Who’s at the Super Bowl? ESPN’s Mina Kimes ’07 B.A., for one
Mina Kimes ’07 B.A. never intended to become a sports commentator, but always considered herself a fan. By default she rooted for her dad’s favorite teams — the Seahawks and Supersonics — and eventually developed into a full-fledged fan, even getting an “XLVIII” tattoo on her bicep in honor of the Seahawks’ 2013 Super Bowl win.
But in 2014, while working as a business journalist, she posted a blog about finding her way back to football and how it drew her closer to her father. ESPN reached out and ultimately hired her. Kimes has since covered the nuances of many sports as a writer, TV commentator, and, most recently, as host of the new ESPN podcast “ESPN Daily.”
This week she’s in Miami, working on pre-Super Bowl coverage and readying for the big game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. A post-Super Bowl version of “ESPN Daily” will drop Monday.
“ESPN Daily” covers one in-depth story every Monday through Friday. Recent topics have included Kobe Bryant’s life and legacy; the outsized influence of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in college football; and an inside look at the NHL’s head coaching abuses.
Kimes said she likes the way she’s able to present narrative stories on the podcast, providing a glimpse into hidden parts of the world of sports.
“We did a story on Patriots running back Jonas Gray, who is considered a one-hit wonder,” Kimes said. “We talked about his disappointment in disappearing so quickly from the national conversation.”
Gray, an undrafted player, had an extraordinary game against the Colts in November 2014, scoring three touchdowns. But five days later, after Gray accidentally missed a team meeting, Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick began keeping him out of games. Gray eventually signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but tore his quad during training camp. His football career was effectively over. He’s best remembered for that Colts game.
Another favorite podcast topic? Hockey dentists. “Every NHL team has a dentist,” Kimes said. “It’s something I didn’t know about.”
“We want the podcast to be both for the immersed sports fan to find something new and surprising, and the casual fan who is drawn in to a story that is told well,” she said.
She emphasized the power of sports stories to capture our interest in a very specific way.
“It’s like the Olympics,” Kimes said. “Nobody follows luging. But every four years, people see a story and they’re like ‘I would die for this luger.’ That’s the power of sports stories — they change the way we see the game.”
Drawn to journalism at Yale
What led Kimes to journalism was not sports, but music. Specifically it was the book “Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azerrad, which had been recommended during a class at Yale, where she majored in English. It offered a behind-the-scenes look at the rise of 13 indie rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s, including Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Fugazi. Inspired, Kimes went searching for how these indie bands and Yale might have intersected.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, writers at Yale were making ’zines,” she said. “I went to the archives and found that great bands had gone through Yale — like Dinosaur Jr.”
Throughout her career, first covering business stories in Bloomberg and Fortune and then covering sports for ESPN, Kimes has had freedom to dig for details, to unearth stories the public hadn’t heard — like how the Sears CEO tried to turn his business into the Hunger Games and how a teenage girl video game phenomenon became an icon in South Korea. At ESPN, she’s found a way to incorporate her beloved dog Lenny into her work: Lenny is featured in her football podcast, “The Mina Kimes Show Featuring Lenny,” and in a commercial for “ESPN Daily.”
It’s not easy being a public figure who happens to be a woman in the world of sports, said Kimes, who has over 353,000 Twitter followers. But it’s not all bad, either, she adds.
“Being a woman in sports is an adventure on the Internet,” she said.