When Mina Kimes appeared on ESPN Around the Horn during the pandemic — as she mingled with a grizzled cadre of sportswriters across the country from a makeshift home studio — you could catch an Easter egg perched over her right shoulder. Beneath the production lights shone a painting from Pavement’s third (and most difficult) record, Wowee Zowee.
It’s a deep cut, even among indie rock snobs. Pavement’s most traditionally acclaimed albums are his first two: Tilted and enchanted and Twisted rain, twisted rain. Wowee Zowee, on the other hand, is best known for its engorged runtime and anxious experimentalism, which obliterated the band’s ascending MTV traction. In other words, it’s the kind of record you dedicate when you’ve already spent so much of your life thinking about Pavement.
ESPN broadcasts its first Super Bowl in 2026; its staff is made up of retired quarterbacks, game-strip bingers, and reflective free-agency reporters. But while Kimes emerges as an unlikely star of the jock universe, she’s still one of us: an indie kid perpetually eager to show off her tastes.
“I had to scramble to create a presentable TV backdrop,” says Kimes, reflecting on what it was like to move her ESPN TV duties to her home during the height of COVID, in an interview with The Daily Beast. . “I piled a bunch of books and plants on my dresser, then put my Wowee Zowee paint – a gift – over it, because I was too lazy to hang anything properly. And so, a now iconic setup was born. “Since then I’ve changed my books several times, but I’ll always leave Pavement’s paint on, because I like the way it looks, and I like the idea of a random Pavement fan sitting down for a beer. at an airport somewhere in America, squinting at a TV and asking, ‘Is that Wowee Zowee on ESPN? »
Kimes, 36, joined ESPN in 2014, after spending a year reporting on construction moguls and department store CEOs in Bloomberg Businessweek. She was deployed as a feature writer for the website and magazine early in her tenure, spending afternoons with heavyweight football men like Aaron Rodgers and Mayfield Bakerplucking their brains and ruminating on what she found.
But over the past few years, Kimes has slowly invaded ESPN’s television product. She was a star performer on the daytime talk show very questionable with Dan Le Batard, a regular in the sports media. But in the build-up to the 2020 NFL season in June, Kimes was given an analyst role on NFL live. Kimes’ football knowledge is immense and indomitable, but his presence stands in stark contrast to everyone else on the show. Here’s a Korean-American woman with an encyclopedic knowledge of ’90s indie rock breaking down cornerback projects with Keyshawn Johnson. That, my friends, is representation.
Kimes can pinpoint the exact moment she was introduced to a world of music beyond FM radio. It was the turn of the millennium, the summer before her junior year of high school, and she was strolling through a Zia Records store in Phoenix. “Someone who worked there put the Fugazi Repeater. I had never listened to hardcore before, and it shook my bones so much that I bought the album on the spot,” she says. “I still remember listening to it on my way home. I had a CD player under my driver’s seat, with a cable connecting it to the tape recorder in my trailer. The height of luxury!”
Like so many other youngsters lucky enough to get a taste of the alt-canon hidden in plain sight, Kimes was thrilled. She continued to delve into the back catalog, and soon enough she swooped down on Minor Threat and Black Flag, two American underground institutions that lived and flourished for years before Kimes was born. In many ways, she’s one of the first case studies of the internet’s ability to hit a legion of teenage indie-rock aficionados: boys and girls who suddenly used heretical technology to s indoctrinate with years of music history without paying a dime.
“It was Napster’s summer,” says Kimes. “which accelerated my journey of musical discovery for obvious reasons. I went back in time, going from post-punk to bands like The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. By the end of my high school career, I was listening to mostly easier suspensions – Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr., Guid by Voices It’s funny to look back and realize that I started with the more intense stuff.
To be clear, when Mina Kimes is on TV, she’s almost always talking about football. Unfortunately, ESPN has yet to dedicate a portion of its programming schedule to its record reviews, although it does take the time to tell me that Low’s Drums and guns is one of his favorite albums of the last 15 years. Instead, Kimes’ indie-rock takes are teased on Twitter, with a wink and a nod, just like his stealthy Wowee Zowee tribute. I saw Kimes rank your favorite Pixies songs, recall a morning ritual involving Neutral Milk Hoteland exalt a magnificent Superchunk cover of a Magnetic Fields song. Hell, Kimes is even married to Nick Sylvester, a record producer who in a past life wrote some of the most legendary Pitchfork reviews of all time. (His pot of Jet’s be born is a personal favorite.)
To be in love with independent music is to be constantly on the lookout for those who can speak the same language. Kimes understands that, and it’s clearly working wonders for her. One of the people who picked up his breadcrumbs was Bob Nastanovich, one of Pavement’s core members. He reached out his hand— certainly confused to see his band’s most controversial work on display between Kirk Cousins’ takes — and Kimes now calls him a friend. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t manifest friendships with your indie rock heroes by becoming an NFL analyst,” she says.
The rise of indie rock fan turned ESPN star Mina Kimes should teach us, once and for all, that sports fandom and indie-rock fandom are remarkably similar creatures. Both are marked by moments of euphoria and disappointment, and both force you to demean yourself in the name of the community. No matter which path you choose, once you get there, you’ll be there for life. There ain’t no jocks and nerds shooting each other across the dining room there is only Ben Gibbard throwing the first pitch in a Mariners game.
“Indie rock nerds are probably like sports nerds in both ways: passion! fun! — and bad — gatekeeping,” Kimes says. As Dinosaur Jr said.we feel the pain for everyone.