When 2010 Loyola graduates Tim Nazanin and Michael Lauer were in school, the Loyola men’s basketball team wasn’t good.
From 2007-10, the team, then under former head coach Jim Whitesell — who Nazanin and Lauer call “he who should not be named” — finished with a winning record once.
The Rambler fan base also wasn’t strong, according to Nazanin and Lauer, 29 and 30, who admit themselves they didn’t go to many games when they were students. They said today’s fans, who have caused an increase in attendance this year, are much better than those in the “dark days.”
“[It’s] not even close. There was about 40 people at games, we were in the old [Gentile] arena at the time and nobody went to games,” Lauer said.
But Loyola isn’t struggling to win in the Horizon League anymore — the team currently sits on top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings. Nazanin and Lauer wanted to join a growing part of the Loyola fan base that interacts with the team and each other through social media.
The two launched a podcast Jan. 22 called “Blers Madness” to discuss, joke about and engage with Loyola men’s basketball.
The two thought about making a website to discuss the team, but that hole was already filled by the blog run by the @portersjacket Twitter account — a fan account making fun of Loyola head coach Porter Moser’s tendency to rip off his suit coat in anger. Nazanin wanted to do something different, so he asked Lauer about starting a podcast.
“I talked to [Lauer] about it and we thought ‘Why don’t we just do a podcast?’” Nazanin said. “We listen to a lot of other sports podcasts, so we figured we could just do it. We bought two microphones and just started doing it. It’s been so much fun.”
Nazanin and Lauer aren’t full-time podcasters, though. They have day jobs. Lauer is a web developer, but really he’s a Rambler fan around the clock.
“We sit around and think about the Ramblers all day,” Lauer said.
Nazanin, who works in communications, was even more dismissive of what he does during the day.
“I’m Batman,” Nazanin said.
“Blers Madness” has gained a regular following with an average of 200-300 listeners per episode, according to Lauer. The two didn’t expect many people to listen, but have been surprised by how well it’s done in its first five half-hour episodes. In the show’s second episode, the two joke about the show being so successful it’s now open for sponsors, including Caputo Cheese, one of the Ramblers sponsors.
“People have been way more receptive to it than we thought. We thought five of our friends would listen to it,” Lauer said. “It’s been kinda cool seeing students interacting with us on Twitter.”
The podcast’s positive response is a result of Loyola fans’ need for more coverage and discussion of their team, according to Nazanin.
“I think another part is the lack of recognition and respect for Loyola basketball,” Nazanin said.
The format of the podcast is loose, with Nazanin and Lauer jumping at will from topics, such as Moser being “Loyola’s hot new girlfriend” to which players played the best in the most recent game. The show is mostly the pair riffing jokes, but there’s a method to the show’s madness, which is partly inspired by the popular, yet sometimes controversial, sports commentary podcast “Pardon My Take.”
The two spend the week brainstorming topics for the show and have bullet points to go off of, Lauer said before being interrupted by Nazanin for “giving up all our secrets.”
“We make a point to keep it loose,” Nazanin said. “You have all these other blogs and radio shows that are very serious and stats focused. We wanted to make it into more about Loyola culture and what it means to be a fan of a team nobody pays attention to and drum up support.”
Nazanin and Lauer have season tickets and can be found sitting behind the basket closest to Loyola’s bench at most Rambler home games. Their seats are so close to the floor they can make jokes with former podcast guest and current Rambler Nick DiNardi, who averages 1.8 minutes per game but is an enthusiastic force on Loyola’s bench.
The pair are excited about the team’s success this year and have extremely high expectations.
“I am a delusional Loyola fan, every year we’re going to win the National Championship,” Nazanin said. “I knew we were going to be strong and we’re going to be strong next year. We’re the New England Patriots of college basketball.”
“Blers Madness” is available on iTunes and comes out every Thursday.