Pablo Torre launched his new sports show on Sept. 5, two days before the first NFL game of the season.
Placing his show’s debut so close to the NFL opener was a pragmatic decision. ESPN, Torre’s former full-time employer, divides its work calendar to address the wave of sports coverage that begins during NFL Kickoff, and it chose the same week to have Shannon Sharpe make his debut on its flagship morning debate show ‘First Take.’
Torre’s launch was timely, but the show’s content was peculiar. The premier episode of ‘Pablo Torre Finds Out’ (PTFO) — a sports audio and video show by Meadowlark Media available on the DraftKings Network — wasn’t about football. It was an episode exposing his friend and new boss, Dan Le Batard, one of sports media’s most outspoken voices when it comes to politics, for giving a platform to Donald Trump back when Le Batard’s show was still on ESPN Radio.
The second and third episodes of PTFO — which sandwiched the NFL's season opener — actually touched on the league, but still didn’t focus on the major events shaping the start of the 2023 season. Even when the show covered Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce, it was weeks after the romance took over the NFL news cycle.
But PTFO has charted as high as third on Apple and Spotify among sports podcasts, competing with the likes of other flagship shows in the space including his boss’ ‘The Dan Le Batard Show.’
Torre has incorporated a recipe that combines the counter-intuitiveness of dodging major news with an ingredient that’s worked for Le Batard and other outlets like The Ringer with ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’ or even ESPN with ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ — banking that fans will follow the media personality and care about what they care about.
It’s the whole premise of his show — aptly named after his interest in finding out new things.
“99.9% of sports media is reacting to the biggest story of the week, like the Cowboys won or lost. We're sort of reverse engineering the algorithm,” Torre told TheStreet. “It's going to be different from everybody else, because it's, by definition, personal and human.”
Torre has found his true peace at Meadowlark Media
Torre, who is the son of Filipino immigrants, was the first of his family born in the U.S. The idea of a career in media, particularly in sports, wasn’t on his or his parents’ minds. The endgame of his parents’ global uproot and his Harvard University degree was supposed to be for him to become a lawyer.
“I considered the LSAT to be the entire reason why my family came to this country,” Torre, who is 38 years old, said in an April episode of Le Batard’s ‘South Beach Sessions.’
But Torre said the pressure got to him and he “bombed” the LSAT. He shifted his focus to an internship with Sports Illustrated, which he turned into a full-time job as a fact checker. But his parents didn’t consider it to be a “real job."
Torre became what Le Batard jokingly described as the “ambitious, overzealous, overachieving fact checker,” which helped him build a presence as a staff writer on Sports Illustrated. He parlayed that into making on-air appearances when networks needed a representative from SI.
He moved to ESPN in 2012, first as a writer and then eventually into on-air roles such as hosting shows like ‘Highly Questionable’ and ‘ESPN Daily.’
But even as his star rose, Torre’s work with SI and ESPN still came with a scent of adherence to the safer career choices that he and his parents imagined for him. These were legacy companies in sports media that, for the most part, provided a safety net in a turbulent industry.
“I’ve only felt confident in terms of job security by working for a big company,” Torre said in April. “I replaced ... law school and that trajectory that I had sketched out and studied, I replaced it with this other trajectory.”
The dependence on his career trajectory peaked when on Feb. 24, 2020, the ESPN show he hosted called ‘High Noon’ was canceled on the same day his daughter was born.
“My insecurity was born alongside my daughter,” Torre said on the podcast.
Torre would take over ‘ESPN Daily’ months later and find his niche again in the company.
Then this past February, two months before Torre’s ESPN contract expired, Le Batard, Skipper, and Meadowlark CEO Bimal Kapadia gave Torre an offer that would allow him to discover his genuine desire.
“[They] approached me and said, ‘What do you want to do? Here’s a blank piece of paper — design the show you want to make,’” Torre told TheStreet. “I just felt a degree of autonomy and responsibility and trust that I had never been offered so bluntly before … It was also exactly what I had been waiting for my whole life. … I realized if someone else got this opportunity to make something in their own image from scratch, I would be jealous of that person. And so why aren't I sprinting towards this opportunity? And so in the end, I did.”
‘Pablo Torre Finds Out’ is, for better or worse, made in his image
In March, months before PTFO was born, Torre began to blatantly advertise his Substack website “www.Pablo.Show” whenever he was on ESPN. The deliberate promotion towed the line between charming and even brilliant versus obnoxious and desperate.
But in his promotion, Torre was already showcasing the tone of his in utero show — an oxymoron of high-level journalism meets psychedelic oddball. The description to his show even reads as, “Award-winning journalist/gasbag Pablo Torre is finally free to f*** around.”
PTFO has three types of shows every week: a deep dive feature, an interview, and ‘Share & Tell’ with people he describes as “friends of the show.” In just a month since PTFO’s premiere, the show has already done a story about transgender athletes in women’s sports, a mysterious failed bidder for the NFL’s Washington Commanders, and a reveal of the alleged trash talk that led to Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole before the 2022-23 NBA season — topics that showcase why Torre won journalism awards while at Harvard and Sports Illustrated.
Other episodes are whimsical, like uncovering the mystery behind the U.S. Open tennis court with a weed stench or the story of the man who fought Mark Zuckerberg in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Or even having humanizing conversations with no relation to sports like when he spoke about being a parent with Le Batard and their friend and ESPN reporter Mina Kimes.
There’s a contrast between PTFO and Torre’s 700+ episodes at ‘ESPN Daily.’ His past work featured a blend of current news and feature stories, but he said the grind of the daily show took a physical and mental toll on him.
“I took such great pride in ‘ESPN Daily,’ but I always felt like ‘ESPN Daily’ was a sort of case study in how to make a really good show under some absurd constraints, such as you need to make a show every day, you need to respond to the news of that week, and sometimes there are stories that just are going to demand coverage that you're not actually interested in,” Torre said.
Many of his ideas for PTFO have come from the notes app on his phone where he’s consistently, but privately, placed many of his ideas over the years. And he’s finally let them out now because he’s been given the freedom to — and he’s trusting that his curiosity is what allows him to find his place in the saturated sports content machine.
“I was like, ‘What if I could build an audio and video magazine in which I find stories spurred on by my own curiosity that are not something that anybody else is doing that week?' And I find my way in that way,” Torre said.
Torre received a small stake in Meadowlark Media, which likely made the move to a start-up more palatable. He’s also been granted the flexibility to work with other media outlets — a trend many sports media personalities like Sharpe or Shams Charania have embraced in recent years. He consistently appears on ESPN’s ‘Around The Horn’ and ‘Pardon The Interruption.' In September, he started appearing on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’
The range of his jobs, which also includes seeding the culture of his new team while balancing fatherhood, has separated this stage of his life from any other. And he said he’s having more fun than he ever has had in his career.
“I should just say that I have no idea what I'm doing — you caught me at a time of great optimism,” Torre said. “I just want to make clear that I, in no way, am somebody who has the secret. I just know that I have a better sense now, and it's more clear than ever of what I’m interested in. And that's all I'm really following.”
It’s no surprise then, that despite all the success, his mom still asks him to clarify his job status.
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