On March 10th, 2012. Two friends from Fargo, North Dakota decided to start a Pokemon podcast.
Three years and eighty-seven episodes later, this little podcast from North Dakota has gain a fanbase that is worldwide. What started as a way to grow their Pokemon League has went on to inspired Pokemon Leagues around their little state and beyond. It is an amazing feat from something that all started with two fans. Now they have gain many friends from within their Pokemon League and beyond.
This podcast is The Underground by Nateal and Sam.
In honor of The Underground’s third anniversary, we here at Pokemon Crossroads decided to interview Sam. He is one of the hosts who started The Underground three years ago. We asked him various questions such as what inspired the podcast, how the League has affected the podcast and where he thinks it will go in the future. So join us as we talk to one of a pair of amazing Pokemon fans.
Pokemon Crossroads: The Underground Podcast started three years ago, what made you and Nateal start decide to start a Pokemon podcast?
Sam: The Underground started when Nateal and I were talking on MSN Messenger one night about her podcast she was working on at the time, and she had made mention of the fact that she’d like to start a Pokemon-themed podcast, but mentioned that the biggest hurdle would be to find a co-host she’d be comfortable working with. After a few seconds’ thought, I said that I’d like to be that co-host, much to her pleasant surprise, and from there we put the podcast together.
PXR: How did you and Nateal met? How did you guys meet the other cohosts?
Sam: Nateal and I first met in junior high school. She is one of my best childhood friends, and we’ve known each other for over half my life.
The way we both met our fellow cohosts (with the exception of Darrin, whom we also knew from junior high school), is through Josh and his Pokemon League in Fargo. It was through League that she and I met Josh, Mitch, Scott, Kent, and most of our other friends in Pokemon.
PXR: What are your opinion of the podcast’s first ten episodes? Do you like them? Anything you wish could have came out differently?
Sam: I think the first ten episodes were the perfect way to set the tone of the podcast. We included our first movie review, our analysis of the effects of Dark and Steel typing on the game, a flavor episode of Kanto, a nostalgia episode, our first live recording episode, and our wishlist of things we wanted to see in Black and White 2.
I do like the episodes we started with, they have a nice tone to them despite the admittedly heavily-scripted feel of our early work. If I would have elected to do anything differently, I would have liked to have done a TCG episode in there as well.
PXR: How do you think being a League owner affect the way the podcast is created? What impact do you think your League has had on the podcast?
Sam: Being a League Owner has given me access to a greater wealth of knowledge about all aspects of Organized Play,from the perspectives of both player and organizer, which has improved both the content of the show itself and has inspired several of its main topics and conversations on our Facebook community page. The color that being a part of Organized Play brings to the podcast is something that cannot be removed from it, and I think the show is that much richer as a result.
As for what impact the League has had on the podcast, well, I’d argue that the podcast would not have ever been realized without our League in Fargo. The League inspired Nateal and I, pushed us to new heights and deeply motivated us in our Pokemon pursuits. Without League, I would never have met Scott, Mitch, Kent, Josh, Adam, Ben, Kevin, and the countless others, mentioned on the podcast or not, who became great friends and contributed to the great light of our lives. League brought us all together, and still provides a point by which we continue to spread the Pokemon flames up here and in turn inspires the podcast.
PXR: The Underground Podcast has done a nice balance in TCG and VGC topics, which one do you and Nateal prefer or enjoy?
Sam: While I can’t speak with certainty about Nateal’s preferences, I’d say that she enjoys our VGC-centric main topics, and she is very familiar with that aspect of theory and battling. I enjoy both, and that stems from my familiarity with both sides of the competitive franchise, and I really enjoy bringing both sides of the table to our show. But if I had to pick one… well, as Josh has told me many times before, I’m a VGC guy at heart.
PXR: What is your favorite thing about the Pokemon fandom?
Sam: My favorite thing about the fandom is the sense of community and the general goodwill that the players have. Whether you’re a Worlds player or a newbie, you will always find amazing people at every level of competition. It provides a refreshing oneness that connects all of us, no matter where you are.
PXR: What do you enjoy about your fans?
Sam: Our fans are wonderful people. They go out of their way to help their fellow Pokefans, are a collection of fantastically talented individuals, they’re kind to all, they’re passionate about what they love, and they care. It’s exactly what one hopes to inspire in others.
PXR: What kind of advice would you give to any of the podcast’s fans who may be interested in podcasting? Either Pokemon or another subject.
Sam: My advice would be to find a subject that you’re passionate about, find a friend who is just as passionate as you, read up on the subject of podcasting or ask others for help on the technical side, and prepare yourself before you publish. Create material with basic form, something that flows well and works for your target audience.
We modeled our podcast after the shows on NPR and other informational programs to achieve our goal of educational/informative entertainment. We then added our own brand of fun and relaxed attitude because the podcast was first something for Nateal and I to do as friends, which may be the most important advice: have fun doing it. Who knows, maybe it’ll take you to places or on adventures you never expected to go.
PXR: How do you think the podcast has grown since three years ago?
Sam: The podcast has grown well beyond its initial seed as a project for Nateal and I to do together into a flowering tree that touches many aspects of Pokemon that I’d never thought about before 2012. We’ve also gathered an international audience that I also never expected to have, with listeners as far away as the Philippines, the United Kingdom and Brazil. Our population of listeners has also grown into a community that shares far more than I ever expected and contributes greatly to the feel of the show.
PXR: Where do you think the podcast will be in another three years?
Sam: In another three years… That’s a tough question. The show has always taken me by surprise, not ever failing to surprise me year after year. With any luck in continuing the effort and presence that we have made over these last three years, we’ll be moving on into realms of popularity where we’re as recognized as ISE, Pooka and JWittz.
I’ll also be speaking with Darrin to try to improve upon our very humble YouTube channel so we can provide video content for our listeners (watchers?) to enjoy in the future. And if we make it to six years, then I guess the now-27-year-old me will take pride that the then-30-year-old me will still be doing what he loves, talking about Pokemon in the company of great friends and spreading the Pokemon passion. If I’m still there, then I’m most certainly doing something right.
PXR: Speaking of future plans. What are some immediate future plans for The Underground Podcast? Going to Worlds? Merchandise? Nationwide live podcast?
Sam: Going to Worlds has been on my personal bucket list for some time, and gaining permission to record there sometime in the next few years would be amazing. If the Pokemon Company holds auditions for announcers again in the coming years, you can be sure we’ll be submitting our audition tape.
I do want to expand our technological capabilities to bring a wider array of content, and I’d like to do a true live broadcast at some point in the future. Darrin and I have already spoken about doing more battle commentaries, filmed at tournaments in our area or battles on the 3DS, and posting them for our viewers on YouTube, which will be a good start.
I wouldn’t mind having guests on the show outside our hosts as well, to have an occasional interview with players and tournament winners and organizers and other participants in OP or the fandom, other online Pokemon groups, podcasters, etc.
Nateal and I also spoke at one time about holding an Underground online tournament, where we set up a massive VGC tournament for all our listeners or anyone who wants to participate. Maybe Year 3 would be a great time to start? I participated in the EXP Share online tournament that invited members of the Pokemon online community to battle, and I might use lessons learned there, as well as ask them what they did well and what they would have done differently.
There was also an old idea for an episode once upon a time that never did get realized, which would require a large number of people participating to make happen. I’d like to get that idea into a future episode. I won’t release any details on that, because surprises are fun, but I may ask some of our more artistically-inclined listeners if they’d like a hand in what we had in mind.
PXR: What is your favorite podcast memory?
Sam: Favorite podcast memory, hands-down, was the recording of Episode #50: League Reminisce. I’m sure I mentioned it at some point in later episodes, but one thing about League that I really regretted was not having photo records of the core group of us, at the time Kent Johnson, Scott Larrabee, Mitch Westrick, Josh Massey, and Nateal and I. That episode in particular was a very great thing for me to have on my computer to listen to from time to time because it was a record of all of us together again and an opportunity for us to talk about some of our favorite memories of our time together in Fargo.
Though, coming in at a very close second and third, the times when we mailed our listeners little care packages from us and hearing their responses! One listener received a Crobat TCG card from us, and Kent Johnson was mailed a complete set of every card from the Gym Heroes era of the TCG featuring Lieutenant Surge. The time that Nateal received fan art from one of our younger listeners was also really sweet, as was the time that I was awarded a t-shirt with the Radio Rotom printed on it from my co-hosts at 2014 Madison Regionals.
PXR: Which podcast episode from the last year would you like to recommend to new listeners and why?
Sam: I would recommend Episode #83: 2014 World Championships Recap. Not only was that an excellent episode, we also had first-hand experience in the form of Josh being a judge at the World Championship level. Hearing the stories he brought back with him and the feelings of excitement are what the podcast is all about.
PXR: Lastly, what would you like to tell to fans of the podcasts?
Sam: I would tell them thank you for being who they are. We’ve attracted some of the best, most awesome individuals from around the world, who are never shy to ask for a battle or offer aid to those in need, and they exemplify the Spirit of the Game and everything that is good about the fandom. And even though they’ve been quiet lately, when we do hear from them, our hearts soar at getting feedback from they who take time out of their lives to listen to, and be entertained by, our voices. They provide joy that cannot be measured in mere words, and again, we thank them for being them.
Thank you Sam for talking to us. Once again, we here at PXR are glad for the work that you and Nateal have done with putting together a great podcast for Pokemon fans to enjoy! Happy third anniversary and may there be many more to come!