glass swept up, Andres learned that the intruder was a former college wrestling star named Jermain Thompson. In part one of The Eyes of the Fighter, Andres begins to piece together the man's story, and tries to figure ou...

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May 15, 2024 25 mins

Following the bloodshed of Port Said, the families of the supporters killed in the stadium are left to mourn their loved ones and seek justice in whatever way they can. The Ultras themselves, now labeled as a terrorist organization, are left to ponder their unclear future. Reporter Kieran Morris catches up with the Ultras more than a decade after the massacre, and investigates whether a government can ever truly ban the pa...

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May 8, 2024 26 mins

Amidst the protests that swept through Egypt during the Arab Spring, an unlikely group helped tip the scales towards Democracy – soccer fans. The Ultras Ahlawy were hardcore supporters of the Cairo-based football club, Al Ahly. They were also effective in the fight to oust Egypt’s leaders. But after the attempted revolution, pro-government forces took their revenge on The Ultras in a violent attack inside the Port Said soc...

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When late NBA Commissioner David Stern arrived in Beijing, he came with a lucrative business proposal. Stern pushed for American basketball games to be broadcast on Chinese national television, introducing millions of Chinese people to inspiring NBA narratives of individual glory. As the country’s spirits rose, so did the league’s revenues. In the final installment Two Dreams, reporter Kerry Seed explores the budding partn...

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Former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey Morey’s ill-fated tweet in support of the 2019 Hong Kong protests sparked an existential showdown between the NBA and China, where, by some estimates, there are more basketball fans than people in the United States. In part two of Two Dreams, reporter Kerry Seed looks back at the crucial time during the 1980s when the NBA and the People’s Republic of China began to form a ...

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The NBA is considered one of the most socially progressive leagues in all of sports. Yet the league's fortunes are intertwined with China, a country with a complicated history of human rights abuse allegations. The tension between these competing interests exploded into the public discourse in 2019, when then Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent a controversial tweet during massive protests in Hong Kong, and th...

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April 10, 2024 34 mins

The Dominican Republic produces more professional baseball players per capita than any other country in the world -- but one city in particular specializes in shortstops. Reporter Jeffrey Bissoy travels to San Pedro de Macorís to discover how the city consistently exports excellence for one of the most difficult positions in all of sports.


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As mensur combatants Felix and Max prepare to fight, reporter Leo Hornack documents their training, while exploring larger questions about the sport. Leo tries to understand how such an antiquated sport still exists, and what it does for those who dare to take part in a match. But as the fight nears, police begin to infiltrate fraternities in the hopes of putting an end to mensur, placing months of training, and an ancient...

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How far would you go to prove yourself? Is there still a place in modern society for violent competition? Should frat bros carry swords? These are some of the questions surrounding Mensur, an ancient but underground form of sword fighting practiced at fraternities throughout Europe -- like "Fight Club", but with swords. In part one of this story, reporter Leo Hornack embeds with two mensur fighters in Germany as they prepa...

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Davy Rothbart struggles with whether to tell Allison what he's learned about the murder of her mother nearly four decades ago. He seeks out advice from an unlikely source: Allison and Davy's all-time favorite baseball player, former Detroit Tigers outfielder, Chet Lemon.


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11-year-old Chet Lemon superfan Allison cheers on the Detroit Tigers on their path to World Series glory in 1984. The team's success is a comfort for a girl whose mother was tragically murdered by a stranger in a robbery gone wrong. Nearly four decades later, Allison's friend, reporter Davy Rothbart, reaches out to the woman convicted of the crime to learn more about the tragic day that changed all of their lives.


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In the sixth grade, Davy Rothbart fell in love — with a girl named Allison...and Detroit Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon. It didn't hurt that Allison loved Chet Lemon at least as much as Davy did. But months into their innocent courtship, tragedy struck when Allison’s mother was shot and killed in a random robbery. More than 30 years later, unable to forget the heartbreak Allison endured, Davy goes back in time for answers to...

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In part three of the Big Dipper, Wilt Chamberlain signs a record-breaking contract with the Los Angeles Lakers and wins L.A's first NBA title. But despite his storied career full of MVP awards and every basketball accolade imaginable, his legacy also includes well-publicized sexual exploits and a controversial alignment with conservative politics. How will one of the greatest to ever play ultimately be remembered?


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Wilt Chamberlain goes from sideshow to superstar early in his career. But as his profile rises, so do the challenges of being a famous black athlete in the midst of the Civil Rights Era. Wilt's formative years in the NBA are spent repeatedly losing to Red Auerbach's Boston Celtics; one of the most successful dynasties in league history. In part two of the Big Dipper, Wilt's outlook and political ideologies are at odds with...

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Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest basketball player ever. This may sound like a controversial statement to some and even heresy to others, but reporters Shaun Assael and Peter Keating can prove it. They unearth archival footage, get a little help from Reddit and enlist data scientists to gather new and more accurate stats from Wilt's career. And those numbers don't lie. Tune in to part one of the incredible story of Wilt Ch...

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