Like any good comedy, Sports and Such’s origin story begins with a joke.
It was April 2013, and Ben Rogers and Jeff Wade, the sports talk radio duo better known as Ben & Skin, were between jobs after leaving 103.3 ESPN in February. Speculation was rampant about where they’d land and when they’d next appear on the air, and Dena Adi wasn’t above wondering herself. But she also couldn’t ignore how serious the whole thing seemed.
So she decided to have a little fun on the Internet.
@SkinWade 97.9 the beat will be so great with the Ben and Skin Show. Can't wait!!
— Dena Adi (@dena_adi) April 30, 2013
Ben & Skin did not, in fact, have plans to join the longstanding hip-hop station. But that didn’t stop the tweet from migrating to a message board as a rumor, where it happened to be seen by Kevin Turner, who was set to join Ben & Skin at their actual new home of 105.3 The Fan as producer. He laughed, then got acquainted with Adi on Twitter.
It would be another seven years before the two would create a YouTube series together and eight until that YouTube series became an actual television show, which premieres Saturday at 2 p.m. on CW33. But on an elemental level, the foundation was cemented that night: one of them said something that made the other laugh, and that laughter was channeled into a course of action.
Adi, a multimedia producer at the University of Texas at Arlington who is now the showrunner of Sports and Such, says she’s “kind of had a version of this show in my mind for a long time,” one that fuses familiar elements into a wildly different sort of sports show. As Turner, the host, puts it, “You’ve seen a monologue before. You’ve seen intimate interviews. You’ve seen man-on-the-street bits. You’ve seen game shows on TV—those have made a resurgence over the last 10 years. But have you seen them all in one package that relates to your local sports teams? Probably not.”
The first step toward realizing that vision came in January 2018, when Adi shot an episode of a segment called “Work Lunch” with Turner over breakfast at IHOP. The conceit was borrowed from Jerry Seinfield’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: two people sharing serious and not-so-serious conversation over a meal or a drink. That conversation led to others, and the more they chatted, the more they recognized a shared love for sports and comedy.
Their influences were different. Adi leans toward Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Jon Stewart. Turner gravitates to John Oliver, Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” and E!’s The Soup. But they share a similar worldview: sports could stand to be a lot more fun than they often are. When they explored creating a show together the following year, one directive superseded everything else. If it didn’t make them laugh, it probably won’t make anyone else laugh, either. And, by extension, “if it’s something we love, hopefully other people will be receptive to it,” Adi says.
Their first attempt at a pilot came after a Paul McCartney concert at Globe Life Park (now known as Choctaw Stadium) in June 2019. It whiffed. “I just think we didn’t have a good day out there,” Turner says, so much so that they shelved Sports and Such entirely. Then the pandemic hit. Quarantine dragged on and ennui set in. Each of them needed a creative outlet outside of work. Why not try again?
They recruited two writers, Jesse Kubanet and Steve Shackelford. The Fan’s Reginald Adetula became their man on the street (proverbially, at least; COVID concerns prompted him to do interviews via FaceTime and an iPad on a selfie stick). By Thanksgiving, they had a four-episode season, which was uploaded to YouTube. They latched on to four tentpole segments: an opening monologue featuring Turner at a new location around town, a work lunch segment with Adi and a guest in sports media, Adetula in “Streets and Such,” and a game show to close things out.
It worked well enough for Rogers to broker an introduction between Turner and CW33 vice president and general manager John Trevino, who ordered 13 episodes for a second season that includes 10 new shows and three reruns.
The move to television inevitably brings a degree of polish. Turner now sets up in a studio for the monologue. Adetula has ditched the iPad for in-person conversation. The guest list features names like County Judge Clay Jenkins, former Ranger Michael Young, and retired Cowboy Travis Frederick to go with a who’s who of local media guests (and the occasional schlub like yours truly).
But the crux of why they’re doing it remains wonderfully simple. The highlight of Turner and Adi’s week is Tuesday night: table reads, when the five of them huddle up on an hourlong Zoom call to test out jokes. They take turns reading their best material from a running Google Doc, each doing their damndest to make the others crack up.
“Those types of things make you go, ‘OK, we’re actually laughing here. This is good,’” Turner says. “That is the whole reason why I wanted to do a show, just to laugh and have fun and create stuff with my friends.”
With any luck, Sports and Such becomes a TV institution. Maybe it sticks around for years, growing its footprint little by little, perhaps one day even becoming a comedy influence to a new generation of creators the way Oliver and Seinfield and Stewart were to Adi and Turner. But whether or not it does, they have the here and now, and the important stuff: good friends making one another laugh, and all the possibilities that brings.